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aka Taprider
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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Has the pendulum swung too far?


TLDR summary for the following four pages as of November 14: Long and slack is ok, but bikes with extra long front centres relative to rear centres, don't corner as well

It seems lately that with the exception VanDerPoel's rampage, that many of the crashes of consequence to podium placings at the World Cup XC level have been on the uphills or flat to uphill corners

Last year enduro-mtb showed that shorter Enduro race bikes recorded faster times
"EWS professionals ride surprisingly short bikes – for good reason
The development of innovations always follows certain trends. Often the pendulum swings far in one direction only to level off somewhere in the middle. This seems to be the case with modern geometry. If you check out the race bikes on test, you’ll probably be asking yourself how Richie Rude, who is 180 cm tall, can be so fast on a bike with a reach of only 460 mm. Jack Moir is 1.91 m tall and rides a size L Strive, which, due to the extremely tall cockpit, is guaranteed to have a reach under 460 mm. The mullet conversion on the GT Force Carbon that Martin Maes rides has also shrunk the bike down to less than 460 mm in length. The reason for this became clear during the course of our test. Not only did the shorter bikes record faster times, they also allowed our test riders to change direction more quickly and position themselves better before corners to carry their speed through them. On top of that, the agile handling of compact bikes is usually more fun*. Anyone who thinks that these bikes aren’t composed at high speeds can rest assured: handling stability is heavily determined by the suspension and all the bikes on test performed brilliantly in this regard."
*my emphasis

"And, in comparison, here is the slowest bike in the test.

The loser of this test*
The clear loser in this test is the COMMENCAL META AM in size large. On average, it was a whopping 9 seconds slower than the medium Yeti. The main reason is its long front centre with a reach of 495 mm in combination with a short 433 mm rear end and slack 63.6° head angle. This combination means that you have to ride the bike very actively to generate enough grip on the front wheel when cornering. In tight sections, the META AM tends to understeer a lot and if you don’t reduce your speed, you’ll simply slide through the apex of the turn. Besides costing you a lot of time, it’s exhausting. "
*Enduro-mtb's emphasis

Whereas the new Rocky Mtn Element, size medium, has a 71mm longer front centre than the previous model (the original PinkBike poster child for a DownCountry bike), and is trying to out spur the Spur (and reach of the new Element is about the same or longer than the pro EWS bikes mentioned above).
Last year Pink Bike's fake science showed that the Cannondale, with a 68% head angle (steeper than the other bikes), was the fastest overall (5.75% faster on the overall lap, 3.4% faster on the technical climb and only 0.3% back on the descent than the longer and slacker bikes)

So it seems that the newer XC bikes are being built, not to be faster at XC racing, but to enable bro dudes, who haven't yet developed elite level skills, to steamroll rough steep downhills in a straight line, at the cost of making flat and uphill corners more awkward


December 5, 2021 edit and deletion of the table the admin inserted:
I don't know why the admin inserted some weird craptastic table of Specialized bike geometries into my post using a weird 29" 2012 Specialized that was even weird and not a great example even for 2012 (or any year)
If you want to be comparing the progression of bikes over the decade use these for comparison
"Simmons and Vanderham Ride “Cross Country” on Element" -26" 2011 model with 69 degree head angle
https://www.pinkbike.com/news/what-the-heck-is-a-down-country-bike-opinion.html and https://www.pinkbike.com/news/staff-rides-mike-levys-rocky-mountain-element-2017.html - 29" 2017 29" model with 69 degree head angle
and reading between the lines for the latest Pink Bike DownCountry Field Test videos - even though the Rocky is the 2nd lightest, the Pinkers were recommending the other bikes over the Rocky for XC racing and other comments hinting at what Enduro-mtb was getting at
 

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I can't say for certain but if I was a marketing director here's how I'd reason through it in designing bikes that sell:

Cat 3 and lower are full of downcountry bikes and trailbikes with riser bars, short stems, and Maxxis minions even for smooth XC courses. These bros are also less experienced, less informed, more susceptible to marketing, more likely to buy their bikes based on two or three numbers on a geometry chart, and setup their bikes to be good at one thing which is to go downhill in a straightline without going over the bars. These consumers also happen to make up the fat part of the consumer distribution.

When you start going to up the classes, the bikes become increasingly setup to be fast everywhere even if it violates bro bike wisdom. Plus, these elite guys will test a lot more and are more of a pain to satisfy because they actually pay attention to results not just two numbers on the geometry charts. Not only that, they are only a tiny fraction of the consumer base.

It's kind of a no brainer which consumer base I'd rather cater to.
 

