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EDITORIAL

(Will There Be) Revenge Of The Nerd Brands?

Words Andrew Major
Date Nov 16, 2020
Reading time

Stumped

As far back as I can remember, when it comes to the high-performance mountain bikes, there have been mainstream brands making something for everyone and smaller nerd-brands more comfortable occupying a niche. I'm not saying there isn't a big grey area – but as a general rule I think it's safe to say many mainstream brands have marketing departments that outnumber the entire staff of their counterparts.

My go-to example is Balfa v. Trek, two brands we sold at the first bike shop I worked at. Have a quick gander at a 2003 Trek Liquid. It's basically a Kona rip-off with a really fancy TALAS shock, and that same year's Balfa 2Step, (AKA 2008+ Niner CVA). I can dig out an endless pile of examples, but anyone who's researched buying a bike probably has their own. I know a couple of folks currently mulling over the weight and price of a custom Starling and Geometron frame-up build versus lighter complete bikes in carbon with higher spec. but significantly more vanilla choices.

Ignoring custom one-offs, there are plenty of interesting factory-built options from smaller brands on the market in 2020; Cotic, Banshee, Knolly, Orange, Foes, Forbidden, the aforementioned Starling, and Geometron, are good examples. If I was half the nerd I aspire to be I could name another thirty in rapid succession.

While some brands* occupy a niche that is currently quite safe from big brand incursions, for many of these companies, the mainstream is striking back, like big breweries making 'craft' beers.

Geometron and Banshee come to mind*

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Geometron is out in darkest space with the massive range of geometry adjustment options their 'Mutators' chips bring to the trail... Photo: AJ Barlas

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...but it's incredible how conventional companies are catching up. If you are Geometron curious AJ's write-up on his personal G1 is sweet. Photo: AJ Barlas

I'm both excited and embittered about some of the hottest new rigs for '20/'21. Adjustable chainstay length is suddenly such a thing that even the company that basically invented the sub-17" 29'er rear center, Kona, has models with an adjustable wheelbase. The inclusion or exclusion of a wheelbase flip-chip is the only way I can easily tell one Santa Cruz bike from another. It feels like we're a couple of years out from every Trek full suspension bike coming with an eccentric bottom bracket to adjust BB-height and seat angle, their Stranglehold dropouts to adjust wheelbase, and a +1°/-1° angleset version of KnockBlock that can be adjusted in 30-seconds using your BITS.

The new Specialized Stumpjumper EVO comes stock in six sizes, has three settings for the head tube angle (HTA) between 63 and 65.5 degrees using eccentric headset cups, and 7mm adjustable ride height thanks to flip-chips in the dropouts. There's even an aftermarket linkage for folks that want to mullet the thing. How they missed on including the adjustable wheelbase system from their Fuse hardtails we'll never know. Rocky Mountain's Altitude is just as out there between Ride-9 geometry adjustment which allows for 1 cm of rear adjustments, and the ability to run a 1° or 2° angleset. It wouldn't take much to ramp up their in-house capabilities to make 'Team Edition' captious-chips for folks that want a wheelbase exactly 83mm longer than full-short.

Now don't get me wrong, I'd happily put in a few hundred hours on any of those bikes and by most accounts, they are all awesome packages. What's raised my ire, as a lover of the little guy, is that this feels like a pending extinction event for the small-to-mid-sized bike companies, both existing and unrealized. The easy argument is that I can get a lighter, better supported, more adjustable, readily available, fully up-to-date mainstream bike that will ride as well, if not better, for less money than the equivalent nerd-cycle with custom spec.

Banshee Titan NSMB AndrewM.JPG

Banshee's modular dropout system is perhaps the most brilliant example of unrealized potential. They could offer a significant range of adjustment beyond the two chainstay lengths and the flippable high/low positions currently available. Photo: AM

When they go low, we go lower, when they go long, we go longer, when they go slack, we go slacker. Well, until we don't. It's readily apparent that the bike industry is coming up against the extremes of what actually works for geometry. I've even heard riders talking about buying an angleset to steepen a bike's head-tube angle by a degree.

And therein lies the rub that, while I've been saying "wheelbase is the new head angle, or the new Reach," in terms of riders' chasing a single number on a geometry chart, it's quickly becoming adjustment that reigns supreme for the curious bicycle buyer. Ask your preferred local bike shop, even riders who lead with "I'll probably never adjust it" are suddenly curious what options the bicycle frame they're courting can deliver.

In the name of cutting production and design costs, there are mainstream brands poised to offer the kind of multiple-model-with-one-main-frame swap-ability that Guerrilla Gravity brings to the scene, as opposed to the standard and 'long travel' options many brands deliver via changing shock stroke. Thanks to the amount of geometry adjustment available in their platforms, they should even be able to do it for significantly less than buying a whole rear triangle a la GG.

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Ride9 offers about 1° of HTA adjustment and various other geometry and shock rate changes. The Altitude can also accept a press-in Angleset for folks that want Slayer numbers in a lighter package. Photo: Deniz Merdano

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Everyone - everyone - I've talked to who has tried both prefers the Altitude in the longer wheelbase setting all the time. It will be interesting to see if the rear center grows with the next iteration. And yes, this is the new 2021. Photo: Deniz Merdano

The path forwards for the smaller brands seems simple to me. Out-nerd the big guys. If they have 1cm of chainstay adjustment then deliver 2cm. If they have 1° of HTA adjustment then have 3°. If their bike weighs X... Well, sorry you're not going to win on gram counting. Specialized and Trek together have more staff focussed on sneaking grams out of carbon layups than I have opinions about bikes. The thing is, all these bigger companies, no matter what level of adjustment they're bringing to the trail, are selling complete packages. A tiny exception is, maybe, warranted for Specialized's EVO 'mullet-link' but that's just likely foreshadowing a stock mullet-Stumpy EVO for 2022 - when every other brand will also be fully hot for mullet.

I believe the key to nerd brands thriving is to follow the Geometron model. No, you don't have to make the wheelbase on your size small frame longer than the box on an F250 or change your ride philosophy in any big way, just add in a massive degree of adjustability. And then, sell any number of aftermarket mods to take that adjustability up to the nth degree. Heck, release a new mod every month and offer a yearly subscription for folks that want to try them all!

As I'm writing this, I'm playing with the dropout assemblies from the Banshee Titan I'll be testing. It's an awesome system. It's a simple system. The alignment is beyond impressive for the bike industry as the axle just slides straight into place when I bolt every up. I have both the short and the long dropout options and either can be run in a high or a low position. I'm looking forward to experimenting but I'm perplexed by the unrealized potential of the system. Where are the XL and XXL length dropouts to start? Why not deliver a greater range of geometry adjustment with dropouts that change the axle position, each of which will still have both a high and a low position? Is there the potential to sell more, or less, progressive linkages? If riders are buying a-la-carte why not include a factory Works Components headset option?

Knolly Freeradical NSMB AndrewM.jpg

Sliding drop-outs on a hardtail aren't just for single speeding! Accommodate riders who want <420mm stays and those that want >450mm stays by offering short, medium, and long dropouts that are also adjustable.

Knolly VTach NSMB AndrewM 2.jpg

In the previous decade, Knolly had one of the best slider systems I've ever used. Check out the comments on Tim's Warden LT review for Noel's commitment to go back to them!

When I look at all the frames out there from smaller manufacturers, I wonder why they don't R&D their own version of the Banshee dropout assembly. Weight? Covered that. Expense? A rider is already paying a premium for your product over an off-the-shelf aluminum frame from the big guys; this is about adding value. Most riders won't want to sign up for the yearly subscription to receive every new drop-out and linkage option you produce, but the ones who are keen on riding a nerd-brand-bike are going to appreciate that the options exist.

Some folks may ask why companies doing small batch metal frames don't just offer custom geo, but I think modular systems will better serve the brands and their customers. It's easy to buy into trends that work for some riders – like ultra-steep seat tube angles – but I believe being able to bracket bike fit, just like suspension settings, is a feature worthy of extra expense. I know a decent number of bike nerds who agree.

I'd like to see the smaller-batch brands owning their space. So much of the progress on the gear end of mountain biking has been derived from their interesting, often locally-optimized designs, distinctive appearance, and the characters behind them. Between very creative marketing - like Trek's 'Tattoo It On Your Face' campaign - and bringing a significant level of adjustment to bikes, the more mainstream brands seem to be striking at the smaller outfits' dynamic advantage.

Here's hoping for a bit of imaginative, highly tweakable, push-back from the nerds. For the nerds!

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Comments

GnarlsNishi
0
Ethan Nishimura  - Nov. 15, 2020, 11:31 p.m.

I'm surprised Evil and their Delta Link didn't get a mention! Geometry adjustment with the choice between Low and X-Low, and (unlike Ride-9) no unwanted change in leverage curve between the settings.

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AndrewMajor
+2 Nologo Jakub Gábriš
Andrew Major  - Nov. 16, 2020, 8:03 a.m.

