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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all,

I've been riding for a long time now on my 1998 fully rigid Giant Yukon, which I bought new. I love this bike, but it's time to move up in the world and into 29" wheels. As I've been shopping for something new I've gotten it into my head that I'd like to try my hand at long distance endurance racing.

I made the mistake of reading Jill Homer's books about racing the GDMBR and along the Iditarod trail and recently watched Ride the Divide again (for the 3rd time). Such epic rides are out of scope for me in the near future, but I'd love to try some local (Michigan) 12-24 hour, or 100 mile mtb races.

I've more or less settled on a short travel full suspension XC bike. I haven't ruled out a hard tail, but am leaning towards FS. I've already been looking at the new Salsa Spearfish with the split pivot rear suspension. I test rode one around a parking lot and it felt great.

My question is this, of the major brands that are readily available, which models of bikes should I be looking at? I don't have many illusions about winning any races, just finishing is my first goal. Along the way I want to have a bike that's fast & fun.

Some important info: I'm 44 years old, 250 lbs. My max budget is about 3K, but I'd really like to keep it closer to $2,500 so I can afford to also buy some equipment (Shoes, saddle, lights, etc.). If I kept it at $2,000 my wife would also be happy. I absolutely can't go over $3,000. I live in SE Michigan. A FS bike isn't necessary around here, but I also hope to travel around up north and out west whenever possible.

I've been considering:

Salsa: Spearfish ($2,750 for the Spearfish 3; $3,300 for the Spearfish 2. I like the 2 more and may be able to get a deal which would bring it down within my budget range) It's marketed for big, all day rides and people speak highly of it. It's at the top of my list right now, but the 2 would totally break my budget and I might be sleeping on the couch for a week or two. 2014 Spearfish 2 | Bikes | Salsa Cycles

Giant: Anthem X 29er 1 ($2,800) This bike also seems suitable for all day riding. It seems about as well spec'd as the Spearfish 2, but for the price of the Spearfish 3. The Maestro suspension is well reviewed, but the chainstay is a bit over 18" which might take some of the "fun" factor out of it. I think the Spearfish is about an inch shorter. The angle of the rear suspension also seems weird to me. I'm sure it's fine as far as functionality, but the rear shock looks inefficient and a bit ugly. Still, it seems a good price for the specs and What Mountain Bike rated it #2 on their "Trail Bike of the Year" award in 2013. Anthem X 29er 1 (2014) - Bikes | Giant Bicycles | United States

Video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FXhR9j1Hjo8

Trek: Superfly FS (FS 6 is $2,080 or FS 8 is $2,840) My initial impression of the Superfly was that it was more designed for short races. But, I have heard that the newer geometry makes it more apt for longer rides as well. Is this true? Is there another Trek model I should be looking at for endurance racing? From what I can tell the new split pivot Spearfishes have become very similar to the Superfly FS. In the money game, the Superfly wins.

Specialized or Cannondale: ???
The Salsa, Giant, and Trek models are the one's I've considered the most. Which bikes from Specialized or Cannondale should I look at for endurance riding? I'm less familiar with these. I have an LBS nearby which sells Giant and Specialized. I'm planning to get over there this weekend to test ride the Anthem and talk to them about Specialized as well.

As it stands right now, I really like the Spearfish 2 or possibly the 3, but they seem a bit over priced when compared to Anthem X 29er 1 or to the Superfly FS. I've only test ridden the Spearfish at this point. I need to get on the Giant and the Trek also. The trouble is, any test ride around a parking lot is a far cry from riding for 12 hours + so a test ride will only tell me part of the story.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts and opinions.
 

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Specialized Epic or Cannondale Scalpel. I have an Epic 29er. I've done short XC races on everything from pancake flat and smooth courses to real rocky and technical courses. I've also done some 50 milers and 6 hour races. I plan to do two 100 mile races this summer on it. Over the winter I almost sold it because I needed money, but I specifically kept it to do long endurance races on.
 

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The Island Lake Bike Demo (May 3) is a great opportunity to demo these bikes on a trail. Obviously the trail isn't technical, but much better than a parking lot!
Island Lake Spring Bike Fest | ACTIVE

If you consider Specialized, you should look at the Epic. It is great for endurance/XC racing. It is a little over budget for you, the cheapest version (Epic Comp) is $3300. You may be able to find a 2013 on sale. I really enjoy mine and have used it for Lumberjack and many other races in Michigan.

All of those bikes would be fine, and I would recommend picking whichever feels like it fits the best. Don't worry too much about marketing hype and magazine reviews.

The Fun Promotions 6 Hour or 8 Hour races are a great way to get started. They have a fun, laid back atmosphere. They are multi-lap races, so you can do as many laps as you can or want.

You are correct that a FS bike is more luxury than necessity in Michigan. I recommend you try out some HT bikes as well.

Don't forget to budget a little money in case you need to change any 'fit' parts (saddle, stem, bars, etc).
 

