Short Travel 29er – Heavy XC/Light Trail Advice?

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    • #518741

      All, long time reader, infrequent poster here!

      In the market for a shorter travel 29er and had some questions. A few considerations:

      • Not an XC racer, but I do enjoy climbing.
      • I’m coming from a 2012 26″ 100mm XC bike (peep that 70.5* HTA!)
      • My most local Socal trails are mostly fire road or hardpack singletrack climbs, with flowy singletrack descents. Not too much tech, very XC/trail style. 95% of my riding will be here.
      • I do take trips each year to somewhere a little more rowdy (Moab, Sedona, Big Bear) I do prefer more intermediate trails.
      • If possible, I want to climb AND descend better than I have (though in general I’d say I’m top 25% in these areas)
      • My life stage (married w/kids), free time, and preferences won’t permit me to move more towards enduro/downhill style (so I’m ruling out the Spectral/Ripmo/Jeffsy).

      I have researched Orbea Occam, Norco Optic, a few Scott Spark models, Pivot Trail 429, YT Izzo, etc. I have been most drawn to Canyon Neuron CF and Ibis Ripley.

      The Neuron CF offers great component package at each price point. While it is slacker than what I’ve been riding, it’s still 67.5 HTA + other conservative geometry measurements. The CF 9 SLX is ~28lbs. It’s also (importantly) available in my size!

      The Ripley has “lesser” components at the price point, but has what I’m told is more progressive geometry (slacker, longer, fits wider tires).

      From a crowd that knows more than I, would the Neuron meet my needs? Would I quickly feel limited with the steeper HTA + geometry? Would the Ripley climb non-tech stuff as well as the Neuron? Would both climb better than what I’m on currently? Would I feel over-biked on the Ripley? I feel convinced that the Ripley would descend better than the Neuron, but I don’t want to sacrifice climb-ability (and extra cash) if I don’t have to.

      Tough as local places are not demo-ing as well…Thanks all in advance!



    • #518791

      Those are all really nice bikes, tough to choose just one BUT….compared to what you’ve been riding, you’ll be pleased with whatever you buy. I’ve ridden the Orbea and Canyon (I have an Orbea Alma as my XC bike). I’ve heard nothing but good about the Neuron.

    • #519515

      Compared to the bike you’ve been riding, any full-sus 29er with 130mm or less travel is going to be great. Bikes have gotten so good in the last couple years that you really can’t screw up.

      In my opinion, the current best short-travel 29er is the Transition Spur. With a 66* HTA and 76* STA, the geometry is spot on perfect. The Spur is also very light and the tire spec is perfect. The Epic EVO is a close second but the tires are too XC-ish and would need replacing. With the Ripley coming in third because it is much heavier, especially in the cheaper builds.

      The best budget short-travel 29er would be the $2250 2021 aluminum Giant Trance 29. With a Marzocchi fork and 1×12 Deore drivetrain, this bike has the best spec for the money. The 2021 Trance 29 is probably a better bike than the aluminum $3700 Trailbike I bought 3 years ago. Things have come a long way in 3 years.

      You probably couldn’t go wrong with most 140f/130r travel Trailbikes like the Trek Fuel EX, 2021 Specialized Stumpjumper, or Canyon Neuron. However, I think that the Neuron comes up a little short when it comes to geometry, which is fairly XC-ish by modern standards. If you buy any of these bikes in aluminum, they are likely to weigh 33+ pounds.

      Which bike I would buy would depend on how much I could spend?
      $5000 Transition Spur
      $4200 Specialized Epic EVO Comp
      $4200 Ibis Ripley Deore
      $3600 Specialized Epic EVO
      $2250 Giant Trance 29 3 2021(not 2020 which isn’t as good spec-wise)

    • #519519

      Wow thanks, very helpful summary. I have also had issue with what is in stock, so my preferences have been informed by that as well.

      Re: HTA, coming from where I come from, how would I practically notice the difference between a Ripley (66.5), Spur (66), and Neuron (67.5)? My thought is that perhaps the slacker ones are a bit more future proof, but I’m wrestling with what the felt difference would be.

    • #519560

      Modern geometry is more than HTA. It is also a steeper STA and a longer toptube with a shorter stem. All of these things work together to push the front wheel further in front of the bottom bracket while still keeping the fit and ride-ability of the bike. Having the front wheel further forward makes a bike descend better. If you compared a size-large Neuron to a size-large Spur you would find that the Spur has a steeper STA, a slacker HTA, and a longer toptube with a shorter stem even though both size-large bikes would fit the same size person.

      The $3300 Canyon Neuron CF7 comes with a carbon fiber frame, Pike fork, and 1×12 Eagle GX drivetrain which is amazing spec for that price. I can see why you would want to buy a Neuron. Too bad the geo isn’t more like the Spur, Stumpjumper, or Fuel EX. Canyon really needs to update the geometry on the Neuron.

      If you bought a Neuron you could improve the geo by doing these things. Buy a bike one or even two sizes larger than your normal size. Slide the saddle as far forward as possible. Install a shorter 32-40mm stem. If you do this right the bike will still fit you but the front wheel will be further forward.

      I did this exact thing on my current Trailbike I bought 3 years ago with geometry similar to the Neuron. I’m 5’9″ but I’m riding a size-XL bike. I pushed the saddle all the way forward and I switched out the stock 60mm stem for a 35mm stem. Fits perfect but descends and climbs better than the size-medium/large bike I could have bought.