I didn’t go out to try and make an encyclopedia of frames that have some level of adjustment. Some folks like the adjustable leverage of Ride9. But yeah, Evil too.

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Sebov
+3 Cam McRae cheapondirt danimaniac
Sebov  - Nov. 15, 2020, 11:47 p.m.

I do agree - a kind of. I am a fan of the nerd companies. But this season I‘m sold to Spesh... Why?

In my opinion the nerd brands should not try to catch up to the marketing trend the bigger companies are setting. Example: your every day bike: for most of us it‘s an „all mountain“ bike: sth about 160mm at least up front. Lately those longer slacker downduro machines are just fun when really smashing hard because I am not the everyday crossfit guy with perfect rider’s technique who throws his bike around every corner - be it in frenchies‘ style. Aggressive short travel 29ers (Forbidden Druid)? Nice to have and incredibly fun (Druid!!!) but some more travel just saves my ass (—> technique, stupid bike park lines!). 

Chainstay adjustment/flip chip on my Santa Cruz: tried it may be twice while being extremely in love with the new bike (first few weeks). Now: kid‘s sleeping, wife‘s doing sth else: hop on for a quick ride! Tire, fork, shock pressure - enough to do before my ride. F* frame adjustibility because just going out for a quick spin to reboot my head is what I want and that means going down the hill not playing with hex keys.

So these days building an excellent bike for the average joe of bike enthusiasts (me!) is easy: Make it fast, make it fun AND easy to ride. This includes a really nice special shock tune or offering different shock options with really good customer service (recommended spring rates for your weight, recommended Float X2 settings....)! 

In my eyes the Stumpy Evo is exactly this: a fun machine - but I would never be able to test every possible combination of adjustibility. But shock options and a nice customer is missing!

P.S.: Nicolai/Geometron as a German I am in love with you since years, but I am small and light - makes it too hard for me to ride your long tanks on mellower trails...

Reply

craw
+6 Andrew Major Mammal Velocipedestrian Tremeer023 twk pdxkid
Cr4w  - Nov. 16, 2020, 8:20 a.m.

Except that the geometry that Specialized has taken on one step at a time for like a decade is what Geometron basically invented. The latest Specialized and Treks took that idea and introduced it to the masses one tiny step per model over years and years. I don't believe these bigger companies could have got there on their own. They needed the niche nerd visionary to test and prove those waters and begin the long slow process of getting the masses to consider new ideas then they jump in and commodify it.

But having a G1 I can tell you it's awesome but it's definitely a monster bike.

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AndrewMajor
+2 Cr4w Mammal
Andrew Major  - Nov. 16, 2020, 9 a.m.

I like balanced bikes (longer rear center), you like balanced bikes, but I get that the long wheelbase is a turn off for many riders / locations.

I don’t think every bike -or maybe even any other bike - needs to be a Geometron, just that I’d love to see Geometron - or even Specialized - level adjustability added to every nerd-brands basic geo ethos (whatever that is).

Reply

craw
+1 Andrew Major
Cr4w  - Nov. 16, 2020, 9:19 a.m.

It's nice to have options, within your bike and between other bikes and brands. I kind of balk when I see a company release a bike with 'dated' geometry but at the same time that's awesome, horses for courses.

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AndrewMajor
+1 Mammal
Andrew Major  - Nov. 16, 2020, 9:06 a.m.

Lots of people are looking for exactly what you want from a bike. For those riders, an off-the-rack ride from any major brand is probably the best fun/$ option.

Specifically the issue I’m addressing is that riders (nerds) looking for that extra level of adjustability (usually as much out of an interest in trying different things as any performance optimization) are also, in many cases, being better served by an off-the-rack ride and I don’t think that bodes well for the nerd brands that generate value for customers by offering something different.

Reply

Timer
+1 Andrew Major
Timer  - Nov. 17, 2020, 2:05 p.m.

I’m pretty sure that “something different” for the sake of being different is already a selling point. I’ve heard so many riders dismiss the big name brands simply because “that’s what everybody rides”.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Nov. 18, 2020, 2:44 p.m.

It’s an interesting point, I don’t know with bikes but I know with parts that companies making great stuff but that don’t have extensive OE coverage certainly face the uphill battle of “all my friends run SRAM/Shimano or Fox/RockShox.”

Maybe with bikes there’s more interest in riding something different because it’s more visible?

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danimaniac
0
danimaniac  - Nov. 16, 2020, 11:41 p.m.

Dude.. get on one of the Last Bikes. Based in Dortmund, Aluminium frame, good specced for around 4k€ superb geometry. AND! They know what they do. Next order round should start soon for bikes being delivered in spring.

Or you can get the handmade in Germany Carbon Enduro frame that weights roughly 2, TWO!!!! Kilos and is tested to do whatever you want (ASTM 5 or sth...) But that frame alone is 3700 or so

Reply

fartymarty
+2 Sean Chee Tremeer023
fartymarty  - Nov. 16, 2020, 1:42 a.m.

I see bikes ending up like cars in that they're all work well and you pick one based on your personality / useage / favorite colour / frame material / company ethos.

Just look at our road riding cousins - they have had the same basic frame design for 100+ years and are still rolling out new frames every year.  People like new shiny stuff.

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
+3 Andrew Major Andy Eunson danimaniac
Cam McRae  - Nov. 16, 2020, 6:52 a.m.

Interesting. I wonder how close that parallel really is in terms of ride experience? 

It's hard to imagine that road bikes have changed anywhere near as close to mountain bikes in the last 10 years, and as you say, they still look the same. I would argue that the changes to geometry in mountain bikes have been substantive and have improved the ride experience and performance of most riders, or at least those who have figured out how to adapt to the longer and slacker element in particular. I could ride a bike from 10 years ago, and it might even be fun. But there's no way I could ride the same terrain with similar confidence and speed and stay out of hospital.

Obviously road bikes change based on different criteria. How the bike handles is likely at best a secondary consideration for most roadies and going fast uphill or on the flats for long periods is primary. I pay less attention to road bikes than ever, while still appreciating the tech on occasion, but it's hard to imagine a huge difference in 10 years.

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AndrewMajor
+1 danimaniac
Andrew Major  - Nov. 16, 2020, 8 a.m.

Given what a big deal going from 23c to 25c to 28c tires was I think Cam nails it here. 

I met a guy a few weeks back (dry day) riding a 1980’s full-Campy Raleigh and it was a beautiful example of how mature that side of the sport is since the bike is still basically being made by hundreds (thousands?) of small builders not to mention all the Soma’s and Surly’s. Sure, more (easier) gears now and some bikes have discs but hardtail geo has changed more in 8-years than road bikes have changed in 40.

Reply

craw
+1 Andrew Major
Cr4w  - Nov. 16, 2020, 8:22 a.m.

As a taller rider shopping for a gravel bike last year I can tell you that it's remarkable as you scan from one road company's geo chart to the next (and I inspected maybe 50 different brands) just how nearly identical they all are. Within a category the only thing separating them is the shape of the carbon and the quality of the component spec.

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andy-eunson
+1 Andrew Major
Andy Eunson  - Nov. 16, 2020, 1:05 p.m.

Part of the road bike thing being the same are UCI rules requiring a double diamond,  requiring saddle tilt to be within a  certain range, requiring a saddle set back from the bb be within a certain range, weight requirements etc. Manufacturers are kind of stuck using wiggly tubes like Pinarello or aero crap as distinguishing one frame from another. 

Mountain bikes on the other had went from long slack things in the 80s to road bike type Geo in the 90s and only in recent years has geometry been developed that works well for us. I’m all for adjustable frames. But how many people would actually use this feature? How many bike reviews have I read where the reviewer says such and such bike has a high and low setting so I stuck it in low and left it there. That’s just lazy reviewing. Or stating that a super steep seat tube angle is more efficient but not explaining the reasoning behind it. To me the steeper seat angle is to get short stays and not have taller riders centre of mass too far back. As a result the small bikes I ride, because I’m under 5’5” sit me too far forward which puts more weight on my hands and I get numb hands. Tall riders need a longer rear centre. Oh but long rear centre isn’t “playful.” Yet a long front end is? To me front end geometry is far far more important to a bikes playfulness then wheelbase. In skiing turn radius is more important that length to a certain extent. My GS skis are actually ski cross skis. 185 long with a 23 turn radius. A FIS legal 180 gs ski has I think a 35 meter radius. My skis are far more turny even being 5 cm longer. 

We’re kind of forced to compare bikes based on geometric parameters because trying to test ride numerous bikes is not that easy. So I fully support bikes with adjustable geometries.

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danimaniac
0
danimaniac  - Nov. 16, 2020, 11:53 p.m.

does this geo chart make a lot of sense to you then?

Geo Chart

Reply

Ben_Clements
+1 Andrew Major
Ben Clements  - Nov. 16, 2020, 6:39 p.m.

