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Front suspension v. Full Suspension v. No Suspension

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 
I am currently riding a Cannondale Alpine series bike. In the day (late 80s), this was the bomb. It has no suspension. It is VERY light aluminum. I keep it in very good condition. Every year, I change the cables, brakes and tires. It gets a complete tune 2x/year. The Shimano encore still shifts very smoothly. There are two concerns: 1) It has only 18 gears; 2) It rides stiff! I also have a 2004 KHS Trail (full suspension)...Crap, when compared to my Cannondale. Do I spring for a new bike, or keep these two for Wasatch trails? Do I go with a Cannondale Jekyll/Scalpel, or F600?
What do you guys like for mountain trail riding (No suspension, front suspension or full suspension)? Also, doe you like disc brakes? I guess they are better when the tires get muddy, but Vs stop just as godd.
post #2 of 24
I ride front suspension, if I had to do it all over again I might go for a shorter travel full suspension setup (Ellsworth Truth perhaps). I wish I knew what Wasatch trails were like or what you value when you're on a bike so I can't recommend full v. front susp. I'd at least go with either of those unless you're throwin it way back to a singlespeed rig. For the same price point the frame on the hardtail will probably trump the FS setup.
Discs are getting better and better and def worth a look. It can be expensive to upgrade later. Most forks are compatible, but you're looking at new hubs/rims/brakes/ levers etc.
Just remember, bikes are like skis, you gotta get out there and try things. An awesome bike could be crap for you.
post #3 of 24
If you can get gonzo to reply, he is a wealth of info on MTBs.

FWIW, I understand that moly-steel frames have a lot more flex than aluminium & are a more comfortable ride. A moly-steel frame without suspension is more likely to be lighter than and alu frame with suspension. Most bicycle couriers here in Sydney seem to be on moly-steel frame bikes - must say something.
post #4 of 24
Current steeds:
Intense Tracer Frame
XTR 8 speed drivetrain
Mavic Crossmax Xl's
Thomson post and stem
Marzocchi Atom 100 race
Monkey lite Carbon bar
Hope Minis Front and rear
Koobi Au Enduro saddle
various rubber

Specialized Enduro Comp Frame
XTR 8 speed drivetrain
Avid Mechanical discs front and rear
Marzocchi FR SL
Thomson post and stem
Monkey lite bar
Fizik saddle
Different wheel set ups (usually stick with my Mavic XL's)
post #5 of 24
I could use some advice here too, as I might soon have to get one of those things, not an expensive one mind you, but just something more suited to trail riding.

I am currently riding the ten-speed race bike I inherited from my dad. I find that I have to go very slow over rocks so as not to bend the rims, and the mud traction leaves a lot to be desired, but the weight advantage (and my daughter's good sense) let's me keep ahead of my daughter on her mountain bike.

I've tried both front suspension only and dual suspension, having bought two relatively cheap mountain bikes for my daughter (the first one got stolen). I have the attitude that the less there is on a bike, the less can go wrong. I also find that rear suspension can sometimes make it harder to apply real torque to the back wheel on very steep ascents. I'm not sure why, but it seems like the suspension compresses instead of me going ahead.

PS, the seat on my 10-speed should be outlawed by the Geneva convention.
post #6 of 24
Taxman thanks for the kind words.

The Q boils down to one of comfort and riding goals.

If your goal is to become a highly proficient rider, smooth through extremely rough technical terrain, I would suggest minimizing the amount of suspension you bring to your riding.

The downside to that approach is that it's less comfortable while you are learning how to be smooth.

On the other hand, if all you want is to be comfortable while riding dirt, a full suspension rig is your best bet... IF your terrain is rough enough to warrant it.

Something that most folks don't realize or consider is the effect of larger volume tires with thicker casings. Such tires add effective suspension to your ride and can smooth out quite a lot of trail roughness. But as with all cycling-related things, there's again a downside. These tires are heavier and take more energy to overcome their inertia. They can feel tiring to climb long, steep climbs.