      Modern geometry is one of the best improvements that have happened to Mountain bikes. It can seem like a small thing but it makes a huge difference. It’s something you are going to want if you buy a new bike. It makes Mountain bikes so much easier and fun to ride.

    • #519728

      Great stuff here – very informative!

      I can easily see how that would aid in descending. Easier to get in position, get weight back, etc. At a certain point, how does that affect climbing, especially non-technical fire road stuff? At what point does the slack and long approach adversely affect those who enjoy the climbs and descents?

      One reason the Ripley stands out to me is that it’s moved in the direction you’re talking about, but not as “extreme” on paper as some of the other stuff you see out there (think the new Spectral is 64* HTA).

      And yes, the spec of the Neuron is incredibly tempting. To get comparable on Ripley is ~$5500 – $2K more!

      (Reminder that I’ve focused on models I can find in stock, so the Transition Spur, YT Izzo have been tentatively crossed off…for now).

    • #519741

      Also, re:Neuron with the Stoic and Spectral updates, I’m guessing this is the next to get updated.

    • #519789

      I got Nerding out on geometry so please bear with me. Front-center is the distance from the bottom bracket to the front axle. Here are the front-center’s for these bikes.

      Neuron size-L 750mm
      (Neuron size-XL 782mm)
      Ripley size-L 775mm
      Spur size-L 784mm
      Stumpjumper size-L 796mm
      Spec. Enduro size-L 832mm

      I put these bikes in order of least to most progressive geometry. Notice that as the bikes get more progressive the the front-center also gets longer. Also as bikes go up in size the front center gets longer. Most importantly, notice that the size-XL Neuron has almost the same front-center as the size-L Spur. If you push the saddle forward and install a short stem on the the size-XL Neuron, it would have nearly identical handling traits as the size-L Spur because the front-center is the same.

      In conclusion, you have my permission to buy a Neuron as long as you buy one size up. Now, I want to buy a Neuron. Except, I already own a bike that’s nearly the same.

      Most of the reason that an XC bike climbs well is that they are very light-weight and have very light-weight fast-rolling tires and very efficient pedalling suspensions. Geometry plays only a small part. XC geometry is really designed for climbing while standing. To do steep seated climbing on a XC bike, a rider needs to sit on the tip of the saddle. With a modern geometry Trailbike, the seattube is much steeper which pushes the saddle further forward and therefore, a rider doesn’t need to sit on the tip of the saddle which makes seated climbing much easier. Seated climbing is actually easier with modern progressive geometry.

      The Ripley and Spur have nearly identical geometry. I think that an ~76* STA and ~66* HTA is the perfect balance between steep short XC geometry and long slack Enduro geometry. But remember, it’s really the front center that matters most.

    • #519796

      Thanks! This is GREAT info and I appreciate the knowledge you are sharing. It does get nerve-wracking to size up a Neuron, but I understand the principles – you are effectively increasing STA and increasing front-center this way (perhaps the short stem decreased effective HTA?). Their seat tube length measurements do make one nervous in sizing up, however.

      I’m also somewhat encouraged that, as you each said earlier, I probably can’t go too wrong here.

    • #519850

      You might also want to consider the $3750 Norco Optic C3 which is very well specced at this price and has very good geo.

    • #519866

      I agree – that one is definitely on the shortlist, pending availability. I was concerned that it may be more oriented towards descending than the other options mentioned. Of course, without ability to demo, this is based on reviews and an elementary reading of the spec sheet.

    • #519875

      Bike Nerd – curious why you haven’t mentioned YT Izzo? It seems to check all these boxes as well (I have seen consistently long lead times so have kind of ignored it myself.)

    • #519906

      I’m helping out a buddy right now below $2500 budget and the Vitus Mythique VRX and YT Jeffsy Base are getting strong reviews for 2021. Here’s just one version:

      But of course right now your biggest hurdle will likely be finding inventory. Could take a few phone calls.

    • #520010

      Watch out for “Analysis Paralysis”. Either buy what’s in stock or make a deposit and wait for the exact bike you want to come in. Which will likely be before the end of summer. Because of this crazy Covid thing, no bike shop will be able to tell you exactly when. Remember, bikes with similar travel and geometry will perform about the same. However, some might climb better or be lighter weight or cost more. But remember, bikes have gotten so good that you really can’t screw up unless you get a bike with outdated geo. Almost any new bike will be light years ahead of the bike you are currently riding.

      I think the latest ~120mm travel Downcountry bikes are ideal because they are very light while still having progressive geo. I consider the Spur to be the gold standard for this group—Epic EVO, Ripley, Trance 29. Personally, I wouldn’t mind if these bikes had 100r/120f travel and a 65* HTA. Watch out for DC bikes with outdated geo like the Spark and Top Fuel.

      However, the ~130mm travel Trailbikes are also quite good but they will be heavier and even more progressive. The new Stumpjumper is probably the gold standard for this group—Optic, Izzo, Trance X, Fuel EX. Ultimately, I think the geo of the Stumpjumper and the single-pivot-flex-stay rear suspension are about perfect. Watch out for Trailbikes with outdated geo like the Neuron unless you size up, saddle forward, and short stem.

      For myself, I’m seriously considering the $3600 Epic EVO because I want a very light bike and that is what I can afford. However, I would “size up” because I want an even more progressive bike.

      I would be curious what bike you decide on. Please repost when you choose your ride.