I think this depends on what 10 year old bike you are talking about. I think some bikes from that era were way ahead of their time. I would wager that my 2009 SX Trail is just as capable as most modern bikes with similar travel.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Nov. 18, 2020, 2:47 p.m.

Lots of great examples of decade old bikes that still shred with some updates. Sadly anything with a ec34/ec34 headtube that doesn’t run a dual crown should be avoided like the plague.

The older Enduro and Pitch frames are otherwise excellent bikes still.

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danimaniac
0
danimaniac  - Nov. 16, 2020, 11:46 p.m.

The fun thing is that they have different road bikes for going uphill a lot and going fast in the flats. OR the cause for shortest chainstays possible (boost in drag) but therefore a super nervous bike (That's for the long flats) bit longer bike with less "aero-attitude" for the mountain stuff where drag becomes less important, but some downhill/uphill stability needs to be added (with huge climbs crazy fast descents will be added) and so on.

The progression in roadbikes though is happening in infinitesimal small steps. Oh man.. and they fight about the height of the rims, every little mm of chainstay and if any other colored socks than white can be allowed.

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fartymarty
0
fartymarty  - Nov. 17, 2020, 4:19 a.m.

Cam - I see road bike design as plateauing and changes year to year are very small - probably un-noticable by Joe average roadie.  As you note I can't see a lot changing in the next 10 years that is game changing - given they stick within the UCI rules which I see as a hinderance to road bike design for those who aren't racing and bound by the UCI.  Throw away the UCI rules and it's game on - I would love to see road bikes develop like we have with mountain bikes.

Mountain bikes however are still seeing significant changes - Geo is still being tweaked and we are reaching / understanding the limits.  Gearboxes are still niche but I see a future where "proper" mountain bikes have gearboxes.  Suspension will always be a work in progress and will continue to develop.  Tyre tech, electronics, overall weight, stiffness / flex will continue to develop.  Looking 5 years out there are going to be significant changes.  Given the amount of tech we have on mountain bikes over road bikes there are always going to be improvements.

I guess what I was trying to say above was that if road bikes can still sell each year (because people like shiny new things) then its going to be easy to sell mountain bikes as the improvement in mountain bikes will be significant.

Reply

Timer
+3 Andy Eunson Andrew Major AJ Barlas
Timer  - Nov. 17, 2020, 2:16 p.m.

I agree. MTB is a young sport, still finding it’s way and establishing what works and what doesn’t. In comparison, the two most similar other sports, road and off-road moto, are much older and have stabilized in terms of tech.

Reply

jon-hillstrom
+1 Cam McRae
Jon Hillström  - Nov. 16, 2020, 1:45 a.m.

I agree with this, but I also want to get back a reliable ajustable travel coil fork to get most of the adjustments. I really liked the coil U turn Lyrik! DP air forks don´t really work the same as there are trade offs and fork always feel "off" i one postion if you dont change all your settings.

Having own a Transition Gran Mal and a Banshee Rune V2 I now always think of my bikes as "Bike systems". With an extra set of wheels, a coil and an air shock  to choose from, a coil U-turn fork and adjustable geometry you can really transform the ride to suit what conditions or trails you are going to.

It makes even more sense now when trail bikes are DH capable in reverse to how it used to be when DH(freeride) bikes could be made into OK trail bikes but with a weight penalty.

Frame changes wasn`t something I did every ride though but worth it for lift assisted riding where I usually switched to DH wheels and 150 dropouts in low on the banshee. Easy enough to do in the parking lot.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Nov. 16, 2020, 7:55 a.m.

Interesting, with steep STA’s and 1x specific kinematics, I haven’t heard a person lamenting the lack of travel adjust options in ages.

I can see it as long as it’s a small enough change that one spring rate is good. Maybe a 170mm-160mm adjustment on a bike like the Titan to adapt to different terrain.

Reply

velocipedestrian
+1 Andrew Major
Velocipedestrian  - Nov. 16, 2020, 1:27 p.m.

Maybe it was the local difficulty of finding a Firm u-turn spring, but I swapped out mine for a fixed travel assembly as soon as possible. I found the u-turn was too soft off the top, then ran into a wall once the bigger diameter coils hit.

Have been very happy playing with the Banshee dropouts + works - 2° headset though. 

Canyons Shapeshifter makes more sense to me than a lowerable fork. Better climbing geo without the extra pedal strikes of a lower front end.

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AndrewMajor
+1 AJ Barlas
Andrew Major  - Nov. 18, 2020, 2:50 p.m.

Proprietary parts that require service, like the ShapeShifter system, drive me insane. 

The idea of having to scrap a high end machine not that far down the road when the a single component isn’t supported... ugh. Plenty of past Scott and Cannondale owners out there who know what I’m talking about.

Reply

velocipedestrian
+1 Andrew Major
Velocipedestrian  - Nov. 19, 2020, 3:43 p.m.

Oh I'm totally with you, just the idea of 'raising' the rear instead of lowering the front for improved climbing.

A conversation this morning brought up the ~05 Ransom, and its freaky pull shock. The idea of a lever turning your 160mm bike into a 90mm bike for the climbs is great, never even going to contemplate buying such obvious obsolescence though.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Nov. 20, 2020, 5:46 p.m.

I had a great experience with Cannondale’s Dyad platform. In my mind it did everything it claimed and in the open mode the pull shock is shockingly (pun intended) smooth off the top for an air shock and also had good support. I’d go as far as to say the older bikes with the Dyads are better than the new bikes with a standard shock arrangement.

My first modern FS mullet experience was testing a Jekyll. It ripped with 27”/29” and if it had been a large I would have tried to buy it after the test period I liked it so much. REALLY glad I didn’t.

It sucks that folks are writing off bikes - f***ing expensive bikes at that - because Fox doesn’t support the shocks (anything more than seals and you’re hooped) and there isn’t any replacement option to buy.

Reply

olaa
+5 twk Andrew Major Cr4w Sebov Andy Eunson
olaa  - Nov. 16, 2020, 5:39 a.m.

Agreed that some adjustability is great, but i'd like to extend that to the components as well. Most bikes from mainstream companies end up being way too expensive when you have adapted them to what you want. For example, if you want top end suspension, you also need to pay for high-end shifting that is expensive and really doesn't give that much more performance. Also brakes often need to be changed or adapted. Wheels are sometimes also something that you would want to change (looking at you RM speccing DT370 on high-end bikes).

Buying a frame and building them up is certainly expensive, since they charge even more than most small companies for a frame. 

I've ended up buying niche company bikes for several reasons: adjustability and value for money are definitely up there. But of course it is also kinda cool to have something a bit different :) 

Right now I am waiting for a Stanton Switch9er FS to replace the Geometron that I had.

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cam@nsmb.com
+3 olaa Andrew Major Cr4w
Cam McRae  - Nov. 16, 2020, 6:59 a.m.

That's an excellent point. I've been shopping for a bike for my wife and it's clear that many companies would better serve customers if they had options that lined up with Andrew's min/max philosophy and put the money where it will most impact your ride experience and performance. 

Norco is doing a little of this I believe with their Build-Your-Ride program, which allows purchasers to upgrade selectively. It seems to me this is an example of a bike company putting energy into what riders want and need for their riding rather than trying to squeeze as much margin as possible out of a particular spec. level. And this may help the bottom line in the end so everybody wins.

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Evil_Bumpkin
0
Evil_bumpkin  - Nov. 16, 2020, 7:29 a.m.

The Norco build your ride is awesome fun! I have built a few options of the new Sight. The 3 build kit options themselves aren't flexible but they seem well thought out.

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olaa
0
olaa  - Nov. 17, 2020, 12:35 a.m.

I was looking at Norco for my new bike, but unfortunately the builder is not available in Europe. Not that many of the larger brands have them, and really not that many of the smaller ones either. 

I think Cotic has one of the best around, with good base set-ups and then you can adjust most components. For the Stanton that I ended up getting the base builds are good, but you have to know what you want specifically in order to get any changes.

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khai
0
khai  - Nov. 17, 2020, 9:44 a.m.

It's a great start but they still won't let me "VLT" a Shore...  ;p

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craw
+1 Andrew Major
Cr4w  - Nov. 16, 2020, 8:24 a.m.

I wonder if that focus on performance is more of a localized thing. In Flatbustistan perhaps the flashy components play a bigger role in desirability.

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AndrewMajor
+1 Sebov
Andrew Major  - Nov. 16, 2020, 9:10 a.m.

I think this is a factor. Certainly in North Van upgrading brakes and suspension is appreciated where in other regions shifting and bike weight would be better optimization points. 

No clearer example than tires. Like saddles and grips, bikes should probably just come without them (as un-practical as that sounds).

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AndrewMajor
+1 Sebov
Andrew Major  - Nov. 16, 2020, 7:38 a.m.

At least a few of the medium sized companies - Knolly, Yeti, Pivot, etc - allow you to upgrade wheels or even to buy their build kits with the wheels subtracted.

