The Argument For Short Travel Bikes - Opinion

Nov 23, 2012 at 16:14
by Mike Levy  
Before you read this, you should know that all of us here at Pinkbike ride for the very same reason that you do: fun. Some of us have enough fun by simply going out for an easy ride, others get the most enjoyment from progressing to bigger and bigger jumps and drops, and still others smile the most after a leg-burning, lung-exploding climb that leaves the taste of vomit in their mouths - different strokes for different folks. Despite what it might read like below, I'm not trying to rain on anyone's parade. With that in mind, the words beneath this disclaimer are intended to open a discussion on just how much sense downhill bikes make for the majority of riders. Read it, think about it, and then weigh in with your own thoughts. Now that we're done with the E-hugs... - Mike Levy




Talent vs. Travel
I firmly believe that if you don't know how to ride a short travel bike (or hardtail) with skill, you won't be able to ride a long travel bike with skill either. For many riders, in this day and age where it isn't uncommon to see a new rider whose first rig is an 8'' travel downhill bike, this is a completely foreign way of thinking. People have become accustomed to charging into challenging terrain with abandon, expecting to find traction and triumph that often happens solely because of these immensely capable bikes, not because of the rider's competence. This same capability allows people to ride trails or features that might otherwise be above their skill set, which, depending on how you feel about the subject, could be either a good or bad thing.

  Unlike the very large majority of us, a top level World Cup racer like Mick Hannah truly pushes his downhill bike to the limit. The bike's slack geometry and dialled suspension allows him to capitalize on his skill set, but does the average rider really benefit from these same features?

You're Not A Pro
With suspension that can make short work of some of the hairiest terrain imaginable, super tacky tires that riders happily accept will only last two, maybe three race weekends, and slack geometry that rewards ultra-aggressive, pro-level riding, a full-fledged modern downhill bike is an amazing piece of machinery. The trouble is, the vast majority of us are not pros. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Yeah, you may think that you're quick on a bike, and you very well might be, but the gigantic skill gap between most of us (myself included ) and a top-level racer who holds a pro license is even bigger than you think. Practicing your 'Sam Hill' around corners with your buddies might be fun as all hell, but there is something else you can do that will make a much bigger difference: a riding clinic or coach will add to your arsenal in a way that an extra 3'' of suspension travel could never do. Tracking down some instructional help, from the basics of riding all the way up to refreshers for more advanced riders, may unlock potential that you never knew you had. No coaches to be found nearby? Lee McCormack teamed up with Brian Lopes for the 2nd edition of his 'Mastering Mountain Bike Skills' guide book, a how-to on getting your shred on. No, a book may not seem nearly as exciting as a new 8'' travel wonder-bike, but it is likely a much smarter investment.




Yeti's Jared Graves takes yet another Sea Otter DH win aboard his short travel bike. His
winning streak on the tame track proves that he knows about picking the right tool for the job.
Sorry, Your Trails Aren't That Burly
There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, mind you, except that it leaves me wondering why in the world you'd be on a bike that is so singleminded in its approach that it actually presents a disadvantage when talking about both speed and fun on many trails. Sure, there are riding zones filled with nothing but Champéry-esque terrain, littered with lines that force riders to spend more time over their back wheel than Bobby Root in an early New World Disorder movie, but the honest truth is that these tracks are outnumbered a hundred to one by much tamer trails. Get a contemporary downhill bike on one of these 'average' trails, under an average rider, and it transforms from an all-conquering beast to being hindered by the very features that help so much on gnarly terrain, with it now wandering around like the town drunk trying to keep himself from falling off the sidewalk. That 64° head angle you think you need puts the front wheel too far out in front, with the result being a loss in traction because it isn't weighted enough to function how its designer intended. The front end of the bike goes from sticking like glue at high speeds to pushing and understeering through corners at
the now inadequate pace, forcing the rider to adopt an overly aggressive method on the bike in order to help it around corners. A big bike's extra travel obviously allows it to carry more speed through rough sections, no argument here, but it doesn't take a lot of skill to straight line the chunder. The same rider on a bike with a head angle that is steeper by a few degrees doesn't look as if he is having to wring its neck to get around the same turns.

Because the downhill bike is not carrying speed as well as a solidly built, shorter travel bike would, the rider is forced to work hard to find that extra momentum, throwing down as many pedal strokes as possible, while those on smaller bikes coast and look for backsides to pump. Extra pedal strokes do more than just sap a riders strength, though, with the chance of a disastrous pedal strike increased thanks to a modern downhill bike's relatively low bottom bracket height combined with its 3'' of sag. In other words, a rider on a downhill bike has to work harder to find speed, but the harder that he or she works, the more likely they are to get bitch slapped by the ground after clipping a pedal.