    • #520063

      Pfft! The price tag meets or exceeds 5k, I am doing a custom frame so it fits this one like it should at that kind of coin. I have no interest in being bilked for plastic, so that is to the curb.

      Overbiked? Explain.


    • #520114

      I should probably add the Santa Cruz Tallboy to the Downcountry list. It has great geo but it is known for being heavy and over priced compared to other bikes.

    • #520117

      On one hand, this is a great time to buy a short travel 29er because there are so many great bikes out there.  Any of the bikes you’re looking at, plus those Bike Nerd mentioned should blow the grips off an 8 year old 26” xc bike.

      On the other hand, it is a terrible time to buy a new bike because you can’t really demo and not much is in stock.

      I would wait until I could demo before making a major purchase, unless I was going with a brand I was familiar with.  For instance, I know I would be happy with a Ripley or a Trail 429 because I have ridden earlier versions and I trust the brands.

      Even if there are better short travel 29ers, I doubt I would ever second guess my choice.  However, if I was choosing from new brands and fairly different bikes, I would probably end up with buyers remorse and always wonder if I made the right choice.


    • #520181

      Bike nerd – I will definitely keep you posted. As dlawson says, this is a tough time to buy with lack of inventory & demo, so I will keep holding out for the item I know want. Fortunately, many DTC brands & other retailers offer some sort of free return.

      At this point, I would rank Ripley as 1A for what it’s worth. The geo & reviews seem spot on. 1B. is likely upsized Neuron as I can’t get over the price for spec…yet.

      I need to look into the Epic EVO – coming from an XC bike I am a little gun-shy about staying too far on this end of the spectrum, though I am intrigued about maintaining uphill efficiency & speed. The new Stumpjumper is now on the list as well as it looks very, very nice.

      Early on, I ruled out Santa Cruz & Yeti based on initial price research. That’s a tough sell for me.

    • #520183

      Keep the Marin Rift Zone Carbon 2 on your short list, too. Less cash than some of your other choices, 5 year warranty, an all-around great bicycle that also climbs like a goat.

    • #520386

      I wouldn’t hesitate to buy a bike sight unseen. I’ve bought 2 bikes this way and both turned out great. Even before Covid, new and popular bikes could sell out quickly. So ordering a bike was a sure way to get one. I bought a Santa Cruz Blur and a Trek Full Stache this way. I remember when I picked up my Full Stache, another customer was upset because they wouldn’t sell him my bike and they were already sold-out. There are 2 things you need to do to have a successful purchase.

      First, you want to be certain of the fit. Most bike sizing charts are fairly accurate and most bike sizes are consistent across different brands. A size-M Trek is going to fit the same as a size-M Specialized. And, a size-M XC bike is going fit the same as size-M Enduro bike. If you’re not certain, go to your LBS and try some bikes to figure out your size. If you are in between sizes, I prefer to size-up. It’s usually better to push the saddle forward and put on a shorter stem than to do the opposite.

      Second, you want to understand what you are buying. Understand the differences between XC, Down-Country, Trail, All-Mountain, and Enduro bikes so that you know what category of bike you are buying. Bikes with similar weight, travel, and geometry are going to perform about the same. Read and watch all the reviews you can find for the bike you are interested in but also for many bikes that are in the same category. Look for bikes that get gushing reviews. Go to the bike websites also. Be confident this is the bike you want. In the end, test rides around LBS parking lots are not that useful anyway and you’ll probably end up buying a bike based on reviews. And remember, bikes are mostly so good now days that you probably won’t screw up. It’s all pretty much Sram, Shimano, Rock Shox, and Fox. If you stick to those four brands, you can go too wrong.

    • #522434

      I absolutely love my Tallboy V4, but I think you would have to put on some pretty high end parts to get the weight near where you want it for a light trail/downcountry bike.

      I built mine from a 2020 CC frame, 140mm Pike fork, Spank aluminum bar/stem, SLX 4 piston brakes, 180mm rotors, XT cranks, derailer, shifter, Box 11sp cassette, X fusion dropper, and Nox composite/I9 hydra wheelset, and 2.6 tires. Total weight 29.8 lbs.

      I run the bike in the high setting with the short chainstay chips for one really awesome trail bike for our East TN trails. I built mine up from the frame before Covid really hit. I chose this route because I too felt like you just didn’t get good value for money with the Santa Cruz complete builds.

      Good luck in your search. The Ripley sure does look like a sweet ride, and should tick off all of the boxes on your wishlist.

    • #523347

      I don’t think you will ever regret spending a little more to get an Ibis Ripley.

      Ibis is a very good company that will provide great support after the sale.  If you send them an email, there is a good chance Scot Nicol will be the one replying (often the same day).  I ride a second hand Mojo SL-R that is way out of original spec (27.5 wheels crammed in the frame and now with a 150mm 27.5 Fox 34 fork) and I have had outstanding email and in person support from Scot, Will and Nate.

      All of Ibis’ recent bikes get rave reviews and warranty issues seem to be rare.  Dw-link is a proven platform and the bikes have solid specs at each price point.

      I got to spend a day on the new Ripley while I was in Santa Cruz in 2019.  There is a damaged spot on my rear triangle.  My local shop (not an Ibis dealer) didn’t think the bike was safe, so I wanted to let someone from Ibis take a look at it.  Will, the Warranty Department, inspected the frame and said it was good to go.  It was also cool to hear that several of the employees geeked out on my 2012 bike while it was sitting in their warehouse.

