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Old 10-17-06, 09:45 AM   #1
woodcycl
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Hardtail or Full-Suspension ... decisions decisions!

I'm a long-time cyclist ... both road and mountain ... been riding since late 1980's. Up until late last year, I was still riding my trusted Trek 7300 hardtail with "cheap" front Rock Shox fork. I loved the rapid fire XT trigger shifters! I sold it to help payoff a new tandem purchase. On the road, I have a new Cannondale Six13 Teamone ... and it is a truly GREAT bike! I road a 92' Trek 5200 up until last year and still have it.

Okay, ... I have between $1000 and $1200 to spend on a Mountain Bike. I'm a regular on the Road Cycling sub-forum, so no need to re-hash the same thing I and everyone else tells newbies ... "go ride the bikes and get the one that feels the best". I know ... I know. However, there is a bit of a difference here. Mtn bikes can't as easily be test-ridden in the parking lot, nearby roads, or adjoining front-yards and really know what to expect compared to riding out on the trails, etc. So, this is a bit of a dilemma.

My biggest dilemma, besides which brand/model to choose overall, is whether to go HardTail or Full-Suspension. Here's the reason why I'm uncertain:

1. I'm in my upper 30's ... and a hardtail on certain trails with lots of rocks, roots, hard-packed soil, etc. can beat me up and the enjoyment factor will lessen. Or, I may ride fewer miles due to the additional impact on the body. This is truly the MAIN reason I'm even considering a full-suspension.

2. Weight matters -- a hard tail in my price range can be as low as 26lbs! But, a full-suspension in my price range .. seems to be more in the 31 to 33lbs range. Correct? If I can obtain a full-suspension bike around 29 or 30 in my price range ... all else being equal ... I'd most likely jump on it ... why? See #1 above.

3. Component group -- one less shock means the $$ goes toward the next component level up. I'd prefer LX at a minimum with a XT rd. I have NO experience with SRAM - so I can't speak to that. But, I do not want Deore stuff. My last bike had XT all over with XTR rd and it was smooth.

4. Front Fork -- I can only assume, for my price range, if I go hardtail, that means my front fork will be of a better quality (for the most part) given I am not spreading the $$ over two suspensions.

Some of the bikes I'm considering (mainly hardtails so far): Kona Kula's & Dawgs, Mt. Fuji Pro, Gary Fisher Genesis frame, Trek, and Scott Scale 30/40.

I have easy access to Scott, Cannondale, and Fuji at the LBS where I've shopped for nearly 20yrs. And, I can get really good deals on these brands without any fuss. I am not brand loyal per se -- I know all these brands and many more are of high quality.

Hardtail vs. Full-Suspension? Decisions decisions! Any thoughts, insights, suggestions, etc. are appreciated.

Edited to Add: I'll mainly be riding trails ... so something like a XC or All-Mountain would be my best bet I believe.
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Old 10-17-06, 09:54 AM   #2
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WEll It's been said before but in that price range a hardtail will have the better weight and components but, My first full suspension was in that price range and was fully serviceable as a trail bike so, Shop wisely and go with your gut Feeling!
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Old 10-17-06, 10:06 AM   #3
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Hey Brian , I am new to MTB also, with freestlyin in my past. I came to the same crossroads you are at at one point of my bike purchase decisions. Some of your options in your criteria cancel each other out because a light(24 lb or less) full suspension bike under $1200 is very hard to find unless you find a deal on a used one. I do mostly city/urban riding w/ my GF, but on the weekends we go to a state park w/ some gnarly trails. I ended up choosing a FS bike(used Cannondale Jekyll) w/ lockout on the suspension, giving me a hardtail type ride with the ability to unlock my shocks(130 mm travel) for the trails. Yes, the bike weighs 28-29 lbs., but it has more (durable) components. Besides, I need to extra exercise anyways! My GF has a hardtail Haro V2, and it seems just as heavy as my Jekyll, and she doesnt have an IRS or disc brakes(my jekyll has Hope Mini's). If your going to do a lot of bumpy riding, then I'd say get a FS bike because the suspension will take alot of load off your body. I know alot of peeps here will say get a hardtail....but we're not 17 anymore, are we?
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Old 10-17-06, 10:14 AM   #4
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Brian,
I rode a Trek 4300 pretty hard for awhile and still have it, but I found a Fuel EX6 at the LBS with a sale price of 1200; I love it and gave the Trek to my son to beat up before getting him a better bike.

