Long Days in the Saddle

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This topic contains 10 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by  pedlr 7 months, 2 weeks ago.

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  • #258970

    Curious if anyone else feels the same – I live in ATL suburbs, and finally (After 15 years) upgraded from a 26″ hardtail to a Trek Top Fuel 8 (on sale) after demoing an EX which felt sluggish to me, but very confident on the chunky downhills. I had less than 3K budget. After adding tubeless 2.4 front 2.2 rear, a dropper and shortening the stem, it weighs 28.5 lbs. I don’t run out of travel locally, and have ridden Bull/Jake epic, Bear Mt/Pinhoti 1/2, albeit sketchy downhill there.  If I have to drive 2-3 hours to get to awesome trails (Dupont/Tanasi/Cloudland/Pisgah…), and want  the energy to ride all day.  In my budget, I couldn’t find anything under 32 lbs, which doesn’t seem like a big difference – maybe the steeper angles help conserve energy as well, but the trade-off seems to be a bike well-suited form my local trails and long, epic rides vs. the ability to bomb down gnarly terrain with reckless abandon, which, well, I already went over the bars (didn’t drop my seat…).  I get more downhills than I would with a bike that would tire me out, and with 100mm travel, and the steep angles, it’s a different sort of (scary fun?) – I need to slow down in spots and really be on my game.  EVERYTHING I read seems to indicate in this day and age that I bought the wrong bike/geometry.  My question to anyone with similar inclinations or experiences is – Am I missing out, and if so, would it be better to get an angled headset, upgrade to a 120 fork, both, or ignore the chatter and continue enjoying what I have, blissfully unaware of the “real” fun I’m missing out on? At 58, it’s probably all downhill from here, but I’ve got alot of riding in the tank.  I’m 155 lbs, so I “think” the 32 fork is sufficient – I don’t notice any flex.  Courses for horses?

  • #258984

    Sounds like you’re asking two questions… Are you missing out, and did you buy the wrong bike?  The first question is easy.  If you’re riding, you’re not missing out! 🙂  Don’t overthink it.  Now, did you buy the wrong bike?  Man, avoid asking that one.  Mainly because you don’t want to hear the wrong answer.  But I’m not saying you did buy the wrong bike!

    The Fuel 8 is an XC bike, and yes, lighter than the average trail bike, and yeah, better for all day rides.  Can it go down steep, choppy techy stuff as well?  Sure.  I’m the same age as you (58 in a couple of weeks), so I’m sure you remember the days when we pointed ourselves downhill on mountain goat trails riding rigid 10 speed road bikes with 1 1/2″ knobby tires on them.  So, yeah, your modern XC bike can do it.  Will you need to pick a better line as opposed to just blasting aimlessly?  Yup, you will.  No biggy.  It’s always a compromise.  Do you buy a bike for what you ride on a regular basis, or one that covers worst case scenarios?  Personally, I believe you can overcome the technical challenge of dropping down a chunky trail on an XC bike easier then you can overcome grinding all day rides on a beefy trail bike.  At the very least, the first situation is more fun!

    Having said all that… how long ago did you buy the Fuel?  Does Trek have a return policy?  The last couple of bikes I looked at and bought have 30 day try, like it, return it if not, kind of deals.  Not sure about Trek, though.  If they do, you could always go that route.  Then you can ask yourself again… Did I buy the right bike?  🙂

  • #258991

    Based on the title of you post, I say you got the right bike for “long days in the saddle.” 100mm of front/rear suspension is more than enough to take the edge off the bumps and you won’t feel as beat up and tired from riding as you would on your old hardtail.

    Going with more suspension travel and slacker geo is only going to help you when you’re out of the saddle, dropper post down, on the descents. And even then, it’s just going to allow you to ride in control faster.

    If you look at your rides as “saddle time,” that means you’re doing a good bit of pedaling, and the Top Fuel should be pretty darn efficient at it.

  • #259045

    The Top Fuel is an XC race bike and trying to turn it into a Trailbike might not work. The modern Trailbike sweet spot is 2.5-2.8in tires on (i=inner width) i30-35mm rims, 130-150mm travel, progessive enduro-ish geometry, and most weigh 30-34 pounds. No matter how many upgrades you do, you’re not going to upgrade the Top Fuel into a Trailbike but you can make it more Trail worthy. The dropper and the short stem were good first steps but your tire selection comes up a bit short. Put that 2.4 tire (and if a 2.5-2.6 tire fits that would be better) on the rear of your bike and then put a fast rolling but aggressive (maybe Maxxis Minion or Rekon) 2.6 tire on the front. For your weight, put 19-20 psi in the rear and 17-18 psi in the front. With wider lower-pressure rubber you should see significant improvement. Besides that, I wouldn’t make any other upgrades. You’ll just spend a lot of money for little return.

