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mathlete
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I'm about to purchase a new steed for this fall's race season.

I'm on the fence STILL on the FS vs. HT bit :confused: . Currently, I currently own an 06 Giant Reign and it is a fantastic ride all around. I plan on keeping it too as my “go anywhere, do anything bike” I raced it a few times this past year in the Cat 3’s and did OK but I’d like something lighter and more nimble. Most of the courses were not very technical and the Reign’s travel was overkill.

I’ve taken several bikes, both FS and HT, on extended test rides and still don’t see a clear winner. On the HT, I did not feel faster but lap times proved otherwise. I’m worried that a HT will aggravate an old back injury I’m dealing with. I do core work 3 times a week. I asked my physical therapist the last time I was in his office and he said I should be OK on he HT but admittedly he does not know much about bikes and the rigors of riding off road. Also cost is a factor. I can get a sweet HT for 2k but a comparable FS is twice as much. Any advice you guys and gals can give would be greatly appreciated.
 

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I'm racing my 29er HT and training I'm on the 29er FS. My races are only 1.5-2 hours so it isn't that big of a deal.

There is not a course close that I can time myself on at race pace as there are too many blind corners. Come winter when the leaves fall I can prove it out but until then I'm anxious to see if others have timed themselves on both a HT and FS.
 

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I returned to racing two years ago (at 41) after fourteen years away, riding a hardtail. I'm not a serious competitor, doing it only for fun, and after a few races came away with a niggling back injury. X-rays showed some deterioration in the vertebrae + a slightly bulging disc, the source of the discomfort.

After much debate, I purchased an entry level FS, and have been enjoying racing again since. Yes, the FS is heavier, but I still find myself riding it like a hardtail, and the squish certainly helps my back.

I understand that cost is an issue (it certainly was for me) and you may have to (reluctantly) sell your Reign if push comes to shove, but a shorter travel FS (what about an Anthem or Trance if you like the Giants) may be the answer in as a far as a compromise between squish/weight/handling/cost & spine go.
 

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If you've had a prior back injury, I'd say go the safe route and get a full suspension race bike. If you have been injured, you know that you have to work to maintain your health -- and you appear to do that with your core training -- so I'd look at your bike choice in the same way. Pick the bike that is going to keep you from having a setback.

(While I'm not a doctor, I've got a lot of experience here because I represent injured people for a living and a large percentage of those are people with neck and back injuries. You never fully recover from a serious neck or back injury, but you can get back to full activities by getting the proper treatment and then working to stay strong and healthy. But you've got to be smart about what you do, your posture, and maintaining your strength or you will just find yourself going through tough times again.)

Look at it this way: the extra $2k on the full suspension bike will more than pay for itself the first time you need a course of physical therapy from riding a hardtail.
 

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smell my finger
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43 yo mtn biker

I just bought myself a trek ex9 to ride and train on and will be doing from 15-20 miles per day come fall training with a local mtn bike team. I also have a Monocog 29er SS that I play around with. I haveeen't been able to hi the trails yet but I've ridden about 25miles on it so far and this bike is really comfortable, wheels roll well and the adjustability of the suspension is very handy. I wouldn't have anything other than a FS if I was riding the distances I will be. 29er HT's are certaintly getting more popular, they're reasonably priced and roll over objects real well. I'm not going to race just enjoy long distance MTB rides so a HT was out for me. Just my .02...
 

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Jam Econo
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What do you like to ride?
I race Cat 1 in New England and have seen people do well on both HT and FS. Of the two fastest guys in my age group (40-49), one races a 29'er HT, the other a 26'er FS. The HT rider has mad skillz from being a champion moto rider.
 

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I'm upper half sport in my second season of racing and like my FS. The only HT I'd consider is the new C'dale Flash - aside form being super light it has 20mm of vertical compliance between the seat tube & chain stays.
 

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I race in the 45-49 sport age group in WORS. I race my GF Supercaliber 29er FS bike 80-90% of the time and my GF XCaliber 29er HT for just 1 or 2 courses in the series.

