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  1. #1
    Gears? CliftonGK1's Avatar
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    Help me decide between 3 off-road bikes

    All from the same company: Airborne. I'm keen on their designs and specs for the price range.

    Given my weight, I'm not sure about a full suspension, but that's the option for two of the bikes. I haven't done any off-roading on a bike other than my CX rig since the days before suspension was on EVERYTHING, so I don't know squat about it. Here's my quandry...

    I'm a light Clyde at 205 - 210, but that's still kinda heavy for full suspension if I understand correctly. Can I manage with a full suspension if I (eventually) outfit it with a stiffer shock than the stock model?

    I'm still a bit of my old daredevil self, and I used to beat the snot out of my old Stumpjumper. I don't know how it held up, considering I did drops off loading docks and rode it ballzout down flights of 40+ stairs. I'd like to do things like that again; maybe not quite so crazy, but close; and that's where the toss up between 3 bikes really starts.

    There is a hardtail 29er XC bike. While robust, I'm worried about 29er wheels and a hardtail if I decide to land it a little bit on the less-than-delicate side. It would be a good bike for much of the riding I'd do on light to medium technical trails, but less likely to hold up if I felt like taking it on a huck run at the local dirt park.

    Next is a 5" f/r travel trail bike. 26" wheels, a couple drivetrain components that step up from the previous (X7/9 mix instead of X3/5 mix), but the front fork is a slight step down to compensate in price for a rear RS Bar 2.1; and that's my real question with that bike. What do any of the MTB Clydes think of a guy my size on a Bar 2.1 rear and Tora 289 front end? Am I headed for double-boinger territory, and would it hold up to a mix of trail riding, possible jump sessions, and maybe the ocassional DFL finish in a local race series?

    The last possibility is a 6" f/r travel all-mountain and freeride bike. Very unlikely candidate for the race series with its weight and gearing, but certainly ready to hold up to a jump session beating. This one stocks a Spinner Cargo 340 fork (never head of 'em) and a Marzocchi Coil-F rear. I'm more concerned that if I want to take it out on a non-brutal trail that I'd be disappointed in the performance trying to climb or just cruise around on flatter sections, and find myself wishing I'd had gone with the trail rig instead.

    So, if you were me, which one would you be most inclined to go for and why? What about least likely, and why?
    "I feel like my world was classier before I found cyclocross."
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  2. #2
    SuperGimp TrojanHorse's Avatar
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    Not to derail your topic, and I have no idea about mountain bikes, but didn't airborne used to make road bikes? If I recall, they imported straight gauge Ti tubing from China (or maybe had it manufactured over there, I forget) but they were the generic Ti option back before generic carbon options were available. Is that the same company?

  3. #3
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    Clifton, who ever told you that 205-210 is too heavy for FS is so far off of the mark. I've been riding FS since the days of the URT design(think early fisher and trek Y) and have also had a mono pivot(cannondale) horst link(specialized FSR), 4 bar(Ellsworth) and an old school no pivot(original spec ground control) so I have experience with FS. Rider weight has no bearing on the issue, riding style and the trails you intend to ride have the biggest impact on whether you should go fs or not. If you're doing a lot of smooth wide open fire trails or smooth groomed trails FS is probably not needed, if you're riding rocky, rooted type stuff it's nice having the FS. It opens up the trail and let's you take lines you couldn't otherwise do without it. You also don't feel as beat up when its all done. I've bought a few hardtails over the years and have sold all of them as I always wind up pulling the FS from the rack to ride. As for designs I don't do a lot of hucking or jumping so I prefer the shorter travel XC designs vs the long travel type of all mountain/free ride bikes. No matter what design you do get You will have to adapt your riding style to the FS design you do purchase. Most require a sit and spin style or you'll waste energy pre loading the susp or in some designs the susp will rise with a hard step on the pedals sort of locking it out. I haven't had a chance to look at the ones you posted(on my phone atm) so can't tell you what pivot design they use or how they will react so all I can say is find out what their suspension/pvot design is and do your research. Certain designs favor certain riding styles and a bad match is as bad as a bad fitting road bike. If you feel info overload feel free to PM and I'll help you sort through it.