My only problem is that now my wife wants to upgrade her hardrock... money, money, money.
Get a 2006 FS as the 2007's are hitting the stores; you'll get a good deal.
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Old 10-17-06, 10:18 AM   #5
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I've found that if you ask this question, go with the FS...you know that you will eventually trade up if you get the HT and this will save you money in the long run.
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Old 10-17-06, 10:43 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jm01
I've found that if you ask this question, go with the FS...you know that you will eventually trade up if you get the HT and this will save you money in the long run.
yep
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Old 10-17-06, 10:55 AM   #7
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I rode a hardtail for years...I switched over to FS this year and will never go back. Well worth the extra cash...Plus, you have the ability to ride varying levels of trails with utter and complete confidence! Trust the shocks!!
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Old 10-17-06, 11:08 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jm01
I've found that if you ask this question, go with the FS...you know that you will eventually trade up if you get the HT and this will save you money in the long run.

I went the other way. I got an XC first, then a hardtail then and all mountain. My favorite? The hardtail.
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Old 10-17-06, 11:43 AM   #9
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I appreciate all the feedback! Keep it coming.

I hope to test hardtail and FS Fuji, Scott, Trek, Kona, and Gary Fischer in the next few days. Just wish they offered a 2 mile long trail! I was told that there are several last year's model in a couple of different brands for FS that are 28 to 30lbs without a problem. Not sure if this sales guy was speaking of "claimed mfr weights" or actual weights. I tend to think that in my price range, it would be closer to 30 or 31. Not that big of a deal overall if the rest of the bike works well for me.

I had a hard tail and rode it for years. Thus, I'm familiar with how bad a rocky/rooty trail for miles on end can beat you up!! So, I'm giving a little more consideration to a FS than I originally did.

Just tough to find a ~30lbs FS with LX and XT on it ... and a half-way decent front suspension. I'm gonna keep my eyes open and see what I can find though.
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Old 10-17-06, 12:13 PM   #10
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One of the LBS's just called me back with the following deals:

Trek Fuel 9.0 -- only $2,099 !!! WOW!! But, still way out of my price range ... @#$!$!@#$!$@#$%!!
Gary Fisher Cake 2 (2006) -- $1,399 -- full suspension, but with only Deore and LX rd.
Gary Fisher Big Sur (2006 -- $1,299 -- hardtail, but with LX and XT Rd.

However, they don't have the GF's in my size in stock.

Edited to add: Does anyone know what the Fuel 9.0 weighs?? Sounds like a great bike for $2.1k !
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Old 10-17-06, 12:46 PM   #11
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Do these dealerships no have demo bikes you can rent for the weekend?
If you go with the FS bike, make sure the frame isn't a cheapo version of a higer end model. If you're on a budget, buy the best FS frame you can get and assume the rest of the components will be repalced down the line.
I've heard people are pretty happy with the cake as a recreational trailbike, but I've no personal experience. I would go that route though.
Then again, I'm pretty bike promiscuous so I rarely buy a bike/frame thinking I'll be keeping it for the long haul.
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Old 10-17-06, 12:54 PM   #12
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I'm guessing that if you are riding a six13, you are not going to be pleased with the quality of a $1200 FS.
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Old 10-17-06, 01:16 PM   #13
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I'm guessing that if you are riding a six13, you are not going to be pleased with the quality of a $1200 FS.
Yes, I know what you mean or are referring to! But, two things are helping me to be okay with it: 1) Not a lot of disposable income at the moment or in the near future. 2) In the past, Mtn biking miles is secondary to road biking miles. I ride 3500 to 5000 miles a year on the road. I usually get out in the winters on the Mtn bike 10 to 20 times.

No, I wouldn't be okay with a $500 to $800 bike (at least in my "mind" ... it's all perception you know! ) but the Mtn bikes I'm looking at retail for $1300 to $2,000 so most of them will have LX with XT rd and I'll be okay with that.

