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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
TLDR

So what do you all think, Is trail geometry really better? Obviously the Pro's don't think so (Even Kabush acknowledged that the SB100 couldn't compete against XC specific bikes in XCO events), so what are some arguments for XC geometry?

Rant warning.

I'm a little frustrated as a coach with Dad's/ other people asking me to recommend trail bikes so they can take their kid or themselves to Moab once a year as well as race, then touting about how great "Trail" geometry is (67degree head angle, dropper, 130mm+ suspension, long reach, etc) and how all XC bikes should be that way because some pinkbike reviewer took an XC hardtail down A Line and said it was flexy and over its head (exaggeration, but still of course an XC bike isn't going to be the weapon of choice at a bike park or super steep chunky downhill trail). Then there are the comments about how great the geometry is and how all the pros are wrong...

In my opinion, small geometry changes don't make as much of a difference as people claim. In fact, I'm fairly confident that in most places the differences between and XC and a Trail bike would not be noticed.

I currently ride an overforked ASRc and I actually don't like it as much as the actual XC bikes I've demo'd recently. I don't feel like I lost anything descending but the XC bikes were more agile and easier to corner.

In fact when I got my ASRc, I got it because it felt the same as the enduro bikes I was demoing but was way lighter. I wanted longer travel so I could ride more technical trails. After 3 years of owning the bike, I don't think the suspension has had anything to do with how fast I can go downhill, but rather honing my techniques in skills.

I just can't get over the fact that some people literally think that 10-20mm and 2 degrees of a head angle is going to turn them into a super rider who can do anything, otherwise they physically can't ride or have fun on a technical trail. I always assume a skilled rider can ride anything within their abilities, or they know when they need a bike specific for the type of riding they will do.

End Rant

In my own experience, my times on my XC bike versus trail bikes are similar or faster on my own bike. There have been many instances in the past where I would ride a hard techy section on a trail bike before taking my XC bike. My fastest times are on my XC time now. I usually just go for it and trust my own skills now.
 

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Skills is the operative word. And how you develop them. Even now after several years of developing your skills with trail geo you preride techy sections with your trail bike to learn and then ride faster on an XC geo bike. The pros use XC geo because they have skills well developed.

So agree with the dads that trail geo is better for their non pro kids. And tell them once they've used that to get really confident and skilled they can sharpen things up a little like some pros.
 

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As your bike becomes slacker and you have more travel, you gain more room for error going downhill, over obstacles and at speed. So it’s not as necessary to pick good lines and you may be less likely to go OTB. At its extremes you can tell riding an old school hardtail (72 degree hta) versus a modern enduro bike. So in theory I guess it’s safer to be slacker and more travel, but obviously there is a tipping point where it works against you; as in too much weight towards the back of the bike leading to unskilled riders having a loose front end.

I ride a modern full sus XC bike everywhere (Spark RC 900) with 100mm f/r with a 68.5 hta. I race it on XCO and XCM Ultras in MI, but also take it out to CO and UT and ride all the popular gnarly trails. I never get left behind with guys on all mountain and enduro bikes, but I also feel pretty confident with my bike handling. Whereas a buddy of mine (former roady) feels his 140mm/130mm isn’t enough travel. So it come down to the rider.
 

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I think you have to be careful comparing what is best for a pro versus what is best for an amateur. The reality is Pro-XC bikes and Pro-DH bikes are both very difficult for an average rider to ride.

That being said I am not 100% convinced that the new geometry is the way to go. There is something to the front end grip that a steeper head angle gives you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I will admit that comparing amateur bikes to pro bikes is moot. But as an amateur racer, I still find xc bikes better for xc racing and riding in general. I may not set up the bike as aggressively, but the geometry still feels the best.

I agree that older xc bikes and low end xc bikes with geometry more akin for the road almost feel dangerous.

For example, the difference between my rockhopper and a trek procaliber feels incredibly different. But the difference between the procaliber and my ASRc isn't that big minus the full suspension part. The difference between my ASRc and a longer travel bike is even more minimal until about 160mm. Then I start feeling a huge difference downhill.

I guess I'm finding that modern XC geometry works great for my riding style and for competitive racing but I don't know why, especially with all my friends and the internet raving over trail bikes, long suspension, etc. Like MI-XC, I keep up just fine or pass people on longer travel bikes.

