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Discussion Starter #1
I've pretty much narrowed it down to these two similar, but different frames.

I'm looking for a SS frame, but I also want a bailout option if SS just doesn't agree with me. Both of these can be run as SS or geared, except that the Inbred would have to be a 1X since there's no front der. hanger - which is fine with me.

I ride aggressive XC, and want something that can withstand the occasional 3' drop. I've owned both aluminum and steel hardtails, and currently ride steel. Can't say I have a preference either way, except that I don't want a ride as harsh as my old Klein.

Cost is close enough to be a wash, as I can pick up a Chameleon at a local shop for $449, and the Inbred would be $349 + shipping. I'll need a new seatpost, BB, headset either way. I don't really care about disc brake compatability.

Does anyone have saddle time in both that could offer up an opinion?

Thanks!
-Matt
 

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My chameleon is REALLY stiff so if you are looking for a more resillient ride, steel is probably the way to go...never rode an inbred to know for sure, though
 

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Although I don't own a Chameleon, I borrow a friend's Chameleon when I fly out to his neck of the woods. Anyway, it is STIFF. I mean, really really stiff. Whereas a nice steel frame will glide down the trail the Chameleon kinda bashes down the trail. Grace is not one of its strong suits. Now, don't get me wrong, it doesn't really bother me. The one I rode was set up with a dean ti seatpost and Zoke 100mm coil fork. I found the ride to be acceptable considering the unbelievable power transfer. Believe me, flex is not something that will ever come to mind while riding that beast. Plus, I wouldn't feel bad throwing it off 3 foot drops daily. It can easily handle it. The handling is great as well. If feels very neutral. Sorry I don't have any experience with the other one...
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks for the input. I've read countless reviews of both frames and can't seem to make up my mind. I'm sure I'll be happy with either.

I'm not hung up on having a forgiving ride because I don't usually ride for more than a couple of hours at a time anymore. All day comfort isn't really one of my requirements. But, having owned Klein and Cannondale hardtails, I'm very familiar with big fat stiff aluminum that gets up and sprints at the slightest nudge of the cranks, but chatters all over a rough trail, and I'm not really looking for that again. I'll also be running much fatter tires than I ever did on my previous bikes, and i figure 2.3's vs. 1.9's will take some of the sting out.

To clarify, I'm not looking for a freeride bike. I do ride hard, and jump off things, but nothing very high and usually onto a transition. I'd be building the frame up with my Marzocchi MX Comps with 110mm travel.

I'm leaning towards the Inbred today. Mostly because my intent is to build a SS, and steel just seems... proper.
 

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I have owned 4 chameleons since their introduction to the mtb community. The geometry is by far my favorite of any of the hardtail bikes I have ridden. The versatility is also why I keep comming back. I have run 2 as slalom/freeride assualt vessels and 2 as enduro/xc rigs. As a fr bike they are great, still light yet strong and responsive.

As an xc rig there are some very major pros and cons:
- On the pro side the transfer is awesome, no flex or power loss. The geometry is very well suited for a 100 or 110mm fork. The ride is very predictable. It doesn't even bat an eye at dropping 4-5' to flat or hitting a trailside jump.
- On the con side of riding this thing xc, it is STIFF. Very stiff, as in get a robust rear rim or it will fold since something back there has to give when a side impact arrives. The stiffness also transfers quite nicely up the wishbone seat stays and will get you in the end. On very rough and extended downhills I can even notice the strain on my lower back. When your kidneys hurt after an especially rough drop you know your frame is abusive. Another con is that a 2.3 or smaller must be run outback. An honest 2.3 from knob to knob.

You can overcome some of these negatives with bigger tires and suspension fork/seatpost, thus making it a more tail friendly ride.
 

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I've been battling the same dilemma, but I bought both frames (sort of). I got a jenson chameleon last summer, and this year, I bought a geared Inbred.

I really, really like the chameleon. Like other people have said, the geometry is spot on (IMHO). It climbs like a mountain goat, and descends like a bear (a fat rear tire really does help). I also like the fact that I can run different length forks without screwing up the geometry. I can't wait to get enough money to get one of the newer forks coming out with 100-150 mm travel. With that being said, running it ss can be a pain with discs (although you said that it doesn't matter to you), and it is stiff.