A skilled rider can make short work of this sort of terrain aboard any bike, but a downhill sled will always be faster when it gets this toothy for any length of time. Your trails don't look similar? Maybe that long travel rig doesn't make sense...
  A skilled rider can make short work of this sort of terrain aboard any bike, but a downhill sled will always be faster when it gets this toothy for any length of time. Your trails don't look similar? Maybe that long travel rig doesn't make sense...

And jumping? Sure, you can get away with casing a gap so hard that you render the rear wheel of your DH bike unusable, only to roll away laughing about it, but did you ever think that maybe you cased the jump because of the downhill bike? We've all been there... Knowing we should have listened to the voices telling us to hit the brakes rather than trying to sprint a bike that feels as if it has been wholly designed to sap nearly all of the paltry horsepower that our legs put out. Then again, you might have made it over the chasm if you didn't have to pull up through the bike's doughy negative travel. Again, I'd wager that most of these jumps are not large enough to require the full-on DH bike that forced the rider to either walk or shuttle up the hill to access them in the first place.



Why Short Travel?
A short travel bike is both more difficult to ride and harder on the body, so why would someone, especially a rider whose bike spends more time on a chairlift or in the back of a pick-up truck than it does pointing up a hill, choose to ride one? It's how these less-forgiving bikes react to the terrain and, much more importantly, respond to rider input, that make them so enjoyable. For example, a downhill bike, simply because of the traction provided by its slack geometry, can often require a hard stab of the rear brake to square off a corner or make an abrupt line change, whereas a trail bike might only request that you lighten its rear end and commit to the line. Sure it might be easier (read: require less skill) to get the job done on the downhill rig, but nailing a formidable line on a little bike is infinitely more rewarding than the same move on a forgiving DH sled.

The same can be said of nearly any scenario you might encounter on the mountain, from the drop or jump with the sniper landing that will punish a short travel bike and its rider, to the fast and chundery sections of the trail that force you to pick the optimum line instead of simply leaning back and letting a downhill bike do the work for you. It's when you master finer inputs and the sharper handling of your steed that things come together to create an experience that is hard to equal aboard anything else.


Proper line choice is key when on a short travel bike, especially when conditions are tricky. The reward is worth the risk in my book.

With their unparalleled ability to carry immense speed on truly challenging terrain, downhill bikes are fearsome ground coverers when they are called for. That speed is one of the main reasons that we take part in this sport, isn’t it? I'm not convinced, and I'd argue to my grave that it isn't actually the out-and-out speed that makes a ride memorable, but the smaller moments that stand out. Nailing that move, big or small, and setting the bike down right at the top of the transition. That long manual through the trees on a foot-wide piece of singletrack. It's pulling Gs through a set of linking berms. It's the rear end breaking loose on that one tricky corner, throwing up a brown spray that you can see behind you out of the corner of your eye. All of these moments can happen more easily, and more often on a shorter travel bike because they use geometry that allows entry and expert level riders (that's 98% of us, by the way) to smash berms with ease, run smaller volume and less forgiving tires that break loose with less effort, and can usually brag about being light enough to allow a rider to really throw it around.

Don't get me wrong, there are many places and trails where a downhill bike is not only a blast to ride, but also the key to survival. The problem is that more often than not these bikes are being ridden on trails that don't require that level of forgiveness, and the riders aboard them have somehow convinced themselves that the opposite is true. The reality is that while some of you may go slightly slower on a shorter travel bike, I can almost guarantee that you'll have more fun.


Chromag's Jinya Nishiwaki enjoys the fruits of riding a hardtail on Whistler's technical terrain.
Short Travel Bike Defined
With 8'' of suspension obviously being less than 10'', one could interpret the term 'short travel' in a number of different ways. The phrase is also surely terrain dependent, with who live and ride in Whistler and other areas of B.C. often calling their 6'' travel rigs 'little bikes', whereas 6'' of travel makes for a very 'big bike' in many other parts of the world. We have to draw a line in the loam somewhere, so I'm going to declare that, at least in confines of this article, a proper short travel machine should have around 5'' of travel or less. And let's not forget about the good old fashioned hardtail, of course. All other variables are wide open: single speed, single ring, triple or double, it doesn't matter. Coil or air sprung? Not important. And the same goes for the rest of the build. Catch my drift? Unlike a few years ago, there are more than a handful of well designed and capable 5'' travel bikes on the market, but that number seems to shrink proportionately as the bikes go down in shock stroke. A short travel bike simply has to work harder than a machine with more travel, meaning that it absolutely must be designed in such a way to allow the rider to get the most from what little it has on offer - the shorter the travel, the better the bike's suspension and angles must be. As you can imagine, this quickly eliminates many options on the market.

So what are the best designed, best performing short travel machines available? Trek's ABP-equipped Fuel EX, with its predictable and stable rear suspension layout and FOX DRCV shock, surely has to be included on the list. The same goes for their even shorter travel, 29''-wheeled SuperFly, a bike intended for pure cross-country racing that has blown us away with its everyday aptitude. Continuing with the big-wheeled theme, both the Tallboy and Tallboy LT models from Santa Cruz are proven winners. We also rate Specialized's Stumpjumper and Camber platforms very highly. There are others, especially burlier niche options from smaller companies like Banshee and Intense, but the common theme among them all boils down to both sorted geometry that suits where they will be ridden and by whom, as well as dialled rear suspension. These are the building blocks for a capable bike.