Also, FS designs tend to carry an engineering penalty in the price tag. An affordable/inexpensive FS bike is not going to perform well. You have to pay enough to get a good design before the true benefit of FS makes riding and economic sense.

Those are some basic thoughts on MTBs generally.

As to components, if you ride where it's relatively flat and you don't encounter wet very much, stick with V-brakes. But if you ride lots of hills or through adverse weather or even lots of wet/mud in trail, discs are far superior. The price of a good Avid Mechanical disc brake is comparable to V-Brakes. However, the wheels must have disc brake hubs on them for this "comparable" comment to be true. If you have rim brake hubs you will need to buy new wheels or at least new hubs to build into new wheels.

Suspension forks are getting so darned good at performing even at the less expensive models that I would urge you to get a suspension fork on the front of the bike.

Any specific frame, frame design, or component Qs feel free to ask back here or send me a PM.

also, don't forget about http://www.MTBR.com
post #7 of 24
Some more advice. Go to your local bike shop, or better yet, do some comparison work, and go to several LBSs, and ask them the questions above.

The LBS will know the the trails and the areas where you ride, the conditions, etc., etc. They'll ask you what kind of riding you do, and what you aspire to do. Then take their answers and insights, and do some research, ask some quesitons on here, etc.
post #8 of 24
I agree with all of the above. It depends on what type of trails you want to ride and how aggressive you want to be. This is why (just like skis) people have a few different bikes for different trail conditions. I mostly ride XC and have a Gary Fisher Sugar 2+ with disc brakes and a Marz MXC fork. I set my rear shock very stiff and slow, so the bike climbs very well, but is a bit more harsh on faster downhill sections. I don't do much in the way of big rocks and nasty DH because this bike would not do well on it, and we don't have much of that here anyway. Another big advantage of disc brakes is that if your wheel gets knocked out of true, it doesn't have any effect on braking. I busted a couple of spokes once, and my wheel was all over the place, but I was able to ride out because I didn't have to worry about the brake rubbing the rim. I had normal braking and there were some steep hills on the way out.

Note that if you want to be a very aggressive rider, the bike you would use for DH (heavy, big travel bike) would be the polar opposite of what you would use for XC (light, small travel, possibly hard tail). A lot like the difference between powder skis and carving skis.
post #9 of 24
great analogies, John. if you don't mind I'll leap off from there, assuming a nice front suspension fork on all bikes:

Aluminum hardtails are like SL racing sticks. They transmit everything including your mistakes.

Steel hardtails are like Metron B:5, doing everything surprisingly better than you ever imagined. Forgiving in a way you can't quite describe, they also respond surprisingly well for something that doesn't punish you so badly.

Short travel FS (up to 4") are like wide-ish midfats of up to 80mm waist. Good for getting through any bit of roughness, also doing well on the groomers (smooth dirt trails).

Mid-travel FS (4"-6") are the true midfats of 85-95mm waist. You lug around more bike than you might need for groomers but when the trail gets full of crud, your float is improved!

Full-on FR/DH rigs are the hard-charging sticks for people who ride bikes like Seth Morrison or Bode Miller skis. You can use them at any level, but you waste an awful lot of money and technology if you don't have top skills AND top cojones.

Then there's the question of suspension feel. I'll save that one for another time.
post #10 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by gonzostrike
great analogies, John. if you don't mind I'll leap off from there, assuming a nice front suspension fork on all bikes:

Aluminum hardtails are like SL racing sticks. They transmit everything including your mistakes.

Steel hardtails are like Metron B:5, doing everything surprisingly better than you ever imagined. Forgiving in a way you can't quite describe, they also respond surprisingly well for something that doesn't punish you so badly.

Short travel FS (up to 4") are like wide-ish midfats of up to 80mm waist. Good for getting through any bit of roughness, also doing well on the groomers (smooth dirt trails).