Totally agree that wheels are the big one. They represent a large part of any bike budget and yet most cyclists buying even a six figure bike focus their attention elsewhere so it’s a head scratcher for brand managers. 

Aeffect R spec - hopefully - next year will at least be an improvement over the current 370 configuration.

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danimaniac
+1 olaa
danimaniac  - Nov. 17, 2020, 12:05 a.m.

I feel it's becoming quite a thing, at least over here in Germany.

You should try out and play around withPropain's bike configurator

In this case you could choose to run a XO1 setup with GC derailleur, cuz you know you gonna hang that thing on the next rock anyway (as an example). You can choose different brakes from magura and Sram and differen level of RS and FOX suspension.

It's bit of a pity as two years ago you would have been able to spec a complete Formula build for suspension and brakes.. but still. This is pretty great.

Last-Bieks just gives you a list of available parts which you can choose from (and the price increase to the absolute base-built)

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olaa
0
olaa  - Nov. 17, 2020, 1:15 a.m.

Agreed, more and more are catching on :) 

Last bikes look really good, and have really good value for money on their alu bikes.

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MarcusBrody
+1 Andrew Major
MarcusBrody  - Nov. 17, 2020, 5:42 p.m.

I was so excited for them to be released in the US, then pretty disappointed when they moved from "really good value" to "pretty darn expensive." The US prices were often ~$800 more than the Euro price converted into dollars. And that's not even accounting for that VAT is included in the Euro prices and you have to add it on top in the US. 

It's still not terrible value, but something like the Tyee AL Start no longer looked like such a great deal in comparison to competitors like the Ibis Ripmo AF.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Nov. 18, 2020, 2:53 p.m.

Don’t have any inside information in this case, but from past experiences it’s likely to do with the path the frame takes to get to NA and the number of times it’s shipped and taxed along the way. 

If you were bringing multiple frames in containers straight from Taiwan you could likely sell them for a similar amount to Europe.

Sebov
+2 Andy Eunson olaa
Sebov  - Nov. 16, 2020, 10:21 a.m.

True that‘s why I just buy frames or downgrade some complete bike kits (eg GX instead of X01) - my bike shop doesn‘t like it at all but the guys accept it. Most build kits are horrible: expensive derailleur, low budget chain and cassette, SRAM Code R brakes with 180mm rotor in the back and crapy but heavy wheels (DT 370!)... that‘s where the niche bikes should start: customizing for a reasonable prize

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danimaniac
0
danimaniac  - Nov. 17, 2020, 12:06 a.m.

and they do. (see above comment)

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Lynx
+2 Andrew Major Cr4w
Lynx .  - Nov. 16, 2020, 5:40 a.m.

Great piece Andrew. Absolutely agree and would love to see more adjustable geo, especially for those like me who aren't lemmings following the as long and low as possible crap and who like to actually be the one responsible for getting down the trail and having fun doing it, not just letting 150/160/170mm of travel and slack angles do it all for me as I sit as a passenger.

Great example with Banshee, they were ahead of their time by years with geo and the adjustable drop out system, very easy to adjust and allowed the use of various wheel sizes and widths. I still am riding my 2012 Banshee Prime pore-production frame, but it's a tank being build basically using the Legend tubeset I think, so even with a 130/140mm setup, it just feels like a tank that will plow over anything if you point it down/over it, so I don't ride it as much as my rigid Unit with 29x2.6-3" tyres which requires lots  of careful attention and rider input to get down the same steep, gnarly stuff. Unfortunately I managed to crack the BB on my 2014 Phantom after 4 years of hard riding, how I have no idea, well I sort of do.  It was my favourite bike, but, despite some warnings from Keith about geometry changes, managed to steal the rear tri from it and bolt it onto the old Prime PP frame, which I only got with 135 drop outs, so now can use 135, 142, 148 or 150 if I want.
I'd get a new Phantom despite the "huge" jump in travel to 115mm, the head angle it has I could work with, but that STA, absolutely no way in hell I could live or ride that with thew type of riding I like to do and the gears I like to push, so that whole idea of being able to have that somehow adjustable, besides over forking the bike and then running a negative angleset to bring the HTA back to something I consider "normal" would be sweet.

From what I understand in terms of a small company like Banshee, is that it's quite expensive toget the tooling and molds done for the various different drop outs and stuff like that, whereas a big company like Trek or SpecialED it would be a drop in the bucket for them. I try to stick to smaller brands, because to me, all the big companies do is let the smaller ones give things a go and innovate, then they come along once it's proven and use their might and huge production runs and lower costs to win the market - remember Giant and how late they came to 29ers and flopped, then were so late they went to 650B because they feared loosing out there and came up with all that BS marketing that 650B was right in the middle of 26" & 29", when in reality it's very much closer to a 26" than 29". Then there's SpecialEd, who's "mantra" is "Innovate or die" but they only started to try and innovate once the FSR patent ran out, other than that they sat on their laurels and let their humongous buying power, shops in most major cities etc, take a large segment of the market.

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AndrewMajor
+1 Lynx .
Andrew Major  - Nov. 16, 2020, 7:42 a.m.

Thanks! The Phantom is totally my type of bike as well!

Banshee could only send a frame (parts shortage v demand for bikes v ‘rona) so the Titan made the most sense since I can borrow everything from my Marin.

Titan is probably also the most interesting bike in their line in terms to the biggest percentage of NSMB readers.

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velocipedestrian
+1 Andrew Major
Velocipedestrian  - Nov. 16, 2020, 1:33 p.m.

I love the Phantom numbers, except the HA. Great contender for the Works treatment.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Nov. 16, 2020, 9:20 p.m.

The Works Angleset is the best I’ve used to date. More contenders arriving this year as well - to be fair, I don’t know anyone whose tried the 9.8 IS adjuster headset and it could be good - and I know plenty of folks who will only look at bikes with press-in headsets in case they want to Angleset it.

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Lynx
+1 Andrew Major
Lynx .  - Nov. 16, 2020, 1:36 p.m.

Oh, if I lived where you do, then for sure I'd also own and ride something "A bit more" like the Prime or Titan, but for me and most people, we just don't have that terrain and still for me I'd enjoy trying to clean all that steep tech on something like the Phantom or even rigid Unit ;-)

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werewolflotion
+3 Andrew Major Cr4w Sebov
werewolflotion  - Nov. 16, 2020, 5:58 a.m.

I harbor similar fears. Objectively, the new Stumpy is the most refined trail bike *package* I think we've ever seen. From price point to configurations to on bike storage etc etc,  the newer you are the mtn biking, I imagine the harder it is to pass up an entry level Stumpy. And some of these features really do improve the ride experience, again especially for beginners.

That said, the new Stumpy wouldn't be on my short list. My first real mtb was a Spesh, loved it to death, but am not keen to own another--I know so many people like this. I just picked up a new Banshee Rune V3 and wish it had some of the Spesh features, namely SWAT storage and guided cable routing. I agree with Andrew that Banshee has (thus far at least) missed an opportunity with the dropouts--they could have so many more options, and one I'd like to see is a mullet dropout for both their 29 and 27.5 offerings. I've spent some time on the Banshee forums and pretty much everyone is trying to mullet their V3 models. They would effectively increase their model range (all bikes are mullet-able).

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AndrewMajor
+1 werewolflotion
Andrew Major  - Nov. 16, 2020, 7:45 a.m.

Yeah, I’m pretty #hotformullet - for full suspension bikes; not hardtails - and I’m running the Titan in the low setting with 29” wheels so it’s an easy ‘yes please!’ to try it out.

In my perfect world they’d offer more options for horizontal and vertical adjustment. Their system is beautiful and there is so much potential to machine up all kinds of different shapes and lengths.

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grimwood
+1 Andrew Major
grimwood  - Nov. 16, 2020, 6:24 a.m.

You nailed it Andrew. As you know, I just picked up a Geometron because it has all of the adjustments. It’s early on, but I’ve still set up the bike a couple different ways. And I find it fun to try something new; this way I can do it without buying a new frame...

Funny you mention the old V-tach. When I first built up the Geometron, that’s exactly what I though about. Straight industrial tubes and all the adjustments.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Nov. 16, 2020, 7:52 a.m.

Cheers Mike! Geometron is a great looking machine. That half-NASA half-garage aesthetic has always done it for me. 

Did you see the comment in Tim’s Warden LT review where Noel commits to the next generation frames having the classic sliding dropouts and mullet versions?! Pretty excited to see what’s coming. 

Maybe take a page out of the ‘00s Knolly’s - or the Banshee I’m riding - and say screw it to gram counting and go with huge cartridge bearings through out. The bearings in Banshee’s Trunnion mount are HUGE.

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craw
+4 Andrew Major Mammal danimaniac mrbrett
Cr4w  - Nov. 16, 2020, 8:27 a.m.

Someone saw my G1 and asked me if a homeless person made it.