None of the models mentioned above are going to be able to hold a candle to true DH bike when it comes to a real downhill trail or in a racing scenario, but you have to ask yourself just how often you end up in these situations. If it is every weekend, then you are likely putting your big bike to good use, but I don't feel like I'm going out on a limb when I say that I doubt that is the case for most of us.



Hardtails on Hard Trails

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Filmed and edited by Virtu Media


Skill, Not Suspension
I was recently arguing my stance with a number of fellow mountain bikers, using the points made above and feeling quite good about the case that I was making, when it was pointed out to me by photographer Victor Lucas that bike choice is often the culmination of not just the terrain it is going to be used on, but also what type of bikes your riding partners are going to be aboard. This thought hadn't ever occurred to me, but it certainly does carry weight. If your local riding scene consists of nothing but friends on long travel bikes, it is understandable that it would be hard to make the jump to a bike that might make it harder to ride with them. But what if, after getting used to the bike and honing your skills, you could keep up with them? Even the lightest and most nimble of downhill bikes are numb beasts compared to a well-set-up shorter travel machine. Ride one of these smartly spec'd shorter legged bikes at speed and it is like the bike is having a conversation with you about the trail, either letting you know you're doing something right by rewarding you with speed and agility or, on the other hand, punishing you if you deserve it. And I believe that is the very reason that many riders go up in travel rather than down when it comes time for a new bike - more suspension simply makes the bike easier to ride. But what about the sense of accomplishment that comes with nailing a tricky section not because the bike allowed you to do it, but because of your skill?


Is this rally cry against downhill bikes for the average rider, here on Pinkbike of all places, proof that Levy has lost his marbles? Or does he have a point when he states that more of us should shift our focus from the long travel race bikes the pros ride to the technique that will make us better riders? Let's hear what you think - put those thoughts down below.

Follow Mike Levy @MikeLevyPB

614 Comments

  • + 252
 How many of your short travel bike moments are better because of the skills you developed while riding a long travel rig? Without the (over?)confidence it provided you may never have learned to jump, slash berms, drop huge stuff, etc. I believe riding all types allows you to become a better rider. You see lines on a big bike that you wouldn't otherwise see. Next time you ride that trail on the short travel rig you go for it.

If less is more we'd all be riding bmx because we could have just as much fun in a parking lot as we do on the trails. Its not simply the amount of fun that matters, its where you had that fun and what you had to overcome to get it!
  • + 63
 Exactly this is the reason I'm getting a DH bike again. Sold mine in the spring and rode all the season with my Nomadc. I've started to chicken out on new lines that I know I should be able to do, but not riding the DH bike has taken that big jumps, high speed confidence away from me. More to the point of the article, I do think people should start with smaller travel bikes and build up confidence based on skills from there.
  • + 18
 couldnt agree more. started on a fuel ex 8 and rode everything on it. This year i built up my glory so I could push myself and know that no matter what feature i came across i knew my bike could handle it. This made me realize that there is nothing that I cant do on this bike, which pushes me to be a better rider. Now that i have been riding my glory, my skills on my small bike have improved.
  • + 125
 The issue is that most people arent developing any 'skills' riding dh bikes everywhere... They're just holding on and letting the bike do the work. If you started out on a 'small' bike then you have to hone real skill and proper technique that will make you faster on a 'big' bike but the opposite doesn't hold true.
  • + 88
 BMX did a pretty good job of teaching me to "jump, slash berms, drop huge stuff, etc", it did a good job of teaching a lot of my friends too.
  • + 29
 Yeah, but who cares ?

If they are having fun riding their bike, what's it matter if it's a V10 or a hard tail and if it's a car park or a trail ?

I'm not trying to be World Champ, but I'll stick with my DH bike thanks - We can't have every tool for every job Levy.
  • + 23
 Waldon83 if you look at it from an economic perspective, starting with small bikes and building up from there will save you money on the long run. The beginner mistakes everyone does will be done with cheaper to repair bikes. Since you'll be going slower, the injuries are going to be less serious too (on average), thus smaller medical bills. You'll learn to ride smoother which will translate into less breaking stuff on the big expensive bikes later
  • - 67
 I just run super stiff suspension so it only gives when i really need it to
  • + 6
 Reminds me of the person who rides Kona fire mountain on angelfire bike park.
  • + 44
 I agree with this article totally, where i ride everyone rides DH rigs, and honestly there is barely a trail that requires one. I find it rather amusing as in my area there is actually more fun to be had on a lighter more all mountain bike. I took a step in the opposite direction recently going to a smaller travel bike, not 5", but still not 8" either.
I think part of it is that mentality that says "well he's riding one - so i should too"
Nothing against DH bikes, they are fun, but take the skill out of riding for most of us.
  • + 12
 i ride bikes for pleasure and not to compete, suspension opens up possibilities to explore new trails, you can now ride where it was just about impossible without the help of disc brakes and some suspension, regardless of your skill level. It also make 6hr epics a lot less punishing! riding off road to me is reading the trail and responding to it, suspension isolates you to a degree, but lets you hit stuff with comfort and a bit of a safety margin. riding a suspension bike is nearly a completely different skill set, and those who are learning on full sus from day one will have an advantage and a disadvantage at the same time! DH bikes are a from a different dimension, awesome but single purpose, its all good!
  • + 3
 Shorter travel bikes make you good at a lot of stuff, but DH rigs teach you speed and commitment, putting the two together makes you a better rider.