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    I just looked at the website. I'm assuming your talking about the Marauder and Elite?

    The Marauder in my opinion is not for you. It's a single pivot, coil sprung, 6 " bike. Single pivots are super sensitive and eat bumps like no other design can but that sensitivity makes them a bit of a bear to pedal because there's nothing to negate rider input(like 4 bar, vpp, etc etc designs have). Combine that with a coil spring which is also super sensitive and you have a bike that will eat up alot of terrain but you will not enjoy trying to climb on. It's going to be a good bit heavier too because of the coil shock, sturdier frame and longer travel fork. If you intend to huck, jump big, ride slopes this is the bike. Anything else will have you wishing for something else.

    The Elite uses the same suspension design but balances it with an airshock so it will take some of the springiness out of it plus you can adjust pre-load and damping to your liking. I can't tell if it has any sort of lock out, If it does even better. This bike is close in design to my old cannondale super V. It's a decent climbing bike as long as you sit and spin. Any mashing or standing efforts will go straight into the suspension. But the design is solid, with not alot of pivots or bars to break, just a clean simple single pivot. The trick to this bike will be taking the time to get it set up to your liking and learning the ins/outs of riding on it. Once you get "it" and "you" dialed in you'll really enjoy that suspension design. I used to climb nasty steep stuff with my old C-Dale that I couldn't do on my hardtail. That design has the ability to still absorb bumps while while your climbing so you can just sit and spin right over obstacles without needing all of the extra body english. This is a good FS bike for trail riding that has the ability to take on some bigger hits and gnarlier stuff without having too much of a climbing penalty than a hardtail, even though I'd give this bike the edge for technical climbs over a hardtail. I even raced my old C-Dale super V for 2 seasons and did really well on it.

    The 29'r is also a good choice because of your cross background and they have the ability to eat up alot of stuff because of the bigger tires. Depending on where you intend to ride you might not need anything more than this. If I was you I would go to the trail heads that you're going to ride and see what other riders are using. Also talk to some shops about what they think is the best style bike for the trails you intend to ride. We have trails here that a 29'r is the perfect choice, and we have others where you're nutty if you're not on FS.

    Sorry for the long posts. Hope I answered some of yur questions.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by CliftonGK1 View Post
    I'm a light Clyde at 205 - 210, but that's still kinda heavy for full suspension if I understand correctly. Can I manage with a full suspension if I (eventually) outfit it with a stiffer shock than the stock model?
    Any decent full-suspension bike should be capable of handling your weight... Coil-sprung components may need upgraded springs to handle your weight. Air-sprung components are more likely to work for you, though you may be toward the weight-limit on some lower-end components.

    So, if you were me, which one would you be most inclined to go for and why? What about least likely, and why?
    I'm not wild about any of them. But I'm also highly biased when it comes to mountain bike suspension. I spent many years, and thousands of dollars, racing motorcycles with highly-tuned suspension setup just the way I liked it. Riding a mountain bike, even a high-end mountain bike, is a bit like going back to the Stone Age for me! With that said...

    The Bar and Tora components are at the lower end of the spectrum. If you don't intend to ride technical trails, they might be okay for you. I would use these components on fire roads, double-track trails, or cross-country race courses. I'd be more hesitant to use them on the sort of technical single-track that's popular on most of the trail rides in my area.

    The all-mountain bike is likely to be heavier than you want. I love descending on bikes with 6-7" of suspension travel, but I sure don't like pedaling those heavy rigs uphill! There are only two companies that make decent forks: Fox and Rock Shox. Everyone else is hit-and-miss...mostly "miss". I've never heard of a "Spinner Cargo 340" fork, which makes me think it could be junk (though, admittedly, it's been 12-18 months since I paid any real attention to this stuff).

