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  1. #1
    Two-Wheeled Aficionado ColinL's Avatar
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    Rode 3 different FS bikes the past week. Here are some impressions.

    They were all pretty high spec new bikes. Giant had a demo day through a LBS at a trail. I regret not getting there early enough to take a TCX 0 or TCR AdvSL4 out... but my priority was obviously MTBs, so I rode a Anthem X Advanced 29er 1 and a Trance X 29er 0. Both had full XT groups. The Anthem had a Rockshox SID and Monarch RL. The Trance had a Fox Evolution CTD fork and shock. They were both running way too high pressure in the tires-- Nobby Nic 29x2.25 on the Trance, Racing Ralph 2.2 on the Anthem. I rode the Trance a full lap and almost washed out a few loose-over-hardpack corners. I rolled away from the start and dropped the Anthem down to 28F/32R -- much better, but still very safe for any rider heavier than me to not bend a rim.

    They estimated sag by airing the fork and shock on the stand based on my weight. Good enough, I guess.

    They both climbed well. I rode the Trance in trail mode, and the Anthem open. The Anthem did have some pedal bob when I was jamming 15-20mph in open flat ground, and I could feel it even more during short standing climbs. The Anthem's steering was noticeably faster and tracked better. Both of them ate up the roots, but there aren't any rock gardens on this trail.

    I noticed the XT brakes had great modulation but seemed to have a few mm of takeup slack in the levers before doing anything. My bike has Magura MT4s which have no such slack, but they can put you on your head if you aren't careful and they howl when I brake hard. The Shimanos were silent.

    Today I rode my dad's 2012 BMC Speedfox SF01 26" at the same trail. It has the same running gear as the Trace X-- Shimano XT and Fox. I had the advantage of setting the sag properly, along with tire pressure and other little tweaks. I noticed right away, sitting next to my bike, that it has a long wheelbase and long chainstay. To my surprise, it climbs well. Better than either of the Giants. The suspension linkage looks *very* similar between Giant and BMC. Certainly different than my Santa Cruz's 1st gen VPP. I did the whole trail with the Fox RP2 shock in open mode. The BMC accelerates out of corners very much like a hardtail.

    I noticed that the BMC has a low bottom bracket. Probably the same height as my Blur originally was, with a 100mm fork, but I have a 120 on it now and the BB is about 1/4" higher. I did scuff my pedals a few times, actually, something I never did on the Giants and rarely do on my bike. I did get more laps on this bike so maybe I was carrying more speed in the corners, despite my dislike of the Rocket Ron 26x2.25 tires. They are way squirmy cornering fast on hardpack and I actually tore a knob on the rear tire.

    Another thing I noticed is that the BMC is very nimble. It turns better than the Anthem, without being twitchy. The BMC accelerates well out of corners too. Also the BMC is pretty fricken huge for a large. My Blur is an XL and has a shorter top tube, and same head tube. The Anthem was an XL and it was slightly bigger- probably the biggest I could possibly ride. I'd buy a large in that for sure. The Trance was a large and definitely felt smaller than the Anthem or BMC.


    Final thoughts--

    All of the bikes were very, very good. I would be happy owning any of them. I was surprised that I liked the BMC the best. --Actually, I like my own bike the best, but it has a better fork and shock so you have to exclude that a bit. My frame itself, however, is definitely not as good as the BMC. I did not get the impression that the 29ers were faster because of their tire diameter. I did get the impression that the Racing Ralph is a fantastic hardpack tire, and the Rocket Ron is not. I reserve judgement about the Nobby Nic because it was so overinflated. I am not sure if the BMC is the most nimble just because of the way it is designed, tuned, or if it just fits me better.
    Last edited by ColinL; 10-30-12 at 11:07 PM.

  2. #2
    Two-Wheeled Aficionado ColinL's Avatar
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    Oh-- another impression about the Giant bikes is that they had damn wide bars for this trail, with tight tree gaps and no fast, open descending. I really didn't get the wide bars on the Anthem... Why does an XC race bike need 740mm bars?

  3. #3
    Senior Member Lexi01's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ColinL View Post
    Why does an XC race bike need 740mm bars?
    Sorry to answer a rhetorical question - but you don't.

    I'm a tall bugger with wide shoulders and I even find the wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiide bars on most MTBs that I tried to be just plain annoying.
    Last edited by Lexi01; 10-30-12 at 11:31 PM.

  4. #4
    Two-Wheeled Aficionado ColinL's Avatar
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    Glad I'm not the crazy one, then.

    My bars are 660mm and that feels plenty wide to me. There are times when I could do with less. How wide are the bars on your new Scott?

  5. #5
    Senior Member Lexi01's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ColinL View Post
    Glad I'm not the crazy one, then.