I've used a 224, Supreme, Glory (None of which I have anymore), I don't have as much time as I used to, I just ride everything on my Nomad now.

BUT... the bike I miss the most was a Gary Fisher King Fisher with 180 domains dual front ring (that was always the bike I had fun on) You could still pedal uphill and still shred the hell out of any course and still keep up with mates on 8's.
  • - 10
 riding dh doesnt make you worse rider, i often only use the first 6 inches of my shocks. but its those hucks to sketchy landings and when you make mistakes is when i use the "safety net" 2 extra inches
  • - 11
 Once I did 80km/h on my hardtail. Since then I can't really imagine any kind of trail you can't ride on a non DH rig. You can always ride a full suspension faster of course but talking about confidence I think it really depends on what you get use to.
  • + 22
 I sense a new trend going...Hardtails everywhere with Dual-Crowns.

But how awesome would it be to win your local DH race filled with the typical 8" setups on a hardtail?
  • + 19
 Very good article Mike. I totally agree on skill over suspension although I ride 8ˇ. Thinking of getting an AM rig.
  • - 72
 Try telling the big mountain riders that are doing rampage to swich to a short travle bike.... its not going to happen, i agree that maybe for average mountain trails short travle is the way forward, but downhill bikes were made for a reason, and that is to allow skilled riders to ride at an even higer level!
  • - 28
 I jump down drops over 2 meters... If it wasn't for my 25 cm travel (10") Astro rig, I would have never even tried it! So I would have never come this far without a proper dh bike..BTW.. I wouldn't jump a drop that high with a smaller bike even after so much experience! I leave that to Thomas Vanderham and Wade Simmons!! ( Im sure you watched that rocky mountain commercial Big Grin )
  • + 58
 Did he say anything about pros changing what they chose to ride?!
Glory be, at least ONE of us didn't bother to read the article...

He is SPECIFICALLY talking to us, the average rider, the normal PB user, and speaking against us trying to just be like the pros before we can even ride correctly.
The article never once says that pros should change their rigs, and I'm pretty sure no one would try to say that... After all, they should know better than we do what type of bike will work for them.

This is about US, and why there's so many (forgive the term) posers trying to ride something bigger than their terrain allows.
When I left Colorado, I sold my DH bike. Haven't bought one since. You know in central FL (born and raised there) there's a place with almost a dozen "freeride" drops over 10 ft. (and one at 24 ft. and change) and there are multiple guys who drop them on hardtails! This isn't an indictment of the ones that have "DH" rigs there, but is it necessary anywhere in the state? Hell no!
Even where I live now, here in WV, the only way you'd need one is at Snowshoe, and even there, it isn't necessary.

I have a Ragley Troof with 160 Domains out front, and if I were simply more carefree (like I used to be at 15), I'd be doing all that crap just the same on this rig. As it stands, it serves as a perfect do-it-all bike here.

Just get on it and ride. The bike I mean.
  • + 53
 DH bikes are great- its just that many are ridden by idiots.
  • - 38
 Yeah its proof that Levy has lost his marbles.lol
  • + 21
 I feel like a follow up article should be written explaining the benefits of downsizing TO downhill bikes. I mean everyone I know who came from a moto background just absolutely KILLS on a DH bike (case in point Aaron Gwin). I personally started out in XC/ trail riding and BMX then progressed into DH but I noticed that near 100% of the people I ride with who came down from moto immediately pick up DH and crush it...I feel like they have to work a lot less than I did coming up from XC and bmx.
  • + 0
 Exactly mate Mike Levy is cross country/all mountain rider.We need a seperate article from a long time Downhill rider.Yeah we all used to start on small travel bikes,as that was all that was around at the time,But with more downhill tracks than ever i would never go backwards to an unstable,twitchy bike rideing smaller terrain stuff.I think Mikes underestamating how kids can now rip on there first downhill bike,without ever needing to ride the short travel bikes.
  • + 35
 here's my argument and opinion.... own more then one bike... case closed
  • + 5
 I am 100% for keeping it classic and down to our roots on hartails. It is how mountain biking was born and like anything in life, we as a community can not forget our roots. When i hit the lift I bring my DH bike but there's a TON to be said of rippin on hardtails as it is both challenging and rewarding. Keep it classic Pinkbike!!!
  • + 27
 The bigger reason why people who come from a moto background do so well is because moto is so much faster and jumps are worlds bigger. Mike is talking about people that only ride a DH bike on trails that are basically beginner XC trails. Look around at the videos here lately - a lot of the times the trails aren't difficult at all. With shorter travel bikes, you really don't have a 'safety net' when you're going fast or doing big jumps. You have to be on it and learn how to be a smooth rider or else you'll break things or crash. It's a lot harder to learn these things when you jump right on a DH race bike and ride average things on it. To me this article really hit the nail on the head for the Pinkbike crowd - seems people are judged more for what bike they ride than for what they actually ride with it.
  • + 15
 I kind of think there's two arguments going on here. One is that on some trails a DH bike is necessary, and that's a valid argument at times. A DH bike can be overkill on some trails.