      My legs where tired from riding Soquel Demo Forest the previous day, but I put about 16 miles on the Ripley at Wilder Ranch while my bike was getting checked out.  Climbing the steep fire roads and trails was no sweat.  My Mojo was probably under 24 lbs. at the time.  I am sure the Ripley was heavier, but I didn’t notice the extra weight.  The Ripley was a blast on flowy sections through the redwoods and easily handled the chunky drops on the Enchanted Loop.  The glowing reviews are legit, The Ripley is an awesome all-around bike.

      From your original post:

      ·         I think the Ripley would be really good on the fire road and singletrack climbs you mentioned.  It is obviously more bike than you’re currently riding but you will still enjoy climbing on this bike.

      ·         The Ripley will be a great bike for your annual trips.  I live in Colorado and regularly travel with my bike.  Approximately 1/3 of my riding is on advanced/black trails and I would totally trust this bike anywhere I have been.

      ·         Your balls out climbing may not be faster, but cruising up fire roads and technical climbs will be much better on this bike.  Your descending will go to another level on the Ripley and you may even start scaring yourself.

      ·         If your free time and preferences change, you can put a 140mm Fox 36 on the Ripley and have a capable enduro bike.

      A new bike is a big purchase and I still recommend trying before you buy.  However, if you are set on a new bike, I don’t think you could go wrong with a Ripley.

    • #523368

      dlawson – excellent thoughts to my original questions. I have been leaning Ripley (if I can find it), as it seems you can bike it up, bike it down, and the sizing for me leaves no questions of sizing up or not.

      Local trails being XC focused does hang me up a bit…I do like PRing climbs, and it would be tough to spend thousands to get slower…but I imagine that’s mostly a function of, well, me (and tires), and I’m confident that I’ll be more comfortable and have more fun.

    • #523374

      I agree with dlawson except when it comes to weight. The $4200 Ripley is likely to be about 4 pounds heavier than the $5000 Spur or $4200 Epic EVO. I think these bikes would perform about the same given that they all had the same tires.

    • #523382

      Still researching the new Specialized models – it’s more widely distributed in my area so may be easier to find! I can’t find a Transition Spur anywhere and they won’t even backorder.

    • #576707

      Quick update here… I bought a very lightly used 2021 Specialized Epic Evo Comp today. I’m 5’10” and went with a large (my height is the cutoff between large and medium). In case it helps, here’s what went into my decision:
      1. I couldn’t really make a wrong decision. Coming from where I came from, every bike I looked at was going to feel otherworldly.
      2. Inventory is low. I was in no rush. Constantly monitoring deals, just to see what might come up on the short list. If I found a deal, I could go for it; if not, be patient and it’ll happen eventually.
      3. Can’t pass up a good deal. I bought the bike for $3400. It was purchased new in October 2020, and ridden 60 miles. The awesome seller was choosing to keep pursuing more all mountain bikes.

      4. Weight matters. Coming from a 24-25lb XC bike, seeing the 29-31lb weights of others (Ripley, Neuron CF 7/8) just didn’t feel right to me.

      5. I had a heart to heart with my riding style. As long as I’ve been looking and researching (6+ months) I have never bottomed out my 100mm suspension. I have never been over biked on my old 26er. Every trail I’ve ridden would be easily mashed by the Epic, let alone the Epic Evo. Did I really need that 130-140mm bike? I decided no. The Epic Evo will be much better going both up and down than my current setup. No lingering questions.

      6. The Epic Evo was progressive enough. Especially sizing up (a little), the Evo’s 66.5* HTA and 74.5* STA etc etc etc were enough for me. Others were more progressive (Izzo, Ripley, Stumpy) and I felt concerned with Neuron’s conservative numbers (same with Jet 9, Trail 429), but the Epic Evo felt like it hit the sweet spot.
      7. Reviews. The new specialized lineup has gotten rave reviews. Obviously that only tells one so much. But if I’m being honest, I didn’t want a Specialized/Trek/Giant when starting my search. Something a little less ubiquitous was my hope. I got over myself and tried to think logically.

      I wrote too much here, but I wanted to thank you all for contributing. Without this thread my (almost new) Epic Evo wouldn’t have been on my radar. And now, she’s hitting the singletrack tomorrow morning!

    • #576883

      Congratulations!!! I think you’re going to really enjoy your Epic Evo.

      Please take a few rides and post a mini-review of your impressions?

      If your Epic Evo still has the stock XC tires, consider replacing them with Maxxis 2.4 Dissector(front) and 2.4 Rekon(rear) to make the Evo more capable.

    • #577040

      Definitely will do on the tires. My local trails are pretty XC in nature, so I will give these a chance. Plus, SO MUCH is new to me – 29er, dropper post, slacker, up-sized – that I need to just get used to before making too many tweaks. But I planned on a new tire setup, at least for the bike park days or trips elsewhere!

    • #577646

      bike nerd, you asked.

      Keep in mind my reference point – a 2012 26″ 100mm travel XC bike.

      The one word to describe the Epic EVO is speed. Strava times aren’t the be all end all – we ride for the fun of it – but I have shaved off 60 seconds off sections of single track that I have ridden hundreds of times overnight – all while being more comfortable and, frankly, having a lot more fun!

      1. It is an exceedingly efficient pedaler, and carries it’s momentum exceedingly well. Rolling sections of trail where I used to slow on the mild ascents beg for acceleration. The bike responds very, very well to any power from the rider.

