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Old 06-03-08, 02:01 PM   #1
Scratcher33
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Hardtail XC Steel v Full Suspension AM

I'm upgrading bikes and a little bit unsure what to get (still fairly green). I've been looking at getting a steel hardtail that weighs in at 25#s, or an AM FS -- 30#s. I've been leaning towards the hardtail because it's used (lightly 2.5 yrs old) and I can get it at a better price. However, it seems to be sold as a "race" bike. I have no interest in racing. I like riding singletrack -- and earning my downs. I really enjoy the descent. I was riding the local trails yesterday on my friend's FS XC bike and felt like I was probably glad to have a little suspsension in the rear, but I hear steel is a very forgiving ride downhill (maybe even comparable to an inch of rear suspension).

So I guess my question is are these "race" bikes (Jamis) up for taking me down bumpy descents or are they only ideal for smooth flat riding and climbing? Would I be better off coughing up the extra cash and going with an AM?

Thanks everyone in advance for the input.
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Old 06-03-08, 02:37 PM   #2
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. . . but I hear steel is a very forgiving ride downhill (maybe even comparable to an inch of rear suspension).
Whoever is filling your ear with that BS is irresponsible . Steel is 'forgiving' only in not transferring the resonance of every single piece of gravel on a trail through the frame, that's all. BIG, fat tires can compare to a couple of inches of rear travel; but that's as far as it goes.

If you are finding that the descents are what really do it for you, do yourself a favor and look more toward an AM that will still be there for you as you start to push the envelope of your descending prowess.
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Old 06-03-08, 03:07 PM   #3
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What steel bike weighs in at 25lbs?
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Old 06-03-08, 03:23 PM   #4
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What steel bike weighs in at 25lbs?

Mine

Salsa Ala Carte frame
Fox F32 80RL fork
X.9 rear derailer
XTR front derailer
XT cranks
x.9 shifters
Easton Monkeylite carbon bar
Avid BB7 brakes (7" front rotor)
Thomson seatpost
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shimano 11-32 rear cassette
KMC chain
shimano 520 pedals
IRC Mibro 2.1" tubed tires with stans sealant tubeless
Easton EA50 stem
Sram 9.0 brake levers

changing out just a few parts would make it easily in the low 24lb range.

BTW, the frame is 4.4lbs and is ox platinum.
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Old 06-03-08, 03:24 PM   #5
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Why aren't you considering a lighter XC FS like your friend's?

I have a Jamis Dragon (steel HT), was running some narrow 1.9" tires...I suppose it's more forgiving than an AL frame, but it's still pretty bumpy...especially compared to the 5" travel FS bikes I demo-ed... Not sure that a 30 pound AM would be any more enjoyable, though...that's a lot of weight to lug around...

It's not really that hard to get a steel bike down to 25 pounds...my Dragon is around 26, I could lose a pound just by replacing the boat anchor fork with something lighter...
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Old 06-03-08, 03:25 PM   #6
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What steel bike weighs in at 25lbs?
and for double jeopardy...I have a sub 20lb lugged steel road bike built up with dura ace 9 speed and the frame was made in 1985.
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Old 06-03-08, 04:06 PM   #7
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Split the difference. Full suspension XC bike. Something in the 4 inch travel range. Maybe 5.
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Old 06-03-08, 04:25 PM   #8
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I have a new Motobecane Fly Ti MTB and I love it, but if you like those descents, get a full suspension.
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Old 06-03-08, 04:34 PM   #9
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Split the difference. Full suspension XC bike. Something in the 4 inch travel range. Maybe 5.
Yep, this is kinda what I did.. a lightweight AM bike.. 120mm front, 110mm in back, 25.5lbs. No real penalty climbing compared to a hardtail, but a big plus on the flats and descents. It will cost some money to get a fs down to that weight, but well worth it.
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Old 06-03-08, 05:12 PM   #10
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Go with an AM rig. When you move to bigger burlier stuff you'll be glad you did.
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Old 06-03-08, 05:19 PM   #11
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get a moots
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Old 06-03-08, 05:37 PM   #12
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get a moots
Why?
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Old 06-03-08, 06:41 PM   #13
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I had a very nice steel bike and I would say that it moved with me down hill (kind of like ti, but steel "springs" slower). I loved it, but saying it is like suspension is BS.
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Old 06-03-08, 08:13 PM   #14
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What steel bike weighs in at 25lbs?
It's a Jamis Dakota xc which became the dragon the next year (and the dakota became aluminum only).

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Why aren't you considering a lighter XC FS like your friend's?
My friend's XC FS weighs in at 29.5#s.

I've got a strict $1400 price limit -- which is already more than I had hoped to spend -- so I'm looking at buying new old stock.

I've found a nice 2006 FS XC that weighs (according the manufacturer) 29.25#s for 1200 that retailed at 1700. But I've also found an FS AM that weighs 29.75#s for 1400 that retailed at 2300.

So I'm still not totally sure what I'll do, but thanks for all the advice!

Would the geometry of the XC affect the climbing ability much or is it mostly the weight?
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Old 06-03-08, 08:27 PM   #15
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For 1400 I'd get a trail oriented hardtail. Probably 100mm of suspension, unless you can find something with 120. Make sure the frame has clearance for 2.3 inch tires as well.

On the other hand there are deals out there. You may be able to get a 2000 dollar FS XC rig for 1400, but if we're talking msrps I think you'd be happier with hardtail. FS in that price range will work fine, but will have lower specs and be heavy.

I'd say geo and travel affect climbing more than 1 or two pounds. Suspension design plays a huge role as well.

All that said I'm personally sold on the 29 inch wheels, so I'm willing to make sacrifices in the area of suspension to get 'em. I was going to get a 26 inch FS XC rig, but now I think my next bike will either be a short travel (100mm) FS 29er or a hardtail 29er.

The big wheels are nice on a hardtail because they roll over things well, but they're not suspension, just like steel isn't suspension. They have other cons too, such as weight. Not for everyone, I'm sure.

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Old 06-03-08, 09:20 PM   #16
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Hmm...I never thought of it like that before, but I guess the Dakota XC did sort of become the Dragon Comp...

See if you can test ride a 29er, see how you like it...
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Old 06-04-08, 07:35 AM   #17
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A friend of mine rides a sub 25# hardtail and I ride a hefty over 30# full suspension. although the weight difference between the two bikes is obvious mine "rides" just as light as his over the trail (feels lighter in a way). The rear suspension makes most of the bike's weight "sprung" whereas most of a hardtail's weight is "unsprung". It's a heck of a lot more efficient to move sprung weight over rough terrain than it is to move unsprung weight.
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Old 06-04-08, 03:23 PM   #18
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Hmm...I never thought of it like that before, but I guess the Dakota XC did sort of become the Dragon Comp...

See if you can test ride a 29er, see how you like it...
I would say it became the dragon pro...the only differences are the bb7s instead of mechanical brakes and 853 instead of 651. I think I will try to test out a 29er though as they seem to be getting popular pretty quickly.

I think I might be set on a FS now though, because I wasn't so much concerned about weight as I was about the hardtail handling descents, and most of the responses here seem to say that a race xc won't be great going down bumpy descents.

Thanks everyone
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