I guess the same question in a different why, if XC geometry is "squirrely", "flexy", and not enough suspension, why should I race an XC bike? Why aren't people winning XC races on trail geometry bikes in droves? What is keeping bike manufacturers sticking with steeper geometries (say 68.5 degrees plus) for their xc whips?
 

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I will admit that comparing amateur bikes to pro bikes is moot. But as an amateur racer, I still find xc bikes better for xc racing and riding in general. I may not set up the bike as aggressively, but the geometry still feels the best.

I agree that older xc bikes and low end xc bikes with geometry more akin for the road almost feel dangerous.

For example, the difference between my rockhopper and a trek procaliber feels incredibly different. But the difference between the procaliber and my ASRc isn't that big minus the full suspension part. The difference between my ASRc and a longer travel bike is even more minimal until about 160mm. Then I start feeling a huge difference downhill.

I guess I'm finding that modern XC geometry works great for my riding style and for competitive racing but I don't know why, especially with all my friends and the internet raving over trail bikes, long suspension, etc. Like MI-XC, I keep up just fine or pass people on longer travel bikes.

I guess the same question in a different why, if XC geometry is "squirrely", "flexy", and not enough suspension, why should I race an XC bike? Why aren't people winning XC races on trail geometry bikes in droves? What is keeping bike manufacturers sticking with steeper geometries (say 68.5 degrees plus) for their xc whips?
I'd agree with the poster above who said it's a margin of safety thing, bigger bikes, slacker HTA mean you can get lazy and not get thrown around.

Obviously slacker HTA's are becoming more popular even on modern XC bikes....so the majority of the industry agrees and it's not like the top pro's are getting any slower with the revised geometry.

I think the trail bike market, in general, has gone a bit too far. These 63-64 HTA, 80 STA and huge reach numbers are getting a bit ridiculous when several of the top pros are riding bikes with much more conservative numbers and doing well.

I think the sweet spot, for most people across a broad range of courses, is 100-120 in the back and 120-130 in the front. Something like a SB100, Tallboy or a Ripley w/a lightweight build. 2-3 lbs heavier than a true XC bike, but more useful for bigger days, bigger trails and 95% as fast on most courses.

The Ripley vs Ripmo is a good example...both weigh very close, minor geometry differences besides 20mm of travel in the back and 20-30mm in the front. The Ripley is a much livelier, much racier and less wollowy bike that is going to be a much better bike to race on.

What keeps manuf from using 68.5? I think people want bikes that handle a wider range of riding. I have a custom "XC" bike from 2007, 69 HTA and 71.5 STA....but was current for it's time. It's fun on the right trails (aka flat and flowly), but it's twitchy going down and tough to ride really steep trail with.
 

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I just can't get over the fact that some people literally think that 10-20mm and 2 degrees of a head angle is going to turn them into a super rider who can do anything, otherwise they physically can't ride or have fun on a technical trail. I always assume a skilled rider can ride anything within their abilities, or they know when they need a bike specific for the type of riding they will do.
I have a 68 deg HA 27.5 123/130 mm bike and a 69.5 deg HA 100/100 29er. Both with dropper posts now and I can say I am more comfortable on really steep chunky DH on the trail bike than on my XC bike. The longer TT, slacker HA and longer fork put the front wheel farther in front and allows me to do more gnarly stuff due to the confidence. That said my XC bike can do quite alot, but when things go all the way up the trail bike geo helps. I am faster overall on the XC bike due to weight and everywhere else. The XC bike is more nimble.

So there is a difference, but skills are still the biggest factor. Any yes trail bikes while good are still not XC race bikes.
 

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I think having a dropper makes more of a difference than going from a 70 to a 68 HTA when it comes to descending. My sketchiest moments going downhill is from the saddle being in the way.
 

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I think having a dropper makes more of a difference than going from a 70 to a 68 HTA when it comes to descending. My sketchiest moments going downhill is from the saddle being in the way.
Adding a dropper to my XC bike I have learned a couple things. Super steep, but smooth DH are no longer a concer. Even with a 63mm drop in the seat I can easily shift back and low. With seat up I have it punching me in the gut. However in steep terrain where I worried about my front tire catching in rocks, stalling my forward momentum and sending my OTB... It helps, but not as much as on my trail bike with 125mm dropper, short stem, slacker HA and longer fork. I get the sense the front wheel is farther forward and any stalling would be less likely to send me OTB. I think it has to do with how much weight is on the front tire or at least perception. That said that lack of weight on the front does not help flat cornering.
 

