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subzali 10-24-2008 09:02 AM

Mountain bikes
Questions/advice from the mtb guys:

I think my timing is perfect. Now that it's getting colder I'm really getting back into mountain biking. I have a 2000 Gary Fisher Kaitai (hardtail) with ok components. It's getting to the point where I need to replace components and/or buy a new bike. The frame on this thing is great, I ride it very well, and I don't think I could get much for it if I were to try and sell it, so I think I'll keep it and do some stuff here and there on it.

First off, I have I think an older LX bottom bracket with I think the old square taper on it. From what I understand, most everybody has gone to octalink design. What is a good (but fairly cheap) BB? I was looking on mountainbikereview.com and there's a bunch of idiots on there that are using things in ways they weren't intended, and then calling them crap when they break (well duh!). I was thinking of going to a new LX BB, but what else is out there? I saw RaceFace was getting good reviews.

Second, forks. I'm afraid that if I upgrade my forks I will have to do discs, not sure if my bike is set up for discs on the rear (I'm going to check today). My friend upgraded his old fork back in college to a Marzocchi and seemed pretty happy with it, but most of the higher end bikes I see these days are running Fox or higher end RockShox forks. My current fork does not have that much travel (3-3.5" I would guess), so I don't want to change the geometry really all that much, it's just that it's a RockShox Judy XC that has never been serviced :o and I'm afraid to pull it apart and find bad part that can't be replaced because RockShox I heard doesn't continue with the rebuild kits for more than 3 or 4 years after a model has been produced (maybe that's a lie?).

Third, brakes and shifters. I would like to stick with v-brakes on this bike, still not sure how much I'm going to like discs on my (potentially) new full suspension. But maybe I should go discs so that when I go back and forth with my bikes I don't have to remember how to use the brakes differently. I was thinking LX brakes and shifters (or LX shifters with Avid or equal hydraulic discs) because I have the Mega9 shifters and who knows what brake levers and they have lasted all this time, albeit they are loose, worn, rattling, and unprecise these days.

I will probably go to a LX front derailleur to upgrade my Deore that's currently on there.

Of course, all of this is contingent on price, I would like to get some good/upgraded componentry if possible, but don't want to go all out because we're still talking about an older bike that gets trashed on the trail.

OTOH, I'm also looking at a full suspension just because that's the way everybody is going and there are some longer rides that I plan on doing where it would be pretty nice (Sections of the Colorado Trail, long rides in Buffalo Creek area, Monarch Crest, etc.). I don't want a bike that everybody and his brother has, but I'm not really a boutiquey guy either. My perception is that the Santa Cruz Blur and the Specialized StumpJumper FSR are bikes that are pretty popular. I will probably throw a leg over them to check them out, but I don't think I need the travel of the Stumpy; not sure about the Blur. I've never been a big fan of Trek, and the Fuel doesn't really seem like the bike for me. I've been looking pretty hard at the Specialized Epic, just because it has the suspension in the rear but it has a cross country/climber feel and stance and suspension travel setup.

I don't plan to really spend any time at Keystone or going off huge drops; that's not my style. I'm a climber and like technical uphills (like the wall at Deer Creek, the steps on Dakota Ridge, Morrison Slide, Chimney Gulch and Apex.). I'm an average Front Range mountain biker, and my personal opinion is that shops are selling people something they really don't need or ever really use to their full potential, and I don't really want to sacrifice the uphill performance for a perceived upgrade at downhill performance that I will never really use.

It just seems to me that Specialized has been doing this for a long time and they are leading the way with innovation in the mass-produced market. I still have a lot to learn, though, so let's start a schooling session :D

BTW, I'm not really an Iron Horse, Trek, YETI, Ellsworth, or Cannondale fan, though unless someone can really convince me it's the way to go I might consider one of them. Don't know much about Santa Cruz, have ridden a couple Intense bikes but seemed more of a downhill bike to me, not really sure what Fisher has to offer these days.