    The hard tail 29er could be a decent option, but it probably depends on what fork is fitted. Most complete hard-tails seem to have bargain basement forks, unfortunately. I would look closely and the fork and wheels, then factor any required upgrades into the cost of the bike before making a decision.

  6. #6
    Gears? CliftonGK1's Avatar
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    Thanks so much for the in-depth responses! This is exactly the sort of input I was looking for. I'm a huge research junkie when it comes to plunking my limited funds down on anything, and this has managed to at the very least rule out the Marauder (freeride rig) and narrow it down to the Zeppelin (FS trail) or the Guardian (hardtail 29er).

    Knowing that I plan on doing some of the rooty and rocky trails around here, plus hitting up some of the light technical runs at the local park, I'm leaning more towards the Zeppelin. Even if the Bar 2.1 shock and the Tora 289 fork might be on the lower end of components, I can always upgrade in the future as I feel necessary.
    The racing aspect is far down on my list of importance; more like something I might do on a lark, or just to stay keen during the CX off-season.
    "I feel like my world was classier before I found cyclocross."
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by CliftonGK1 View Post
    Knowing that I plan on doing some of the rooty and rocky trails around here, plus hitting up some of the light technical runs at the local park, I'm leaning more towards the Zeppelin. Even if the Bar 2.1 shock and the Tora 289 fork might be on the lower end of components, I can always upgrade in the future as I feel necessary.
    I'd make sure that you're reasonably happy with the Bar 2.1 shock before buying. In the past, at least, replacing a shock was a bit more difficult than replacing a fork. The problem is that some shock configurations are only available to OEMs or that manufacturers would order custom-configured shocks to fit their specific frame; just finding a shock that would fit a given frame could be difficult. I found this out the hard way when I bought my first MTB: I knew the shock was a compromise, but didn't realize how difficult it was going to be to find a replacement. Eventually ended up selling the entire bike.

    With full-suspension bikes, it's really nice if you can arrange a test-ride on trails that you plan to ride. For me, at least, it's very difficult to determine exactly how a FS bike will work during a parking lot demo ride. Many shops in my area hold "demo days" on local trails once or twice a year. A few will also rent you a bike for a day, then credit the rental toward purchase if you decide to buy a bike. Even if you're just riding around the block, get the shop to set the suspension up properly. Ideally, this means measuring the "sag" not just looking up settings in a book.

    During your test ride, I would suggest focusing on the performance of the rear suspension. Most/all Bar shocks lack lock-out, which means the suspension will always be fully active. That can be a blessing, or a curse. Does the bike bob or pogo around when you're pedaling along on flat ground? What about when climbing? My first MTB had lower-end components and it always felt like too much of my pedaling energy went into bouncing the suspension around rather than moving the bike forward. But, as I said, I'm particularly sensitive to that sort of thing.

  8. #8
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    Just to add to sstorkels good advice:
    Quote Originally Posted by sstorkel View Post
    I'd make sure that you're reasonably happy with the Bar 2.1 shock before buying. In the past, at least, replacing a shock was a bit more difficult than replacing a fork. The problem is that some shock configurations are only available to OEMs or that manufacturers would order custom-configured shocks to fit their specific frame; just finding a shock that would fit a given frame could be difficult. I found this out the hard way when I bought my first MTB: I knew the shock was a compromise, but didn't realize how difficult it was going to be to find a replacement. Eventually ended up selling the entire bike.
    Luckily single pivot designs donít usually call for anything extraordinary in the means of clearance or custom factory settings(i.e Turner bikes) and most of the swaps Iíve done for people with these style suspensions have been relatively easy. But I did go through something similar as you describe a few years ago when upgrading the old Cane Creek AD-10 on my 4 bar bike. If you think you might be upgrading the shock thereís 4 measurements needed:
    1- axle to axle length(total shock length)
    2- travel
    3- diameter of the bolt that secures the shock
    4- width of the spacers where the shock mounts.
    If you have a caliper handy you can get those in a few minutes without having to remove the shock. Then check the fox, RS, or even Cane Creek websites and you should have a pretty good idea on whether or not thereís an upgrade available for that bike.

