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Old 11-16-10, 01:42 PM   #1
hobkirk
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Roadie asking about MTB's - Is full suspension and/or 29" worth it?

How much better is a modern mountain bike than an "oldie"? Does full suspension and/or 29" wheels make a lot of difference on single track trail riding? I do push myself pretty hard but I don't race [or see how far I can jump ]. My terrain is mostly single track trails through typical New England woods - lots of hills (not mountains), rocks, and frequent water. I would do very little riding on pavement.

I went on a club "Mountain Bike Introduction" 25 mile ride last week. I was impressed that there were so many good trails locally and I was able to tire myself out a lot quicker than on my road bike. I'm riding 35-65 miles 4-5 times a week (3,900 miles since I started riding in June). It's getting cold and it seems like mountain biking might be a better choice soon (although I haven't dealt with ice yet).

I bought a MTB years ago and rode it quite a bit for one year. It's a 15 year old Nashbar 5000X hardtail with Specialized front forks and Umma Gumma (?) tires. [I am not sure about the year I think this link has info on the bike] It's in decent shapes (even the tires) except the forks leak down the air too quickly.

My guess is I will stick with my Nashbar bike (money is always an issue - I'm retired) but I like to learn the basics before I start on a major project.

PS - Any links (or advice or warnings) on how to repair the seals on the "Specialized Future Shock" front suspension (I haven't Googled it yet)?
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Old 11-16-10, 02:21 PM   #2
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For Recreational riding, that old Nashbar will probably be enjoyable. I recently returned to MTBing after getting both hips replaced in 2008. I was riding my 1995 Norco Nitro until recently. The Nitro has a front fork and it is nice. As my health and strength kept getting better I got "hungry" for more bike. I recently picked up a 2008 Scott Spark 20. It is full suspension. BUT it also has the advantage of full lock outs front and back, and a moderate rear suspension setting for climbing in a more grizzled environment. I really like the options it gives me.

The changes in frame geometry as significant from the '90s to now. The newer frame designs turn quicker and fit my body size better. I read an article where a guy described his previous bike as a BRICK. Well, my old bike was a brick, but it was my brick and I enjoyed the heck out of it. If you are enjoying yourself, keep with your Nashbar. If you get to a point where you want something more, start a fund and feed it. I got my bike by talking to sales people at LBS. They don't take trace ins, but sometimes to make a sale, the "client" needs to unload his current bike to move up. Those clients are motivated and are easier to low ball. I am cheap, but like good stuff.

Happy Trails to you, adieu!
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Old 11-16-10, 03:50 PM   #3
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How much better is a modern mountain bike than an "oldie"? Does full suspension and/or 29" wheels make a lot of difference on single track trail riding? I do push myself pretty hard but I don't race [or see how far I can jump ]. My terrain is mostly single track trails through typical New England woods - lots of hills (not mountains), rocks, and frequent water. I would do very little riding on pavement.

I went on a club "Mountain Bike Introduction" 25 mile ride last week. I was impressed that there were so many good trails locally and I was able to tire myself out a lot quicker than on my road bike. I'm riding 35-65 miles 4-5 times a week (3,900 miles since I started riding in June). It's getting cold and it seems like mountain biking might be a better choice soon (although I haven't dealt with ice yet).

I bought a MTB years ago and rode it quite a bit for one year. It's a 15 year old Nashbar 5000X hardtail with Specialized front forks and Umma Gumma (?) tires. [I am not sure about the year I think this link has info on the bike] It's in decent shapes (even the tires) except the forks leak down the air too quickly.

My guess is I will stick with my Nashbar bike (money is always an issue - I'm retired) but I like to learn the basics before I start on a major project.

PS - Any links (or advice or warnings) on how to repair the seals on the "Specialized Future Shock" front suspension (I haven't Googled it yet)?
I'm about 75 mi west of you and our NE terrain is pretty rugged. I'd say at our advanced ages (kills me to type that) a good full suspension bikes makes riding way more enjoyable but don't let that stop you from riding your current bike. Just keep an eye out for a nice used full suspension and if you get one I think you'll love it.