Mid-travel FS (4"-6") are the true midfats of 85-95mm waist. You lug around more bike than you might need for groomers but when the trail gets full of crud, your float is improved!

Full-on FR/DH rigs are the hard-charging sticks for people who ride bikes like Seth Morrison or Bode Miller skis. You can use them at any level, but you waste an awful lot of money and technology if you don't have top skills AND top cojones.

Then there's the question of suspension feel. I'll save that one for another time.
Great descriptions. To answer your question, just like the skis, you need the whole quiver. The same formula for skis can be used to figure out how many bikes you need: (n+1); where n is the number of bikes you currently own.
post #11 of 24
oy.

I won't have anything to do with an Aluminum hardtail. I owned one, that was enough for me. I'm well past that.

if I raced XC at high levels, though, it's what I'd use.

current stable (jeezus am I in bluegrass land or what?) --

FR/DH - Knolly V-Tach, 7.5" travel rear and 8" travel front

mid-travel FS (Trail) - Turner 6-Pack, 6" travel front and rear

XC - steel hardtail gearie, Curtlo custom, 5" travel fork

torture XC - steel hardtail SS, Curtlo custom, 4" travel fork

BMX - Haro Backtrail X2, no friggin' suspension, JACK!

urban tomfoolery - my own custom steel frame, 5" travel fork.
post #12 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by gonzostrike
oy.

I won't have anything to do with an Aluminum hardtail. I owned one, that was enough for me. I'm well past that.

if I raced XC at high levels, though, it's what I'd use.

current stable (jeezus am I in bluegrass land or what?) --

FR/DH - Knolly V-Tach, 7.5" travel rear and 8" travel front

mid-travel FS (Trail) - Turner 6-Pack, 6" travel front and rear

XC - steel hardtail gearie, Curtlo custom, 5" travel fork

torture XC - steel hardtail SS, Curtlo custom, 4" travel fork

BMX - Haro Backtrail X2, no friggin' suspension, JACK!

urban tomfoolery - my own custom steel frame, 5" travel fork.
Gonz,

Aren't you in the business of making frames? I would have suspected you'd be riding your own frames for more than just your urban assault vehicle (and let's be honest, there is no "urban" where you are! )
post #13 of 24
what I've been doing is following my preferred path of getting first hand experience

and in this case I've done it with various designs of bicycles.

as a rookie in the framebuilding field I think it would be silly and possibly dangerous to believe that my first few frames will be of the same quality and caliber as the best available presently.

on top of that, I am not an engineer and have no real interest in designing my own FS rigs. I prefer to let those experienced in that field design that type of bike. I'm not in it for the engineering challenge of suspension physics.

I'm in it more for the quasi-engineering challenge of finding what selection of hardtail geometries performs best for what types of riders and terrain.

and I'm setting about doing that very shortly. design experiments and market analysis are nearly finished.

as to urban, we do have a wee bit of it that we ride mainly as little side-jibs while commuting or running errands by bike.

also, I'm buildling in my yard a perimeter course that is a dirt singletrack with berms, rock gardens, dirt jumps and manmade wooden elevated features. the little urban tomfoolery bike design essentially is a DJ design, but at my advanced age practicing a lot of DJ is a sure way to ending my skiing career. I will do small jumps but nothing that will blow me off balance or land too hard. my ankles and knees can't stand that type of likely torque-inducing falls from height.
post #14 of 24
I rode a Specialized Stumpjumper front suspension for about 10 yrs. I had some mods and it was a great bike, I did not find aluminum that bad. I usually ride cross country single track. Last year I purchased a Specialized Epic, perfect bike for me. I like the feel of a hardtail but it is nice to have the extra cushion. Also does not have the pogo, ect. that I did not like about the full suspension bikes.
post #15 of 24
gobig, your comments are useful because they reflect true experience, but not particularly insightful.