    Quote Originally Posted by sstorkel View Post
    During your test ride, I would suggest focusing on the performance of the rear suspension. Most/all Bar shocks lack lock-out, which means the suspension will always be fully active. That can be a blessing, or a curse. Does the bike bob or pogo around when you're pedaling along on flat ground? What about when climbing?
    That mono-pivot design is susceptible to bob because it doesnít have any bars or linkages that counter rider input. Without a doubt it will require a good amount of time to get it set up where you balance the plushness of the suspension vs pedal efficiency. Even then it will always require a sit and spin pedal style. Any mashing or standing will just compress the suspension.
    Quote Originally Posted by sstorkel View Post
    With full-suspension bikes, it's really nice if you can arrange a test-ride on trails that you plan to ride. For me, at least, it's very difficult to determine exactly how a FS bike will work during a parking lot demo ride. Many shops in my area hold "demo days" on local trails once or twice a year. A few will also rent you a bike for a day, then credit the rental toward purchase if you decide to buy a bike. Even if you're just riding around the block, get the shop to set the suspension up properly. Ideally, this means measuring the "sag" not just looking up settings in a book.
    If youíve never ridden FS then this advice is worth its weight in gold. Get your hands on the bike for a few days and play with the settings. I can tell you from experience most FS bikes do not get set up perfectly the first time. It takes time on the trails playing with the settings to figure out your sweet spot. Many people donít take the time, give up after 1 ride and then just complain that FS sucks and theyíll never ride it again. I canít tell you how many times Iíve seen customers roll a solid dependable FS out the door then come back wanting a refund after the first ride. We just had one come back with a Turner Flux a few weeks ago. That bike is without question one of the top designs and he hated it. We took some time explaining that the setup is a process and then looked at how the bike was set up, asked some questions, did some tweaking and now heís happy with it. Sometimes this means 3+ tweaks before you get it dialed in and sometimes itís just a rider style thing. As I said in my previous post, buying the wrong type of suspension design for your style is as bad as having an ill fitted road bike. You just never get comfortable on it.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Hill-Pumper's Avatar
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    A lot of great advise here, but I'll add one more thought here. I would caution against the thought of upgrading the shocks/fork later. Good shocks and forks will cost more then the bike itself. You might consider using this bike to see if you like the mountain bike experience, then upgrading to a higher end bike. As with drive train, it is almost always less expensive to buy a bike with the good fork/shock on it, then to upgrade later.

  10. #10
    Gears? CliftonGK1's Avatar
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    1 - I'll email Airborne and get the stats on the stock Bar 2.1 shock. Just looking at the availability of that one on a couple sites, there seem to be about 6 different measurements available for it, so it's hopefully one which will match with an available upgrade shock down the line. Thanks for this; I didn't know to check all of those measurements. I only knew about 2 of them.

    2 - Unfortunately it's not a model that I can do a test ride on before purchase, but they do have a generous returns policy if things don't work out. I've dealt with enough other bike fittings to understand that things might not be spot-on the very first time, and I've read a bunch of suspension tuning articles so I realize that there can be a significant process to the rider/bike tuning before things are dialed in. I'm prepared for that, but thanks for the heads-up. Thankfully many of my CX teammates are MTB riders/racers as well, and can help me out with a few tuning & tweaking rides to really set things up proper.
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  11. #11
    Gears? CliftonGK1's Avatar
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    So, change of plans after some further examination of the equipment and a re-reading of the advice here. Given that a single-pivot design is more likely to pose issues, and upgrading in the future can be a pricey (and difficult, depending on the dimensions) venture, I'm taking advantage of a couple months waiting time to build up a cash reserve, and my CX team's discount with one of our kick-ass sponsors; Recycled Cycles.