The other is the idea that since a trail can be ridden on a shorter travel bike, that that's what we should be doing. Personally I'll do whatever I want and so should everyone else. Some might like the challenge of navigating and beating themselves up gnarly terrain trying to get down it on a short travel bike, some may just like to crush it on a DH bike. Its preference, and people should do what they want.

But I think that sometimes comes down to cost. Not everyone can have a full stable of bikes. Me personally I have a DH bike and a short travel XC/Trail bike. I ride the DH bike for weekend DH and bike park riding, and the trail bike for exercise and after work trail rides. Without buying another bike this fits me best. I'm not getting rid of the DH rig because while its overkill at times, there some trails its absolutely required. And I'm not replacing my 4" travel XC bike with a 6"+ rig. No matter how many times a PB review tells me one of these long travel all mountain bikes "pedals surprisingly well", its not when I want to be riding on a 20 mile trail ride.
  • + 5
 I'd still rather have a 150/160mm trail bike like the orange alpine 160 or the Trek Remedy,than have a downhill bike,because you can ride an all mountain rig anywhere,and this type of trend I've noticed,is people saying ''I'd do that if I had a downhill bike'' just look at those guys who entered red bull rampage on slopestyle bikes!
  • + 2
 For myself, it depends on which trail im going to be doing is how I decide which bike to ride that think i'm going to have the most fun on.
  • + 3
 i started riding downhill on a bmx! now tell me thats not short traveled enough!!!
  • + 11
 I started off on a £150 tesco bike which I broke I then progressed to a hardtail and now Ive had two downhill bikes the latest being a scalp. I wouldnt class myself as a brilliant rider and and tbh feel my riding has if anything got a little worse since I broke my arm in april . I could do with that hardtail back to improve my confidence again but unfortunately I am not made of money and other things in my life take priority so Ill be sticking with trying to get my confidence back on my "Big Rig" for now. My main issue with this article is it will create more prejudice towards people on large travel bikes and the people who have them are going to have to put up with stupid comments from xc/am riders when all they are out for is to have fun on there bikes and ride the trail. Certain xc riders out there already have a chip on there shoulder about Dh bikes and Ive witnessed this a fair few times on my local trails and articles like this dont make this any better. Mountain biking is not all about improving skill In my group of riding friends I am one of the slowest riders but Im there to have fun riding my bike and if at the end of the day I come away smiling it doesnt matter to me if Im riding a XC/AM/DH penny farthing or a unicycle as long as I have had fun and a laugh hanging around with my mates this will do for me. By all means take away from this article what bike may improve your skills more in what situation but dont use it as reasoning to be an @rsehole to others out there because you dont think they are on the "RIGHT" bike.
  • + 1
 Interesting article.
I started on a Trek Bruiser Hardtail, got wreaked a couple times, moved up to a Norco shore a couple years later (I considered that AM/FR) and I'm currently looking for a larger rig. Even though I don't technically fall into this article as part of the group in question, I feel like I'm being called out. lol
I agree, I see too many scene kids riding Trek Sessions who have no business or idea how to ride one. Yet I've seen many progress like mad when starting on a DH-ish rig, but It really falls on the individual.
That being said, I have no plans on returning to a hardtail for DH. I ride trails that require a DH/FR/SS rig, and it's more fun to ride those trails on them. I can't afford two bikes, and I don't really want a "jack-of-all-trades" bike ( I see why people do though). I don't want to be a pro either, I just want to have fun.
We have a tool for every job. If someone wants to ride an A-line on a blue or green run, I say let em. Different strokes for different folks.
  • + 10
 An example would be to look at Berrecloth or Ben Boyko when they switched from bmx to MB. Both guys went from no names to winning contests in the span of a year or two. Obviously both guys are unbelievably motivated riders and builders, but you can't dispute that their bmx bases were largely why they could 360 25 foot drops when nobody else could at the time (think 4-5 years ago). To address this article, you do not need a DH rig for a lot of trails but each rider should evaluate what they ride the majority of the time. For example, if your local trails are tame then you probably want a trail bike. However, if your local trails are tame, but you spend half your summer weekends at nearby resorts charging some rough stuff. It might be worth having a big bike on the tame trails so that you can shred hard on the rougher trails. Conversely, someone may find it more worthwhile to put up with the rough days so that they can rip faster on their local trails. In a nutshell, a small bike is harder to ride and is less forgiving. This will undoubtedly mean that the rider must pick up that slack, which trains their body to be more responsive and active in piloting the bike. Every Dh rider on the circuit cross trains with at least one of motorcross, cross-country, street/DJ, or trail bike riding. In the end, the more you ride anything with 2 wheels, the deeper and broader your mental and physical understanding of this sport will become.
  • + 2
 papapendrel, I didn't see the "less is more" thing anywere in this article... or any mention of BMX for whistler gnar. I think what he is getting at is that a rider should "right size" their bike. I have been guilty of riding my DH rig (Flat line) on XC-ish trails with great features and telling myself the whole time it was necessary. I also rode my Transition double on the same trails and had way more fun. The truth is- the trail wasn't nearly as gnarly as I told myself it was. And yes, I rode the same lines on my Double. Now- If I actually had a trail with some hard core gnar on it, I would love to have my DH bike to session it with. I agree completely that the DH rig gives way more confidence, and that confidence carries over to the short travel bikes as well.
  • + 7
 I definitely agree with the first comment! I've only be riding for three years and I feel like I'm only as skilled as I am now because of the confidence my first long travel bike gave me. My SX Trail taught me I could go bike, fast, and steep without wimping out and there's no substitute for that kind of buffer/learning zone. I recently sold my SX and bought a Stumpy Evo 26, and I have to say that I'm having a lot more fun now and riding a lot more than I used to. The short travel bike is much more agile, faster on my local trails, easier to manual and I can actually pedal it up the mountain for a dirt commute to work. I recommend this transition for anyone moving off a bigger bike and looking to still have some fun. Buy a slacked out mid-travel bike that can climb, and you will definitely get more miles in on your bike while still building off all the skills you learned on your DH rig!
  • + 2
 scbullit36 - i see what you mean about moto guys. I do think DH is more similar to Moto than it is to XC but that doesnt take away from the fact that riding on a shorter travel bike will make you better. Give those same moto guys a shorter travel bike again and they will still crush it on a proper DH trail. I would also say that all the DH riders i know that came from a BMX background pick up DH way quicker than the XC guys too. Both BMX and MX teach you way more about bike handling skills than standard XC stuff ever will. There are pros and cons to both, I ride my steel hardtail most of the time now as there is nothing I wouldnt ride on it apart from larger drops. But if i didn't ride a big bike almost exclusively for 2 years i probably would never have realised how fast it is possible to go on a bicycle. The DH bike definitely helped me get used to the speed. But im not the type of person who just barrels through stuff because my bike allows me, i try to pick the best lines regardless of what bike i am on. A smart rider will learn on both types of bike.
  • + 2
 I'm one of those POSERS that you see riding my Giant Glory on the local trail that people used to ride on fully ridged bikes. You can judge me if you like, but you see I only own one bike (for now). After months and months of research I decided to get a DH bike first because I live within an hour of a few bike parks. Not even all the trails at the parks need the 8" front and back that I bring, but some do.