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AndrewMajor
+1 Mammal
Andrew Major  - Nov. 16, 2020, 9:12 a.m.

Hahahahahahahahaha. Did you mumble something like “no, it’s German...” or just stare at them?

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fartymarty
+2 AJ Barlas werewolflotion
fartymarty  - Nov. 17, 2020, 4:22 a.m.

The G1 is the pinnacle of mtb design - you should have chastised them for their ignorance.

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AJ_Barlas
+1 werewolflotion
AJ Barlas  - Nov. 19, 2020, 9:07 a.m.

They obviously had no idea about metal bikes. Ha!

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grimwood
+1 Andrew Major
grimwood  - Nov. 16, 2020, 8:07 p.m.

Yep. Definitely saw that note from Noel. Definitely gets the juices flowing. And if they go all bearings, that would be even better.

I just set the Geometron to mullet. First ride soon! As an aside, it’s amazing how 40 g here and there add up to 300 g. Math doesn’t lie!

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AndrewMajor
+1 AJ Barlas
Andrew Major  - Nov. 16, 2020, 9:25 p.m.

Absolutely. And yet, if every company used the massive bearings that Banshee uses in their Trunnion mount I may be able to get over its increasing prevalence. Count me as one who doesn’t mind pedaling around an extra pound+ of intelligent design choices spread through my bike.

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werewolflotion
+1 Andrew Major
werewolflotion  - Nov. 20, 2020, 1:24 p.m.

Rune V3 owner here again--is there a fatal flaw to trunnion mount shocks that is going to spring up on me suddenly? Having used traditional eyelet hardware/bolts for about 15 years and now having the trunnion, I can't say I prefer one to the other, but would love a headsup on any issues awaiting me. Thanks!

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AndrewMajor
+1 werewolflotion
Andrew Major  - Nov. 20, 2020, 2:52 p.m.

I think Banshee gas better execution than most for three reasons: 

1) alignment is excellent

2) the KS link manages side loads better than a lot of designs + overall stiffness = much less force into the shock

3) large, very high quality Trunnion bearings

In my experience, as a general rule, Trunnion bikes are much more likely to eat shocks than non-Trunnion bikes. Particularly if they side load shocks a lot, have shit alignment, or when the crappy little Trunnion bearings seize. 

I think it’s one of the reasons coil shocks have come back so much (side loaded air shocks have a tonne of friction from body-can interface and those parts are expensive to replace when they wear). 

Personally, I’ll take the old canary in a coal mine DU bushing that’s quick, cheap, and easy to replace. 

But, and I’ll cover it more in my first look, if companies are all going to go Trunnion I think Banshee is the example to follow.

cooperquinn
+2 Andrew Major Tim Coleman
Cooper Quinn  - Nov. 16, 2020, 9:09 a.m.

If anyone is going to fiddle with *all* the possible Geometron adjustments... Its you! 

Are you logging everything in a journal, or digital database? ;)

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Timmigrant
0
Tim Coleman  - Nov. 16, 2020, 3:25 p.m.

Obviously Google Sheets bro, because then you can update impressions on the trail.

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grimwood
+1 Andrew Major
grimwood  - Nov. 16, 2020, 8:11 p.m.

Ha! You know me too well!

Tim, I’m going old school; pen and paper in my nerd journal. It’s cathartic. It’s helps me know what I want in my next bike. And the list is long now. Thank goodness for the bike nerds building bikes with personality!

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Bad-Sean
+1 Andrew Major
Sean Chee  - Nov. 16, 2020, 8:15 a.m.

I hope we see an updated darkside. A bit more reach would be great. I would be all over that like a fly at a barbecue.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Nov. 16, 2020, 9:17 a.m.

I’ll talk more about it in the first look of the Titan but one thing with their Reach numbers appearing a bit short is the bikes have bit stack heights (that’s not new for Banshee). Not saying the Darkside fits you just that the numbers are a bit deceptive- especially since they have gone crazy with the STA.

With the market going 29” (and full mullet next year) I wouldn’t bet on a new Darkside. I’d bet plenty of folks will over-fork the Titan though and ride it for the same purposes.

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LWK
+1 Andrew Major
LWK  - Nov. 16, 2020, 8:16 a.m.

Excellent article.  I've wondered about this as I used to be pretty set on "boutique" bikes but I'm not sure I see the point much anymore.  I don't know if that is just that my personal preferences have evolved or that that the bikes themselves have evolved or some of both.

I have a hard time buying the argument that a given boutique bike is objectively better than big brand bikes like the new Stumpy or Slash.  Reference last week's review on the Knolly Warden - good bike, had some quirks, did some things really well, maybe not so great at other things and certainly not the be all end all for an aggressive trail bike.

not totally convinced on the adjustability thing - I know I'd never fuss with it after setting it up how I liked, but not sure how representative of the overall market that might be.

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AndrewMajor
+1 LWK
Andrew Major  - Nov. 16, 2020, 9:21 a.m.

Going to be lazy and copy from a different comment. I can’t disagree with you, many riders (most riders?!) are probably better served by an off-the-rack bike. Chances are it will be cheaper, lighter, have better spec/$, and will be supported by a dealer network wherever you go.

That said, my concern:

“...is that riders (nerds) looking for that extra level of adjustability (usually as much out of an interest in trying different things as any performance optimization) are also, in many cases, being better served by an off-the-rack ride and I don’t think that bodes well for the nerd brands that generate value for customers by offering something different.”

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craw
+3 Andrew Major JVP Lynx .
Cr4w  - Nov. 16, 2020, 9:56 a.m.

The Intense M1 used to have an absurd range of setup options. Literally every bolt had 4 positions. Steber said he'd see some many ridiculous setups that he removed all but one or two options to save riders from themselves. This bears out when you see some peoples' bikes. The same rider that complains about all kinds of design minutiae but their suspension is set up like shit and never serviced.

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AndrewMajor
+4 Lynx . Zero-cool Cr4w Chris Petsche
Andrew Major  - Nov. 16, 2020, 10:11 a.m.

Two part response:

1) I have no info that says this wasn’t the case when it comes to your specific Intense example; however, as a student of the bike industry I am highly suspect any time any brand removes adjustment or spec options (suspension, wheels, etc) for a stated reason other than it saves them money.

I’m sure there are riders on 15K G1s running combos of geo and sag that we would consider insane but nerd-brands aren’t catering to the lowest common denominator (even if that person has Geometron money).

It’s like buying a CCDB Coil and not starting with the base tune and bracketing your own settings. Probably should have just bought a Van RC but the information is there if you want to use it.

———

2) I really do try to be a good person - as opposed to the judgemental elitist that’s apparently my natural state - but I will allow myself a guilty little inside-giggle every time someone with a roached fork drops $182 (CAD) on a OneUp carbon bar* to increase compliance. You know what would make a way bigger performance difference for the same number of Elizabeths? Ride whatever bar you own and get your fork fully serviced.

*Nb - nothing at all against the OneUp bar, I get that for many riders it makes a huge difference in addition to properly working suspension.

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Zero-cool
+1 Andrew Major
Zero-cool  - Nov. 17, 2020, 10:18 a.m.

I was thinking if this when I read the article. At least the guys at Mojo are happy to discuss and advise on all the changes and settings. Whereas I’m sure Intense didnt

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Nov. 18, 2020, 11:13 p.m.

To be fair, it is a very different time. I think riders have way higher expectations for direct-from-brand support - whether it's setup advice or etc - no matter if they buy their bike online or at their local shop and many brands are trying to meet that head on.

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craw
0
Cr4w  - Nov. 19, 2020, 8:07 a.m.

My example was from the Shaun Palmer generation of M1.

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Lynx
+1 Zero-cool
Lynx .  - Nov. 16, 2020, 1:40 p.m.

Imagine only being able to own one bike and that bike having said adjustments like the Baneshee's, so you could ride it setup to handle nicely on longer, more pedally rides and then with the removal of 4 bolts, slacken it out by a degree to better handle steeper stuff/shuttle days etc. It's why I liked the V1 & 2 with the KS Link over the V3, they only have a 1/2 degree adjustment, the older ones had 1/2 and 1 degree. It's actually so simple you could do your climbing in the steeper setting and then with your 6mm allen key flip the chips to 1 degree slacker for the descent.

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khai
+1 Andrew Major
khai  - Nov. 16, 2020, 3:34 p.m.

"Imagine only being able to own one bike"

I don't want to live in your world...

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Lynx
0
Lynx .  - Nov. 17, 2020, 4:07 a.m.

Sadly Khai, that's the world that most MTBers live in and we are only a very small minority, most can only afford one bike :-o Luckily I have a bad problem of when I like something I get into it and collect shit, so my personal stable I actually ride is 5 and I own many times that for loaner/rentals.

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khai
+1 Andrew Major
khai  - Nov. 17, 2020, 9:48 a.m.