Rogue Leader 10-24-2008 09:36 AM

Wait till Bikeman speaks but here is what I've found out in the past 3 years with 2 different bikes. My first bike was a Specalized XC Comp and it got the crap beaten out of it. I put somewhere between 500 and 600 miles on it in 4 months before it got stolen. It had a Rockshox tora in the front and the lockout never worked completely. I blew out the rear shock going over some drainage berms a little too fast. My current bike is a Rocky Mountain ETSX 50 (bikes.com). It wasn't cheap but it makes a world of difference. Fox front and rear provide a super smooth ride over anything I throw at it. It has the Shimano dual shift/brake levers and those are pretty sweet. With just over a 1000 miles on the bike in 1.5 years the only thing that has really failed was the fox fork. (dont do drops with the front locked out). My specalized had mechanical disks while the RM has hydraulic. I liked the mechanical because I could adjust them on the fly but the hydraulic are more responsive and like to lock up around power slides. I pushed both bikes really hard but my RM is still going strong.

It really depends on what you want to do. A strict uphill bike should be a hard tail but if it is a 60% uphill and a 40% downhill look at the short travel rears because it makes a world of difference.

DaveInDenver 10-24-2008 09:41 AM

Dang, where to start?

Bottom brackets. Not only has the market moved from square taper to Octalink, but it's also moved beyond that to external bearing cranks. You are two generations behind my man. If I was you, though, I would stick with what you have. You can still get decent Shimano units, like a BB-UN54 level. This is gonna be about $20 new, nothing major. If you switch, just go to Octalink II (external bearings). I have XT Octalink II cranks on my Blur, no complaints, LX Octalink II on the geared HT (race bike sorta) and FSA outboard bearing cranks on the 'cross bike. Both have been solid, although I did have an arm on the 'cross bike come off last season in the middle of a race. The bolts must have loosened or something. The advantage to outboard bearings is significantly bigger bearings, which does lead to longer life.

Shocks. Your Judy is more like a 80mm fork, so about 2.5". I run Fox stuff, love it. Advantage in my mind, simple, well made in the USA, excellent parts availability. The premier MTB fork tuning house is right here in Colorado, PUSH. They're up in Loveland, they have every single part for Fox shocks and can turn around repairs and rebuilds in a day or two. But I've also rebuilt Fox forks, it's not tough to do yourself. But nothing wrong with Zokes or Manitou IMO. Rock Shock has gotten a lot better under SRAM ownership the past few years, for a while in the late 1990s they were utter crap. You can still get 80~100mm forks with canti posts, that's not a big issue. Also you can run a disc in front, cantis in back, that's not a problem.

PUSH Industries: http://www.pushindustries.com/

Brakes. I LOVE DISC BRAKES! If I had to only keep one advancement in the last 15 years it would be disc brakes. Hand's down, hardtail, rigid fork, single speed, 26" wheels, just as long as it has disc brakes... In Colorado they are the bee's knees. Seriously.

I have a Santa Cruz Blur LT. It's not a super boutique bike, but it's not all that common. I see a lot more Specialized, Yetis and Treks, but fewer Moots and Intense. About the same as Ellsworth on the trail. I ride a large, you are welcome to give it whirl sometime. I run a 140mm Fox Vanilla and it's mostly a mix of XT and SRAM X.9 level stuff. Pretty utilitarian. If I was gonna buy a bike right now, it would be most likely a 3" dual squish 29'er of some sort or maybe a HT, although I'm really looking forward to the 650C bikes to get established. That's a 27.5" tire and I think a better balance for a ~4" trail bike.

Maddmatt 10-24-2008 09:55 AM

Lots of people on here with lots more experience and knowledge than me, so I'll only speak to what I know.

Discs. I agree with Dave 100%, best advancement ever. I'm currently riding a specialized hardtail with hydraulic discs, and I wouldn't give it up for a full suspension with Vbrakes, no way. The only change you'll have to make in your riding is to get used to having the same brakes at the end of the day that you had in the morning.

In my opinion, worth getting a new bike to get them.


Caribou Sandstorm 10-24-2008 10:26 AM

Hey Matt,

Not sure if you are looking for a total new ride or just new components?

I have been mtn biking since late 80s. The stuff available over the last few years is much better then years past, with the exception of the shimano multi trigger cap (brake/shifter).

I ride a Blur with mostly XTR. My wife is on a Yeti Kokopelli. Santa Cruz blurs changed the market entirely when they came out and still today have the best technology. Pretty much the rest of the industry had to change fast to compete. Elsworth is probably the number two. Highend yeti is made here in Colorado, mid to lower is made in Tailand with many others..Specialized is expensive.