I like knowing that as far as my bike is concerned no trail is too much. Its all on me to make it happen.

Someday I'll be able to afford a second bike, and I plan to buy a 5-6" that I will use pretty much everywhere but the bike parks. Until then, try not to snicker at me when I pass you on the XC trail. Smile
  • + 1
 I have to say I kinda agree withthe whole shorter travel is better. But I believe it is better to have one of each, a short travel bike to hoon around one, maybe for xc, jumps, enduro, whatever takes ur fancy, and a big rig for when u want to go and have a blast through the woods or whatever. At the end of the day, having both will improve your skills in both areas, picking lines when ur on ur big bike, and when u are on ur little bike u can have the confidence to hit lines u normally wouldn't. I couldn't agree more with the statement about riding easy stuff on big bikes isn't the way forward, I did it for a long time before I got my xc bike.
  • + 5
 I started off on a BMX when I was 14, 16 years later and having owned and raced all types of bike, I find the skills that I acquired on my first bike to be invaluable.

I recently sold my DH race bike as I found wallowing in the suspension annoying. I now ride a 150mm bike and feel more confident in the rough stuff knowing what the bike will do, and being able to throw it around easier. Granted I don't ride alpine descents all the time, but with the advancements in technology, the suspension on my 150mm bike is far superior to that of the Orange 222 I rode 10 years ago.