I'm all sorts of spoiled.  I live on the North Shore, a 30min pedal from the trailhead at either Fromme or Seymour.  I'm extremely appreciative of what I have, and DO NOT want to give it up!

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Nov. 18, 2020, 11:10 p.m.

I mean... can't ride a rigid single speed_ every_ day, so pretty much have to have a full suspension bike as well.

Andeh
+4 Lynx . Tim Coleman Vik Banerjee Andrew Major
Andeh  - Nov. 16, 2020, 10:55 a.m.

As a GG owner, I'd definitely agree that the small brands have to out-nerd the big guys.  I went with GG over an Ibis, Santa Cruz, or Specialized not only because of the base geometry and suspension kinematics, but because of the ability to build it completely a la carte, and to go nuts tinkering with the different seatstay kits.  I got a bare Smash frame, a Gnarvana seatstay kit, and an EXT shock for less than I would have paid for a Ripmo, Megatower, or Enduro (when you include tax).  

Oh, and perhaps equally important this year:  time from order to delivery was about 2.5 months, not 12+ months.

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Vikb
+2 Andrew Major Lynx .
Vik Banerjee  - Nov. 16, 2020, 3:43 p.m.

We've got two GGs in the fleet. I really liked the design, being able to pick parts on a complete, the fact they were made in the US, the price was competitive and they were direct to consumer. I'm 3 years into owning my GG and loving it. All my other bikes are niche bikes so I guess this is not surprising.

I do check out the bigger brands when shopping for something new and I'd ride something more mainstream if the complete package/experience was compelling. So far it has not been.

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Lynx
0
Lynx .  - Nov. 17, 2020, 4:10 a.m.

What I don't/can't understand is how brands like Guerilla Gravity and Revel bikes are making carbon frames in the USA, so much cheaper than the big brands who are getting them made in Asia. You can normally find a frame + fork option from them for about (or less) than what you'd pay for just the frame from most others and so far, I've not found/read of any reliability issues with their frames. I'm not a fan of plastic, but if I was or was looking to try, I'd be all over the Revel Ranger.

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ackshunW
+1 Andrew Major
ackshunW  - Nov. 18, 2020, 6:08 a.m.

I know Revel has some fairly progressive environmental policies—— but I do not believe they build any frames in USA. Rims maybe?

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khai
+2 Andrew Major AJ Barlas
khai  - Nov. 16, 2020, 3:03 p.m.

I've liked Nicolai/Geometron for some time, but them embracing gearbox drivetrains may very well be what pushes me to spring for one for my next whip.  Shimano has done amazing things with the shifting of their 12spd, and SRAM can't be missed for leading the charge to 1x - but eliminating that (expensive!) dangly bit and unsprung weight from the rear wheel makes so much sense...

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fartymarty
0
fartymarty  - Nov. 17, 2020, 4:32 a.m.

+1 for gearboxes.  It has to be the future for mtb.

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xy9ine
0
Perry Schebel  - Nov. 17, 2020, 9:15 a.m.

man, i used to be such a gearbox evangelical, but there's still so many hurdles to overcome, and the current 1x drivetrain is *so* effective, i'm having a hard time seeing the positives outweighing the negatives for widespread application - in conventional bikes - any year soon. 

that said - utilization in e-bike applications may have more traction. added weight & efficiency loss are mitigated by motor power, the gearbox can be better suited to handling the additional torque / wear & tear than a conventional drivetrain, electronic shifting (as opposed to twisters) could be easily implemented since you've already got a built in power source, and the gearbox could be integrated into a nice tidy all in one motor / gearbox / crank assembly. makes lots of sense the more i think about it.

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khai
0
khai  - Nov. 17, 2020, 9:57 a.m.

I'm pretty far from an Engineer, but haven't managed to wrap my head around how one could pair a conventional gearbox with an e-mtb motor as they occupy the same space.  Nicolai is doing an e-bike with a Rolhoff internally geared hub, which is pretty cool - but that has the weight back on the rear wheel, negating some of the advantage of the gearbox.  I suppose the other option is to move the motor up into the triangle - which shifts the weight up and forward -not ideal either.  If they could combine the two that would be a neat trick...

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xy9ine
0
Perry Schebel  - Nov. 17, 2020, 12:41 p.m.

kervelo has the motor projecting into the dt. perhaps not optimal, but interesting to see someone is already working on gearbox integration:

https://www.kervelo.com/

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craw
0
Cr4w  - Nov. 17, 2020, 2:44 p.m.

Nicolai will be releasing their own proprietary gearbox design in 2021. If anyone can make a gearbox that really checks all the boxes it's them.

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khai
0
khai  - Nov. 17, 2020, 3:02 p.m.

"Nicolai will be releasing their own proprietary gearbox design in 2021. If anyone can make a gearbox that really checks all the boxes it's them."

Sweet!  I'm not sure if going with a better known/established option like Pinion is lower risk - where not being anywhere near Nicolai HQ it may be possible to find someone who's serviced a Pinion gearbox before, or if the purported reliability of the Nicolai design and fact that the former supposition is unlikely anyway makes it a moot point...  Fortunately I'm not in any hurry to pull the trigger - but I do love seeing the innovation and increase in options!

Mojo16rider
+2 AJ Barlas khai
Jakub Gábriš  - Nov. 19, 2020, 8:57 a.m.

Owner of Nicolai is also working with pinion and is shareholder as far as I know.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Nov. 18, 2020, 11:28 p.m.

You don't think e~bikes have killed the (non-e) gearbox bike? 

Strictly from a cosmetic perspective, totally anecdotally, I feel (love, hate, indifferent) that e~bikes aesthetic influence on bikes is driving people-powered bikes towards a small-tubed (obviously not motorized) aesthetic - isn't that part of the appeal of Starling or Cotic or etc? Or, maybe that's just what folks are talking about in the echo chamber I live in. 

Fully believe in the next couple of years all e~bikes will have an integrated gearbox. Just makes sense.

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craw
0
Cr4w  - Nov. 19, 2020, 8:12 a.m.

There's a Nicolai E-bike that has a Gates belt and a new Rohloff rear hub. It's at once incredibly tidy and incredibly overwhelmingly techy. It really reminds me of the clockwork tanks they are famous for. In spirit I think this is where we are headed but you'll need to call me back in 5 or 6 generations when they nail the balance between power/duration, weight and drivetrain because I'm not spending 15k CAD for that.

https://en.nicolai-bicycles.com/bike/g1-eboxx-e14/

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khai
0
khai  - Nov. 19, 2020, 3:53 p.m.

I've seen that option (online) and it strikes me as a small stepping stone.  One of the advantages of the gearbox is moving that upspring weight from the rear wheel to the lowest part of the bike, centered, and sprung (assuming FS).  Getting rid of the derailleur is great, but getting that weight out of the R wheel is a big part of the benefit as well.

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khai
0
khai  - Nov. 19, 2020, 3:55 p.m.

"You don't think e~bikes have killed the (non-e) gearbox bike?"

I think an acoustic bike with a gearbox still has plenty of advantages over one with a traditional drivetrain - even a HT.

Edited with a weird example of damage that would be irrelevant with a gearbox (or an igh) - I'm not even sure when I did this...

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cheapondirt
0
cheapondirt  - Nov. 16, 2020, 7:32 p.m.

I was saving up for a Rune and then found a cheap Altitude frame on buysell and yeah - username checks out. Anyway, it's just as well, because I put the Ride-9 chip in neutral position when I got the frame and haven't moved it since. I would still rather be *seen* riding a Banshee and that is the appeal of small brands if I'm being brutally honest. Is there an easier way to buy credibility on the trail than buying exactly the right bike?

Small/unique brands are in no danger as long as they continue to offer something a little unique that customers can identify with.

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skooks
+2 Andrew Major Lynx .
Skooks  - Nov. 16, 2020, 8:06 p.m.

Smaller bike companies can offer something that most big brands don't.  That is outstanding customer service and direct communication with the owner/designer(s).  I started riding Knolly bikes 6 years ago primarily because of their great performance and thoughtful design, but almost as importantly because they are a small, local company that always pick up the phone and take the time to answer any questions I have. Having Noel actively participate in this and other bike forums means a lot to me, and I am happy to be supporting his company. This is a connection I could never have with a bike-name bike brand.

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xy9ine
+2 Lynx . Andrew Major
Perry Schebel  - Nov. 16, 2020, 10:45 p.m.

the opportunity to have a direct dialog with the person(s) who designed and/or built your frame can be a neat aspect of boutique ownership. getting to know a bit of the personality / ideology behind the creation of your bike is certainly cool. 

of course there are potential down sides of buying from small guys - not all have the resources to provide the kind of support a well-stocked & distributed major brand can. and it's a tough industry - i've seen many small co's fold over the years (i've owned bikes from 6 (!) companies that subsequently went out of business).   

while there's certainly a few small companies that are doing innovative work that i find compelling - on paper - the measurable benefits are becoming increasingly small (at least for most people needs) these days as bike design appears to have matured to the point where we're converging on a somewhat refined unified standard (in terms of chassis geometry / dynamics).

