Here's my dilemma-- I currently have a great bike: 2018 RM Instinct A70. It's light (xl @ 30.1lbs.), has a bomb-proof GX build, Fox Performance cush, and... it's a great looking bike. I'm confident that wherever I point it, it's WAY more capable to take me places I have no business even thinking about going. Problem is, I keep catching myself thinking back to the 2014 Fuel EX9 I came from. Obviously shorter travel but a little snappier/playful and was overall a more intuitive "feeling" bike. History: I'm 60 (if you didn't know you couldn't tell) and consider myself a strong intermediate rider. I want to keep pushing my skills to the blue/black 💠 and black diamond trails but still really enjoy the longer down country rides. I've never owned a carbon bike. I ride in a great PNW region where I can find any and all levels of riding in a matter of minutes. Like I started, the RM is a great bike that can take me anywhere but this is the group where my mind keeps wandering to when I think about the next level: Santa Cruz Tallboy, Ibis Ripmo, Specialized Stump jumper, Transition Spur. Admittedly, I've never riden any of them but am I wrong to think this group would be able to cover the same territory and terrain and ✔ the boxes by giving me that quick responsive capable bike I've been spinning on? Definitely falls into the category of a "guilty want" rather than a "contented need." The mountain biking curse has struck again!
I will take "need" out of question but yes absolutely something in 120mm range that has modern geo and great pedaling efficiency you would in no way regret having. Your concern might be be hard to go back to RM with older geo including shorter reach and slacker seattube (I didn't look up geo but speaking from similar experiences). Ripmo and Stumpy are great bikes of course but for what you are talking about consider looking at the new 120mm-ish bikes like Tallboy, Ripley, Top Fuel.
Shameless plug and not why I replied but I do have Med 2020 Trek Top Fuel with mix of GX and X01 and carbon wheels for sale used, been ridden hard but maintained and fully ready to ride. Feel free to PM.
It's fun to have a couple of bikes to mix it up or have back up if one is down for service. So, yes, a new bike is certainly justifiable. If you wanted people to tell you it was not, you probably asked in the wrong place, BTW.
Want yes need no. With that said, I am buying a 2022 Trek Top Fuel, but it is my first new MTB in over a decade. My old bike was a Kona Dawg Deluxe with 150 mm/140 mm travel. For my needs, skill level, and age, a 120 mm downcountry / aggressive XC bike made the most sense to me. Frankly, I am quite amazed at how much has changed with 1x drivetrains, dropper seatpost, wider rims, etc.
Nice to see you live in WA too. I live in the Seattle-Tacoma area. If you are going the new bike route, I recommend supporting Kona/Transition/Evil as their HQ is here in WA! If you haven't visited the Transition shop before, I recommend that you do. It's super awesome and they gave me a free beer when I was there.
TLDR: OP enjoys riding a very nice trail bike and is looking at 2 trail bikes and 2 shorter travel trail bikes (and asking us if he should buy one).
My response: Sure, if you have the budget for it, but don't go in blind. Just buying some unknown based on nostalgia or romantic memories of past experiences is a surefire path to disappointment. The 4 bikes you listed are all kind of different as someone else already alluded to. There's no way I can tell you which may fit what you're after or if none of them will. Usually I'd say go to a demo event and try a bunch of stuff. These days, I just don't know...do they have demos? If no, I'd try to rent/borrow/whatever to get a feel for how they actually ride and stop by some local shops to ask lots of questions.
What sticks out to me in your post is this: "Problem is, I keep catching myself thinking back to the 2014 Fuel EX9 I came from. Obviously shorter travel but a little snappier/playful and was overall a more intuitive "feeling" bike. History: I'm 60 (if you didn't know you couldn't tell) and consider myself a strong intermediate rider. I want to keep pushing my skills to the blue/black 💠 and black diamond trails but still really enjoy the longer down country rides. I've never owned a carbon bike."