Anyway, my advice would be to get on the phone to all the ski shops at the ski resorts...They rent brand new full suspension bikes in the summer with decent components and let them go for half price in the fall. In some cases they have only been in use a handful of times over the summer.

Christy's at WP, breck, Vail...will have a good selection. They all have disc.

Full suspension is the difference between getting your butt kicked by a goup of thugs vs being superman and walking through a volanco eruption....It is that much different of a feel during and after the ride is over..

Since you are not going to do drops, you can stick with a xcountry type build best for climbing, stay around 23-27 pounds, anythig over that. I prefer the VPP suspension technology vs the others becasue it is the best for minimal movement while climbing. But all have imporved over the years.

rover67 10-24-2008 10:32 AM

yeah man, probably lots of other folks here with more knowledge than me too..

I know that a few years ago I kind-of went through the same upgrade thing on my old bike. I bought a rock shocks reba, discs, a decent wheel set, nice shifters, ect.

after moving out here I realized that the bike really didn't fit me (frame too small) so i set out looking for a used bike I could afford. I ended up with my Spot for about $900. Honestly, it has all of the components i had ended up upgrading on my old frame... but it was a newer nicer frame, and a nicer bike in general. Add up what you think you might spend on upgrades and see if you can't buy a used newer bike for a similar amount of mulah.

as far as brakes go, I love disks too. hands down better for me than any other setup. I have avid bb7's on the Spot and the old 1x9 now and love them. for about $120 you can get the calipers and discs, add $20 bucks or so for nice cables, and pick up the cheap - o avid levers for like $12 and you'll have a pretty decent setup. Hydraulic is nice, but i couldn't afford it. I love my mechanicals.... not to say I won't upgrade in the future... but these are really nice. I also have a rock shocks reba on the Spot, and it does fine for me. yo ucan usually pick them up used for around $300... and rebuilding them is easy. the seal kit is not to cheap though. I have all the oils if you'd want them.

The Spot is a single speed hard tail 29'er... I have really enjoyed it around here. I have ridden some full suspension bikes, and while you can really go anywhere (pick any line downhill) the spot just seems to be more fun.

Anyways... not saying your old frame is not worth it, but you may want to look into picking up something newer.... it might get you more bang for your buck.

wesintl 10-24-2008 10:32 AM

I don't even know where to begin.

I would only fix the stuff on your bike that needs to be fixed. If you start upgrading on that old of a bike, IMHO, it will cost just as much if not more than a new bike. A kia tia is nice but not as nice as what you could buy with if you put everything into it.

I don't know why you diss ellsworth. The Truth, in my mind is one of the best suspension bikes ever made. Some frame problems in the past but they work very well. The reason you see some bikes more than others is because there are some rear suspension designs that are WAY better than others.

I dunno, when the last couple times i've ridden i've went back to my hard tail. If i were going to buy another mtn bike. I'd be going to a Seven custom sola. I'm rapidly loosing touch with the latest since I left my last shop.

subzali 10-24-2008 11:03 AM

Thanks guys, I'm not dissing anything just trying to get a point of reference established since as Dave said I'm probably at least two generations behind in bike design.

I will be looking into the different models and brands you guys have ridden, liked, and/or suggest, I'm not going to rush into this so it's going to take a lot of playing etc. I'm not really ready to lay down the $$ yet anyway, but I'm just trying to stir the pot in my head.

I thought about doing a single-speed conversion on my hardtail and calling it good, but have kinda moved back to upgrading. I am thinking I am going to buy a new bike (full suspension) and then tear down my hardtail and just have fun rebuilding it. Not like it's going to be great when I'm done, but I just want to play with it and see what happens. In the near future, though, the BB and the fork/brakes (I think you guys are convincing me of discs, going to check that out today) are the parts that I would like to replace if I'm going to survive another season on it.

I have lots of research to do, there's so many bikes/systems/geometries out there. Gotta go test some out too :)

subzali 10-24-2008 11:07 AM

And that's the other thing - the 29er revolution. Is that the wave of the future? Should I jump on the bandwagon now?