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fartymarty
0
fartymarty  - Nov. 17, 2020, 4:33 a.m.

@Shooks - Ditto for me with Starling.

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jaydubmah
+1 Andrew Major
jaydubmah  - Nov. 16, 2020, 9:24 p.m.

Personally, I don't know if I'm as keen as going full boutique any more. The last bike I was bought was hyper cutting edge, crazy manufacturing techniques, etc, etc - BUT it got recalled. It's been a very trying process dealing with warranty, email responses, etc.

While some boutique bike brands do a fantastic job on customer service - it definitely isn't across the board. Especially if the boutique brand is going through a large growth spurt and unable to keep up with growing pains. Customer support can be one of the first things to go. And then you're screwed.

If someone wanted go full nerd with a boutique bike, I'd ask if they did their homework on the company's customer service. Also, make sure to have a backup bike if things go down the crapper. Sigh.

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AndrewMajor
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Andrew Major  - Nov. 16, 2020, 9:38 p.m.

Without having any idea what kind of bike you have, and recognizing that sometimes small (and actually big) companies get caught out without key parts to cover warranty or service, one of the things I love about nerd brands is you can often interact with the visionary (visionaries) behind them.

You can still (after waiting patiently) get a solid response from Noel at Knolly, or Chris at Pivot, and so on. Now these are all personalities who believe in their products - so take the under advisement - but they’re also riders and you can tell quick if they get ‘it’ or they don’t (I listed Noel and Chris because in my experience they get it). I think you can tell A Lot about how a company will treat their customers after a sale by the kind of interaction you have with the people at the top of a given company.

I’ve talked to riders so desperate to resolve a myriad of issues with their experiences with certain boutique brands that they reach out to a semi-employable part-time industry hack stranger like me hoping for some sliver of help.

And I would never I-told-you-so someone in that situation, but just like all my buddies who were surprised by the sh*tty after sale support from 00’s Ellsworth, I can’t help but feel like the brands’ personalities should have probably sent up some red flags before they invested.

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Losifer
+1 Andrew Major
Carlos Matutes  - Nov. 17, 2020, 8:19 p.m.

Man, don't even get me started on Tony Ellsworth. I was a mechanic at the first bike shop that carried his bikes (very close to where he was based) and have never, in over 25 years as a bike mechanic, heard and experienced so many terrible customer service stories. 

It's because of those experiences that I chose to go with a Knolly Fugitive for my return to full suspension after 20 years.

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knollybikes.com
+1 Andrew Major
knollybikes.com  - Nov. 18, 2020, 12:21 a.m.

Thank you!  :)

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AndrewMajor
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Andrew Major  - Nov. 18, 2020, 11:23 p.m.

Hahahahahahahahahaha (laughing with you - not at you). 

I've heard some brilliant T.E. stories over the years. I've never met the man myself, but I think most people would generally have to work hard to have his (awful) reputation.

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craw
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Cr4w  - Nov. 19, 2020, 8:14 a.m.

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xy9ine
+1 Andrew Major
Perry Schebel  - Nov. 19, 2020, 9:38 a.m.

i didn't hear any juicy first hand TE stories  back in the day, but the bikes the flowriders were riding (ellsworth sponsored them for a time) were comedically shitty. ie, they had a box of spare joker swingarms they'd keep on hand because they were pure butter & had to swap them out regularly (ie, tyler killed a new one within half a day doing park laps). the headtube plate gussets of the dare would crack in short order (& pieces would actually fall out), but instead of replacing the frame, tony gave them little bolt on cnc plates that covered them up. them were the days...

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RAHrider
+1 Andrew Major
Reed Holden  - Nov. 16, 2020, 9:47 p.m.

I havent ridden an off the shelf bike for a few decades but in the 90's and early 2000's I used to find treks, specialized etc would start to feel loose and sloppy pretty quickly. My turner xce never even needed the bushings or needle bearings replaced and the frame never so much as developed a wiggle, knock or creak.

I don't buy boutique (aka nerd) brands for adjustability gimmicks but for great quality and the fact that they often offer exactly what I want. My chromag is a great example of this. I dont think I would want it to have a bunch of gimmicky flip chips and adjustable headset cups that are just going to creak and develop play.

I do agree that the niche brands are the ones to provide the geometry advancements before the big brands. I have definitely bought a few niche frames for a slightly different geometry i couldn't find elsewhere.

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AndrewMajor
+2 Lynx . Cr4w
Andrew Major  - Nov. 16, 2020, 10:14 p.m.

I mean, Chromag's all use press-in headsets, so you always have the Angleset option. Personally, and I know this isn't news to anyone, I think all hardtails should have some kind of sliding/swinging drop-out for easy single speeding. Happy to agree to disagree though (but if you haven't tried single speeding... kidding, kidding). 

So my buddy Mark just build up a ~2005 Horst-Link Turner with the PUSH Link. He's using an EC34/EC34 Work angleset and found a 27.2 110mm dropper post for it (which he uses in conjunction with a quick release). He's got a 1x drivetrain on there as well and the best 26" rubber he could find. 

And yeah, it's a big short, and a bit steep, and has 26" wheels when he's a 29'er convert... but, I still have to say it's an awesome machine. And surprisingly lightweight. And yeah, he's WAY faster on his Fugitive LT but it's pretty impressive what he manages to get that Turner down. 

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Lynx
+1 Andrew Major
Lynx .  - Nov. 17, 2020, 4:04 a.m.

Now there's a bit of history :-D If it were me, to counter the steeper angles and also because I hate 26" wheels and how they get hung up on everything, I'd throw at least a 650B upfront and maybe even a 29er and mullet the crap out of that bike, it's how/why mullets were born ;-) Only way I'll ride my '05 Trance is with a 650B front setup.

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AndrewMajor
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Andrew Major  - Nov. 17, 2020, 7:33 a.m.

The Fox 36 26” chassis with clear a 27x2.4” (barely) so that may get tried in the future. It is intended to be a (very good; totally rideable) taste of the past though. He does have a modern bike.

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RAHrider
+1 Andrew Major
Reed Holden  - Nov. 17, 2020, 8:46 p.m.

That's a nice looking vintage Turner. I loved their CNC'd BB/shock mount. As for the reliance on modern MTB design to ride trails, it's a bit of a misnomer IMO. When I first moved to BC 20 years ago I had my Turner (which was state of the art back then) and the shop mechanic I worked with that took me riding and showed me around the west coast trails eschewed modern technology. I was amazed at the time how he rode everything on a fully rigid 26" with V-brakes! He would shred all the squamish classics - powerhouse plunge, entrails, upper powersmart etc. It was his riding that influenced me to put away the Turner and ride my rigid Surly instead (mind you it was one of the first 29ers). kudos to your friend for rocking the 26 old geo!

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AndrewMajor
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Andrew Major  - Nov. 18, 2020, 11:22 p.m.

It's a sweet rig. Appearance is personal obviously, but I think it looks better than most bikes on the market today. 

Still rocking the rigid?!

RAHrider
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Reed Holden  - Nov. 17, 2020, 8:46 p.m.

This comment has been removed.

velocipedestrian
+1 Andrew Major
Velocipedestrian  - Nov. 18, 2020, 1:59 p.m.

Nice to see one being used. I rebuilt my Horst Spot during our lockdown, but haven't ridden it on dirt yet.

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AndrewMajor
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Andrew Major  - Nov. 19, 2020, 9:50 a.m.

Photo?!

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velocipedestrian
+1 Andrew Major
velocipedestrian
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Velocipedestrian  - Nov. 20, 2020, 12:55 p.m.

I have some changes to make before it's really suitable to ride.

Different rear tyre, zee shifter + derailleur, 36 to coil Lyrik. These were the more period appropriate parts I had around.

AndrewMajor
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Andrew Major  - Nov. 20, 2020, 6:07 p.m.

Sweet!

Those AVA air cans were so ahead of their time. It’s too bad they’re really expensive to manufacture because it would be awesome if every company’s air shock came with one.

skooks
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Skooks  - Nov. 17, 2020, 9:45 a.m.

Getting back to the original thread of this article, how  many of you actually change the adjustable geometry on your bikes once you have it dialled in?  Geo adjustment isn't a very important feature for me, but it's so quick and easy on the Fugitive LT that I will put it in steep mode for big climbing days, and often change it back to slack mode at the top if the descent is steep and gnarly (and I remember to). The difference isn't huge, but it is enough to make it worth the (small) effort.

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khai
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khai  - Nov. 17, 2020, 10 a.m.

Less of a "geo" adjust, but I can change my Guerilla Gravity from 135mm (Shred Dogg) up to 165mm (Megatrail) by swapping out the shock.  There are two positions in between based on shock mounts as well, but I've found that I like the 135 & 165 options best.  I don't change them often but do from time to time.

