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How much travel do I need?

C3PO's picture

By C3PO - Posted on 06 January 2015

Hi all,
Looking for advice on a FS bike for Manly Dam and surrounds. No need for brands, etc as I know it's a passionate and personal thing. What I am keen to hear is how much travel is required.
I currently ride a 29er Hardtail with 100mm of travel. I'm starting to look into FS bikes. I'll go with 29er again and appear ok on most aspects but would love views on how much travel you recommend for Manly Dam, Possums, Gahnia, Serrata, etc. I'm not a big racer and wouldn't say I'm an aggressive rider - just want to beat myself, continue to get better and master some of trails more than anything.
I'll probably convert the hard tail into my commuter (the lack of disc brakes on the roadie feels iffy in the wet!) so will just have the 1 mtb for all trails.
Greatly appreciate any input.

dtm's picture

As you already have a 4 inch travel hard tail you could use that if you ever wanted to race or longer distances , I would recommend a 5 inch FS as in 29er they mow over everything also can easily do 100 k rides on them too

badchef's picture

I hired one from a bike shop in manly and it was great around manly dam,it was a size too big,the stem too long and seat too high,even at it's lowest point,bars too narrow and had crap flatties, I ride clips, plus I've never ridden a 29er before and didn't know the trails either, but I hit everything at full speed and the bike felt great,those limestone chutes were a breeze and the limestone ledge climbs weren't too bad either, I never felt like I wanted more travel, just a better fitting bike(18.5 woulda been nice), 120mm felt awesome, I normally ride an 07 reign,if manly was my local I'd go short travel 650b or 29er, oh yer I smoked a couple of locals on my third lap down a few of the decents, they thought it was loose, lol, I'm from Perth mate, this ain't loose, foot out flat out...sandgroper 1, cockroaches 0 B-)

Jonathan's picture

A 29er 4" should be more then sufficient. Don't forget if your comparing bikes for travel then a 26" bike will across the board have a more travel (about an inch).

The current 4' 29er's are suuuper quick and capable. Much more so then a 26er but different strokes for different folks i guess.

Good luck with the search, there are a lot of good bikes in this segment *cough* *couch* specialzed camber.

Flynny's picture

29ers are so 2011.... As Mr Rennie said they make the easier stuff easier and the hard stuff harder.

if it's a fast, nimble play bike you are after 5" travel 27.5 wheels

hawkeye's picture

I quite liked the 120mm travel 29er i had a play on at OMV in November at the test day. The 1x11 thing wasn't bad either, although it's a big gap between gears and dropping the 2 lowest gears compared to my 2x10 would be a challenge for my spindly legs up some of the climbs we have around the NB.

If Gahnia type trails are what you're targeting then that would be the perfect bike, and would still be good for the occasional 50 or 100km race, whuch is where the bigger wheels shine. With a standard non-dropper seatpost and lighter XC tyres you could shed close to a kilo very cheaply, and then put it back to fun mode with very little hassle.

pharmaboy's picture

There is a lot of difference between a hardtail and a 100mm 29er dually. I think a 120 might be a stretch too far and won't be faster under almost any conditions given the style of riding you mention.

Personally if you are tallish I like the idea of 100 rear 120 front on a 29er.

C3PO's picture

Thanks all. Good points.
ATM thinking the Trek Fuel (120mm travel, 2x10) could be the go. I might demo the 27.5 but I am really happy with my 29er hard tail and at over 6 feet tall the 29er just feels nice to me.
Prob won't pay the extra coin for the dropper seat post but I figure if I really need it I can get that later.
Thanks again.

Scottboy's picture

I'm riding a 130mm travel dually it goes everywhere i want it to go but thats my opinion , get to a few test ride days and try a few different brands and travel to see what suits you best .

flowbikes's picture

If it pedals well then as much travel as you can, so for example a 100 mm travel 29er might pedal and feel worse than a 160 mm 27.5 that rides well, if you have the extra travel then you can progress to more difficult tracks without having to worry, they tend to be more forgiving too as well as more comfortable to ride.

