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Rigid 29er: Keeping up with the Hardtails and Full Suspensions

4506 Views 26 Replies 24 Participants Last post by  Ridin'Dirty
I ride a rigid 29er. I've been going along with a group equipped with mostly full suspension bikes. I've seen only 1 hardtail. The trails are rough, comprised of logs, rock gardens and drops. I classify myself as in fairly good shape, albeit overweight (and working on it). I have a difficult time keeping up with the rest of the group because I find myself getting off my bike to negotiate some of the deeper drops that I can't roll down from and the climbs strewn with logs and rocks. I'm continuously working on my stamina, endurance and skills.

How are you doing with your rigid? Are you keeping up or surpassing your group? Please post your experiences.
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First off I live in michigan so take this with a grain of salt, half the trails I ride could be ridden on a road bike, thinks smooth with some light sand and a few roots, not many rocks.

I have been riding a rigid 29er for the last 4 years and a rigid surly 1x1 since about 2002. my first REAL moutain bike was rigid (I was 13 years old). I have been mountain biking for 17 years now. Alot of guys i ride with all have either front of full suspension. I have no problem keeping up with them on more technical trails and trails that are rougher and rooted. At the Ore to Shore this year (48 mile race in the UP on some fast but rocky fireroads) I was passing many people on the downhills and though the rocky sections. I was on a rigid geared 29er with Stan's Crow tires front an rear.

It comes down to one thing SKILLS!!!!! I have been a mountain biker for a long time and my off road handling skills are pretty damn dialed at this point. I can out ride many people(on hardtailed and full suspension bikes) on a bald tired rigid 29er and I always get post ride comments on my speed through certain sections.

It has not always been like this, when I was just starting out in racing, 96 or 97 I could barely get though the woods without crashing, wiping out, or just going so damn slow it was pointless. Then I got a surly 1x1 and kept it rigid for $$ purposes. The bike was simple and cheap and taught me more about off road handling than anything before it. Rding a rigid bikes makes you a better bike handler by force, because you have nothing to help you out except your off road skills and ability to handle varying situations.

All i can tell you is to keep with it, and in time you will evole into a better bike handler, and if you end up with a suspension bike either front or full your skills from riding a rigid bike will be even more noticable. I have known many people who have become much better riders because they spent some time on a rigid bike. I would not know, my last suspension for was a 2001 blue SID, and it was 2001.

Hope this helps, also Remember Jonny T rode a rigid drop bar mtb and you could probabaly outride all of us why??? cause that dude had some damn good skills in the woods
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On certain trails, all things being equal, a rigid will always be slower than suspension.
I'm not going to answer your questions. I'm going to give you my comments. I know you didn't ask for them either...

If you are concerned about not keeping up, and the other riders are concerned about having to wait for you; get a FS, or get a new group.

I personally like to ride rigid, and I like to SS. So if I were you (which I'm not) I would stop worrying about it. What matters is that you are having fun riding your bike.
Wish I Were Riding said:
If you are concerned about not keeping up, and the other riders are concerned about having to wait for you; get a FS
Geez!!!!! Why punish yourself on a 29"er rigid in the year 2010? Get a full suspension 29"er and have some serious fun. Ride fast. Ride more. Enjoy. Keep up with the group.:D :thumbsup:

OH, man - I've got a rigid Karate Monkey and know exactly what it feels like, both during the ride and for the two or three days after the ride. I wouldn't even spit in its direction these days when I can just grab the RIP 9 and have some fun.:D

Pabs said:
On certain trails, all things being equal, a rigid will always be slower than suspension.
+ 1

i often ride my rigid ss 96er and love it, but not when i am with my fast friends (unless they're riding rigid ss's too). i also have a geared 29er hardtail with an 80mm fork (my fastest bike by far) and a 29er ss with a 100mm thru-axle fork (my favorite bike). i'm lucky enough to have 3 bikes; they are all hardtails and i pick the bike, for a given ride, based on my preferences for the trails we'll be on, group skill level, etc. suspension is faster in my opinion, on nearly all singletrack trails. that said, as a previous poster notes, a super strong rider on a piece of junk rigid bike will crush an average rider on a $10k race bike. either way, good luck improving your skills, losing weight and enjoying the woods on what you've got! :thumbsup:
Ah.... If you want to move through rocky, techy terrain on a rigid, you need to be stronger. When I say stronger I mean a couple things:
1) Cardio
2) Skills
3) Arms
4) Core

If you really want to 'keep up' on a rigid, you need to work for it. If you have the skills, than all you really need is the strength and fitness. My off-season is normally defined by core workouts (Medicine ball) and weights, on top of spinning and cross country skiing/skinning.

Also, don't find a new group unless you are actually holding them up or not having fun. Riding with faster people will make you... faster.
Great Job!

olapiquena said:
don't find a new group unless you are actually holding them up or not having fun. Riding with faster people will make you... faster.
This is good advice and great job OP! You have "heart" and a great attitude:thumbsup: .

I rode rigid when there were no other choices. I don't anymore, however, I do use the skills and techniques I developed riding rigid bikes, today, on FS's and hardtails. I believe what you're doing right now will ultimately make you a better rider. Yes, suspension will make you faster immediately, but, it wont necessarily make you a better rider. Nothing points out the error of your ways like riding a rigid SS.

What can help you right now, at least with the technical climbing and likely the descending, would be using higher volume tires and wider rims, set up tubeless, with low tire pressures. Something like an Ardent, Nevagal, Rampage or Weirwolf @ 21-25psi up front, with a Suguaro, Race King, Bontrager XDX or Weirwolf rear at similarly low pressures, combined with Stan's Flow rims will work wonders for your riding.