    My bars are 660mm and that feels plenty wide to me. There are times when I could do with less. How wide are the bars on your new Scott?
    They're actually 700mm. I didn't want to NOT buy a bike I loved cos the bars were too wide - seemed silly...I thought I'd swap them out. But I'm willing to bet I still have the same bars on it in 6 months time!

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    Chop them down? Measure a cm or two from the end of the bar, get a good line drawn, cut, file if needed. It's basically free, so if the rise/angle of the bars works well for you, why not?
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    Quote Originally Posted by scyclops View Post
    Oh yeah, sure, what if everyone thought that way? Then internet forums would merely be places where rational people exchange useful information and ideas - instead of the chaotic, emotionally-charged circuses that they are.

  7. #7
    I'm band already? lubes17319's Avatar
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    Nice review Colin!
    Who cares what your bike weighs, just ride it!

  8. #8
    Senior Member Lexi01's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 3speed View Post
    Chop them down? Measure a cm or two from the end of the bar, get a good line drawn, cut, file if needed. It's basically free, so if the rise/angle of the bars works well for you, why not?
    Yep, I've thought about and will be doing it at some stage.

    But I've only been on 1 trail ride on the bike. I want to ride it a lot more and get a better feel for it before I start taking a hacksaw to it.

    As I said I'm quite tall and quite "shouldery" so I probably should be one of the guys needing wider bars...but I guess coming from more of a road riding background I'm very comfortable with my hands closer together.

    We'll see.

    I agree with Lubes too - excellent review by Colin. I wish more people would take the time to do this...it'd help a lot of folks when searching for info on bikes they'reconsidering (and might stop the endless run of "help me decide between x & y" threads!

  9. #9
    Senior Member Dilberto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ColinL View Post
    Oh-- another impression about the Giant bikes is that they had damn wide bars for this trail, with tight tree gaps and no fast, open descending. I really didn't get the wide bars on the Anthem... Why does an XC race bike need 740mm bars?
    Whoever assembled the bike with wide bars is primarily a Trail/All-Mountain rider. For XC - 680mm is plenty wide. I thought the BMC Trailfox was a blast too - until I rode the new Specialized Epic FSR 29er.....OMFG!!!
    2001 Cannondale Bad Boy Ultra - Shimano XTR/SRAM X0; Magura, Velocity Blunt SL
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  10. #10
    Two-Wheeled Aficionado ColinL's Avatar
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    I know a guy with a 2012 carbon epic.. might ride it one day, he was eyeballing my fork and we could probably do a test ride swap.

  11. #11
    Te mortuo heres tibi sim? scrublover's Avatar
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    Nice summary. I've liked my time on Maestro bikes - quite a fair bit on a Trance-X and a Reign-X. IMO, the biggest improvement to them post purchase is ditching the stock Fox dampers and going with something from the RS Monarch line. The Monarch on my TX was worlds better than any of the RP variants I've tried, and the Vivid Air on my RX has made the bike much, much better in pedaling, sucking up little trail chater, and taking bigger hits. The rest of the spec varies by which price point you go with, obviously.

    Wide bars are getting more and more spec, because it's what a lot of riders are tending to like, and it's a lot easier to cut a wide bar down than add to a narrow bar...

    Try them before cutting. I find going to wider bars also works best with a shorter stem, vs. just slapping wider bars in your current stem and riding.
    They're going to pull your chest/arms out wider, pulling your weight a bit more forward - pair with a shorter stem to get the balance of front/back weight.

    I'm a little guy who rides a lot of tight and twisty tree lined trails, and getting used to them in tight trees is just that - you get used to them, and learn to not smack your knuckles.
    The tradeoff for their benefits, is, IMO, worth it. Hard to describe - they are one of those things you either like or don't though. No, you don't just have to be some FR or DH goon, or be tall with a wide wingspan to like wide bars.
    I believe the clouds in my coffee more than the weatherman on t.v.

  12. #12
    Two-Wheeled Aficionado ColinL's Avatar
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    I ride wide bars on dirtbikes out of necessity. The bike is so much heavier that the leverage is necessary in loose terrain. I've never had that feeling on a MTB. I have had the feeling of smacking my knuckles and bar-ends on trees.

    Interesting thoughts about Rockshox shocks. I wasn't that impressed with the Monarch RL on the Anthem, I thought the Fox had a lot better pedaling platform and more early stroke action. But, (and this is a big ol' but ) I didn't get to set the sag appropriately on that bike so it could have been a setup issue.

    If I hadn't sprung for a Fox CTD TA on my Blur just recently, my runner up was actually X-Fusion. I wish they would develop some good short-travel forks because their DH and enduro forks, and their shocks all get rave reviews. So, I'm not married to Fox, but I think they make some good stuff.

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