Back in the 90's, I would read bike reviews talking about how well such'n'such bike climbed...blah, blah, blah.
Now days, every time they review a bike (namely a suspension bike) they always say "pick a comfortable gear and spin you way up the hill.) This is the manufacturer and marketing making an excuse for a bike that has no chance of being an exceptional climber. Sitting and spinning will get you there eventually. The funny thing is that this isn't the quickest way up the hill. I know that the marketing hype now days centers around the 5-6" travel trail bike, but I'm thinking that it really doesn't apply to me. When I had my Jamis XLT dually, I read all the reviews on it that said the same thing about picking a comfy gear and spinning. I must agree that it would get up any hill as long as you did it that way. The problem is that it is obviously going to take forever spinning a 22/34 gear compared to a 32/16. But standing and honking on any suspended bike will cause the suspension to compress and suck up some of your energy. The amt. obviously varies by design.
I'm not telling you anything you don't already know yet...I know. I wanted to test this theory with a couple of bikes that were closer in design than the very different 5" dually and a rigid SS. So lets take the marketing hype out of the picture and just use 2 hardtails...1 rigid/1 front suspended with a lockout.
I’ve been trying to “mirror” the general handing and very basic geometric feel of my two hardtails which I knew was virtually impossible with the given criteria though I was hoping to get within the same ballpark.
Bike #1 has longer TT, so I was trying to compensate bike #2 with a 20mm longer stem length and different saddle position.
Bike #1 has a Fox Float 140 RL 511mm A2C with a low stack headset and fewer stem spacers. Bike #2 is rigid 440mm A2C with a taller than normal rigid fork, extra-tall stack headset, and added stem spacers. So it’s a 71mm taller fork, but subtract the 10mm taller lower bearing cup and extra 30mm stem spacer…and you’re left with only 1” difference.
Bike #1 is a 1x9…Bike#2 is SS.
Saddle-to-handlebar length is the same. When seated, they both feel similar. When standing, Bike #1 feels a bit cramped for climbing. Theory: slacker seat tube angle on Bike#1 causes the distance from bars to saddle to be fine, but the saddle is further behind the BB shell than Bike #2. When standing, there is less room from the vertical plane through my BB to the handlebars.
Stand-and-mash climbing seems to be what works best for me. I like to just “get there”. Bike #1 is heavier than Bike #2, but the 9 gears should in theory make up for a lot. Climbing the same steep/long/paved hill on both bikes for testing resulted in more fatigue on my geared bike no matter what gear I used. I climbed it on my rigid in 32/15 and 32/16. I climbed it on my geared bike with the fork locked out in 32/15…32/17…32/34. Stand’n’mash in the higher gears…sit’n’spin in 32/34. I also climbed it on my 3x7 rigid Raleigh in the granny and lowest cog. (26/30 or something like that) No matter what I did, climbing that hill feels pretty easy on the rigid SS with 2:1 ratio.
2. Geometry causing me to be more cramped on Bike #1
3. Taller front end on Bike #1
Descending…the geo’s of both bikes are comfy. The Float definitely makes a bit quicker work of the tech stuff, but at what price?
I know that if I had access to some more "open" trail networks, I would feel a bit differently about the situation. By "open", I mean a trail with alot of extended DH, long open pedaly sections that aren't exactly "steep climb/roll 20feet / steep descent / roll 20feet / repeat. I don't even feel that I'm taking advantage of my 5.5" fork anymore.
I’m starting to scare myself…