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skooks
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Skooks  - Nov. 17, 2020, 11:18 a.m.

Interesting. What situations cause you to swap out the shock?  I actually have a shorter-travel shock for my Fugitive that would drop the travel from 135mm to 120mm but I have never felt the need to try it out.

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khai
+1 Andrew Major
khai  - Nov. 17, 2020, 11:35 a.m.

Mostly I'm a fat bastard and it pedals a bit better with the shorter shock.  ;p  I spent the first year with the long shock experimenting with the mounting positions before swapping in the shorter one - mostly just because I had it and it seemed dumb to never have ridden it.  I like having more travel for when I'm only packing one bike on a trip but will be spending some time in the bike park as well as pedaling, or if I think I might be trying out a new jump/drop/gnarly line and want a little more "backup" just in case things don't go to plan - but in general the shorter shock results in a bit more of a playful bike that still handles nearly anything I'm apt to throw at it.  Having picked up a HT a year ago and spending a lot of time on that has changed my view on how much travel I "need" as well, to a degree.

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tehllama42
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Tehllama42  - Nov. 17, 2020, 11:52 a.m.

Mostly in Khai's boat as well... although finding a well-priced OEM takeoff fork, and slapping a Luftkappe in it, I realized I was comprehensively limited by rear shock performance, hence finding one of those.  A bit of this was upgrade-itis, but the end result actually checked out nicely

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khai
+1 Andrew Major
khai  - Nov. 17, 2020, 1:18 p.m.

I'd definitely be keen to try mulleting this bike if I could find a well priced fork...

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AndrewMajor
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Andrew Major  - Nov. 18, 2020, 11:20 p.m.

The beauty of bikes like the Fugitive - and there are plenty - is that adult Lego factor. Tires, short shock, fork travel - it's fun to play around with different settings, and for many (nerd) riders that spark actually save money as they are likely to keep a bike longer while they play with different setups.

AJ_Barlas
+2 Andrew Major Velocipedestrian
AJ Barlas  - Nov. 19, 2020, 9:20 a.m.

I've been mucking about with the geo adjustments of my G1 steadily for 12 months now. It's been a massive learning experience and once I settle it's unlikely I'll change it again. But it's allowed me to experiment with so many different ride shapes and qualities in 12 months that would have taken many years and thousands of dollars to do otherwise.

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tehllama42
+1 Andrew Major
Tehllama42  - Nov. 17, 2020, 11:26 a.m.

I hadn't appreciated that sufficient adjustability would be the death of many niche brands, but I suspect you are correct.

The fact that I can long-shock and mullet my 2014 RockyMountain Instinct (converting it to a 160/154mm 29/27.5mm bike and still actually have the full benefit of Ride9 to make adjustments that are relevant rom one end of the other), and this is already a 7-year-old platform with a grand total of $800 in modified parts added to achieve this speaks volumes... and this is with a single adjustment suite.

I do think more adjustability is the answer, especially now that the choices aren't between a single flip chip that lets you choose between 'good, and less good', but actually capture the range of uses for that particular bike.

With adjustable HTA, CS Length, and BB Height/Leverage curve to fit a wide enough range of options, especially if relocating one or both shock eyelets in space is a realistic option, I see no reason why these bikes can't be 'forever' bikes for even the most finnicky of users.

I think the other 'loser' in this is drivetrain manufacturers, who will struggle to justify a new standard when there aren't entire new bikes needed to take advantage of those new capabilities.

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AndrewMajor
+1 Zero-cool
Andrew Major  - Nov. 18, 2020, 11:17 p.m.

I think maybe SRAM's 52t cassette proves you wrong? At least up to now wider gear ranges and smaller jumps are the dual devils of drivetrain development. 

Looking at that brutal jump to the 52t cog you can practically taste a new Seagull 13-spd (or jump straight to 14-spd?) drivetrain to get the jumps back under control. 

Then once there are 13/14 cogs, why not make the jump to 56t? Oh...

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xy9ine
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Perry Schebel  - Nov. 19, 2020, 9:24 a.m.

no, andrew. don't give them ideas.

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AJ_Barlas
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AJ Barlas  - Nov. 19, 2020, 9:24 a.m.

Hahaha

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AJ_Barlas
+1 Andrew Major
AJ Barlas  - Nov. 19, 2020, 9:24 a.m.

Oh dear, I fear you've predicted the new drivetrain label perfectly mate. Seagull it is! No matter how many teeth it comes with or what flashy wild animal they decide to use, Seagull should be what the people label it! Haha.

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AndrewMajor
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Andrew Major  - Nov. 20, 2020, 9:16 p.m.

XV1 Seagull is going to be gloss white with shiny accents. AXS and cable options available with components sold separately or in a package called a flock that includes a wireless Reverb, Code RSCAD brakes, a MegaDeluxe shock, and the new Montgomery 40mm stanchion single crown.

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tehllama42
+1 Andrew Major
Tehllama42  - Nov. 20, 2020, 9:20 p.m.

You forgot about the 28.9999mm WubbaLubbaDubDub crankset standard, and Universal Derailleur/Battery/Axle.

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AndrewMajor
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Andrew Major  - Nov. 26, 2020, 1:46 p.m.

Turning wrenches part time for $$, I love DUB. Specifically all the people who used to change their own BB at home (even pressfit ones) who can’t get their cranks off.

mikeynets
+1 Andrew Major
mikeynets  - Nov. 23, 2020, 2:05 p.m.

Couple of days late to the thread but as a very happy owner of a V3 Spitfire, I can say the adjustability of the frame wasn't a huge draw, but the modularity certainly was. I had a perfectly rock solid wheelset I pulled off an older frame that was non-boost. Being a value (min/maxer if you will) kinda guy and liking to build bikes up with exactly the parts I want, I saw this pile of really nice and curated just-for-me-by-me components on my old Norco Sight, I knew frame only was the only way to go. 

And yeah, like has been said many times in this thread already, having something a little different than everyone else is appealing. And having that thing be different AND look really good is alright too. And interacting directly with the designer/owner of a company is another plus. Supporting small businesses, one more check. 

But all those points come second to the ride itself. I'm not saying XYZ bike from bigger companies aren't going to ride as well, but the geo of the Spitfire was exactly what I was looking for and the KS2 suspension has proven to be legit. 

To Andrew's original point though, small bike companies need to maximize the advantages they do have as smaller businesses. That may be being nerdier or offering more adjustability or whatever, but being nimble is their baked-in advantage and that can manifest itself in a lot of different ways. Actually making their bikes adaptable as they are making their businesses adaptable does has a nice symmetry, though.

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skooks
+1 Andrew Major
Skooks  - Nov. 23, 2020, 2:39 p.m.

The V2 Spitfire was probably the most versatile, playful  bike we have had in our fleet. Not the fanciest or lightest, but just so much fun to ride on almost any trail.

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mikeynets
+1 Andrew Major
mikeynets  - Nov. 23, 2020, 3:56 p.m.

I only have a few months on the V3, but so far, yeah it feels exactly like that.

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AndrewMajor
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Andrew Major  - Nov. 26, 2020, 1:42 p.m.

V3 Spitfire? What are you running for a shock? Going to try the Titan with a coil a d a couple air options and deciding where to start.

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mikeynets
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mikeynets  - Dec. 3, 2020, 9:42 a.m.

DPX2. It's been great for me. Granted, it's the only shock I've run on it so I have nothing else to compare it to.

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velocipedestrian
+1 Andrew Major
Velocipedestrian  - Nov. 23, 2020, 4:34 p.m.

Still loving mine.

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tehllama42
+2 Cr4w Andrew Major
Tehllama42  - Nov. 23, 2020, 7:47 p.m.

I do feel like agility is a massive thing niche brands can offer, and practically doing anything to shorten the cycle of demo to customer base should be a win - yet here we are something like 5 years into the 'modern geometry revolution' and we're still seeing incremental rollouts on that front come out every two years from big brands.

Admittedly I'm super spoiled, because for one way or another every job I've had involved access to an aerospace machining capability and dudes who can weld amazingly, so I've never been that overawed by any of the process of prototyping a bike - I mean if you're doing custom steel that should be the norm from the outset, and 6061AL just needs some minor changes to the welding process until you need specifically hydroformed tubes.

So, from the standpoint of what small brands need to do to compete, it's going to be both harder, and easier to stand out.  The big brands will just keep amoeba-ing their way into every niche that gets created, but the smaller brands should be able to stay about a year ahead of trends, figure out clever spec options that win the $/performance battle, and also take advantage of the fact that people want to run unique bikes.  I think the customization options are criminally underutilized from some of the smaller brands, but what do I know?

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AndrewMajor
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Andrew Major  - Nov. 26, 2020, 1:41 p.m.

I think clever spec - even when it requires some education as min-maxing always will - is a key. It’s easier for the brand, shop, customer to just spec what folks expect at a certain price but there are opportunities to really create value as a small brand (especially with less volume discount potential).

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