Keep after it! And most importantly, have fun!
We find here-in the most technical areas-full ridgid and skill is fastest. Also some of the fastest people in the south are on SS!
Fittness and skill are better than equipment on tech. climbs.
Get big tires-low pressure grip.
Practice "FLOW"
Think smooth...
Thank you, all, very much. A wealth of information and comments here. The full suspension group is comprised of seasoned riders who've ridden the trails I've been on with them probably hundreds of times. They really know the trails like the back of their hands. I need to improve myself more so that I can keep up. It's fun riding with them. Who knows, I may yet end up with a full suspension bike, but for now, I'll go with what I have.

To jms (and to share a funny experience): I ride with Weirwolfs front and rear, Stan's Flows, tubeless. I was with the full suspension group yesterday. As I was climbing, I pull my front upwards to clear a rock and somehow hit the rock a litle bit sideways. I'm heavy enough such that I burped my front tire (Stan's sprayed out) and I ended up stopping and pumping air back into the tire. Needless to say, I lost the group.

My original riding buddies don't like riding in the cold and come up with excuses not to ride. :D

I can't thank you all enough for your replies. I was getting bummed, but now I want to ride more. :)
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ME and two buddies run Rigid 29's (single speed of course) and we are usually in the front of the pack. Very rare that we get passed, thats every place too up down and in the flats. which we don't seem to have much of.
If your not killing them on the climbs even if they are rocky, you just need to work harder. I ride in the northeast and have yet to find a climb I can't do better on my rigid. If they are killing you on the downhill there isn't much you can do but catch them on the climbs.
The more you ride rigid the more your eyes will open up to better lines. Momentum and "the line" will make you a better rider no matter what you ride.
You have already received a lot of good (and possibly bad...) advice -

I currently have a rigid 29er and a 29er F/S and like the contrast of the two- the rigid will definitely help you hone in on your handling skills and make you pick your lines, and if you ever do decide get a F/S you truly will appreciate it (and possibly use the additional control for more speed- or you will become lazy..). Beyond the lack of suspension bob etc.. the Rigid makes me climb much faster; it is a mental thing. On the downs the lack of suspension can its limits where excessive speed on rough terrain makes bike handling beyond difficult and most of us are forced to reduce speed- add suspension and your tires are able to stay in contact with the trail which can help a bit with bike control.... But the rigid sure does feel fast as you hold on for dear life on a decent you did last week on a FS bike...

In the end as many have said a great rider on a crappy bike will be faster than a crappy rider on a great bike- time on the bike makes all of the difference, with better stamina will come better skills... with or without suspension.
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I really enjoy riding rigid on most trails. I like the lighter front end, and the consistent bar height relative to the terrain. That said, even though I rode rigid the first 3 years of being on a 29er, I can appreciate a good quality suspension fork when descending. Or even for flats and climbing when it is repeatedly rocky, to the point where it becomes a distraction. The fork has to have a really good lockout/blowoff system though, I am only familiar with the Fox F29 and it is quite good.

I plan to have a new bike set up hardtail this summer, and my existing bike kept rigid, so I will have a choice depending on the trail I am heading to...that is an ideal situation for me. I ride with some guys who will out-technical me all day long on rigid bikes, so it is really just about what you enjoy riding...don't feel like you are failing some rite of manhood not to ride rigid. No doubt it will help you pick better lines...but honestly...80% of that line-picking goes away for me once I have a sus fork on the front. :)
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Mr Cabletwitch said:
If your not killing them on the climbs even if they are rocky, you just need to work harder. I ride in the northeast and have yet to find a climb I can't do better on my rigid. If they are killing you on the downhill there isn't much you can do but catch them on the climbs.
I now ride a rigid 29er and can most surely ride faster and more efficient....if you think back in time it used to be who needs a full suspension 26er when you can have just a front suspension 29er or even all this crazy movement has us wanting full suspension 29ers....geez when does riding come into play....ride rigid...ride fast and you can ride most any bike....but i wont drink the kool aid so I am staying hardtail and rigid!
This is an excellent thread as it reminds me of all the mental turmoil I went through building my first 29er (MootoX). I rode and raced rigid for almost a year and definitely honed my riding skills. In one particular race in Tennessee (SERC) I battled most of the day with a few bikes as I passed them on all the uphill sections and they passed me going down. I really think I would have benefited from front suspension so I converted to a Reba Race 80. Fact is, I am faster and my arms no longer hurt.

As for riding fun instead on concentrating on speed, that's can be a different matter entirely. I find a riding zen when riding rigid SS that can't be replicated. I also have a 6" fully that I take to the same trails when I want to max on a different kind riding bliss.

Good posts from everyone. I guess, to each their own...
The answers you seek, are found in the glass refraction. Look at your weak areas... honestly.
Having just bought fully rigid Vicious 29er, I find that, compared to my FS 29er, I really need to go slower and just enjoy the ride. My main parks (Graham, Blue, and Sprain here in Westchester County, NY) are rocky, rooty, technical trails. Riding fully rigid to me is lots of fun but a different riding experience.

I have had no real problems negotiating the trails on the stiffy, but I do tend to go slower. I tend to ride solo often, but when I'm out with others my preference is to ride the FS because most of the people I ride with are faster than me :rolleyes: :eek:

SPP :cool:
SlowPokePete, you ride where I ride. :) We should get together. Mo0se, you're right. I'm working on myself. Need lots of improvement. Rider weight, for instance, needs to go down. That's why I'm riding. :)
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