June 25, 2020 at 3:32 pm #476603
DOWNHILL + CROSSCOUNTRY = DOWNCOUNTRY If you were wondering where the name came from?
The concept of a Downcountry bike is to take a short-travel light-weight efficient-pedaling XC bike but give it progressive geometry and wider more-aggressive tires. I like the idea! I’m tired of riding heavy slow-rolling bikes and I don’t need a lot of travel. I want a bike to be light, lively, and fast-rolling while still being able to descend confidently
In my “OPINION”, the bike industry as gone down the Enduro rabbit hole of ever longer travel, slacker geometry, burlier tires, and heavier bikes. It’s now not uncommon for $3000-$4000 Trailbikes to weigh upwards of 35 pounds. My $3500 130mm-travel aluminum Trailbike weighs 33.5 pounds. When descending, these modern Trailbikes are amazing. However, when not descending, the weight and the slow-rolling tires just suck the fun out of the flats and the climbs.
Up until recently, there haven’t really been any truly good examples of what a great Downcountry bike could be. However, Specialized just released the 2021 Epic EVO. I saw this bike at my LBS and got to take a parking lot spin. I rode the least expensive $4100 Comp build. It weighs about 26 pounds and has a 66.5 head angle. I would have preferred that the bike had slightly more progressive geo and wider more-aggressive tires but still very nice.
I want one. However, my Trailbike is only 2 years old and is a long way from being worn out or outdated.
What do you think? Is Downcountry a good idea?
Would you buy a Downcountry bike?
June 25, 2020 at 6:51 pm #476628
Being able to ride everything on a hardtail I’d have to say no. 160 front travel min and rear close for next ripper. Although it has to climb like a goat, and all those bikes are soon to come. Tired and old but still shredding ,its gonna be aggressively plush. No reason a 180 travel bike cant climb like a 120
June 26, 2020 at 11:18 am #476692
@ killer climb
Before my current full-sus Trailbike, I rode a 29+ Hardtail for a few years. I enjoyed how light and responsive the Hardtail was but I found the constant pounding of the rear wheel a bit hard on the spine. That’s why I went to full-sus. However, I don’t really need 130mm of travel. 100mm of travel would probably be fine. I need just enough rear travel to ease the pounding you get from a hardtail and I want the rear suspension to be as light and simple as possible which is what you get with an XC or Downcountry bike. Most full-sus XC bikes are just a single pivot with flexible stays design which is about as simple and light-weight as rear suspension can be. I don’t want a multitude of linkages and pivots.
June 26, 2020 at 12:12 pm #476721
Before commenting I just trying to make sure I understand a couple of the points you’re making. When you say progressive geo are there certain aspects you are referring to? As an example, the 66.5 HTA is plenty slack IMO. Where I think the Epic Evo is lacking – at least on paper – is in the 74.5 STA which pales in comparison to other bikes in the 76-77 STA range. Based on that, one might assume the other bikes would climb better yet MBR ranked the Epic Evo Comp as they’re top XC race bike. (Go figure). As for tires, it looks like the Epic comes with Spesh’s 2.3″ GC (F) and 2.3″ FT (R). By “wider, more aggressive” tires are you looking for a different tread pattern and/or how wide do you want to go considering the tradeoffs usually come at the expense of rolling resistance which I believe is what you are trying to avoid?
June 26, 2020 at 1:53 pm #476730
Bike Nerd, I like the concept of what you are sharing here. It sounds like a bike a lot riders would enjoy. Riders like myself that may do some smaller jumps and drops but really just want a capable bike that can be ridden in a variety of places. My trail hardtails seem to do most of what you are saying minus that slight bit of travel in the rear which would make for a more comfortable ride. I don’t know that it has to be a specific build. As I have started to customize my bikes I have tweaked what they are to something that I really like. Feels like a lot of trail bikes or cross-country bikes could be built up to what you want without needing this ‘new’ category of bike. For that price you quoted I could find something close make a few changes and have money left.