I'm no help on the 29er thing. I've tried them numerous times and I'm still not sure if it's for me or not. I still try to ride like a kid from time to time and find the 26 more fun. i still may buy one down the road just to make sure I'm not missing the second coming of Christ.
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Old 11-16-10, 03:55 PM   #4
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i rode hard tail for about 20 years, all over the states. now i ride a full suspension. i can tell you, it is completely and totally worth every penny you spend on it. way way way more comfortable, the full suspension makes you climb better, the wheels stick to the ground and you are more in control, and things you might not be able to ride down suddenly become QUITE doable. you seriously become instantly better, the full suspension will make up for many mistakes in body position and bike handling, and will give you enough confidence to do stuff and you eventually become a better rider. it makes you better.

if you are a tall guy, perhaps a 29er is the way to go. i have not met anyone who rode a 29er and didn't like it.

may i suggest the Turner 5 spot as a full suspension bike? sure, it is expensive, but seriously, it is worth every penny, Turner is a GREAT company, david turner is a great guy, and i gotta say that bike changed my life.
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Old 11-16-10, 04:18 PM   #5
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hobkirk,
I think you ought to seriously consider a dual suspension bike. Hardtails are not kind to older backs. You can land up spending the difference between a hardtail and dually at the doctors office with back pain.
When I returned to cycling in '05, I started out on a 88 Nishiki MTB that was upgraded with a suspension fork. Later that year I picked up a 05 Rockhopper, it was an imense improvement. Through the years I've acquired a few bikes for flipping including a 92 Trek 8500 with Rock Shox air fork, and a 97 GF Hoo Koo E Koo. Because these are really good bikes I thought they would be as good as the Rockhopper but I was wrong. They didn't handle nearly as well on technical single track. I'm an older slower rider, but my son is in his early 20's. He won't ride any of the older bikes we have. I'm betting the newer bikes today are better than mine.
If you go used dual suspension, I'd recommend buying something not more than 5 years old and, if possible, a higher end bike. Mountain bike technology advancements occur at a dizzying pace. Bikes that are six or eight years old are outdated By comparison, road bike technology has hardly advance in 10 years unless you consider electronic shifting or 11 speeds an advancement.
BTW, my current ride is an 05 Specialized FSR XC Comp dual sus with a FOX F-100 with Terralogic.
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Old 11-17-10, 12:02 PM   #6
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Yeah, I suppose a 29íer with full suspension will make you a better rider, if that is what you are looking for. Maybe Iím a retro grouch, but I run a nice Scott carbon frame & 26Ē wheels that is getting close to 20 years old. I donít have any problem with technique or back pain, so Iím happy. The bike handles great, and climbs amazingly well (again partially technique, I spin very smoothly and donít have traction or climbing problems). In the iceman race last weekend, I was passing tons of people with newer high tech bikes. 29ers and full suspension have their place, but are not the best weapon 100% of the time.

I did notice that most of the proís seemed to be on 29íer tires, 25-30 psi, and fully ridged bikes, with no front or rear shock. Interesting how fads change in biking. There is always something new people have to have Ė it is an industry of planned obsolescence, and that part works well.

Enjoy what you have, understand the weaknesses, and do some test rides on the new stuff once you understand what it is you want to improve.

Certainly in winter, the lower speeds (less wind chill) more aeobic (lots of intervals) make give mountain biking a good advantage over road biking. Riding at 20-30mph on the road in very cold weather isnít nearly as nice as mountainbiking.
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Old 11-17-10, 12:58 PM   #7
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I think there are mixed opinions from what I have read in magazines and online as to whether the 26" will be the dinosaur of mtn. biking soon or one day. I think you have those who have ridden both and some stay true to the camp of 26" bikes and others go to the 29" camp.