      2. The bike is a very comfortable and efficient climber – unless I’m on pavement, leaving suspension open is perfect, as it neutralizes any bumps on seated climbs. Also, very responsive on punchy sections where you want to get out of the saddle. If I want to go full gas, this bike will respond up any climb.

      3. The bike has been a superb descender (unless super windy, more on that below). I have only ridden small & medium chatter, but the suspension has gobbled it up. Straight line runs – even relatively steep ones – have been very, very fun. The geometry certainly inspires confidence, and I have never felt like I “only” had 120mm/110mm of travel. It has left me – a pretty conservative rider – looking for more aggressive lines.

      4. While I do lust after the roval wheelset of the higher builds, I have been very pleased with the SLX groupset. I think it punches well above its price point and. leaves little to be desired. I have been especially pleased with the 4 piston brakes, and the drivetrain has responded, even under pressure.

      The main things I need to get used to:

      1. Handling. I’m going from a 26″ to a 29″ where I am slightly up sized. Given the speed that this bike carries, I have to do a little more prep work going into tight corners or windy sections of trail. It takes more effort to turn than I am used to and, frankly, my prior ride probably let me correct errors in this area much more easily. This is probably due to geometry (my prior HTA was 70.5* so more weight over front tire) and overall length of the bike.

      2. Saddle/Dropper Post. Since I upsized (5’10” and got a large), the saddle height is just a smidge too high at its highest point with the seat post jammed as far in as possible.

      I started out my research thinking I needed a 130mm trail bike, thinking the XC category was not aggressive enough for me. While I haven’t ridden many of those bikes, the Epic Evo has raised the ceiling in every area – climbing, descending, and fun. It’s likely a perfect bike for many riders who don’t want to be downhillers, whose local tracks are full of lengthy climbs and flowy descents. I couldn’t imagine needing more bike than this.

    • #577995

      Thanks for giving us a mini-review! Glad to hear that you are happy with your new Epis EVO. I’ve got my one on order at my local LBS but there’s no telling when they might get one.

    • #580750

      bike nerd, correct me if I’m wrong but the Maxxiss Dissector 2.4 is a wide trail and would not work with the stock Epic Evo wheels?

    • #580807

      “Wide Trail” is a marketing term that means almost nothing. No other tire company uses this term or something similar. Supposedly “Wide Trail” tires are designed for i30-35mm rims but that doesn’t mean they won’t work fine on other rim widths. Any 2.4 tire will reasonably work with i20-35 rims with the center of that range (i25-30 rims) being the best balance of weight vs performance. The Spur comes with “Wide Trail” Dissector and Rekon tires on i25 rims. Many bike companies put 2.4 Maxxis “Wide Trail” tires on i25 rims. I rode 2.4 Maxxis Ardents on i20 rims for many years.

      I wouldn’t hesitate to put a 2.6 “Wide Trail” tire on an i25 rim. If I owned an Epic EVO, I would be using a 2.6 Rekon on the front because the 29×2.6 Rekon 60tpi/Dual/EXO/TR/860gm is my all time favorite Trail tire—the perfect balance of grip, weight, rolling resistance, and durability. If a 2.6 Rekon would fit on the back I would put one there also. But, given the rear frame clearance of the Epic EVO, I would probably go for the 2.4 Rekon on the back. However, the 2.4 Dissector on the front is also an excellent choice—slightly more grippy than the 2.6 Rekon and also just a bit slower rolling but similar in durability and weight.

      If I bought a new Epic Evo, I would put the stock front tire on the back and just save the stock rear tire for an emergency spare. A 2.6 Rekon or 2.4 Dissector would go on the front. When the stock previously front now rear tire crapped out (which might not be long given how light it is), I would then install a 2.4 Rekon on the rear.

      Sorry—maybe too much information—but I’m a tire junkie. I just can’t help myself. In my opinion, getting the perfect tire for where and how you ride is the most important improvement you can can make for your bike. Stock tires are seldom the best tires for where and how you ride. In my opinion, 29×2.4-2.6 tires that weight 825-950gms on i25-30 rims is the ideal setup for Trail riding. For the average Trail rider, this is the sweet spot where flotation, weight, durability, rolling resistance, and grip come together to provide the best riding experience.

    • #581361

      Thanks that helps. Tires have always confused me. I settled on Ardent races on my old 26″and threw on an old Nevegal on front for rougher trips. That seemed to work ok for my riding.

      The epic Evo stock tires are comparable but the rear one is lacking in anything not hardpack. I’ve actually found little fault with the front ground control thus far.

      My plan had been to keep this setup until a trip, where I’d change the front tire and move the ground control to the rear. Looking into Rekon/Dissector or perhaps one of the Specialized ones as they’re relatively solid value.

      Thanks for the help. The rim size did scare me off a bit since I wasn’t sure it’d maintain tire shape.

    • #581381

      Your welcome. I’ve now had a chance to test ride the Epic EVO and the Spur. I preferred the Spur over the Epic EVO but both are great bikes. I just bought my 13 yo son a new Ibis Ripley AF (aluminum). Loving these short travel 29ers!

    • #581382

      Interesting! What were the main differences? I think the other site DC reviews had the Spur as the more stable descender which makes sense.

    • #581389

      While the Epic Evo and Spur appear quite similar on paper, a short test ride shows that they are quite different. I would now describe the Epic Evo as a Marathon (long distance) XC Race bike and the Spur as a super-light-weight Trailbike.