Now, if I could only figure out how to get another few hundred to get that Fuel 9.0 for $2100!!!!!!
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Old 10-17-06, 01:31 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jm01
I've found that if you ask this question, go with the FS...you know that you will eventually trade up if you get the HT and this will save you money in the long run.
Nah. I started off on full rigid, then went to hardtail, then to FS, then back to hardtail. I currently have a full-rigid single speed and a HT. I ride the same trails as always, and do quite well against my FS-riding buddies [80% of the people I ride with have Santa Cruz Blurs]. For a while the FS folks were out-climbing me on technical stuff, but then I switched from 2.1" race tires to 2.3" all-mtn tires and I'm right back in the thick of it. You will get better components for your $ with a HT as well. If you want more flexibility, go with a 100mm travel fork and wider tires. It won't be as efficient as something racier, but it should get you through the same terrain as the average FS XC bike in the same price range and be significantly lighter.
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Old 10-17-06, 02:36 PM   #15
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I'd test-ride the DS and HT candidates, and choose accordingly. For $1300 or so, you can get a Kona Kikapu Deluxe which has pretty decent components for a FS bike. For $1000, you can get a Kona Kikapu, but its drivetrain and rear shock will be quite usable, but a bit on the low-end. As always, if you can't decide, buy the DS... you can always upgrade the DS's components.

I'd make a candidate list of bikes, then test-ride. A lot of people have both DS and HT bikes, and end up liking their HT bikes better. I have a low-end Kona that I probably will end up riding more because its less of a thief magnet, especially with locking skewers on it [1], ensuring the wheels and fork remain part of the bike.


[1]: Pitlocks, of course... Just got them in yesterday. Disclaimer... I don't work for pitlock.de or urbanbiketech, just very happy with their stuff.
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Old 10-17-06, 02:47 PM   #16
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Well, if you can turn a wrench...take your time, shop around, and build one. I decided to go with a burly'ish FS frame. (Dakar XLT)

I have got about $900-$950 in it. It has Fox Vanilla R 130mm fork, Fox Float shock, XT der's, Hone cranks, XT cassette, XT hubs / Rhyno lites, nevegals, EA50 stem, EA70bars, RF post, SanMarco saddle, Juicy 5 Hydro's, LX shifters, m505 SPD's, ODI lock on's...am I missing anything?

Okay, so when I switch back to normal tubes and Small Block 8 2.35's, I should be in the 30'ish lb weight range.

That said, if you decided to go with more of an "XC" build ie...lighter hoops, fork, frame, and bars...you should be able to shave alot of weight.

I'd say for $1000 you could build an XC bike in the 27-29lb range, no prob.

Just get creative and watch sales and eBay.
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Old 10-17-06, 02:48 PM   #17
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Just sweetened the pot on the 06' Fuel 9 ... to $2,000 even. Geez ... what a good deal! And, actually the retail on it according to Trek's webiste is $3189.99.

I didn't want to spend much more than 1200 to 1300 max. BUT ... when a really good deal rears it's beautiful face ... tough to let it go.

My fear ... I'll get a 1200 or 1300 bike and be okay with it .. but always wonder what the $3200 Fuel would be like for only $700 or more!
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Old 10-17-06, 03:52 PM   #18
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Giant's Maestro suspension is very close to a VPP at a fraction of the cost. You should be able to pick up a '06 Giant Trance on closeout right now.
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Old 10-17-06, 06:16 PM   #19
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My wife just got a trek fuel ex (don't remember 5 6 or 7) WSD version. i believe its XT front and rear, hayes hydro brakes, Reba fork and some kind of fox rear shock, it was $1300, it has front and rear lockouts, so for hard stuff she can put the front and rear on full plush (i think its 4" or 5" of travel front and rear) then when it gets smoother she puts them both on firm but moveable, when we ride on road she locks out the rear and puts the front on firm or really soft cuz she likes going up and down curbs etc... if we're on a long smooth paved bike path she just locks them both out and its like a rigid. it weighs i believe 26lbs, very nice bike for the money. the bike store had carved a little trail around their parking lot, with roots and rocks, it was kinda funny, she rode around it twice forward and backward. she wants to get the remote lockout for it, i think its called poploc? but it lets you adjust the compression on front and rear suspension from the handlebar.
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Old 10-17-06, 06:44 PM   #20
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Cheap or good.