June 26, 2020 at 5:01 pm #476789
In my opinion, progressive geo is the best thing to have come out of Enduro bikes. Given a choice, I would have preferred that the Epic Evo had a 66-65 HTA, 76-77 STA, longer reach, and 40mm stem. However, if I bought the EE, I would up-size and then adjust the seat as far forward as possible and put on a 40mm stem. Doing that steepens the STA and increased the reach. I did this when I bought my current Trailbike with similar geo to the EE and doing that worked quite well to make the bike more progressive.
I would be looking for 29×2.4-2.6 tires in the 900 gm range. Here are some tires I would be considering.
29×2.4 Maxxis Minion DHR 3C/EXO/TR 955gm
29×2.5 Teravail Ehline Light & Supple 840 gm
29×2.6 Maxxis Rekon 3C/EXO+/TR 890gm
I live and ride in the Colorado mountains and XC tires don’t work very well here. They don’t deliver enough traction and are easily torn. I definitely need something more grippy and durable than the stock tires. I’m fond of wider tires and the 2.6 Rekon would likely be my first choice and with the EXO+ casing, I think they would hold up well. Finding that perfect combination of wide, durable, and grippy but light-weight and fast-rolling is a balancing act.
June 26, 2020 at 5:48 pm #476795
The 2021 Epic Evo is pretty unique. It’s the first light-weight XC bike that has progressive geo. Most XC bikes have steep headtubes and very long stems. There are some 120mm progressive-geo Trailbikes like the Santa Cruz Tallboy that are similar to the EE but the affordable $3000-$4000 builds are pretty heavy at 32+ pounds.
I agree that the price of the bike is pretty steep. If a cheaper aluminum EE was available, I would consider it. If I could get an equivalent but cheaper direct-to-consumer bike like the EE, I would also consider that.
Do you think that XC, Downcountry, Trail, All-Mountain, Enduro, and Downhill are too many categories? Did I miss any? If all XC bikes would get on the progressive geo/wider tire bandwagon, we could eliminate “Downcountry”.
June 26, 2020 at 8:42 pm #476807
I am currently trying to go down a similar road. I sold my 34 lb. Enduro bike to purchase a new Tallboy 4 frame. I am expecting my custom build to be around 28/29 lbs. The only issue is my frame is now two weeks over due. I don’t ride any trails with extended rough sections, and I need all the climbing efficiency I can get. I hope you can find a bike that fits your needs. I myself like the idea of downcountry.
June 27, 2020 at 3:59 pm #476858
I was thinking about how you could keep your bike light without doing the obvious things like buying the most expensive drivetrain or buying a lot of carbon fiber parts. Here are some ideas.
Ditch the dropper post and use a regular light-weight fixed post. I don’t use a dropper post and I’m okay with it.
Use a lighter 120mm XC fork instead of a heavier 130mm Trail fork. The new 120mm Rock Shox SID with 35mm stanchions looks very good and is fairly light.
Use inner width i25-27mm rims instead of the typical i30-35 rims that most Trailbikes come with. You can reasonably use up to a 2.6 tire on an i25 rim.
Pick the lightest fastest-rolling tire that you think you can get away with. Don’t reflexively choose an Enduro tire like the Maxxis Minions. However, if you do need an Enduro tire, try to get the narrower 2.3-2.4 widths with the lighter casings. Get only as much tire as you need. You can see my tire picks above.
Reducing outer-wheel weight (tires, rims, tubes, sealant, rim strips) is the best place to reduce weight. However, super-light hubs don’t impart much advantage. A heavy bike with light wheels is better than a light bike with heavy wheels. If you’re going to spend money on carbon fiber parts (cranks, handlebar, seatpost, stem) get carbon fiber rims first. Think of it like this. A pound of outer wheel weight equals three pounds of frame weight.
Doing all of these things could save a few pounds.
June 27, 2020 at 8:32 pm #476888
There will be some engineering and a custom on this line if I do another moderate squish. Seat tube angle, BB height, reach and caster angle will be paid close attention. In the end, moderate weight will follow. And, no, I cannot forgo sliding dropouts.
Wheelset will be chosen part by part and I will lace em since that is my relaxation going into a build anyway. Don’t want someone else’s cooties on em. That list of components will need some review and study prior to decision.