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Adding a dropper to my XC bike I have learned a couple things. Super steep, but smooth DH are no longer a concer. Even with a 63mm drop in the seat I can easily shift back and low. With seat up I have it punching me in the gut. However in steep terrain where I worried about my front tire catching in rocks, stalling my forward momentum and sending my OTB... It helps, but not as much as on my trail bike with 125mm dropper, short stem, slacker HA and longer fork. I get the sense the front wheel is farther forward and any stalling would be less likely to send me OTB. I think it has to do with how much weight is on the front tire or at least perception. That said that lack of weight on the front does not help flat cornering.
Shouldn't hurt flat cornering....may not be as nimble in tight corners, but that goes for steep stuff too. Long, slack bikes are not as maneuverable.

If it was strictly front wheel weight you are concerned about, the newer bikes with steeper STA's certainly have more weight over the front of the bike if you are in a corner, seated.
 

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...

If it was strictly front wheel weight you are concerned about, the newer bikes with steeper STA's certainly have more weight over the front of the bike if you are in a corner, seated.
I was NOT seated. Not even close

That is where the STA of some bikes helps. Add weight seated, but not standing due to long reach. However you can still have steeper XC bikes too. My Epic is 74.8 Deg STA.
 

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I was NOT seated. Not even close

That is where the STA of some bikes helps. Add weight seated, but not standing due to long reach. However you can still have steeper XC bikes too. My Epic is 74.8 Deg STA.
Then I don't see how HTA has anything to do with it? Longer reach presumably puts more weight on the front end, just like a longer stem would...
 

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Then I don't see how HTA has anything to do with it? Longer reach presumably puts more weight on the front end, just like a longer stem would...
Longer reach moves weight off the front tires. The reason is longer reach comes most often with a shorter stem. So the front wheel is farther in front where your handle bars are. I have come to believe that perception of downhill stability or OTB risk come from where your head is relative to the contact point on the front wheel. The more the front wheel is in front of you the less likely you will feel like you will go OTB. Slacker HA, longer fork. longer reach (with shorter stem) and taller stack (bar height) combined with lower body position allowed by dropper post gives you more confidence and less weight on the front wheel. The steep seat angle puts weight back forward when seated, but you should never be seated when things get gnarly. However the seat will get in the way so this where the dropper is so critical.

Now on flatter trails this may cause to little weight on the front and slow sluggish handling and poor tracking. This is where XC bikes need to find the right balance.
 

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Longer reach moves weight off the front tires. The reason is longer reach comes most often with a shorter stem. So the front wheel is farther in front where your handle bars are. I have come to believe that perception of downhill stability or OTB risk come from where your head is relative to the contact point on the front wheel. The more the front wheel is in front of you the less likely you will feel like you will go OTB. Slacker HA, longer fork. longer reach (with shorter stem) and taller stack (bar height) combined with lower body position allowed by dropper post gives you more confidence and less weight on the front wheel. The steep seat angle puts weight back forward when seated, but you should never be seated when things get gnarly. However the seat will get in the way so this where the dropper is so critical.

Now on flatter trails this may cause to little weight on the front and slow sluggish handling and poor tracking. This is where XC bikes need to find the right balance.
That is not correct, longer reach absolutely helps with front traction. Shorter stem is a different issue, but they practically offset when combined. Reach has grown, stems have shrunk, net effect is about the same.

That hasn't necessarily been my experience, front end washing out (aka front grip) generally has more to do with not being aggressive and not staying up on the front of the bike.....just like skiing, particularly on the newer bikes. It's all a balance of course but the slack bikes seem to get around flat corners just fine.

Tall bars are probably one of the biggest culprits of a crappy handling bike, you def don't want super high bars even on a DH bike....

I sit on flat corners all the time, flat corners, in my neck of the woods are rarely gnarly.
 

