Monday, March 30, 2009

The New Standard In Full Suspension 29"ers

<===The Big Mama is one of the New Breed of 29"er FS designs.

Used to be that if you liked full suspension and big wheels you were going to have to compromise on stiffness. Noodly front triangles or swing arms were just something you were going to have to accept. Well, not anymore!

The idea that a full suspension 29"er could be rigid, precise, and predictable was thought to be not attainable by the critics, but that idea is not only attainable, it is here. Check out the Salsa Cycles Big Mama shown here. It is representative of the new standard of 29"er chassis stiffness and handling. It wasn't the first 29"er to have these attributes, and it isn't the only one, but what I'm saying is this: If you are going to design and build a full suspension 29"er, it better be at least as good as the Big mama is!

Going back a few years, the LenzSport bikes were really the first full suspension designs with big wheels to address the issues with frame stiffness. That was a good thing, but it takes more than that to get the job done. Unfortunately, at that time the forks and wheels hadn't caught up to the frame design.

Now with the advent of Salsa Cycles Gordo, Halo's Freedom Disc rims, and the like, the wheel situation is much better. Added to this is the proliferation of longer travel through axle forks, and now one can have all that is necessary to get 26"er-like stiffness in a 29"er package.

Companies like Niner, Pivot, and Salsa have also stepped up to the plate with far more rigid and stiff frames for full suspension than we have ever had before, which now raise the bar for companies following in their footsteps.

So, at what cost has all this rigidity come? Well, you can't get strong and rigid in a 29"er full suspension bike without a little weight gain. That said, it hasn't been much of a weight gain. Full suspension 29"ers with four inches of travel that meet the higher standards are still being built up in the sub-28lb category. Some even lower than that. Bigger travel bikes like the LenzSport Behemoth five inch bikes are routinely built up at sub-30lb weights.

Some say that a full suspension design in big wheels has "too many compromises". I'm 6'1" and I have a hard time seeing where these compromises are when I ride Lenz, Salsa, Niner, or Pivot's latest FS 29"er designs. Heck, Lenz is even putting much shorter folks on their designs, and are getting rave reviews.

The pundits can point and laugh all they want to. I'm going out for a ride on a full suspension 29"er and havin a ball doing it. These newer designs are the reason why.

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