G
 

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i guess i am just below the years specified. at 34 though i have put my body through a lot. at 5'11", 5 years ago i tipped the scales at 235lbs. today i am right at 160. when i was heavier i wouldn't have wanted to ride a HT. last year i raced DH primarily and weighed 190 or so. this year i am racing XC (Cat1 30-34 this year and have been pretty competitive w/ a couple 3rd place finishes)

i do race the right bike for the course and am lucky enough to have my pick between a 26" HT, 29er HT and just recently a 29er FS. the 29er HT was raced in XC and endurance (12hrs) before i got the 26er for XC racing this year (26" is way faster and not much harsher but I am running very low pressures @ <25psi). the new bike (FS 29er) won't be used much for racing, but i have one race that it was ideal for coming up.

given my pick, i pick 26" HT for 90% of my racing. if i had unlimited funds i would have a 26" FS that was really light and race worthy to use occasionally, but we have too many bikes as it is!
 

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Don't race a lot, but I'm racing a HT right now, and during the past several years, I was racing an FS. With your back issue, I would go with as light of an FS as you can afford.
 

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29er is a great compromise for:
-Rideability
-Raceability
-Cost

I'm 42 year old Expert class racer, but haven't been racing much MTB this year. Lots of road and crit racing though.

Went on a long 6-hour technical MTB ride (with about 5000 feet of climbing) this past Saturday with the young bucks, and I'm always suprised how forgiving the ride of a 29er is. Hard to believe I was on a hardtail all that time.

It's probably about the same comfort as most XC FS. It's not a Giant Reign though.......no way.

But for me, one MTB bike, that's all. It really does it all, fairly good.
 

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I'm 54 and have rode / raced now for about 10 years, so I got a late start into mountain biking. I've had both 26" hard tails and 26" full suspension, but switched to 29er hardtails in 2008 and like others have said they don't beat you up as much as the smaller wheeled bikes do.

2008 Paragon, upgraded just about everything
2008 Rig, just for fun
 

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suggest FS

I am 38, started racing this spring after 7 years off the bike, had a minor back and knee injury, 6 months apart. Racing a rigid 29er, looking at a dos niner next. Keeping the rigid as a trainer and fun bike. It is a ton of fun, for short periods of time.

Races are 12 miles in begginer class, all is well first 70-80% of the race. Last 30% or so, my back is letting me know to slow down. I too have been doing core work 4-5 days per week, and things have improved. I have however been able to try a FS on my local trail. Back to back, I am faster on the FS, 4-5 minutes per lap, and the back is not an issue.

Dont think weight will be an issue for me, current bike is pretty heavy. That doesnt seem to limit my finishing, my back does.
 

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I'm 50 y.o. and just returned to racing after a long layoff. I'm on a rigid SS 29er. 9-10 yrs ago, I wouldn't be caught dead racing on a HT, since I was faster on a FS for the courses around here.

However, you stated you haven't determined a clear winner betw/ the 2 for yourself, especially since you're mostly on non-technical courses. So why not get a 29er HT for most of your races, and use a portion of the difference you'd have to pay for a 'comparably sweet FS' to put towards a nicer wheelset &/or lighter rear shock for those technical courses where you could race the Reign?

As for your back, for XC trailriding you may get beat up more riding a HT. But for racing, when you're hammering most of the time, you're gonna be out of the saddle a lot anyway, so your back won't take as much of a beating.
 

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35 y.o.+ What are you racing, FS or HT?
Hardtail 26". I'm going on 40 and have had some back injuries. What suits you best will depend partly on your race course, partly on your riding style, and partly on how long your races are. For me, the HT works pretty well because it's light, relatively low-maintenance over the long haul (no suspension pivots/etc), affordable, and accomodates my gear-masher climbing style efficiently.
 

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46, Carbon Hardtail! Love the lightweight on the climbs, and I am too old to Bonzai the descents at a speed that warrants the FS.. I can take the descents just fine on my HT. I could go faster descending on a FS, but those days of no-brakes are well behind me. I can smooth the HT plenty with front suspension, tire choice and air pressure.. low air pressure.
 

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The right FS

I have no 29er experience so can't comment.

I am 48 and have been racing off and on since 1990. I also fight low back issues constantly. Over the years I've had HTs, a soft tail, and several 4 inch full suspension rides. The only problem with the FS is that they tend to keep you in the saddle which is not necessarily good for your back. I would pick a FS that pedals really well so that you can get out of the saddle a little bit when you're climbing
 
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