I don't believe what you find lacking in your current bike is frame material, it is the purposeful design compromise that it has low antisquat, which helps with traction on technical climbs and also leads to a plusher bike on the downhills. Your current frame has about 80% antisquat versus the frames you mention are all at about 110% (this is for the 32/50 combo at sag, which is how most measure). The only current bikes I know that have antisquat values that low are Knolly, again a purposeful design, Noel believes in maximum traction and using a lockout.
En esta entrada voy a analizar a la nueva Santa Cruz Tallboy 2020, un modelo de Trail con ruedas de 29'' y 120mm de recorrido trasero. En e...
When antisquat is under 100% as you pedal harder, the bike will suck into the travel (how much depends on how low the number is, 20 years ago bikes were at 0-40%). Over 100% it will want to extend as you pedal harder (again, how much depends on how high the number is). This is also affected by seatube angles. as you climb and the bike sags more, your weight shifts further back, leading to more sag, which on most frame designs also decreases the antisquat (most frames have antisquat dropping as you get further into the travel to limit pedal kickback). Steeper seat angles help offset some of this weight shift.
So what I see for your stated riding types and trails is not that you need or should get a shorter travel bike, but rather that you be looking at a bike in the same 140mm trailbike travel range that you have, but with more antisquat. The Ripmo and High Tower are probably the two leading bikes of balancing a snappy feel with good downhill performance that you don't need to go a million miles an hour to have fun. Cross the Transition Sentinel off your list in this group unless you want to run an angleset to steepen it up (my son has one, I ran an angleset to steepen it and fine, now without my son says you have to be going mach chicken to have it wake up and he is a DH racer). My nearly 50 year old self ended up with a Banshee Prime, as I like the longer chainstays, which combined with a bit taller headtube don't require you stay as far over the front of the bike and give you a large front to rear body positioning window. The tradeoff is longer stays don't feel as snappy, but climbing performance is just as good with similar antisquat numbers at the Ibis and Santa Cruz.
The world is your oyster and if you have the funds, I say go for it. I remind myself, I am not getting younger and since I can afford it, enjoy riding reasonably new bikes with good components. There is no need to get X01 or XTR, but I would consider getting upgraded wheels on whatever bike you purchase. Lighter wheels make a big different in how snappy a bike feels (says the guy that rides 2,000 gram wheels with 1,100-1,200 gram tires).
Not sure I'd call 30.1 lbs. "light" for a trail bike, but I suppose I think most bikes have turned into ridiculously heavy pigs. A Transition Spur XO1 at 25 lbs. Now that's light. Come up to Bellingham. Demo a Transition Spur from the Transition Outpost and test it on Galbraith. You won't be disappointed. Except maybe having to wait 4-6 months to get one.
Since you asked here, I assume you have already decided and are just looking for justification. I just bought a Canfield Nimble 9. I did not need it, but I'm glad I did. It's not my main bike, but I like having a second bike to change the pace and to have something to ride if one of my bikes is in the shop.
The key to a new bike is finding a step level change in performance or reliability. For instance, if you still had a 9 speed 135mm QR rear end, it’s worth making the jump up to the 10-12 speed Boost through axle.
When I was in your shoes 6 months ago the only”step function” I could find was a bike that didn’t suffer from broken frame parts every month. And then I discovered the gearbox bikes. At that point it was just a matter of scraping together a truckload of cash.
600 miles later I’m pretty sure I’ll never ever buy another derailleur. That has been the biggest step function for me since suspension. Aaaaand of course, now the question stirs again; when will I need a new bike and why?
Probably not, unless you want to stimulate the economy. I did buy a new bike (Ibis Ripley) and also feel like getting a longer travel bike but that's not super smart given the prices nowadays. I have too many financial obligations, so just decided to buy a new shock and fork instead and make it a bit more capable. The Ripley is a fantastic bike in general so I even sold the Yeti and my backup gravel bike. I am on my way to becoming a minimalist...one bike for each discipline...road, gravel, fat, MTB. 😆
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