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Roadie MTB questions


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Some seriously stupid questions from a roadie on mtb design. I have one, it's old. Starting to ride some more mtb of late and contemplating a more recent one. And I'm sure the more I look, the more of these questions will pop up. So I am expecting a lot of KVS comments, just bear with me...


Looking at the web, I am completely confused by all the terms and types of mtb's. What's the diffs between e.g. GT's "all mountain" (Sensor range) and "Trail/Marathon" (Marathon and Sensor ranges, likewise Specialised has the Competitive and Trail versions, both XC, and their "All mountain" looks just shy of a downhill bike. That's just two manufacturers...


Then also, what gets me the most is the curved tubes. Ehh? Looking at the same manufacturers, GT's Force looks great, yet the Sensor has this curve in the top tube. Specialised Stumpjumper has this curved down tube (?) whereas the Epic's is straight. Giant's curved both (on Reign and Trance) vs the Anthem. So what the diffs between the 3 of Giant - as example? Why all these curves? And then, why have two models with the same tubes curved?


And then lastly - these different ways of mounting the rear shocks - what gives? Looks like that is dictated by manufacturer and not type of mountain bike, as I'd have guessed. The one exception I've come across being Scott, where the one range is mounted differently to the other.


No, I have not even started looking at Merida, Cannondale and the rest yet - I am already stumped. Hmmm, so therefore the answer is clear, I need a Stumpjumper!Wink

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okay - let's start at the beginning...


type of bike (Trail, All Mountain, Marathon, Cross Country etc)


generally describes the type of riding it'll be suited to.


Trail bikes - your "middle road" bikes that'll be suited to most types of riding - they're heavier than XC (cross country) bikes, but are still relatively light. They also have a bit more travel than their XC / Marathon counterparts, but not as much travel as an all mountain rig. They're what you'd get if you're still concerned with going quickly uphill, but want something that can handle the jumps a bit easier on the run down. Think of a Jack of all trades... this is it.


XC - generally lighter, less travel and lighter than the rest. Concerned with going as fast as possible up the hills, and generally the domain of hardtails (no back suspension) Would not suit a downhill course due to the smaller amount of travel.


Marathon - Like XC, but generally full suspension as opposed to hardtail due to the need for comfort over the longer riding distances. Think the bikes the pros use to ride the Cape Epic.


All mountain - gnarlier than Trail bikes, more suspension travel and also heavier as a result. Built to take the knocks, and be fast downhill but not that concerned with going up the hills.


Downhill / Freeride - the Grand Daddy of mountain bikes - what all MTB's secretly yearn to be, they laugh in the face of rocks, 3 metre drop-offs and rock-strewn pathways with the fervour of a 6 year old in Hamley's toy store. Lots of suspension travel, dual crown forks (like those you see on motorbikes) and heavy as hell. Show them an uphill, and they'll make you wither and die of shame. Because you should be going down, not up!


Suspension designs - they differ across the manufacturers for a very simple reason - each believes that their design is the best. They are all based on just a few suspension designs, though the utilisation of those designs would differ from manufacturer to manufacturer. For example - both GT and Morewood use a single-pivot design, yet have a look at the difference in the look of the bikes!


They are also all concerned with one thing - minimising pedal bob (the loss of power to the wheels while pedalling that results from the up and down motion of the bike) while maximising suspension travel & efficiency.


Curved tubes: Same as suspension - all manufacturers believe that their way of bending tubes is the best way to maximise strength, rigidity and weight of the frame whilst keeping it visually appealing and usable. Some are hydroformed (shaped by water / oil in order to get a seamless curve that could not be attained by cutting and welding) in order to retain structural strength, whilst others are left tubular in order to be as simple as possible. It's purely down to aesthetics, in most cases.




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I'd go to a shop and chat with the them about the various types of bikes. Sit on them, feel their weight and talk with them about what riding you're planning on doing. Get their advice and then go back to the internet once you've narrowed things down a bit.

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Ad in the Mens Health jan issue -

Ride before you buy - Cape Town

24th Jan 2010

Tokai Forest Clap

8:00 - 15:00

R10 for bicycling subscribers, R20 for non subscribers

bring a helmet (and your fav pedals)

enquiries - 0214081249

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Saw the ad of Ride before you buy, yeah. Considering it very much. It does clash with a road ride I was planning on doing.


Thanks for the feedback, guys. Will definately venture over to some shops - just wanted some background before I wandered in there. And no, I did not even want to start stirring by throwing 29er vs dual suspension in there! Technical skill of a baby elephant, so I need all the help I can get! Ermm


Not set on a specific brand by any means - the Stumpjumper comment was just wordplay - in jest.


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