December 7, 2020 at 18:55 #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!
December 7, 2020 at 20:41 #518791
December 8, 2020 at 16:55 #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)
December 8, 2020 at 18:17 #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.
December 9, 2020 at 00:02 #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.
December 9, 2020 at 12:52 #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).
December 9, 2020 at 14:11 #519741
Also, re:Neuron with the Stoic and Spectral updates, I’m guessing this is the next to get updated.
December 9, 2020 at 16:35 #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.
December 9, 2020 at 19:32 #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.
December 10, 2020 at 11:06 #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.
December 10, 2020 at 12:57 #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.
December 10, 2020 at 17:26 #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.)
December 10, 2020 at 22:40 #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: https://youtu.be/2IWmU55BiLM
But of course right now your biggest hurdle will likely be finding inventory. Could take a few phone calls.
December 11, 2020 at 11:05 #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.
December 11, 2020 at 20:41 #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.
December 12, 2020 at 14:00 #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.
December 12, 2020 at 19:38 #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.
December 13, 2020 at 11:33 #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.
December 13, 2020 at 11:59 #520183
December 14, 2020 at 15:20 #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.
December 14, 2020 at 20:30 #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.
December 15, 2020 at 10:54 #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.
December 15, 2020 at 13:44 #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.
December 15, 2020 at 14:05 #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.
December 15, 2020 at 14:46 #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.
January 3, 2021 at 00:38 #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!
January 4, 2021 at 18:06 #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.
January 5, 2021 at 10:31 #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!
January 12, 2021 at 19:50 #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.
January 19, 2021 at 10:06 #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.
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