      The Epic Evo retains it’s XC roots. The bike puts the rider in the classic XC position with low handlebars, and a rider position over the front wheel. The general feeling is being on top of the bike. The Epic Evo feels stiff but spindly. It comes with 2.3 XC tires. I tried sizing up but the size-XL was just too big for me. So, my size-up trick would not work. The stand-over was too high and the seattube was too long.

      The Spur is all Trailbike. The handle bars are higher with the front wheel being forward of the rider. The general feeling is being inside the bike. The Spur feels robust. It comes with what I think are nearly ideal 2.4 Dissector/Rekon Trail tires. There was no doubt in my mind that the Spur would be a better descender.

      I bought my son the Ripley AF because it has nearly identical geo to the Spur and was an amazing value. At $3000, it comes with very good spec considering it is not a mail-order bike. I felt lucky to get a Ripley AF given the current bike shortage. I’m giving the Ripley AF the Best Value Budget Bike Award for 2021. Unfortunately, I could not find a size-L for me to test ride. So, I can’t compare the Ripley AF to the other bikes. We even got lucky with tires. We were allowed to trade away the the too heavy/slow-rolling Enduro tires the bike came with for some lighter/faster-rolling 2.4 Rekon Race tires at no extra charge. I would have preferred the regular Rekons but these tires will do for now.

    • #581391

      Interesting thoughts. I couldn’t find a spur anywhere but that jives with the reviews. Agreed that the seat post is too high on the Evo. I tend to think tires will help it feel more grounded descending as well.

      It’s great to have all these options. It’s hard for me to see much value in a heavier trail bike given this evolving bike class.

    • #592883

      This thread was the single most useful resource for me as I started my search for a new bike.  My interests are similar to you, @Mann but the key difference is that I haven’t seriously riden MTB in 20 years and my last MTB was a Giant Warp from the 90’s.  I rode a Giant Reign 2 summers ago through some rugged singletrack and had a grin on my face for a month.

      I’m really having a hard time deciding between aggressive XC (Epic Evo, Blur TR) or the trail rider’s XC bike (Ripley AF, Tallboy, Optic, Izzo, etc..).

      I’ve secured a pre-order for the Izzo Core 2 but plan to cancel.  Would love to hear your thoughts now after having had more time with the Epic Evo.  Do you find it burly enough and the suspension “serious” enough for your more “rowdy” days?  You said your riding was 95% XC, I think mine will probably be more like 75% XC, 25% more rugged “trail”.  I keep coming back to the Ripley AF but the Optic and the Devinci Django GX12 S have incredible spec for the price but both are 140 up front and 120/125 in the back and worried it’ll be too much bike.  Then again, I have no idea what I’m talking about. haha

      , any further thoughts on the Ripley AF now that your son has had it for longer?



    • #592884

      And now the news on the new Spark 900 series.  Updated geometry sounds VERY interesting.

    • #593028

      @ D2DBB

      The Ripley AF has been a great bike for my 13 yo son. Before he got the AF, I was always waiting for him on the trail. Now, he’s always ahead and waiting on me. It’s clear that a good quality bike can vastly improve riding ability.

      We’ve had a few new “Downcountry” bikes come out since the previous post.

      Santa Cruz Blur TR
      Scott Spark RC
      Pivot Trail 429

      I’m particularly fond of the new Blur TR and that might be a bike to consider. I was able to test ride one and liked it. Even though, I still think that the Spur has the best geometry.

      I’ve got a Spur on order but I likely won’t see one till the fall. Very hard to get! The Ripley AF is essentially a heavier aluminum version of the Spur.

    • #597832

      Sorry, just saw this!

      –  I have no regrets with the Epic Evo at all. I love that machine. In fact, I did an XC race series locally (first one ever) as it was such an enjoyable and fast bike. I have the aforementioned Dissector/Rekon tire combo on there now, and the speed/traction combo is addicting. (I go with lighter tires for XC events). The bike is pretty easy to dress up or dress down for XC vs. trail riding.

      I find the suspension to be plenty adequate for my rowdier days, but YMMV. It still is an “XC tune”  suspension so it leans on the firm side to give an efficient pedaling platform. It has handled the roughest stuff I’ve gone on; if anything, I simply need to pick lines more carefully.

      I would have no problem recommending the Ripley or Spur or new Trail 429 either, though I have no experience on them (Blur TR looks great as well). I would imagine they would be more the light bike for trail riders, whereas the Epic Evo feels more like the aggressive bike for XC riders. I was very wary of going too heavy, so the EE fit the perfect spot for me. Others might fear going too light and opt for Spur/Ripley/Trail 429. All will likely be awesome.

      I personally have questions about the no-ventilation Spark rear shock. That makes me nervous. It looks amazing, though.

      Sorry for the delay, and I hope this helps!

    • #597840

      I just test rode the new $4700 Stumpjumper Carbon Comp. Which is what I would call a long-travel (130r/140f) Downcountry bike because it has a single-pivot-flex-stay suspension like most DC bikes. The geo on the SJ is what I consider about perfect and the suspension is supple yet efficient. The SJ comes with all SLX and Fox which is also excellent. However, the big downside is that the bike weighs 32 pounds which isn’t much lighter than the 34 pound $3300 Ibis Ripley AF. 32 pounds is not what I would call Downcountry light. A lighter set of rubber might drop up to 300gm off the SJ. Why buy the the SJ when the RAF is equipped about the same but doesn’t weigh much more. I guess I’m still holding out for a Spur.