Each to their own, but if you genuinely want to go faster and can afford more than one bike, learning to be smooth on a hardtail/BMX will be highly beneficial!
  • + 1
 Learning on a short travel bike on your local trail before going big is the way to go. i've learned a lot with my specialized stumpjumper 140mm for nine months on my local trail then i tried my hands on a real downhill bike (GT Fury 200+mm of travel) at MTCB in New Jersey and ALMOST everything i've encountered on the park was just an oversized feature of my local trail so im kinda like "oh, i know how to handle this shit" with a big smile on my face.

Now i ride a Devinci Frantik with 180mm travel. i can do both my local and bike park, i just had to practice more on tabletops so i dont take a dirt nap Big Grin
  • - 1
 the guy who said about riding the SX trail? you have my respect brah,such a sick looking bike! but I actually wouldn't buy a downhill bike tbh,I would never have the money to maintain one,and you certainly are limited a fair bit,I ride a 2009 stumpjumper,which is the 120mm version,I have no problems with the short travel it has really,all you need is just some burly gear that can dish out and take the hits,not a dh rig,my dad has a trek remedy 8 and he rides it on downhill,freeride,xc and jumps! just proves you don't need a big bike for big fun.
  • + 0
 why's the young man have to get the 'fastest' car they can...? same reason, if you can ever figure it

great article. will we have article of the year? there's been some both technical and provoking reads of late.
  • + 1
 papapendrel ... I went from a 140mm trail bike to a 100mm XC bike back to 150mm then to full on downhill ... Now I've got a couple of bikes ... and the best thing is as you say; ride them all if you can. Your point about spotting lines and doing things on a bigger bike is just soo true. His points are valid and the video is excellent. But you sum it up brilliantly.
  • + 1
 "If less is more we'd all be riding bmx because we could have just as much fun in a parking lot as we do on the trails. Its not simply the amount of fun that matters, its where you had that fun and what you had to overcome to get it!"

You missed the whole point of the argument. He's not saying ride only BMX and only in the parking lot. To stay with your analogy: He is saying get a BMX instead of a trail bike when you do ride in the parking lot and get a trail bike to ride trails instead of a DH rocket. He continues to argue that this will grow your skill set as a rider and better prepare you to take on the next level of riding...
  • + 8
 My thought after reading this article was : yeah, so what ? Do you have to ride a hard tail to see some progress in your riding, or to really enjoy your ride and feel proud of yourself when you cleared a jump or a drop ? Can't people chose the bike they want ?

Mike, I'm feeling you are just saying that "you should ride a hardtail before getting a downhill rig, because that's the way to learn. period." Let people do what they wanna do ! There will always be people who buy overkill bikes, that are not suited for them or the type of terrain they ride !! Heck, I see that a lot on road bikes ! Guys who buys 10k $ carbon road bikes and lycra, and looks like they are sponsored by coors light !! Is the only way to really feel rewarded by a good ride is to be on a hardtail, because downhill bikes are too easy to ride ? I'm just feelin' you had an E-beef on this one, this wasn't a question asked to the community, but rather your own personal observation; But I agree on one point though; Downhill bikes aren't versatile enough and a 6" ride is more than enough if not too much, for the average rider, and by that I mean us, me included.

Let the neg props begin !
  • + 1
 I'm with natalot. I think a good take-away from this article and the resulting discussion is this- different bikes build different skills, and in order to be a truly well-rounded, good rider, you occasionally need to step off you trusty steed onto something else. I don't think that you need to ditch you DH sled for a hardtail, but you shouldn't shrug off hardtail riding like it's child's play either. I used to have a stable of different bikes- rigid SS, hardtail, DJ, and an AM rig. I loved switching between the different bikes for different days of the week. It made the same trail have new flavor each time and made me a better rider all-around.
  • + 2
 I completely agree with this article. I started on a hardtail then a short travel bike but when i got my dh rig i forgot how much fun a short travel bike is. I got a hardtail again last year (a nukeproof snap) and can tell that it greatly helped my "flow". It and my other short travel bike force you to really pick your line well and to flow through a trail rather then just plow through it. Now i know not everyone has the time, energy, space, or money to build up 3 seperate bikes, but if you have to pick one, id say get a burly all mtn bike in the 5 inch range!
  • + 1
 This world is all about variety,nature has proved that.Theres no right or wrong way.Pro's werent always pro.They all start from somewhere and not all of them have or have to start from lesser travel bikes.Whos to say the kid starting out on a downhill bike now riding non world cup tracks wont become the next DH world champ in a very short amount of time.It seems to be the trend now people like Steve Peat are pushing kids to get on downhill bikes sooner if you look at his scholarship program,and thats what the kids are following.
  • + 0
 People need to learn how to read. All the guys with DH bikes read the first sentence and then get all defensive. And then there are the people with DH bikes who actually read the article, and they agree with it. Interesting how that works. And if you get all of your confidence from having more suspension, you are doing something wrong. Your confidence should be in your own skill, and not your beefy rig. If you need a longer travel bike just to be able to survive something, then you shouldn't be doing whatever that something happens to be.
  • - 1
 I only started riding DH about a year ago and I've only just stopped using my Scott Voltage YZ2 because I snapped the frame last week but that bike taught me how to use terrain, gather speed and work the bike over the trail not only that but it's taught me to ride with a very technical style and not just rely on a big fat juicy shock to soak it all up and it's only now that I'm replacing my bike with a suspension one but i'm still choosing a slopestyle bike so that I don't come to rely on 8" shocks and triple clamp forks...