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Cat 3 and lower are full of downcountry bikes and trailbikes with riser bars, short stems, and Maxxis minions even for smooth XC courses. These bros are also less experienced, less informed, more susceptible to marketing, more likely to buy their bikes based on two or three numbers on a geometry chart, and setup their bikes to be good at one thing which is to go downhill in a straightline without going over the bars.
I'm not sure that's a fair assessment of a lot of the lower cat riders who come in on non-XC bikes. I think a good number of them don't have a dedicated XC race bike so they ride what they have. XC racing is not their priority they are either testing the waters or just out there to have fun so no need to throw a big budget down for a dedicated XC race bike. I'd say most of the Cat4/5 are filled with the "There is a race at my local trail let me sign up and have fun at the race" guys. I'm not sure I've ever seen a Cat3-4-5 rider and thought "Your bike is really holding you back from being successful".
 

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I'm not sure that's a fair assessment of a lot of the lower cat riders who come in on non-XC bikes. I think a good number of them don't have a dedicated XC race bike so they ride what they have. XC racing is not their priority they are either testing the waters or just out there to have fun so no need to throw a big budget down for a dedicated XC race bike. I'd say most of the Cat4/5 are filled with the "There is a race at my local trail let me sign up and have fun at the race" guys. I'm not sure I've ever seen a Cat3-4-5 rider and thought "Your bike is really holding you back from being successful".
I think there is a lot of truth to what you are saying. But I think my general point still holds, at least in my area (midwest USA). We really have no enduro or downhill trails. It's 99% punchy XC trails. But for some reason, 90% of the locals are riding trail bikes or enduro bikes that are better suited for Colorado. They read bike company blurbs, internet advice about what bike to get or go on youtube to search for mountain bike videos. Most of this stuff is downhill oriented. If I were a marketing director, why push against the tide?
 

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Are we talking about people over biking for mellow terrain or are we talking about dedicated XC race bikes getting too long and slack?
There's definitely a lot of people where I lived (Southeast Michigan) that are overbiked, but those bikes are more forgiving and fun to ride while being a bit slower. Nothing wrong with that if you're not trying to set KOMs (most people aren't).
On the XC race bike geo I don't feel like longer &slacker makes the bike any slower, it just makes it not handle like a road bike (which I would argue is a good thing). if your reach number is too long you can always size down.
 

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I think you have to recognize that the new Element is no longer a pure ‘race bike’, but a ‘down country’ bike that will appeal to more riders, and actually be faster than what most (rec/trail/enduro) riders are riding these days.
 

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I think that it is a genuine attempt to make XC bikes better for the average consumer.

The reality is a razor sharp handling XC bikes is only appropriate for a small percentage of riders. More forgiving handling and mild manners is going to make these bikes better for everyone except, perhaps, a WC rider and that is debatable.

The test of Enduro bikes you posted is interesting but what we have to keep in mind, is the longest and slackest XC bike is way more agile/twitchy than any of those Enduro bikes. I am not sure is a relevant comparison.

But the XC bike I descended on the fastest on was a 2018 Orbea Oiz. Reach was 417 in a medium, head angle 70 degrees. Not sure if it was the bike or if I was riding really well at the time.
 

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I think there is a lot of truth to what you are saying. But I think my general point still holds, at least in my area (midwest USA). We really have no enduro or downhill trails. It's 99% punchy XC trails. But for some reason, 90% of the locals are riding trail bikes or enduro bikes that are better suited for Colorado. They read bike company blurbs, internet advice about what bike to get or go on youtube to search for mountain bike videos. Most of this stuff is downhill oriented. If I were a marketing director, why push against the tide?
I can't say for sure, as "people I know or sometimes chat with them" is way too small sample to make any conclusions, but in general pretty much everyone are like "why are you getting xc bike? Get something with at least 140 travel, you will see you will start riding more demanding trails". Or same/similar goes for anyone asking what bike to buy... Buy something with lot of travel, as short travel/xc bikes are too limiting. You will sooner or later start riding more demanding trails and more travel will come handy.
I got my first mtb in 1991. If I didn't start riding "more demanding trails" requiring more then 100 or 120mm travel, I really don't think I will start riding them now, after 30 years of riding mtb. I'm sure downhill/enduro/all mountain is more popular between general public then xc, but not everyone does that or like that. But with this "help" from other's most of people go this way and buy bike like that. And when companies sell majority of bikes in all mountain/enduro class, then it's normal they push that way. Just as you said, if you would be a marketing director, why push against the tide?
 

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I think that it is a genuine attempt to make XC bikes better for the average consumer.