1) if you think an aluminum hardtail "is not that bad," you obviously haven't ever ridden a decent steel or Ti hardtail. there is absolutely, positively NO comparison. any decent seasoned rider can relate to this. but you MUST have some experience with a different metal. if Alu is all you know, it's going to seem "not that bad" because you don't know how much BETTER it can be.

2) "pogo" with FS designs? dude, you are in the dark ages, and/or you pedal squares. the only FS designs that "pogo" are the $225 Wal-Mart pseudo bikes and their ilk. it's been at least 7-8 years since a decent FS rig made at the $1500 and up price range had a "pogo" problem. as a general rule, on a decent modern FS bike, any "pogo" is your bad pedaling technique.
post #16 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by gonzostrike
what I've been doing is following my preferred path of getting first hand experience

and in this case I've done it with various designs of bicycles.

as a rookie in the framebuilding field I think it would be silly and possibly dangerous to believe that my first few frames will be of the same quality and caliber as the best available presently.

on top of that, I am not an engineer and have no real interest in designing my own FS rigs. I prefer to let those experienced in that field design that type of bike. I'm not in it for the engineering challenge of suspension physics.

I'm in it more for the quasi-engineering challenge of finding what selection of hardtail geometries performs best for what types of riders and terrain.

and I'm setting about doing that very shortly. design experiments and market analysis are nearly finished.

as to urban, we do have a wee bit of it that we ride mainly as little side-jibs while commuting or running errands by bike.

also, I'm buildling in my yard a perimeter course that is a dirt singletrack with berms, rock gardens, dirt jumps and manmade wooden elevated features. the little urban tomfoolery bike design essentially is a DJ design, but at my advanced age practicing a lot of DJ is a sure way to ending my skiing career. I will do small jumps but nothing that will blow me off balance or land too hard. my ankles and knees can't stand that type of likely torque-inducing falls from height.
That makes sense. Sounds like a fun back yard. Try not to hurt yourself and post some pics when you get it built.

As for pogo sticks, I rented a bike when I was in CO last May (last year memorial day) from a real (bad) LBS and went riding at Red Rocks on a $350 pogo stick. Every time it went off a little bump and the rear wheel lost contact with the ground, the shock would slam open, making a loud "thunk" and the whole bike would shutter. Even my completely blown Noleen rear shock on my old K2 4000 wasn't that much of a pogo stick. It was actually a fairly scary bike to ride. As Gonz said, shocks and designs have gotten a lot better over the years, but the ultra cheap bikes are still pretty sad.
post #17 of 24
Gonzo,

What's your take converting my old AL Hardtail to an Urban Assault Commuter. Other than slicks, what would you add/lose? What about the gearing, it's the pretty standard MTB 44/32/22x(32x11) I would mainly be riding between my house and the Trax station (about 7-8 miles 1 way).


Gracis,
L
post #18 of 24
If you are serious about mountain biking and you are "older", a FS setup will enable you to ride longer and with less impact to the body. Unfortunately you have to invest a little in a decent FS bike.

I have a Trek Fuel 98 which is very high end stuff, but I love the way it fits me and the way it rides. I ride every weekend and sometimes I am on 3-4 hour rides over rough, technical XC terrain. The FS and the carbon frame certainly help me out.
post #19 of 24
I agree 100% with TomB. I have a Klein FS and I got it because my lower back was getting sore everytime I rode for more than an hour. The FS did the trick. I've demoed the Jekyl and liked it - It actually felt pretty similar to my Klein Adept.