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I think that most of the attention is paid to the front end geometry/travel. When really it is body position and pedaling position make the biggest speed difference at the high levels of XC competition. More Road/CX fit is the most efficient pedaling position

Sent from my Pixel 3a using Tapatalk
 

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I just can't get over the fact that some people literally think that 10-20mm and 2 degrees of a head angle is going to turn them into a super rider who can do anything.
For racers that compete at the highest levels, it makes a difference. Racing the "trail" setup I have for my bike with a 20mm longer fork and heavier wheels/tires puts me at a significant disadvantage for time, unless the trail is some crazy gnarly descent the entire time. A few weeks ago, I won a race, expert/cat1. With the trail setup, I may lose a few places. It matters to some of us. It's harder to climb with more travel up front, the front end doesn't stay planted, you waste more energy trying to make switchbacks, etc. I have yet to find DHs that I can't rock with my descending skills, from a few feet long to miles and miles, blowing past guys in different cats (different start time) on "enduro" or "trail" bikes on the DHs. I've said for a while, if you are endoing on a 29er, especially with a dropper, you need something more than just a slacker HT, like some skills on how to ride a bike. With my steep HTA, I can quickly insert my bike into a line, crevice, make a pass, etc., on the downhill.
 
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For racers that compete at the highest levels, it makes a difference. Racing the "trail" setup I have for my bike with a 20mm longer fork and heavier wheels/tires puts me at a significant disadvantage for time, unless the trail is some crazy gnarly descent the entire time. A few weeks ago, I won a race, expert/cat1. With the trail setup, I may lose a few places. It matters to some of us. It's harder to climb with more travel up front, the front end doesn't stay planted, you waste more energy trying to make switchbacks, etc. I have yet to find DHs that I can't rock with my descending skills, from a few feet long to miles and miles, blowing past guys in different cats (different start time) on "enduro" or "trail" bikes on the DHs. I've said for a while, if you are endoing on a 29er, especially with a dropper, you need something more than just a slacker HT, like some skills on how to ride a bike. With my steep HTA, I can quickly insert my bike into a line, crevice, make a pass, etc., on the downhill.
"..For racers that compete at the highest levels, it makes a difference.."

"..I won a race, expert/cat1.."


#humblebrag

I'm just kidding....

Your confusing a couple things though, HTA and fork travel (aka geometry) vs running heavier tires and wheels. The newer bikes with longer reach and steeper STA's largely offset the wandering you speaking of.

My "modern" Enduro bike, from a body position perspective (never mind the weight) climbs every bit as good as my 2 yr old XC bike.

A person good at descending is good regardless of what they are on....it speaks more to their skill than bike setup. I think you are right about the maneuverability of bikes with steep HTA's on some courses....until, you are tired, they it's a liability, particularly in longer races.
 

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Trail vs. XC, that's a change of several different components, and I'd argue that an XC bike is generally *disadvantaged* in every category except weight, which is significant to a degree I'll admit, but the smoothness of burlier components should be put to the clock and not how you feel about it.

The number of racers, truly at the highest levels (i.e. Nino Schurter on down) running 68* HTA, dropper posts, tire inserts, and 30mm rims is growing, so I call BS on the twitchy elitist comments.

As to specifically the issue of reach, I think it was really well-discussed here. If one thing can be improved (and is improving) with XC bikes, it's reach.

https://www.vitalmtb.com/forums/The-Hub,2/How-Much-Reach-is-Too-Much-Reach,9956?page=1
 

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A couple of years ago I was pretty convinced that a good light trail bike was pretty close to an XC bike. In 2012, 2013 my race bike was a 120mm Orbea Occam, 2014 Santa Cruz 5010, and 2016, 2017 a 140mm Orbea Occam. Now and I am back on a 100mm dedicated XC bike and it is faster nearly everywhere. Only on the burliest of trails is it at a disadvantage, and that disadvantage is not a lot.
 

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A couple of years ago I was pretty convinced that a good light trail bike was pretty close to an XC bike. In 2012, 2013 my race bike was a 120mm Orbea Occam, 2014 Santa Cruz 5010, and 2016, 2017 a 140mm Orbea Occam. Now and I am back on a 100mm dedicated XC bike and it is faster nearly everywhere. Only on the burliest of trails is it at a disadvantage, and that disadvantage is not a lot.
What do you think of the Orbea's? I'm thinking about one of the newly released Occams....I hear good things.
 
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