Meanwhile, the RSD Wildcat V1 is serving well with 150 front and 140 rear, i45’s and light 3.0’s cause I don’t want more minus tires in the fleet.
June 28, 2020 at 11:52 am #476955
I’m a big fan of Plus tires but not of the traditional 3.0 tire on an i45 rim. I like 2.8 tires on i30-35 rims or 2.6 tires on i25-30 rims. By going to slightly narrower tires and much narrower rims, you save a lot of weight but still retain most of the benefits of the 3.0 tire. In my opinion, the best reason to run the 3.0/i45 combo is that you ride in a lot of deep sand and want maximum flotation or you ride a full-rigid bike and want maximum “tire suspension”.
If I could build my ideal custom Downcountry bike. It would have 100m travel front and rear, progressive geo, i30 rims, and frame/fork clearance for 2.8 tires. That way I could use any tire width from 2.2 to 2.8 but I would most likely run 2.6-2.8.
June 29, 2020 at 11:54 am #477239
Downcountry or “all-country” is definitely the hot concept for 2021 bikes. Transition is teasing a release in the category, and I have it on good authority that another brand will be announcing a new downcountry bike this week.
June 29, 2020 at 2:24 pm #477277
I am also in Colorado and one of my all-time favorite bikes was a 2008 Pivot Mach 429 with several “downcountry” upgrades.
· Shorter stem and wider bars – This is pretty much required on any older bike and the 50mm stem and 725mm bars did improve the fit and handling of the bike.
· Bigger fork – Going from a 100mm Fox 32 to a 120mm Fox 34 totally changed the character of the Mach 429.
· Wider rims – Replacing the 21mm rims with a 27mm rear / 30mm front combo provided a significant increase in all-around traction. I ran 29 x 2.3 Specialized tires (Grid rear / Control front) but if I still had the bike I’m sure I would be on something a little wider on the front.
· Dropper post – This was one of my last upgrades and is not a must-have for me. I had a Fox DOSS on the bike and having 3 settings was really nice on the Mach 429.
I rode the Mach 429 on at least 20 of the Singletracks Top 100 trails, always had a blast, and never felt like I needed more bike. The upgrades I made moved the bike from XC toward Trail, which seems to be the point of “Downcountry.”
The new crop of more capable 100mm 29ers is pretty sweet but for Colorado, I would probably choose a 120mm Trail bike.
There are some interesting videos comparing the new Ibis Ripmo and Ripley. Perhaps Jeff can give us a back to back comparison between the Epic Evo and the Stumpjumper ST.
June 29, 2020 at 4:54 pm #477315
“Downcountry” (gah, I really hate that term)/ aggressive XC/ light trail/ upduro/ crossduro/ cross-funtry, etc., started dominating the conversation last year, as basically a way to describe more capable cross country bikes or bikes that climb like XC bikes and descend like trail bikes. Last year alone that were numerous releases that fell into the category – the Salsa Spearfish, Spot Ryve, Pivot Mach 4 SL, Yeti SB100 (2018), Norco Revolver, the Evil Following V2 and Cannondale Scalpel SE2 as of this year, and a whole lot of others.
Many of these, Pivot/ Spot/ Yeti/ Evil have a combination of light weight and are rather capable – I think the Epic Evo was actually late to the game in this regard. Being a direct-to-consumer brand, Spot actually kills it here in terms of value, although I don’t think it was the most capable one I’ve ridden in the past year or two. (Review).
It’ll be cool to see what Transition offers with their new bike. Their Smuggler which has been on the market for years (120/140 29er) has always appealed to me.
Here in Colorado, I hate lugging around enduro bikes, and have really enjoyed more capable XC and trail bikes lately. I think they’re here to stay for sure.
June 29, 2020 at 5:01 pm #477317
Thanks for the heads up! I’ll be looking for these bikes.
Here my prescription for an ideal Downcountry bike.
—XC frame. Light-weight. Efficient Pedalling. 100-120mm rear travel. Simple “single pivot with flexible stays” rear suspension design.
—Progressive geometry. 66-65 HTA. 76-77 STA. Long reach. 40-50mm stem.
—Light-weight. 100-120mm XC fork.