      • #598065

        That’s heavy!

        A big reason why I went epic Evo. I’m running Dissector/Rekon at ~27 lbs right now in large frame without many other weight savings upgrades. (could easily shave off grams with carbon wheels, new cassette, cranks, etc.)

        The new SID forks are quite good IMO as well. I don’t think anyone would call them supple but they are more than adequate for most of the “downcountry” style trails.

    • #598289

      Interesting to hear all these as Im in the market for a downcountry bike.  Want something that i could do the odd marathon or XC race on, but this would also be my only FS bike so need something capable of the odd bigger rowdier adventure.

      My one worry with the Epic Evo, as it seems to fit the bill, is longevity if id do some rowdier riding on it.  Im cerainly not pushing podium places.  Just wonder if teh Spur will give me a bit more range of riding.

      I see you tried out the Blur TR.  How did that compare to the Spur anf the Epic Evo.  Did it split the difference betwen the two.  My one worry with this bike would be the reach, as rasing the front end to 120 makes it quite short in th reach compared to the Spur.  Perhaps may need to size up to XL but that may then be too big in the wheelbase?

      Also issue is with supply being so crap I cant actually try any of these bikes out

      • #599523

        The EE is less progressive than the Spur, Ripley, but it’s a matter of a few small degrees. The bigger difference to me outside of front center is the lower front end. Many EE owners add riser bars or a shorter stem to effectively increase the stack, and shift away from the XC race feel that it can shift towards.

        I have ridden mine hard for ~1500 miles on XC, trail, and some downhill park stuff. I’m not crazy aggressive but rock gardens, jumps, and the occasional drop are regular occurrences. I’m not concerned about it’s durability at all.

        I do think the Ripley/Spur types will feel slightly more grounded on descents. But you can possibly find an Epic Evo in stock or used for 1-2K less than the others. The others will have less inventory and higher prices.

        I would consider the trails that make up the bulk of your riding and go from there. If I lived in Moab, I would have steered towards more trail-y downcountry bikes. I don’t, and the Epic Evo is fast, efficient, capable, and awesome.

    • #598550

      As I stated above, the best way to understand how progressive the geometry of bike is is to use the front center. Here is the front-center of some size-L bikes I have ridden.

      S. Epic Evo 756mm
      S.C. Blur TR 778mm
      T. Spur 784mm
      I. Ripley AF 785mm
      S. Stumpjumper 796mm
      T. Full Stache 802mm(size-XL)

      I’m 5’9′ and the Full Stache(size-XL with saddle pushed full forward and 35mm stem) is my current bike and I love the geo. I have test ridden all the bikes above and they all fit the same. I consider the Full Stache and Stumpjumper to have ideal Trailbike geo and I honestly wish that all the other bikes on this list had ~800mm front centers. I would put the Epic Evo in the XC-Marathon category. The Spur, Blur TR, and Ripley AF go in the “in-between Downcountry” category. I would pick the Spur if you want a bike that is light enough to race XC but still be Trailbike capable and versatile. Check out “Clint Gibbs” on Youtube. He did some excellent reviews on the Spur with both the stock tires and with XC tires.

    • #598671

      Actually, I screwed up and gave you the front center for the size-XL Blur TR. The front center for the size-L Blur TR is 747mm which puts the the Blur TR in the XC-Marathon category.

    • #607345

      Excellent thread, I learned a lot! I am looking for a similar spec like outlined in the original post. Leaning a bit more towards gnarlier trail. I also was pulled towards the Ripley and Neuron. Based on the advise given here I wonder if the Canyon Spectral CF is a better fit as candidate. It offers quite a bit more progressive geometry and would even allow to upsize to L as the seat tube length is also a bit shorter. I am 5’10” and was able to ride a Neuron M and that felt fairly small. Any opinion is greatly appreciated.

    • #607424

      I’ve got to say that I came from longer more ‘progressive’ bikes and found them to be oil tankers. Most bikes are just too long in every way now.  Everyone wants to go downhill like their in a YouTube video but unless your on your parents insurance and live in the Cascades that’s not likely.

      Designers tried to move the front axel forward to make the bikes more slack for downhill.  So they slackened the heat tube angle. Then they pushed the front axel further away from the bottom bracket and made the reach longer.  The the top tube was way too long so they made the seat tube angle steeper.   They say “puts you in a better position for climbing” but if that were true mountain stage Tour De France bikes would be built this way, besides riders have been moving forward on their seats for years. Now the front center is way too long with the long reach and slack HTA and you can’t really shorten the back so the whole bike winds up being too long.

      Stable is the opposite of maneuverable. We’ve wound up with less maneuverable bikes because everything is a down scalded downhill bike now. Sure, if your focus is bombing downhills and 8′ gaps a very stable (and not maneuverable) bike is just for you.

      Another thing about these long reach bikes is that out of the saddle you just cannot weight the front end properly by standing on the pedals. You have to support your body weight by getting over the bars and that’s just not good form.  Heavy feet, light hands.

      One review of the Yeti SB130 said “is this bike for you? it depends on how many pushups you can do”.   The Transition Spur is basically a downhill bike with XC suspension.  This makes as much sense as a Baja 1000 truck with track suspension being entered in a GT sportscar race.