As far as full suspension vs. hardtail! Now that is of opinion too but coming from an old school knucklehead like myself who has had a few hardtails and refused to buy a full suspension I have to tell you, I have one now and it is rather nice. I bought a frame and built the bike up to my liking. The trick I believe is having a great rear shock as well as fork. I found alot of early model full uspensions to be too plush in the rear when climbing. With the availability of rear shocks that lockout now, the full suspension on long climbs with a shock that locks out is like having your hardtail too.

Once again, it is personal preference but if you ever ride a quality, not necessarily an expensive full suspension, you will think it is nice too I am sure. I still have my hardtail and ride it often. But when I am single tracking rough terrain the full goes always!
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Old 11-17-10, 01:26 PM   #8
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I suspect that 10+ year old tires and tubes should probably be replaced but if your current bike is in otherwise good shape you should stick with it and enjoy it. Wait until you have enough seat time to determine if/what it's deficiencies are for the kind of riding you find yourself doing. I have an older cannondale (circa 2000), fully rigid that honestly is still as much a joy to ride as my new shiney 29er. I dont necessarily use them for the same kind of riding and although I have added a number of bikes to the stable I just cant get rid of the old one. It's as solid as the day I bought it home and it rides superbly.

Unless you are looking at spending serious coin a FS trail bike generally is a tad heavier than a rigid bike. There is the maintenance of the shocks and bearings to consider also but it is true about being able to ride gnarlier trails you couldn't before. A suspended bike and a FS bike in particular will introduce maintenance tasks you never had to consider once upon a time.

I'm not so well versed as others here, but I will suggest a bike like a DiamondBack Sortie, it's really is a very, very good bike and much easier on the pocket than a great many other FS trail bikes. Perhaps not the lightest but it has a very decent component selection, really little reason to swap anything out for being sub-par. I suspect the Turner that was suggested is a bike to be coveted but it's sorta 'spensive (almost $3.5k for starters). I have seen the 2010 Sortie 1's about for about $1000, I personally favor the components on the Sortie 2 but I have not seen those about for sale, which doesnt mean that they are not out there. But if you budget and pocket generally allows you to buy some great hardware then great.

I'm sure others will chime in with their bike suggestions and it's all good, I just think the Sortie is really a superb bike and an outstanding value. I believe 2011 Sortie 2's come in at about $2300. Either way look for a deal as shops are trying to clear out the 2010's to make room for the 2011's, there are great savings to be had. Either way, keep your old bike, it's good to have a backup.
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Old 11-17-10, 03:25 PM   #9
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Velo news recently did a controlled test with pro riders comparing full susp rigs to rigid or hard tail. The results were that overall, the full susp rigs were slightly faster. They theorized that this was due to rider fatigue taking longer to set in. I would agree. I have both but at 50, I like the ride comfort of my dual suspension bike. For short bursts of all out performance, the hard tail would have the edge but for longer saddle times, full suspension every time.

As far as the 29 vs 26, I ride 26 but want to try 29. My next new bike will probably be Niner.
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Old 11-17-10, 06:16 PM   #10
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hobkirk, At the most I'd repair/replace the front fork, tires/tubes and perform a general tune up. I loved the trails in Connecticut and based on that experiance your bike should be fine. Ride through the winter and make a decision later.

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Old 11-18-10, 04:23 AM   #11
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I have a full suspension stumpy and been riding a 29 inch hardtail...thinking about getting one and alternating for different ride experiences. Let me just say it is totally dependent on the riding you do. If you do what i call cross country riding then you need to look at the 29er/26 hardtail...hardtails usually cost far less and can provide a great riding experience even for us older gents on these types of trails. If you do what i call mountain riding then the full suspension is a must. Now younger gents may get away with riding hardtails on mountain trails, but it physically beats me up (older gent here). Cross country trails to me are single tracks with switchback and your periodical obstacles such as roots and some rocks or conservative rock gardens. Mountain trails are rutted single tracks, bigger and more obstacles, rock drop offs (smaller ones for me), and longer/more aggressive rock gardens. I have both types of trails where i live and find myself leaning towards getting a hardtail for the CC oriented trails and the full suspension for the days I go out with the boys and play in the rougher stuff.

