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At the Interbike Outdoor demo in Bootleg Canyon I got the chance to ride a couple 29er hardtail bikes on the trails and I wanted to share my impressions. The Outdoor demo was a great chance to get the feel for the bikes as they handle on the trail and riding them back-to-back is really the best way to compare and contrast.

If you’re considering a hardtail mountain bike, chances are that weight is a factor in your decision and along this dimension the Redline d660 has a slight edge. The Redline comes built up as a 1×9 meaning you’ll save a little extra weight by losing the front derailleur and shifter. If you’re not into the whole 1×9 torture scene you can always retrofit the bike with a front derailleur (mounting points are built in to the frame).

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In terms of geometry the Redline seems to have an advantage here as well. The Rocky Mountain bike felt a little compressed front to back and I rubbed my toes on the front wheel a couple times before clipping in. This is an issue 29er designers have had to consider from the beginning as the larger wheels have a wider sweep across the down tube. The Hammer is Rocky Mountain’s first (and only) 29er mountain bike as far as I can tell and I imagine they’re still working out some of the kinks. Redline, by contrast, has almost completely devoted their efforts to making 29ers and today they only have a single 26er in the lineup.

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In terms of components, the two bikes are matched pretty evenly and both performed very well on the dusty, twisty trails. The 1×9 configuration on the Redline made me a little nervous and I found myself maxing out the gear ratios on moderately steep sections. Although I kept the Hammer 29 in the middle ring the whole ride I felt assured that if I needed more gears they were at least available. For those who have ridden 29ers you know they can take a little more leg power than 26ers from a stop and having extra gears could certainly come in handy.

Finally, in terms of price these two bikes are about even. Both retail in the $1,300 range which seems like a great value to me, especially given the quality of the builds. If I had to choose one bike for myself I’d get the Redline d660 and would be comfortable riding it on all but the most technical trails (after a minor adjustment to the gearing).
One more note: At the outdoor demo it seemed like at least half the bikes being ridden were 29ers, so much so that regular mountain bikes started looking weird to me. Could this be a trend or was it simply a matter of people being curious about trying the bigger bikes? We’ll try to get more info once the floor show opens up later today.
Up next: dual-suspension XC bike comparison…

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