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Hello all,

I've been riding for a long time now on my 1998 fully rigid Giant Yukon, which I bought new. I love this bike, but it's time to move up in the world and into 29" wheels. As I've been shopping for something new I've gotten it into my head that I'd like to try my hand at long distance endurance racing...
As WillTheGreat says, best idea is to ride a bunch of bikes.

That said, I was on the Giant Anthem X29 last season, and for turning watts of effort into miles of dirt traveled, I have never had a more solid sled. Very efficient, Maestro is amazing. I ran the CTD shock on Descend (wide open) all the time. From my ponit of view, it really didn't have any impact on efficiency to leave it open. Giants always come with a good spec value, as you noticed comparing to Spearfish. Even though it really shined as a climber/pedaling bike, it was fun on descents too. Quite nimble, not a fat, stable all mountain bike by any means, but good solid handling.

The only things I would point out: they come with Giant's proprietary OD2 steerer (1 1/4" rather than the standard 1 1/8"), which means that the fork couldn't be swapped onto a bike that doesn't support OD2, and you have to run an OD2 stem. As of this time last year, stems were available direct from Giant or from Ritchey. And that's all.

Also, the Anthem frames have a breakage record. I broke a frame (crack at the very narrow part of top tube right at the seat tube weld) after four (4) months of riding. Those months were Jan-April, so not even in the shank of the season. They warrantied it lightning fast, and the replacement frame lasted 4x the miles of the original. I don't have the bike anymore, sold it at end of season last year. I would NOT recommend buying an Anthem used (at least the aluminum one), because only the original owner gets warranty.

Good luck with your choice, and with your endurance riding!
 

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I ride a Salsa Spearfish 2. I decided on that after a bikepacking trip with Kurt Refsnider. He was riding his at the time. Love the FS to take the edge off on long rides.
Mine's also a 3x10 for the flats.
BTW I'm 6''1" and 260# when I started on it. Down to 230#
It has handled everything I threw at it so far.
Mine is not a split pivot1
 

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Gotta ride 'em to find out. With your goals in mind I personally don't think that you need anything special for endurance riding. So really, go out, ride the bikes, buy the one you enjoy riding the most and that puts the biggest smile on your face. Then do some endurance races and have fun.
 

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Best advice here is to ride as many as you can and buy what feels best. That said, I really like my Santa Cruz tallboy. The lower price point alu models are in your price range. Also, places like competitive cyclist sometimes have good full bike deals on prior year models that beat factory specs. The pivot 429 is also really nice. I was intending to buy one until trying the tallboy.
 

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Ride them all. Ride them lots. A natural fit, one that doesn't require wholesale changes to accomplish would be my priority along with in the saddle pedaling efficiency. All the bike alrewady mentioned are solid so let testing sort it out.
 

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The Santa Cruz Superlight is a classic that has been updated to a 29er platform. The Spearfish looks damn nice, too.
 

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+1 on the Anthem. I have been riding one since 2011 and have done lots of endurance rides and races, and a couple of seasons of XC racing as well. I just soloed the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo on mine and did 13 laps (about 210 miles) and once again the bike performed flawlessly and comfortably. Giant's tend to give you a better spec compared to other bikes at the same price. The Maestro suspension is really efficient and yet very functional. The long chainstays are great for stability but it took some getting used to for really tight switchbacks. I think they are the perfect bike for XC and endurance riding/racing. I'm 6'3.5" and 180lbs. I ride an XL frame.

I have been looking at other bikes since mine is a few years old now and like the new Spearfish but I think the build kit is pretty weak and they cost more. The new split pivot suspension is good though. I'll probably still be riding the Giant Anthem for a while since I can't really see any other similar bike as being better and worth the cost of a change. My wife and one daughter also race XC on Anthem 29ers while my other daughter is on a new Giant 27.5" XCT hardtail. We just keep coming back to Giant. They are really well designed bikes and are a great value too.
 

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Riding them all is always the best idea as stated BUT IF YOU CANNOT, it seems you already like the spearfish and the anthem should be easy to find, so my best advice is pick one you like in your budget and don't look back ride it hard and often.

Save some money for tweaking the setup, aka new stem, bars, and saddle.

I find like a lot of folks by best postion on the anthem is with setback seatpost to keep weight back of rear wheel, shorter stem, wider bars, shock setup slightly stiff, front end a little more plush. Do this and IMP the longer chainstays are a benefit for long rides where stability is a must.

Builds are pretty simialr between Anthem and Spearfish link you posted, not sure of stiffness on the ZTR rapid rims, but they are likely a plus over them Anthem. For endurance racing tubeless is a must for me.
 

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When you start to cross the nebulous threshold from performance racing to endurance racing, comfort and reliability start to creep up on the scale of importance when choosing a bike. My own advice is a short travel, full suspension 29er. (I ride a carbon tallboy) I use it for all races, short and long. Its heavier than most racing bikes, mainly because its a FS, and I have it spec'd with XT vs XTR, slightly heavier saddle, wheels, tires, grips, etc, etc but the added comfort & reliablility outweighs the weight savings in the long hauls.
 