    I’m 60, 160 pounds and I rode short-travel hardtail and full-suspension XC bikes for years and I found that with aggressive 2.4in tires they really become more Trail worthy. Aggressive knobs, more width and lower pressures really transformed them into something much more capable. I now ride a Trek Full Stache (32 pounds) with 29×2.8 tires, 130mm travel, and progressive geo. The Full Stache is more comfortable, easier on the old bones, and descends better but it isn’t as lively or as light as the XC bikes and therefore is not as fun on the climbs or flats. It’s all about trade-offs. I could be totally happy with a short-travel light-weight XC race bike as long as it came with aggressive 29×2.6-2.8 tires. I think tires matter more than travel and geo.

  • #259077

    I agree with Jeff.  You have a very capable bike for long days in the saddle.  And while a FS bike with 100mm is not the rage these days it sounds like it is more than sufficient for your local trails and certainly a significant upgrade over your 26″ ride.  I would not get too caught up in the ultra-focus on enduro and downhill riding which seems to be the rage these days and the bike companies catering to that audience building ever slacker bikes with tons of travel.  For endurance riding you need to be able to climb and ride trail efficiently and you’ve got a bike that can do that.  And while techy descents may be more of a challenge, all but the most technical will be doable.  I believe that riding a (lesser?) spec’ed bike will only make you a better rider.  Once when I was struggling clearing a certain rocky section I made a comment about my bike.  A friend I was riding with – who was clearing the section with his hard tail – told me “it’s never the bike, it’s always the rider”.

  • #259097

    OP here – Wow, great feed back – thanks y’all!  I love my bike and wouldn’t sell it – I guess I wish I could have my cake and eat it too(fast, light, cheap, capable…).  You won’t ever see me in a full-face helmet  🙂  My buddy is looking to upgrade to a bigger bike from a 26″ SC Heckler – he lives in (relatively flat) Charleston, SC. So we’re going to rent some LLS bikes in Pisgah so he can try a variety of bikes (something I shoulda done!) Also, I just saw a youtoob of a 17 yr old kid at Copper Canyon in Mexico flying on a $150 hardtail, and any concerns about my bike instantly vanished!

  • #259134

    I Have the same bike. Was so set on buying a Superfly but came across a great deal I couldn’t pass the Top Fuel up.

    Have you experimented with the MonoLink at all yet ?

    I’m heading to Dupont this year and me at 205 lbs  and my Top Fuel I have no doubts this will be able to handle Ridgeline and most trail riding up there

    • #259888

      Thanks – I am headed to Dupont next weekend for 3 days! Can’t wait. Pray for good weather!

  • #259581

    XC race bikes are not designed for comfort, but for going fast. More bike weight does not absolutely equal unsuitability for all-day riding. I use a 32-lb bike with a coil shock for all day riding. Body position, pedaling efficiency and ease of negotiating terrain up and down make a bike that’s easy to ride all day. It’s not 2012 anymore, trail bikes pedal well.

    PS: Another guy trying to talk himself into being old? Give it up, you don’t have an excuse! : ) I’ll be 58 this year, plan on another banner year, replete with embarrassing many riders my junior. Old is an attitude, not a number.

    • #259887

      Point well taken (the getting old part)!  It’s hard to “read between the lines” and you’re the first to stress that (what I think you’re saying) is that modern bikes – although heavier – carry more momentum, and you can maintain that momentum through gnarlier terrain rather than having to slow down and pedal back to speed. Sort of a six/half dozen of the other thing.

    • #259959

      Matt, not so much the heft being what creates that momentum. 29″ wheels, ample tires and supple suspension keep me moving forward on rough climbs – despite the added weight. Bikes with a steep seat tube are very comfortable, efficient through the dropper stroke and climb exceptionally. Most modern suspension platforms are great performers up and down – they barely pedal-bob. So what, really, is the disadvantage of a true trail bike? A couple of pounds heavier, that I only notice when I lift my bike off the ground. Experience has shown me that I don’t have more fun on a less capable bike, and I value not feeling beat up after a long ride. If you like riding your bike, it will be less a chore to do it all day or days in a row.

      Ride quality varies greatly between bikes, and deciding what is right for your present and desired riding after a long absence is a daunting task. Every ride on a different bike, even a parking lot ride, will tell you something. Keep digging into it, and be open to possibilities. Good luck zeroing in on something that works for you.

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