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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So my last mtn bike purchase was in '96. I'm finding the variety of bikes these days somewhat staggering.

I like riding technical single track. Obviously what goes up must come down and vice a versa. So by that definition, I should be looking at an All Mountain bike. But the AM bikes appear to be quite burly with 5-6" of travel?

From my research, a bike like the Specialized Stumpjumper FSC comp sounds like a great all around bike. But I really like the looks and the simplicity of the Santa Cruz Superlight which appears to be classified as a Cross Country.

Now I ride a 12y/o stumpjuper hardtail with blown Judy XC forks. Trying to save my pennies for the "right bike" for the riding I do.

I don't know that I can gather a whole lot of data test riding around a parking lot or up and down stairs.

But first...can those in the know help define what a cross country bike is and what an all mountain bike is? And where the balance points differ? Also offer up possible good examples in the $1500-2000 range (new)...less used.
 

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Wrench-O-Phile
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IMO...

AM bike: will generally sacrifice added wheel weight for strength, have slacker angles, big ring removed for clearance, droppable seatpost. Basically, anything it takes to add strength and give it an edge on the DH and drops while keeping overall weight and pedal-abilty within reason. Fat travel and a generally "softer" feel.

XC bike: will sacrifice strength for weight, especially in the wheels and tires. You want it to climb better and loose a little on the DH side of things if you have to make a choice... and you will. Most races and rides spend a lot more time going up than down. Efficiency comes first and travel is lessened (or even eliminated) depending on terrain.

Get an AM if you care less about your lap time and worry more about riding everything that is in front of you.

Get an XC if you ride by your stop watch and would rather climb all day than be able to slam through the occasional tech obstacle.

By the way, your choice will depend a lot on what your friends ride and what terrain is in your area. Groups will prefer and pick rides that blend well with the bikes they happen to have. An AM guy will be miserable with an XC pack and vice versa.
 

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It's all a bunch of marketing hooey. Basically, as you go from "cross country" to "all mountain" to "free ride" to "downhill" the bikes get beefier and have more suspension travel. For the vast majority of mountain bikers, a cross country bike is perfectly fine. I've seen a lot of people use more travel to compensate for a lack of skill. It also depends on the trails you ride. If you ride trails with lots of drop offs and really big rocks AND you like to go extremely fast, then a bit more travel can be nice. It's also personal preference - people will tell you that you "need" this bike or that, but I usually ride a full rigid bike and go faster downhill than most people ride their burly AM bikes. You might consider sticking with a hardtail and just getting a much better one - they definitely have their advantages in a lot of situations.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Elvota said:
By the way, your choice will depend a lot on what your friends ride and what terrain is in your area. Groups will prefer and pick rides that blend well with the bikes they happen to have. An AM guy will be miserable with an XC pack and vice versa.
Yes, this is a very important point. I did have a hard time keeping up in the dark, in the wet...the FS guys just plowed over stuff while I needed a little more room to set up for obstacles.

Some good basic information. Sometimes when I go to my LBS, I get more marketing than just cyclists talking.
 

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traffic002 said:
Yes, this is a very important point. I did have a hard time keeping up in the dark, in the wet...the FS guys just plowed over stuff while I needed a little more room to set up for obstacles.

Some good basic information. Sometimes when I go to my LBS, I get more marketing than just cyclists talking.
A lot of that is geometry. I ride a slack hardtail with a long travel fork most of the time, and i'm just a hair slower than my FS AM buddies when they're goin full tilt downhill. On the right trails i'm actually faster. Our skills are pretty darn close. Rearward weight distribution and a big fork cover a lot of mistakes, if i smash into something the fork compresses and the rear end lifts up, so the hit to the rear end isn't too bad. Rockgardens or multiple successive hits... forget it.

The reverse is true too... an FS XC bike can't be plowed over stuff just because its got FS, although it will probably pedal better than my hardtail.
 

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local trails rider
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Do you think you want full suspension?

I enjoy riding toughish singlespeed hardtails, acknoledging the fact that they make me work harder on the rougher parts of the trail. For me, that is a part of the fun.

That said, I also enjoy riding my stupidly heavy long travel FS bike: it is a different kind of fun.

edit:
nowadays, there's also the 29ers: bigger wheels to make the trail a bit smoother.
http://forums.mtbr.com/forumdisplay.php?f=61
29ers have had a reputation for too much stability but they are not all created equal. Something like the Simon Bar from Sinister bikes, or Banshee's upcoming Paradox, might well do what I want a HT trailbike to do.
 

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Stay thirsty my friends
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For a new bike in your price range I would stick to a higher end hard tail with a quality fork...lots to choose from.