The Inbred is a super plush ride. It feels like a fs rig after riding the chameleon frame. The cockpit is super comfy. Granted mine is geared, but the only difference is the dropouts. The sand color (US version) is sweet.

CONCLUSION: Steel chameleon would be a perfect frame. But to answer your question, I decided to keep the chameleon. I think it is more versatile.

SPAM ALERT: I am trying to sell the Inbred, if anyone is interested PM me.
 

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dsb1829 said:
Another con is that a 2.3 or smaller must be run outback. An honest 2.3 from knob to knob.

You can overcome some of these negatives with bigger tires and suspension fork/seatpost, thus making it a more tail friendly ride.
I've run 2.7 Maxxis in mine without problems (wheel just aft of middle in the drop outs), and they measure a hair under 2.5". Whatever the case, tire clearance is still really good for a general purpose hardtail.

Like everyone here has said, the Chameleon is stiff. It is, however, the most forgiving aluminum hardtail I've ever ridden. The tubes are thick, so it doesn't have that tin-can feel, and trail noise is damped surprisingly well by the fat stays and mono-seatstay link. I agree with the quote below, that a steel Chameleon is the way to go. I'll put my money on one as soon as I find the right builder.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Those last two replies were very helpful.

SDizzle - I was hoping somebody could put it in the context of a typical fat tubed, thin walled AL HT. Thanks, that's what I was looking for.

intheways - you have PM.
 

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Yo Punk!

Just one more vote on the Snata Cruz. I have loved mine so much over the past few months that I sold my beloved Blizzard (853 steel) and bought a road bike. I found the Chameleon could do everything so two hardtails became redundant.

As everyone mentioned, its really stiff for sure but it doesn't translate into poor ride quality in any way. Just last week, I did a 6hr technical xc ride up in Whistler on the Chameleon and it felt just fine. FWIW, I run a 130mm Firefly in the front and Kenda 2.35's front and back. I swear it feels almost as good as the steel, only 100x stiffer.

No experience with the Inbred so Im no help there but the Chameleon is fine for xc and on 4-5' drops to flat, its bomber. If you have trannies, its a no brainer!

Here's the Lizard in some xc environment....naturally STIL...
 

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Chameleon all the way...

You knew that all the Chameleon owners were going to come out of the woodwork on this one... Ditto on all the above. I'm running Maxxis 2.5 with no problem - I use low air pressure in the rear - right around 20 lbs - and this seams to help soften the ride a bit (it also makes the bike STICK to slick-rock type climbs and such)

The only thing that I should warn you about (and namaSSte can back me up on this) is that you may have to *wait* for a new frame depending on the color and size...
 

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namaSSte said:
As everyone mentioned, its really stiff for sure but it doesn't translate into poor ride quality in any way. Just last week, I did a 6hr technical xc ride up in Whistler on the Chameleon and it felt just fine. FWIW, I run a 130mm Firefly in the front and Kenda 2.35's front and back. I swear it feels almost as good as the steel, only 100x stiffer.
Another point worth making...I got off mine after the longest ride I've ever done last Sunday, a nearly-7-hour bender through CO's rocks (this trail was rocky enough that all of us were *****ing constantly by the ride's conclusion - I was the only one on an aluminum SS, the rest were steel!). I can't say as I was ready to ride first thing the next morning, but this is the only bike I've ever been able to ride comfortably for such long periods - including my road bike! It's nice to have a bike that's comfortable enough for the long haul, will handle with style the occasional 4 ft drop on the way, and still has a sickeningly responsive ride.

I'm also running mine with a 5" Manitou up front (Minute One), but am holding out for Zoke's 05 lineup, and lately have been running the fat Maxxis all the time.
 

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I have been ridding chameleons for the last four years, and have been looking for a replacement, but nothing has come close to the versitility of these bikes as of yet. I considered an on one, due to the fact that I miss the feel of steel frames every now and then, but did not like the fact that the geometry was not really compatible with a five inch travel fork. I have to concure with Sdizzle in the fact that the chameleon is one comfortable bike, particularly for an aluminum frame. So the chameleon gets my vote between the two.

As a side note I recently stubled across this Company (/www.ahrensbicycles.com/) and he is builiding a steel bike that may be a good alternative to a chameleon, the bikes are built by Paul of Rock Lobster and designed and branded by Mike Ahrens.
 
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