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I don't think the benefits of steep seat angles are ubiquitous. I recently jumped back on my Knolly Endo (decidedly old school geo) after more than a year on a custom hardtail that I had built with a steep sta, long reach and slack head angle and I was shocked at how much easier it was to climb a tricky technical switchback (Twister for the Victoria locals). Climbing that trail the very first ride on a bike I haven't ridden in a year blew my mind. It has nothing to do with traction I've never lacked it on either bike. It had everything to do with power. I could apply much greater leverage on the shorter bike both seated with the slacker sta and standing with the much shorter reach and steeper head angle... Honestly I did not expect that ride to go that way. It is a definite eye opener that perhaps I went too far in my design. The other major issue is I had hoped to use the custom as my ride to the trail bike but that steep sta (77deg at sag) makes for a terribly uncomfortable ride on anything flatish.
Having said all of that the custom is a fun bike to ride but its less me the operator and more me the passenger than my Endo. Its long reach and super slack head angle make it more confidence inspiring when barrelling down steep scary things than the Endo and its a hardtail! It is a solid up and down plow bike for sure but most definitely not an all rounder.
Looking at those pictures of you AJ; despite those big bikes you still look much more upright seated (and I'm running 20mm of spacers and a 45mm rise) than I do perhaps its more to do with my unusually long femurs and short torso its such a pain to get a comfortable seated pedalling position for me that doesn't compromise shred factor too much.
I'm not sure I buy the adaptation to riding more forward as the better way to ride mountain bikes off road. My wimpy arms are no match for the power in my legs and large back muscles.
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