    They're a dealer for Kona and Marin amongst other brands, and I've got a new selection to mull over. So, starting anew, what do people think of the following:

    Kona Hei Hei 29er
    Kona Tanuki Deluxe

    Marin Rift Zone XC6 29er
    Marin EastPeak 5.6

    They all seem to be roughly equivalent on the components, but I don't know about the differences between shocks, so that's my main question with them. They're all 4-bar linkage rear suspension to cut down on the bob 'n' bounce effect, with the primary difference between the models in each brand being a 29er or a 26".
    Not only am I a bigger guy at just over 200 pounds, but I'm a BIG guy at six and a half feet tall. Is there any detraction from the suspension system design for a 26" wheeled bike at the largest frame sizes vs. the smaller sizes? Is there a benefit to someone my size getting a 29er? Would my plans to do some slightly aggressive jumping be detrimental to a 29er wheel vs. a 26" wheel?
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  12. #12
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    I think the first thing to do is decide whether you want 26" or 29" wheels. In theory, 29" wheels will roll right over some obstacles that will require finesse to clear with a 26" wheel. On super-tight trails and switchbacks a 29" wheel might be more difficult to maneuver than a 26" wheel. A 29" wheel will have more momentum than a 26" wheel, but it will require more effort to get moving. "All Mountain" bikes seem to tend toward 26" wheels, so if you're planning to do jumps you might want to stick 26" wheels.

    As far as the specific bikes you've selected go... Kona seems to be using no-name shocks. Without knowing more about the designer/OEM, this is a bit of a red flag for me. Marin uses the Rock Shox Ario, which has a lockout. Lockout is a nice feature: it keeps the suspension from squishing all over the place when you're trying to pedal up a relatively smooth trail or fire road. My preference would be for a Fox Float RP2 or RP23 shock, but they're dramatically more expensive.

    The component mixes all seem pretty reasonable give the budget. Much of it comes down to preference. As an example, I hate the ergonomics of Shimano's MTB shifters; SRAM's design works much better for my hands. Magura hydraulic disc brakes are my favorite, followed by Shimano, Avid. I've test ridden 1 or 2 bikes with Hayes brakes and wasn't really impressed.

    If you decide to go with 26" wheels, you might also consider the Marin Mount Vision XM6. The 140mm suspension travel might be more appropriate for jumping and aggressive riding than the 120mm of travel offered by the EastPeak.

  13. #13
    Gears? CliftonGK1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sstorkel View Post
    If you decide to go with 26" wheels, you might also consider the Marin Mount Vision XM6. The 140mm suspension travel might be more appropriate for jumping and aggressive riding than the 120mm of travel offered by the EastPeak.
    I talked it over with teammates and the shop gang, and I ended up ordering the Marin XM6 for a couple reasons. All mountain suits the type of riding I plan on doing much more than a 29er. I have my CX bike for going fast in the dirt. I want something I can beat the snot out of. The EastPeak model, aside from having shorter travel also has a lower spoke count wheelset. The XM6 is rockin' 32 spokes as opposed to the 24 on the EastPeak. With my plan being to work my way up through the difficulty ratings at the local MTB parks, it's just not in my best interest to go with a lighter duty *anything* on my bike. Plus the rear shock on the XM6 is a common size which means easy upgrades in the future, should I decide to go that route.
    I couldn't pass up the opportunity to jump on this deal with my team's discount, either. The only bummer is that they didn't have any of the XL in stock to ship, so I have to wait another few weeks until it arrives at the shop.
    So aside from CX race crashes and canine related wipeouts, now everyone can look forward to POV crash video of me doing aerials into trees.
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  14. #14
    Pedals, Paddles and Poles Daspydyr's Avatar
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    That should make for entertaining video.

    Congrats on the new to you bike, pics of course. i have a 26er bike and think there are still advantages, especially for heavier riders. You really aren't a heavy rider BTW. the shorter spokes make for a more stable wheel when taking quick turns. Overall the bike will be a tad lighter. Marin is a quality bike and you should have a blast.
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