The only time I rode in UT was in the Moab area in gloppy mud. I was on a rental ride with disk brakes and I was the only one, basically who had working brakes that day.
post #20 of 24
Thread Starter 
You guys are great! Thanks for all the imput. I rode a Scalpel today in "The Great Swamp." Gonz, I think that you know it. Man, that bike rides clean...and fast. I want to take a bike to Utah to ride on the PC trails. This may be a good choice. It is definitely not a bike for travelling over big loose rocks, but it ate up the mostly dirt trails. Still, I may just keep my Cannondale Alpine series. It is a dinosaur, but it is in great shape, and it would be good for both the PC trails and the commute from The Canyons to Albertsons. I couldn't see a Scalpel on Main Street!
post #21 of 24

I've got one of each

I've got top quality bikes, a Aluminum Ellsworth FS, a Ti Bontrager HT, and a classic Steel Ritchey rigid. So when does each get used ? Basically for fire roads and single track the Ti HT is the steed of choice. For off-road when I don't necessarily know where I'm going to go the FS is chosen. The Rigid is now for road use/posing/nostalga. The Ritchey has the nicest finish, even nicer than the Ellsworth. The Bontrager is bullet proof and doesn't seem to care what happens or what it looks like - most of the graphics have worn off.

I find that tires make a bigger difference for climbing than suspension design (or lack of it).

The disk brakes on the Ellsworth are fantastic, the cantis on the Bontrager are ok, the side pulls on the Ritchey next to functionless.

Oh, and I've got Brooks saddles on all of them. No complaints about saddle comfort, just weight.

If I had to choose just one I'd choose the Bontrager and it's a decade old now. Hope this helps.
post #22 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lonnie
Gonzo,

What's your take converting my old AL Hardtail to an Urban Assault Commuter. Other than slicks, what would you add/lose? What about the gearing, it's the pretty standard MTB 44/32/22x(32x11) I would mainly be riding between my house and the Trax station (about 7-8 miles 1 way).


Gracis,
L
I would lose the granny ring up front, and depending on how difficult your hills on the commute, lose the middle OR big ring as well. optimal would be something like a single 36t or 38t ring in the middle chainring position. in the meantime you can play with your gear selection available right now, see which ones seem best for your overall ride, and then try to get the whold drivetrain condensed down close to those gears. shouldn't be too hard.

for tires it depends on your preference. the Maxxis Hookworm tires are good, but slightly expensive. if you care about how your tires feel, and you like supple but strong casings, use the Maxxis. otherwise you can use about any slick/microtread tire. I would suggest using at least 1.5" wide tires unless your whole ride is smooth asphalt, in which case you could go as small as 1" if you wanted.

for dedicated urban/commuter bikes, I think fenders are good, but I don't mean those super-elaborate ones with multiple mount struts and fancy fasteners (i.e. touring bicycle style). I think the quick on/off MTB style are much better.

if you have a suspension fork on the bike now, I would try to find a rigid fork that can accommodate whatever brake caliper now on the fork. this will make the bike feel WORLDS faster, almost as huge a difference as going from full knob tires to slicks.
post #23 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Canyons
You guys are great! Thanks for all the imput. I rode a Scalpel today in "The Great Swamp." Gonz, I think that you know it. Man, that bike rides clean...and fast. I want to take a bike to Utah to ride on the PC trails. This may be a good choice. It is definitely not a bike for travelling over big loose rocks, but it ate up the mostly dirt trails. Still, I may just keep my Cannondale Alpine series. It is a dinosaur, but it is in great shape, and it would be good for both the PC trails and the commute from The Canyons to Albertsons. I couldn't see a Scalpel on Main Street!
"Great Swamp" - slickrock swamp?

as to the Alpine vs Scalpel and which to use on the trails, just be careful on rocky trails, the Scalpel's carbon fiber links can be damaged permanently with a crash that bashes the links. but for sure the Scalpel is overkill to grab groceries, especially if you have a different bike that also is a bit more expendable from the "if I had to have ONE stolen, it would be..." evil I know, but bike theft is a reality. I've had 2 bicycles and one motorcycle stolen from me in my lifetime.
post #24 of 24
Gonzo,
Thanks!

Hey Canyons,

Is the glennwyld trail open yet?

Thanks,
L
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