OP...you just have to assess the trails you are going to ride on and the type of riding you plan to do. Now I have a stumpy with 5 inchs of travel, you can get fulls suspension bikes with less travel and more cross country oriented. However, to me the cost effective approach would be to get a nicer equipped hardtail if the trails you are going to ride are less aggressive...hardtail saves you money, can do the job, and you get a better equipped bike for the lower price. If you have musculoskeletal problems and need the extra cushin provided by the full suspension then its a no brainer. Really though, it does come down to the trails you will be riding and how much money you want to throw at your ride experience. If money is tight, trails more CC and not overly aggressive, then hardtail good cost effective alternative...if you are riding more technical mountain trails then full suspension hands down. This info is coming from a 50 year old by the way.

There are also several articles on the advantage/disadvantages of 29ers vs 26 inch bikes...google is your friend here. But l will tell you on full suspensions bikes i rode I liked the the 26er hands down...i fit better in the saddle, seemed to handle far better than the 29er, and the 26er seemed to climb better (my experience anyway). Now hardtails, for some reason totally different experience. It takes a little more effort to get a 29er to speed, but once there they ride far smoothier then the 26er hardtail, go over obstacles far easier, and I seemed to have far less issue fitting in the saddle as I did with the full suspension 29er. I am actually thinking about getting the 29er hardtall for the CC rides around my house as it is definitely a different riding experience and i like the ride of the 29er hardtail over the 26er. So for me, with my full suspension I will stay with a 26, however, if i get a hardtail I believe it will be a 29er.
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Old 11-18-10, 09:43 AM   #12
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Everyone has addressed the 26er vs 29er topic, as well as the FS vs hardtail vs fully rigid topic. So I'll address the money issue. I started out mountain biking just this past spring with a 1998 Schwinn Frontier. After getting sick of the horrible brakes, bent wheels, & heavy weight, I went out & upgraded (ever so slightly) to a 2001 Gary Fisher Wahoo. Both of these are fully rigid 26ers. I've been riding the Wahoo fairly consistently since I got it, at least once a week. But alas, one day my stepdad let me trade bikes with him just for a 3 mile ride, & let me ride his 2008 Specialized Stumpjumper Pro. That's when I decided to save up for a FS bike. But after a few months, it became apparent that I would only have short bursts of extra money here & there--never enough for a complete FS bike worth buying. That's when chelboed helped me out by introducing me to a website called wheelworld.com, where I bought a very nice FS frame with the rear shock for $300. I found a nice wheelset on craigslist for $150. I'll be getting a Rockshox Tora Solo Air fork in the next paycheck or two for $180. When all is said & done, I'll have build up a bike with much nicer components than the complete version of my bike for just a bill or two over $1,000, when the complete bike retails for close to $1700. It's all about finding the good deals, & only spending what you can afford when you can afford it. I don't expect to have this bike complete until early spring, but that's plenty of time to continue building skills with my rigid bike. Not every skill learned on a rigid transfers to a FS, but the things you have to relearn will be much easier & the things you've already learned will make you much better & much more grateful for having learned them on a bike that allows no margin for error.
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Old 11-18-10, 10:28 AM   #13
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A hard tail with a Thudbuster seat post may be a cost effective compromise.
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Old 11-18-10, 01:03 PM   #14
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A hard tail with a Thudbuster seat post may be a cost effective compromise.
+1 for the Thudbuster seatpost.

I recently got one for my fully rigid single-speed cyclocross and my lower back pains have left me. I got the short travel one with 1.3" of travel. It sure works well and doesn't seem to be wasting my energy by bobbing up and down; atleast not enough to bother me.

I can't comment too much on the 29er/FS bikes as my only other (and first) bike is a 26" hardtail Cannondale F4. I love the weight advantage a hardtail brings but given how much I love my thudbuster I really want to try full suspension. But I can say that when I got my cyclocross bike the difference of wheel diameters shocked me, it was awesome. 700c compared to 26" really made a difference for rolling over the bumps, and I ride my 2 bikes on the same trails, so I'm not comparing apples to oranges.