I normally break it down like this for bikes

100 - 120 mm travel 27.5 - perfect for fire trail and easier XC tracks including the Dam
100 - 140 mm travel 29er - perfect for fire trail and long distance not overly technical races.
120 - 160 mm travel 27.5 - perfect for the Dam, Gahnia, Serrata, most XC tracks, especially the tighter ones like possums.
160 mm travel 27.5 - perfect for Red Hill's more technical trails, gravity enduro races, Thredbo flow track and easier DH tracks like Ourimbah

My suggestion to you based on your riding at the moment would firstly be a 27.5 120 - 160 mm travel bike, secondly a 29er of the same travel but seen as most of what you ride is quite tight and the 27.5 would feel like it fits in those tight bits a lot better.

hawkeye's picture

If you go the longer travel 27.5 or 29er you would probably look to keep your current hardtail for the longer distance and/or less technically demanding stuff.

andyfev's picture

+1 to Flynny's comments... Give yourself some adjustable bounce so you don't run short of travel. I'd go a 650b over a 29er too but then I'm an avid 26er fan Eye-wink

jaffa's picture

that a dropper seat post gives you easy access to. Getting that seat out of the way gives you a lot more confidence on the more technical stuff

Timoth's picture

I'm guessing that Nathan Rennie has never ridden a slack, short-chainstay 29er. Eye-wink
BTW, these look good –

Scottboy's picture

It sums it up too a T especially where you do most of your riding that is the most important aspect of it all

Matt P's picture

I didn't think they were particularly good and it seems like they are being slowly phased out on the Slash and maybe Remedy. Might be something to consider if you do look at the Fuel.

I agree with Flynny. A 5" FS 27.5 will give you more possibility not just now but in the future. Or if you can wait a few months, there will be a nice Ibis Mojo HD for sale that could suit you..... Smiling
That could be a 5" 27.5 up to a 6.3" 26er and even run a 180mm fork...

fairy1's picture

No dropper post, that's crazy talk!

I'd be quicker on a hardtail with a dropper than a dually without one, best invention since the wheel.

Merida make some affordable bikes with good geo and pretty much all come with a KS post.

C3PO's picture

Some great food for thought. I will look into the Trek DRCV as that could be a concern. Not sure what all the fuss is with dropper seat posts though - don't you just get behind the saddle for those steep descents? Happy to be pulled into line on this as I'm learning heaps all the time.
Is the Trek (Gary Fisher) 29er geometry that different or is it just marketing??
Feel free to keep the advice coming - happy to learn and I enjoy the research.

Pete B's picture

I've recently fit a dropper to my 29er (100mm FS). It took a few rides to get used to it but now I feel strange on the descents without it. It allows you to not only hang off the back easily but more importantly, enables you to easily throw the bike around underneath you and lean it right over without the saddle hitting your legs.

As for travel - as said, I have 100mm FS 29er and for most xc riding, it's perfect. I've only bottomed out when landing awkwardly but that's more down to lack of skill.

hawkeye's picture

with that talk:

No dropper post, that's crazy talk!

I'd be quicker on a hardtail with a dropper than a dually without one, best invention since the wheel.

Merida make some affordable bikes with good geo and pretty much all come with a KS post.

You'll have someone telling you you dont *need* a dropper post in a moment Eye-wink

Simon's picture

1" of travel for every foot in height you wish to jump off. Off course greater skill means you need less travel.

Head angle is perhaps more important for rolling through stuff. Bigger wheels factor into this too. Typical angles for a general fun bike have gone from 69 degrees to 66-67 degrees over last 7 years. Slacker head angles (66-67 degrees) roll over stuff more easily. 29ers can run steeper head angles than I've mention with similar ability due to bigger wheels. This is because the point on the front tyre where an obstacle first hits is further in front of you and acts a little like a slacker head angle in this situation. Slacker head angles are also more stable at speed with a trade off for tight handling. For me one of the biggest benefits of my travel adjust fork which can be either 100mm, 130mm or 160mm is not the increase in travel but how this changes the head angle and handling. Of course the 160mm also helps with more technical stuff at speed and bigger drops. One of my bikes only has 100mm of travel but a slack head angle and is far more rollable than an equivalent XC race bike with a steep head angle.

Chain stay length (centre of cranks to rear axle centre) also makes a big difference. Longer chain stays make it harder to lift the front end up but can be more stable at speed in smoother terrain. It changes how much weight is on each wheel when the rider is in neutral position standing on the pedals. The magic length for me is 420mm which is quite short.

As for getting off the back of the seat. Get a dropper post. Can get weight over the bike better and keep hips low. This means you can pop off stuff part way down roll down and more easily lift front wheel. Otherwise you tend to end up relying on the trail builder and bike geometry to roll through everything and not go over the handle bars on the transition between the roll and the flatter trail section. You are much better off to rely on your own skill in the end.

You can also corner much quicker and play with the trail more with a low seat post. Hard to pump the bike through corners and using bumps for speed if your seat post is stuck up at high pedaling efficiency height.

fairy1's picture

Hanging off the back of the bike is fine if it's a straight line but you can't really control the bike from there. Put the seat way up on a DH bike and it will still descend like poop.
If you do improve you may find that you can drop the post an pre-jump loads of smaller tech bits on XC trails and hit technical bits a lot quicker which means you keep more speed in to the boring up bits.