The reality is a razor sharp handling XC bikes is only appropriate for a small percentage of riders. More forgiving handling and mild manners is going to make these bikes better for everyone except, perhaps, a WC rider and that is debatable.
I agree with you. I was less eloquent than you in making this point, lol. I think it's smart strategy to cater to the meaty part of the consumer distribution and not to the tails. Eli Tomac (different sport but I think the point still applies) said the other day when switching brands that a good professional team can make nearly any platform work for pros as long as they are willing to customize and adapt the setup to the rider. I think the companies are on to something: Build a great bike for the general public and let the pros customize the details around their preferences/strengths/weaknesses.
 

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So it seems that the newer XC bikes are being built, not to be faster at XC racing, but to enable bro dudes, who haven't yet developed elite level skills, to steamroll rough steep downhills in a straight line
So your hypothesis is that bro dudes are buying up XC race bikes to steamroll rough steep downhills? Interesting.
 

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I ride a quasi xc/trail bike known as a “down country” bike, it’s a ‘21 Epic Evo. When I ride with other people I’m usually the only one with an xc bike. Most have somewhere between 120-140 travel. The shorter travel bikes in the group are still very much trail geo compared to mine. No one is riding enduro bikes though. I’m in Missoula MT and most of the places that a DH or enduro bike would be best require a long ride to the top. There are only a few places where shuttling is feasible. This has left a compromise for most bikers. The middle ground is a mid travel trail bike that can be ridden all day up and down, not that an enduro can but a 13 mile fire road climb is better on a trail bike. I went with the xc bike for the climbs and I definitely get left behind on the decent but that is on purpose. I’ve had too many crashes and have acquired 7 bits of titanium in my body over the years so slow and steady is the rule these days. So there may be people broing up to the slack xc bike where you are but here I am I’m not seeing it. Most people here are wearing sensible shoes. Also, the Spur is not an xc bike but a short travel trail bike. I can add that having a long, slack and big travel xc bike has proven itself to be brilliant in some places. Riding these lighter but capable “down country” bikes on long all day rides has a place in the mtb world, it’s not just marketing.
 

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aka Taprider
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Discussion Starter · #17 · (Edited)
My hypothesis is that many of the crashes of consequence to podium placings at the World Cup XC level have been on the uphills or flat to uphill corners .
My experience with long slack front end xc bikes is that they make me more tentative trying to corner at speed for uphill or flat corners.
My experience with 130mm-150mm bike is that although it didn't feel slower on road climbs, my watch proved otherwise. However, I could bomb into difficult downhill sections without hesitation and the bike felt way faster, but my watch said it wasn't.
Anyway the point of my original post is that there is a positive feedback loop between what the marketers are pushing and what less experienced riders are buying ("modern geometry is better"; therefore, the competition between bike brands to "out modern" the other brands)
 

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My hypothesis is that many of the crashes of consequence to podium placings at the World Cup XC level have been on the uphills or flat to uphill corners .
I agree there's been a few of those crashes but that's not where most of the crashes have taken place. I'd also argue that shifting your weight a bit forward to maintain front wheel traction is not even an elite level skill.
 

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aka Taprider
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Discussion Starter · #19 · (Edited)
I'd also argue that shifting your weight a bit forward to maintain front wheel traction is not even an elite level skill.
Yes, but to weight more forward with extreme "modern" geometry on the flat or uphill, would not be done from neutral position, and if the corner has complex problems such as the need to do wheel lifts, or roots, rocks, dips, jank, drops to flat immediately after the apex etc., I would prefer a more enlightened or post-modern geometry

I like the idea of long bikes, and 120-130mm or 120-140mm travel for 29" wheels, but as the front centre gets longer, the back end should also get longer, and don't like really long front centres (with short rear centres) so that when standing in neutral position on the flat, you have to grab and/or lean heavily on the handlebars, to equally weight the front tire and/or to keep from rotating the cranks.
I also don't like having to size down to a small or extra small and the resulting sub 400 mm/15" seat tube length, with resulting super heavy large diameter pipes to build a super long dropper post (we are talking XC bikes after all), and lack of main triangle space (I also don't like the look of a 1970s mixte frame, which does not look very modern to me)
 

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Yes, but to weight more forward with extreme "modern" geometry on the flat or uphill, is not done from neutral position, and if the corner has complex problems such as the need to do wheel lifts, or roots, rocks, dips, jank, drops to flat immediately after the apex etc., I would prefer a more enlightened or post-modern geometry
Are we talking about XC race bikes or bikes with "extreme modern geometry"? Are you suggesting it's hard to get weight on the front tire of a 68° HTA bike with low stack height and negative rise stem?
 
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