—Inner width i27-28mm rims
—Fast-rolling but durable. 29×2.5-2.6 tires. ~900gm each. (The 890gm 29×2.6 Maxxis Rekon 3C/EXO+/TR is a good example.)
—27 pounds or less in a $3000-$4000 build.
If any of the new Downcountry bikes come fairly close to my prescription, I’m likely to buy a new bike. Right now, the $4100 Specialized Epic EVO Comp has my attention but I could be swayed by another Downcountry bike the has better geometry, wider rims and tires, or lower price.
This is the type of bike I would recommend to any beginner or average-Joe Mountainbike rider first before recommending any modern heavy mini-Enduro Trailbike.
June 29, 2020 at 9:08 pm #477355
June 29, 2020 at 11:14 pm #477374
June 30, 2020 at 12:34 am #477384
You listed a lot of bikes that in my opinion don’t really quite hit the mark. There are XC bikes that have a 120mm fork and more aggressive tires but not progressive geometry or clearance for 2.6 tires like the old Epic Evo. And, there are progressive-geo short-travel Trailbikes that weight 32+ pounds in the affordable $3000-$4000 builds like the Santa Cruz Tallboy. I’m not married to anything in particular— rim width or rear suspension design or anything else. However, I am looking for these things. $3000-$4000 builds that weight 27 pounds or less. Truly progressive geo. Frame/fork clearance for at least a 2.6 tire and a rim width that will work with a 2.6 tire.
If you look above at my prescription for an ideal Downcountry bike, I made most of my choices as a way to minimize weight but keep it affordable. You could probably use any light-weight 120mm Trailbike frame, like the Ibis Ripley, to build up a decent Downcountry bike. However, most XC bikes have the “single pivot with flexible stays” design because it’s the lightest.
June 30, 2020 at 9:28 am #477463
@bikenerd, fair on that being a good way to shave grams on the frame weight. The new Epic Evo just seems behind the power curve on geo – short in reach and wheel base for a 2020 bike. Weight does seem like the hardest thing to balance on these new short travel bikes. Are they made to be lightweight XC climbers, or hold up to actual demands on the trail?
The new Revel Ranger looks pretty sweet as well.
June 30, 2020 at 12:47 pm #477513
The new Transition Spur Downcountry bike just hit the internet. It ticks nearly all of my boxes, especially geometry, for a great Downcountry bike. Unfortunately, the cheapest build is $5000.
The new Yeti SB115 also came out today. But, I think it missed the mark geometry wise. I don’t want old school XC geometry.
At this time, the Spur appears to be the best “right out of the box” Downcountry bike. However, I would be more likely to buy the Epic EVO because it has a more affordable $4100 build.
I’m hoping that more Downcountry bikes come out soon!
June 30, 2020 at 1:51 pm #477550
@ Matt Miller
At XC races, XC bikes stand up to a huge amount of abuse. I’ve got an 11 year old full-sus XC bike that has 30,000+ miles on it and besides re-spoking the rear wheel and doing normal maintenance, it’s still going strong. So I don’t expect Downcountry bikes to have failure problems. A large heavy person who rides a Downcountry bike like it’s an Enduro bike might experience more frame/fork flex than might be desirable. For the rest of us, I wouldn’t expect a problem. I’m eager for some ride reviews to find out. We shouldn’t expect a Downcountry bike to perform like a burly Enduro bike. A Downcountry does make some compromises to stay light.
June 30, 2020 at 2:07 pm #477562
@ Matt Miller (again)
I don’t necessarily love the Downcountry name either. So let’s just call it a DC bike!
June 30, 2020 at 4:06 pm #477605
@bikenerd, haha fair enough. Most of the modern components coming out these days have been very tough, even on OEM specs.
Bummer that the Spur starts that high. Interesting that they went single-pivot on this also, instead of using the Horst like on all their other bikes. You’re right on the Yeti – they missed the mark on the 115 and seems like they made a new bike just to have something to put out this summer. Epic Evo definitely looks worth a ride!
- Downcountry vs Trail: Will Downcountry bikes make Trailbikes obsolete?
- 3 days, 11 hours ago
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