Flynny's picture

I ride all the DH and AM tracks around Lithgow on my XC bike with no dropper post. Still have KOMs on a few of them too....

Shit, I've become a retro-grouch

GarethP's picture

According to Simon's rule of thumb I need a 1 inch travel bike Smiling

I've got a Fuel EX and for me it's a great bike. Done all day long rides, it's a bit easier to handle than a pure XC race bike and the dropper really is quite useful.

C3PO's picture

Ok I'm sold on the dropper - seems like a good investment in the future. So atm I'm thinking:
Travel: 120-140mm (probably more towards 120)
Handlebar fork adjustment
Dropper seat Post
2x10 (would consider 1x10 but they seem to be on the more expensive bikes only)
29er (but I will test a 27.5 with a slacker angle - gut feel says 29er will give me more confidence given my lack of ability albeit maybe a bit slower on tighter, possum type trails).
Thanks heaps for your insights.

Pete B's picture

Sounds to me like you're on the right track. Don't buy into the "29ers don't handle tight courses" BS. Modern frames have short chainstays and are easy to whip round tight switchbacks etc.
It's just what people with 26" say when they can't face the fact they're riding old technology. Eye-wink

R_M.G's picture

I've got a 160mm enduro 29 and despite being a bit overkill, certainly handles everything with ease, climbs like a mountain goat, descends like a beast Sticking out tongue Its take's a bit more effort on the long haul but I find that its certainly worth it.
I cycle from the ferry up to the dam and It pedals quite nicely, just a bit extra effort if you want to smash on the pedals.

fairy1's picture

Cool beans, if you can find a nice slack 120mm bike you'd be on to a winner(in my opinion). My preference is a bike with a long reach and steep seat angle(74-75), it never makes the quickest bike on the ups but you climb in a nice comfy position and the front is less likely to wash out when cornering seated(I'm not ENDURO fit, I need to do this). People that say a bike is too slack either have it set up wrong or they ride too slowly Smiling

Have a chat to people on the trails with bikes you like, it's easy to make people believe you are an awesome rider on the internet so don't take everything we say as gospel.

I really should buy a dually but people are finally making nice hardtails so until my knees or back die I'll stay on a fun bike.

cruzer's picture

i have had my EX 9 for about 6 months , was off the bike for 3 of those ( non bike related injury) and now back into it riding 1-2 times a week.
Swapped from a 26' Trance and the best thing for me is the way it chews the km and climbs so easy. After testing lots of 26, 27.5 and only tested 2 other 29ers but have no trouble with the tightest switchbacks ( maybe the 51mm offset or maybe thats just marketing BS ) and hitting descents with the CTD shock and fork set to Descend really does add a level of plush that makes me so much more confident.
Haven't quite got the dropper post happening, only just realised it doesn't have be all up or all down. There are degrees in between but its all learning and the more i ride it, the more I'm loving the bike.
PS i went shopping for a 27.5 and ended up with my 29er and so glad i did . ( put a 27.5 next to a 26 in the shop- theres hardly any difference)
Not that you are me or i am you but i give it a thumbs up and with the amount of travel you are looking for i strongly suggest adding it to the "bikes to check out list" .

Geegee's picture

I went remedy 29 9 after a giant anthem. I love the way the bike rides. I've ridden other bikes 26" 27.5" the only one I thought rode as well was a yeti sb95. I now love the dropper post it's worth having. I thought the 27.5 seemed to get stuck in holes that my 29er just rolled through so I'd say it's an easier bike to ride over rough terrain. I'm over 6' to so I feel like the 29er fits me well. I don't think you'd be disappointed in a Fuel ex.

Carlosdjakal's picture

Have a look at this 68.1 HA and 130mm travel

C3PO's picture

Thanks Carlos - I really like the set up - some nice kit. A bit pricey for me though (due to the carbon) and I'd have to add more for the dropper seat post like the next model up. I'll go with an aluminium frame to keep costs down but the model down doesn't cut it for me. They look like nice bikes but the warranty doesn't seem that great?

Floydo's picture

That evil bike looks awesome. My Devinci atlas dually and Banshee Paradox have shorter chain. 120mm 29er is like riding a 150mm 26er , the bigger wheels just go over everything. Before the 29er, I had a 150mm 26ers so I can make a good comparison.

Floydo's picture

That evil bike looks awesome. My Devinci atlas dually and Banshee Paradox have shorter chain. 120mm 29er is like riding a 150mm 26er , the bigger wheels just go over everything. Before the 29er, I had a 150mm 26ers so I can make a good comparison.

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