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I am much closer to pulling the trigger on my first 29er. I want a versatile steel 29er that will start single-speed but have the option to handle gears and stuff. this will replace my Monocog and my co-op built frankenbike commuter and become a do-all bike. price is no longer and issue because I can buy a KM complete or buy an El Mar complete, sell the fork and some drivetrain components and break even on that. I really like the strength and versatility of the KM, but the El Mar seems like it might be more race-y and fast. I like fast.

what's likely to be lighter, smoother, and more versatile?
1. KM complete (but with a few tweaks from my old bike such as Chris King headset, spd pedals, Thomson post, etc)
2. El Mariachi 3 minus the derailleurs, cassette, and suspension fork with an affordable rigid (Salsa?) fork to replace it.

also, at 5'9" with a 30" inseam, I was planning to buy the 16" KM or the medium El Mar
 

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Both bikes ride great! That said, at VERY similar stature/measurements I went with the medium El Mar and had it custom built with a similar build kit. Trying to sell mediocre components wasn't worth the time to me.

My main motivation towards the El Mar are the dropouts. I didn't like having track ends on my Surly 1X1 even with a chaintug.

That's my $0.02.
 

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Love my KM. That said I have always wanted a El Mar special edition. Always seem to miss out when a used one is for sale!
 

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I love my KM. It rides great and is very versatile. The horizontal dropouts are part of that versatility, but can be an annoying feature. If you want to run SS you will want to use tugnuts or something similar. I used just a Shimano skewer to hold the rear wheel and it did alright, but I had some slippage a couple times.

The KM does have rack and fender mounting capabilities, which is awesome. Tire clearance is also plentiful (don't know how much clearance the El Mar has).

The KM is smooth, but isn't light. I'm sure mine weighs close to 30 lbs with gears. It's more of an adventure bike than a racer. It still feels very lively and fun on the trails though.

Bottom line: Not many bikes will happily shred trails one day, and then be loaded down for a commute the next day. The KM however, does both very well. I ride mine everywhere.
 

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I *think* the KM has more rack / fender/ bottle mounts on it than the EM. Besides that I'd choose which ever dropout you like better. I heard the EM has 3 different size bolts to adjust the chain tension. If that's so, I personally would prefer the KM.
That's true. You need 4, 5, and 6mm Allen wrenches. But thats really a minor annoyance upon initial set up. Trailside wheel repair would be faster/easier with the swing drops. As far as the dropouts go, I'd take the swing drops over track ends.
 

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is buachail foighneach me
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I've never run a tugnut on my KM/SS. I always run the axle in the farthest forward position the ratio will allow, though, so axle slip wouldn't be a big deal. 32 x 20 will sit just about all the way forward in the track end.
 

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I am much closer to pulling the trigger on my first 29er. I want a versatile steel 29er that will start single-speed but have the option to handle gears and stuff. ...
I'm close to pulling the trigger on my first singlespeed, and I have also debated buying a complete bike or building one up. If you want the flexibility to add gears, building one up may be a better option. The KM complete bike comes with a singlespeed rear hub (and probably the El Mar as well?) and is not able to accept a cassette. This detracts from the flexibility of the frameset in my view.
 

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There has been some good info on here. I am also deliberating on choosing between the El Mar and the KM. Similar dimensions as the OP.

I personally am leaning towards the KM in an 16" actually. I would run it with a longer stem. I am looking for a frameset though because I have a newly acquired Shimano Dyna-sys drivetrain and all the little bits save for a wheelset and tires. Which would probably be Velocity P-35s to something modest and serviceable and Kenda Karma 2.25s. I might still get it complete just in case I want to do the whole SS thing and want to use the drivetrain for something like a Spearfish.

However, the Salsa is freakin' sweet.

My reasons for the El Mar would be, it looks awesome and the swinger/vertical dropouts. It is also most likely lighter, I'm not sure, but Salsa is more racy so it wouldn't surprise me.

The KM is a great choice because of the versatility of the frame. I like the eyelets for all the extra bits you can install to make it a commuter with fenders/racks or whatever. It is also cheaper; so if price is a factor. Coming off of a 2-9er that does not have the ability to install anything on it but parts, versatility is appealing.

That said I have convinced myself to get the KM, I will order it tomorrow. Hopefully they still have it in black.
 
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