      I wound up getting an Epic Evo because it’s somewhere in between modern geo and a more traditional bike.

    • #607687


      I don’t agree with @taxonomy. Longer travel allows easier travel over rougher surfaces. Slacker geo allows more stability at faster speeds on steeper terrain and also allows harder braking because it is more difficult to go over the bars. If you ride a lot of high-speed steep terrain that is fairly smooth a progressive geo Downcountry bike would be ideal. There isn’t a right or wrong here. It’s a combination of what you prefer mixed with what trails you ride. I could probably be happy on 100r/120f travel bike as long as it had about a 800mm front center. I prefer light-weight short-travel progressive-geo bikes. My rides often involve just about every type of surface: pavement, gravel, doubletrack, and singletrack from smooth/flat to rough/steep. I want light-weight fast-rolling efficient pedaling for the smooth/flat and climbing—combined with all out capability for the steep/rough and descending. I think that the Downcountry bike fills this niche perfectly.

    • #607716

      Hey all,


      In my experience a few things are true

      1. Every bike change is in some ways a concession.
      2. What matters most is your trails and your riding style in determining the best type of bike for you.
      3. You still need a bike that fits your body.

      you describe the geometry changes fairly well. However describing those changes doesn’t necessarily make them bad changes. In general, the slacker and longer approach creates a more balanced platform for climbing and descending. However you are correct that if you go too big or too slack, especially for your trails or body type, you’ll have a less maneuverable bike. It will take more effort at times to weight the front wheel or to handle a tight technical turn. I recommend Lee McCormack’s stuff on bike sizing as he focuses on bike handling.

      That being said, not everyone needs the newest geo for their riding style or trails. Stuff like the Neuron can provide a comfortable and familiar platform for many.

      @knurrli I learned a lot from this discussion too. I think the most helpful thing is to determine the range of bike trails you’ll ride before picking the bike. The Spectral 29 looks like a great bike with great geo, but it’s more of an all mountain bike. If you are more concerned with comfortable climbing and having a lot of bike on the way down for larger features, it’d be nice. But it’s really different than a short travel bike. If you are looking to do longer rides, or fast XC style laps, the extra travel and weight will affect you in the long run. For me, I ruled that out. I didn’t want extra bike on my 4th 8-10% climb of the day 🙂 But if I was getting a bigger bike, the Spectral would be on the list.

      The epic Evo has handled all the downs and tech effectively (Moab, bike parks, etc.) and been a fast and efficient bike for bigger or faster rides (XC race, etc.). That’s the range that worked for me.

    • #608466

      My youngest brother recently got hooked on biking. He mentioned he likes the Epic Evo just glad to hear it is also recommended here. We’ll finish installing the headache rack and tonneau covers on the truck this week, and he’ll have a reasonable budget for a nice bike.

    • #615868

      @Bike Nerd, you say you’re obsessed with tires so I’d love your advice.  I’m looking to get a faster rolling tire for my Ripley AF.  I currently have DHRII in the back and Dissector up front.  I was going to put Rekon in the back but I REALLY want tanwalls.  Rekon’s and Nobby Nic’s seem to be unavailable anywhere here in Canada and won’t be back in stock until early 2023!  The only thing I seem to be able to get my hands on would be the Ardent for the back and then I could do a DHRII or DHFII for the front.  My riding is mostly flowy single-track with a mix of surfaces…dirt, gravel, lots of rock gardens.  I’m in the East so not wet like the PNW.  Any suggestions, would the Ardent’s be too XC oriented?  Much appreciated!

    • #615882

      @Bike Nerd, add the Specialized Butchers (2.3 or 2.6) and Ground Controls (2.35) to the list (maybe GC in back and Butch up front).  Thoughts on that?  I could order those right now.

    • #615953

      Sorry for the spam guys. Wound up ordering 2.6 Butcher for front and 2.35 Ground Control for rear. Thanks!

    • #617489

      I tried the 2.4 Dissector/2.4 Rekon combo which I liked because the Dissector rolls fast. However, the Dissector is not a very good front tire because it is twitchy and washes out on turns easily. It takes a lot of leaning to get the side knobs to engage. However, it would make a great rear tire.

      My current favorite tire combo is the 2.6 Rekon/2.4 Rekon. The 2.6 Rekon is a much better front tire. It rolls almost as fast as the Dissector but corners much better.

      @ B2DBB, I looks like you did something similar with the Specialized tires you choose.

    • #623467

      Circling back here, bike nerd is correct that you gotta lean the Dissector for proper cornering… But if you do, it rewards you very very well. I would not write that off as a front tire.

    • #623649

      I hated the 2.4 Dissector so much as a front tire that I removed it while it was only slightly worn and almost new. Total waste of money! The Dissector performs so inconsistently that it is useless. I’ve never had a front tire wash out on turns so often. They just won’t hold a line. Please don’t buy this tire for use as a front tire. Seriously, the 2.4 Rekon with smaller knobs performs better as a front tire.

      I now recommend the 2.6 Rekon or 2.4 Minion DHR as ideal front tires for a Downcountry bike and the 2.4 Rekon and 2.6 Ikon as ideal rear tires. I prefer the 60tpi-Dual Compound-EXO-TR version for all Downcountry tires. These 60tpi-Dual-EXO-TR Downcountry tires roll fast, grip well, corner well, descend well, last forever, and almost never puncture, slice, or tear.

    • #627674

      That’s so interesting. YMMV, I really agreed with it.

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