<==Specialized's Rockhopper 29"er single speed: One of the rare 29"ers left designed around an 80mm fork. (photo credit: Grannygear)
Something has happened to 29"er hard tail geometry. It happened quietly, without any fanfare at all. (Which I find amazing, by the way). What is it? Well, that would be the move by most manufacturers of 29"ers to geometry based around a 100mm travel suspension fork.
More Must Be Better: It used to be that folks were concerned that 29"ers with a suspension fork would have too high a front end. So, manufacturers were only building to suit 80mm travel forks, which did jack up the front ends of bikes a hair over their 26"er forebears. Nobody seeemed to mind, and bikes like Niner's and Soul Cycles', which were sporting rigid forks corrected for 100mm travel, and frame geometry to match, were seen as freakish. The Niner goes back to a shorter fork on the rigid bike, right when the industry as a whole swaps over to longer legged front ends. Weird. I guess that means "do whatever the opposite of what Niner is doing", if you are looking for geometry advice. But I digress............
It was easy to find a frame and rigid fork a couple of years ago that would play well with each other. Usually a 465-470mm axle to crown 29"er rigid fork could be pretty much slapped on any 29"er of the day and work within reason. Then, as I have said, the suspension forks got longer, but the rigid offerings?
Not so much.
Niner left the long fork market, and Soul Cycles still has some 490mm axle to crown forks, but the carbon rigid fork market is non-existent and steel rigid forks in longer lengths are nearly impossible to come by.
My! What Long Legs You Have! Not that I am a fan of those longer forks anyway. They look.....well, gangly, and weird. All that space above the front tire on a long rigid fork just seems wrong somehow. I have two bikes here with those long, spindly legs, and I can't get over the look. Maybe it is just me.
The older fork lengths look okay to me, but I really like the rigid only set ups of the Salsa Cycles Fargo and the Singular Gryphon. They look right. No extra material. No weird, dead air space above that front tire. Just pure, purposeful bicycle goodness. Committed rigidity is where it's at, ya know?
So here's to the companies that see fit to bring on the rigid look and not worry about compromising for suspended bits. That said, the folks wanting to run rigid need some decent frame geometry, (ie: 80mm travel designs), or longer forks for these longer travel hard tails.
Until then, getting set up for a rigid ride will be a confusing and frustrating process.