A 29er hardtail may fit your budget. The bigger wheels (with bigger rubber) rolls over things a lot better and really takes the edge off.

There are a few $500-ish frames out there like the Karate Monkey and Q-Ball that you may be able to build up into your price range. Speedgoat has a KILLER deal right now on a Salsa Dos Niner (fits 2.4" tires) with a Reba fork ... price $1000. A frugal build up could get you into the $1500 range.

Good full suspension for $1200??? It's a Giant Trance or nothing.
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Old 10-18-06, 07:46 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by woodcycl
Just sweetened the pot on the 06' Fuel 9 ... to $2,000 even. Geez ... what a good deal! And, actually the retail on it according to Trek's webiste is $3189.99.

I didn't want to spend much more than 1200 to 1300 max. BUT ... when a really good deal rears it's beautiful face ... tough to let it go.

My fear ... I'll get a 1200 or 1300 bike and be okay with it .. but always wonder what the $3200 Fuel would be like for only $700 or more!

You're not thinking straight , if you put $700 more into the $1300 bike you will have your dream bike, it'll be durable, lightwieght.... but not cheap! Screw the trek, even though it's a nice bike, but for $2000? I could get some 19"' and 20"s on my vette for that money! Where's your priorities, man!?(Ooops, ranting in wrong forum! ) Just to give you an example, I just bought an 03 Cannondale Jekyll, Marzocchi fork, fox float R rear shock, Hope mini Hydo's, race face duce headset for $600! Is it new? No, but it's in great shape, and I can't tell the difference when I'm bombing doing a 100 ft. descent going 20 mph or more over 5" diameter rocks and gravel trying not to break my neck(which is what i did last week)! Do your homework and don't get "love at first sight" with one particular bike! Good luck
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Old 10-18-06, 08:02 AM   #22
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I have ridden two Fuels. I really wasn't impressed with either one of them and would rather have my hardtail.
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Old 10-18-06, 11:52 AM   #23
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Hey woodcycl: you mention you have easy access to Scott right? Get the Scott Scale 30! Its $1600. Yes its a bit above your budget but it answers all the questions and it is well worth it.

You seems to have a hard time choosing between Full Suspension vs Hardtail. Scott Scale is made from complete Carbon Fiber. That gives you some flex like a full suspension and a Hardtail solid feel.

Weight matters for you right? Scott Scale is a hardtail that weights under 24 lbs!

The Scott Scale 30 has exactly what you want. It has full Shimano LX components and XT Rear RD.

Front fork: Scott Scale 30 comes with Fox 100 RLT. What fork can you get better at this price range of a Carbon fiber complete bike?

*Scott Scale 30 uses the EXACT same material for this frame then the Scott Scale 10 which is a CRAZY race bike. I have tried the 10 and its dam good. Very light, good feel, nice looking, etc. What most people always think is Scale 10, 20, 30 are different frame, its not!


Check this out:
http://cgi.ebay.com/SCOTT-SCALE-30-C...QQcmdZViewItem
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Old 10-18-06, 11:58 AM   #24
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Did some looking around on the Fuel -- I'll probably pass on it. I did look at the Scott Scale 30 ... and I am impressed. That is what first made me FIND a few extra $$ to spend. Now, I have an opportunity to pick up the Cannondale Prophet 3 for $1900! That seems to be a fantastic deal also. Not sure about weight, but a very nice bike. Reviews on the Prophet 1000 are fantastic (which the Prophet 3 replaces in 2007).

I hope to test ride both the Prophet and the Scale 30 in the next few days.
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Old 10-18-06, 12:56 PM   #25
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I'd say find a Giant trance on blow out, sub 1k and upgrade it with better disc brakes and lighter wheetset. The stock shocks are OK enough to ride w/o dropping $500 to upgrade them.

If you want to be a true weight weenieon FS, find a Giant NRS frame used on ebay or something and build it up to a sube 25lb FS racers. You can build a dream bike for under 2k easy. More like 1500 pending what frame cost and what front shock you get.
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