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I ended up going with a Specalized Camber. It's the typical recipe of short travel 29er. Where I felt I took a different path is I purposely went with a used base model 29 so I could replace the components myself. I used it as not only a great learning technique, but to upgrade the components I felt I needed to. (Wheels & Tires, drive-train w/crankset, seat, bars, etc.). Now I feel I know the bike much more (which I believe will help me when something breaks) and it feels/rides perfect.
 

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I ended up going with a Specalized Camber. It's the typical recipe of short travel 29er. Where I felt I took a different path is I purposely went with a used base model 29 so I could replace the components myself. I used it as not only a great learning technique, but to upgrade the components I felt I needed to. (Wheels & Tires, drive-train w/crankset, seat, bars, etc.). Now I feel I know the bike much more (which I believe will help me when something breaks) and it feels/rides perfect.
Same here...sort of. Last year I found a steal on a 2012 Camber Pro 26'' that was built for a show with a lot of upgraded components. I really like it for a sort of do it all bike but after 8 races last year I really saw the benefits of 29ers. I had fully planned on getting rid of the 26'' so I went with another Camber. Ended up being a 2013 Camber Expert Evo R and I had my LBS do the build with carbon wheels. Came in at 24 pounds w/o pedals. :thumbsup: Here's what some others have to the Camber 29ers. http://forums.mtbr.com/29er-bikes/2013-specialized-camber-expert-carbon-evo-895652.html

And although the decision to get the 29er was based on selling my 26'' Camber I couldn't part with it. :D Oh well, another bike in the basement.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Thank you all for the great information. It's given me a lot to think about. I'm going to visit my local Giant/Specialized dealer. I`ll ask to test ride the Anthem, Epic, and Camber. I hadn't even heard of the Camber before. That one sounds interesting. Where the Anthem seems like a XC racing bike with trail bike capabilities, the Camber seems more like a trail bike with XC capabilities. That intrigues me, as I'm very interested in traveling around more to more rugged/technical trails than SE Michigan has to offer. However, it looks like Specialized has decreased the specs offered on the Camber Comp in 2014 from the 2013 line. That's a bit annoying. You have to buy the 2014 Camber EVO to get the same components that they offered on the Camber Comp in 2013.

I'm also planning on attending the Island Lake bike demo day in early May. Thanks for that recommendation, along with the reference to the "Fun Promotions" endurance series, which seems amateur friendly. My wife has even said that she'd like to join me in training for and racing in a 6 hour event to see how she might like it as well.

I haven't made any sort of final decision yet. I did see an ad for a 2013 Epic Comp for $2,200, which seems like a good deal. I'm a bit put off by the Brain technology though. I'd heard that the Brain has to be serviced fairly regularly for $150 a pop, and I'm less interested in something that requires that kind of maintenance. Can any Epic riders give me more info about how this works?

At this point I'm considering the Spearfish, Anthem, Superfly FS, Camber, Epic, and Scalpel, as you've all recommended. But I need to test ride as many as I can, and I'm also waiting for what seems like a good deal. I just can't bring myself to pay MSRP, even if it might mean waiting until the fall to get a good end of season deal. Also, since the Spearfish is still high on my list, I may wait for a good online deal in the fall from Universal Cycles, or Tree Fort. They seem to have a supply of them left over after the summer at pretty good discounts when the LBS's are long out of stock.

In any case, thank you all again. This has been a very helpful thread. I'm especially geeked that my wife is expressing some interest in entering in some endurance races with me. Our kids are old enough now that we can leave them at home for a full morning or an afternoon while we drive up to a trail head and ride for several hours at a time to train on the weekends. I've been waiting for years for that to happen. We're hitting a local sale tomorrow to demo some bikes and buy us each a jersey, some cycling shorts, and new helmets.
 

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Specialized recommends having the brain serviced every 150hrs which involves sending it to them and waiting about 2 weeks to get it back. Cost is around $150 to have this done. Personally think you can go a lot longer before having it serviced. My local shop actually told me to just do the simple air sleeve service and not send it off unless its not working correctly.

I had mine for over 2years and 2,000 hard miles on it before I finally had it serviced and even then I didn't feel it really needed it. I love my epic and think the extra hassle is worth it!
 

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In any case, thank you all again. This has been a very helpful thread. I'm especially geeked that my wife is expressing some interest in entering in some endurance races with me. Our kids are old enough now that we can leave them at home for a full morning or an afternoon while we drive up to a trail head and ride for several hours at a time to train on the weekends. I've been waiting for years for that to happen. We're hitting a local sale tomorrow to demo some bikes and buy us each a jersey, some cycling shorts, and new helmets.
Sounds like you're in for a great summer!
 

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Good luck and let us know what you get. Don't forget that buying a used bike is a good option if you get it inspected by a reputable bike shop. The only reason I got such good deals on my bikes is because I bought end of year closeouts and it'll be hard to find similar prices right before the biking/racing season. There is no way I would/could justify spending MSRP on any of my bikes.
 
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