For used there are too many choices to make, just beware there are lots of used bikes out there that are just someone elses junk...worn out and beat. You get what you pay for.

Much of what your asking depends on your skill level, body weight, trails you ride etc. If your over 200pds a lightweight 20 pd XC bike might feel like a flexy flyer to you. I know my buddies old 2001 Giant NRS Air feels like a piece of junk to me...but he loves it cause he's 140 pds soaking wet.

You need to choose a discipline first before you go any further, however a high end hardtail with a good fork and decent wheels is never a bad investment.
 

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I think you may have missed a category in between AM and XC... "Trail".

I think you want a trail bike. 4"-5" suspension with shock-valving to help climbing and the trail bikes are about 30 lbs.
 

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Is that Bill rated?
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Looking at your options

Don't worry too much about labels, fit and appropriate set up will make either of the models you are considering excellent choices for riding on nearly any trail. I know several people riding on FSR Stumpjumpers and a couple who ride Superlights as well. These bikes may be marketed more towards the XC crowd, but they are definitely capable bikes. I know one girl who is flogging her Juliana, (the same frame as the superlight, just the woman specific version) on the Vancouver North Shore with great success.

If you are accustomed to riding a hardtail you may find the transition to the Superlight less painful as the suspension is less active when climbing. Also, the geometry is likely closer on the Superlight to where you are now, although the slacker head tube angle on the Stumpjumper will likely make you giggle on steep descents. The Stumpjumper that you are looking at does not include the Brain rear shock that is on the models of the people who I know so I can't make a full comparison there.

Generally speaking though, an XC bike is going to be a little fragile if you are using it to take jumps and drops and the costs can quickly escalate if you crash often. Even pinchflats quickly take their toll on your rims and tires as well as your tubes if you are running light weight XC hoops and rubber. This is not to say that you can't do these things, but you have to be prepared for a higher cost of maintenance if you over ride an XC bike.

On the other hand, an AM bike is going to slow you down a bit on climbs, especially from the heavier tires and wheels you are likely to find. Most 6" travel bikes now feature suspension with some form of lockout so the bob will be less of a factor than you might think. One other thing to consider is the higher speeds that you will find comfortable on technical descents can increase your consequences of failure when a crash does occur.

In short, chances are good that an AM bike will spend less time in the shop than an XC bike, but more time going up hill.

Even better would be to split the difference with a trail bike such as the Stumpjumper that you are already considering or the Santa Cruz Heckler.
 

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Big Gulps, Alright!
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Wheelspeed said:
I think you may have missed a category in between AM and XC... "Trail".

I think you want a trail bike. 4"-5" suspension with shock-valving to help climbing and the trail bikes are about 30 lbs.
Another marketing term that doesn't mean anything. Trailbike is a marketing term that blankets both XC and AM. It's a bike that gets ridden on a frequent basis by riders on their local trails (usually). It's not racy-light, nor DH-heavy, its geometry isn't racy-quick, nor DH-slack. Plenty of XC and AM bikes fall into this description.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Well, I'm 5'-7" and 165#. I like riding tight single track. But obviously there are obstacles on the trails I ride (man made or otherwise). I don't like to take jumps and big hits. Although I will glance off of rocks and logs to get a little daylight under my wheels on occassion.

I've started mtn biking again to offset my road riding. I'm looking more for a work out than to win any races. And I'm getting a little older at 39 and break easier when I endo and land on a tree on the way down.

I don't mind a little challenge as I ride to keep my skill level up. Hence I'm still riding my HT. But I wouldn't mind giving myself a little break with FS. Going over my bars tends to take stamina away from me that I need to keep up with the group.

I tried DH once at Whistler B.C. Great fun. Hope to never get into it. I can see ambulances in my future if I do. So I don't really get off on fast downhill descents.
 

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traffic002 said:
Well, I'm 5'-7" and 165#. I like riding tight single track. But obviously there are obstacles on the trails I ride (man made or otherwise). I don't like to take jumps and big hits. Although I will glance off of rocks and logs to get a little daylight under my wheels on occassion.

I've started mtn biking again to offset my road riding. I'm looking more for a work out than to win any races. And I'm getting a little older at 39 and break easier when I endo and land on a tree on the way down.

I don't mind a little challenge as I ride to keep my skill level up. Hence I'm still riding my HT. But I wouldn't mind giving myself a little break with FS. Going over my bars tends to take stamina away from me that I need to keep up with the group.

I tried DH once at Whistler B.C. Great fun. Hope to never get into it. I can see ambulances in my future if I do. So I don't really get off on fast downhill descents.
Sounds like XC to me.
 
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