I also have to get a new helmet and new shoes, I've been riding Shimano SPD pedals for a while, any reason to go to eggbeaters or anything else? I've been looking at the Sidi Dominator, I figure my feet deserve a break from the Shimano shoes I've had that don't fit and aren't comfortable.

DaveInDenver 10-24-2008 11:11 AM


Originally Posted by wesintl (Post 88958)
I don't know why you diss ellsworth. The Truth, in my mind is one of the best suspension bikes ever made. Some frame problems in the past but they work very well. The reason you see some bikes more than others is because there are some rear suspension designs that are WAY better than others.

Ellsworth makes very nice bikes, all US-made, too. My Blur is also a US-made one, but note that in 2008 Santa Cruz shifted production off most their bikes to Taiwan. They had been making some overseas since 2003, but all the VPP frames from 2002 thru 2007 are US-made. Anyway, the only knock against Ellsworth that I've ever heard (this is rumor-ish) is that they can be a little standoffish when dealing with warranty issues. I can speak with authority that Santa Cruz was AWESOME on that front when my Blur frame cracked. Out of warranty by 6 months and they still replaced it for free.

The current crop of designs has been pretty flushed out. There are three main design philosophies. The single pivot, VPP (virtual pivot point) and four bar.

The single point is old but all the experimentation in locating the pivot and more importantly modern platform valved shocks make them viable primarily because of weight and simplicity. They work well and considering there are minimal pivots (as in just one, single isn't just a clever name), they take next to no maintenance. The wheel moves in an arc, which is another issue with a fixed pivot, that's not really what the wheel wants to do. Platform valving is a lock-out inside the shock that detected when there is minimal pedaling going on (i.e., when the shock is barely traveling) and will lock out. Without this the single pivot will tend to inch-worm in granny gear, which is annoying. Some shocks have a manual lock-out and that's fine, but just a PITA.

The four bar is similar to independent front suspension on trucks, well more like suspension on Indy and F1 cars. It's just like it sounds, a simple 4 bar linkage that keeps the suspension active all the time (it's the only style that is not impacted by braking at all). Lots of pivots, that's it's main dink. Also there are patent issues with parts of it that mean either you pay Specialized royalties or you don't sell your bike here in the USA. Scott for one told Specialized to stick it where the sun don't shine and that keeps us from getting the really fancy Scott bikes that they have in Europe. Titus and Ellsworth just pay Specialized for the Horst link, no drama. Oh, Specialized owns that patent, the four bar linkage suspension is what all their FSR frames are based on. The wheel moves linearly up and back, which is pretty much what you want.

The VPP is known by several names, VPP is owned by Santa Cruz and licensed to Intense. Other brands use similar style pivots, like BMC and Giant. It's called something else and the actual design is a little different. But the idea is the same, there are two pivots that act as a single pivot that moves through space. The reason for this is that the pivot point determines leverage ratio and the compromise with a fixed point is that sometimes you want different ratios. Without adjusting shock spring rate, while climbing it is nice if the leverage is a little lower so that the bike does not pogo and going down it is nice if the leverage increase to be more supple. The VPP also uses the energy you introduce through the pedals to fix the pivot point. It's more simple than it sounds, but if you can visualize the pivot point of a single pivot bike moving through an 'S' shape around and behind the bottom bracket that's sort of what's going on. This also means the rear wheel doesn't move in either an arc or a line, it tends to move in and out based on the virtual arm length. Not really an issue in and of itself, but a VPP type bike will have the worst chain slap as the chain stay length changes. Also the frame designer needs to be careful of the cable stop locations to avoid ghost shifting. The first VPP was actual Outland and they were pretty bad about ghost shifting. Outland didn't make it and that's why Santa Cruz ended up with the patent, they bought it from Outland and perfected the design a few years later when FMEA and computer modeling was more sophisticated. Outland had a good idea that they could never get quite right just by experimenting.

I dunno, when the last couple times i've ridden i've went back to my hard tail. If i were going to buy another mtn bike. I'd be going to a Seven custom sola. I'm rapidly loosing touch with the latest since I left my last shop.
Wow, a Seven. Sweet. That for those not familiar is a bike worth more than most of our trucks... Uber sweet bikes.

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