Sounds like you could get a hardtail 29er, slide in a thudbuster seatpost, and have the comfort of rear suspension but save some weight and time/$ on maintaining a FS.
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Old 11-18-10, 01:24 PM   #15
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Thudbuster is very different than rear suspension. Rear suspension keeps the back wheel on the ground. With a hardtail (and to a lesser extent, with full suspension also), you need to use your legs as suspension, which means getting out of the saddle. Seatpost suspension does no good when you're not even in the saddle to begin with.

If you have money to blow and really want a fancy seatpost, I'd spend the money on a Gravity Dropper, Speedball, or Command Post. That would put the saddle high enough for pedaling when you want to sit, and would allow you to easily drop it over technical sections and descents when you want to get out of the saddle and get the saddle out of the way.
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Old 11-18-10, 04:14 PM   #16
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I agree with Zephyr11............I had a CC Thudbuster on a Schwinn Moab years ago and it was mediocre at best. A FS ride is way different than just having a thudbuster for sure. But if it is really a money issue then it may help a bit but I found not really much at all.
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Old 11-18-10, 04:33 PM   #17
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Word, Zephyr really nailed it on the head... but there's no question for me that the Thudbuster helps with the vibrations that caused my lower back pain. It's more of a comfort tool where the FS would affect the way the bike rides.
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Old 11-18-10, 10:17 PM   #18
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Word, Zephyr really nailed it on the head...
I believe the term is "hit the nail on the head". What you're saying he did is criminal assault.
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Old 11-19-10, 10:55 AM   #19
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I believe the term is "hit the nail on the head". What you're saying he did is criminal assault.
Ah I see. It's clear to me now. I lika this country very much!
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Old 11-21-10, 02:51 AM   #20
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How much better is a modern mountain bike than an "oldie"? Does full suspension and/or 29" wheels make a lot of difference on single track trail riding? I do push myself pretty hard but I don't race [or see how far I can jump ]. My terrain is mostly single track trails through typical New England woods - lots of hills (not mountains), rocks, and frequent water. I would do very little riding on pavement.

I went on a club "Mountain Bike Introduction" 25 mile ride last week. I was impressed that there were so many good trails locally and I was able to tire myself out a lot quicker than on my road bike. I'm riding 35-65 miles 4-5 times a week (3,900 miles since I started riding in June). It's getting cold and it seems like mountain biking might be a better choice soon (although I haven't dealt with ice yet).

I bought a MTB years ago and rode it quite a bit for one year. It's a 15 year old Nashbar 5000X hardtail with Specialized front forks and Umma Gumma (?) tires. [I am not sure about the year I think this link has info on the bike] It's in decent shapes (even the tires) except the forks leak down the air too quickly.

My guess is I will stick with my Nashbar bike (money is always an issue - I'm retired) but I like to learn the basics before I start on a major project.

PS - Any links (or advice or warnings) on how to repair the seals on the "Specialized Future Shock" front suspension (I haven't Googled it yet)?
As a former roadie bike myself (my first proper bike was a Vintage Raleigh back in 6th grade), I wished I had today's full suspension bike when I had to gingerly walk and carefully sat on a chair after hours of bike riding. In terms of not having suspension is immense because your body does not have to do double duty of hanging on to the bike and absorbing every nook and crony on an uneven asphalt at best. Having lots of traction is awesome (yes, I had once fell flat on my face because my road bike won't jump a curb in middle of hard rain) and not have to yield to other motorist made all that much fun.

If money is a problem, I believe most performancebike stores (a Bike Nashbar groupmate) and most local bike store will do short term financing and if you pick the right bike, you won't come away disappointed.

FYI, Specialized Future Shock is Spez version of Rockshox Mag 21 so any fixes for the RS should apply to your fork as well.

Happy trails!
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