Just my opinion, each to his own that's what I say Wink
  • + 1
 My excuse to riding a big rig is because i`ve been on a hard tail since 12 and Just got a 9 incher at 21 now!:P
  • + 1
 I started out on a 26inch Cannondale F5 hardtail. When I began to ride harder than what my little bike could take (I also didn't physically fit on it anymore) I moved up to a 5inch Jamis Parker. Every single skill I used on my hardtail transferred over to my Parker. I When my riding ability pushed my Jamis to destruction (chain stay snapped), I joined a downhill race team and I'm now on a V10c. I don't think i'd be that great of a rider if I said "screw it!" and went straight to a Santa Cruz V-10c.

The point of me typing all that down was to say that a you grow in skill, your bike might very well grow with you. In both size and travel.
In no way am i saying, "Your a shitty rider if your on a hardtail!!" i'm just saying I think riders should start on a hardtail. You become smooth and very very fit. I have so many friends who are on hardtails and they will absolutely smoke my sorry ass when I'm on my 5.9inch Heckler.
10% bike
90% rider

That's my 2cents.

I was on the podium for all my DH races this year (with the exception of the canadian open) if anybody was curious about the DH team part.... Pimp

Cheers! Salute
  • + 1
 Top comment OP, too bad a lot don't get it. It will take a hell of a lot less time to shred the kind of trails that Jinya's does in that video if you start off with confidence inspiring DH or long travel slack bikes. Once you get the feel for this type of riding, its a lot easier to jump on an appropriate hardtail (no, race XC hardtails won't do) and still enjoy the experience. You know the lines, the speed etc.. that's required. Doing it the other way, starting off with limited skills and bikes not meant for a particular trail might not be as enjoyable or worse, can potentially prove to be rather painful.
  • + 1
 Agreed. I bought a DH bike after I bought my AM bike, and its helped me gain the confidence to ride certain stunts and sections that I wouldn't have otherwise. I now ride them on the AM bike, but I don't know how long it would have taken me to gain the confidence without first riding them on the big bike. I also never would have bought a big bike if I didn't ride a bike park on a weekly basis in the summer.
  • + 1
 Riding my bike set up at with a "short" five inches of travel allows me to push harder and be that much faster when I get up the travel. A shorter setup definitely builds skill, like swinging a weighted bat.
  • + 4
 I think some of the people here need to realize that this is merely his personal opinion. He's not telling anyone to do anything. I just think it was something that needed to be said.
  • + 1
 Riding at DH speed and DH sized features helped me on the whole, AS A RESULT....I have learned to push my 6" bike more and thus hone my skills even more.
  • + 4
 I think this was more aimed at the kids who are raised with a 4k bike from the get go, never learn the basics, have trouble progressing. etc
not the people who already ride DH or just picked it up after riding HT/AM for many years.
  • + 3
 re the case study of the Gwinner rocking up from moto and slaying it - I'm fairly sure he spent his formative years racing BMX. Not to take away the point that the skills he developed in moto are possibly a significant part of his winningness, but I suspect if it weren't for his BMX background, he wouldn't be the rider he is. Seems to me he's had a schooling in extreme short travel and extreme long travel, through BMX and moto respectively. So on the one hand he has pumping and the body language you develop on a BMX, with the ability to handle extreme roughness at speed from moto. My point being that riding different stuff is probably the best way to develop your riding skills. Stick on a single ride on a single terrain and you will plateau
  • + 1
 People say 8" are more fun because you can be faster with less effort. It doesn't make sense to me because if being fast is the key to fun, honing your skills will make you a lot faster with even less effort on a 8". Also for the "fast is fun" argument, it's a lot easier to pump trail features and carry speed with a shorter travel bike in a lot of situations.

Of course, there are situations where a 8" is totally justified... but where I ride everyone is on a 8" and the only 2 trail sections where, in my opinion, is really justified to ride a 8", it's usually super loose and overgrown with weeds as hardly anybody dares to ride them. This screams to me that most riders prefere fashion over function. I guess even extreme sports won't escape the "EVERYTHING EASY NOW" mentality...

When you see the coastal crew going bigger on stumpjumpers than probably 90% of the riders here on 8", this small bike argument makes a lot of sense.
  • + 1
 Do both if you can afford it. Problem solved.
  • + 1
 I started of on hard tails till I broke too many rims. Had a bombproof wheel built then built a bombproof bike around that. with seven inches front (Jnr T) and six inches rear (Kona CoilAir) I had a bike where I couldn't blame the bike for not riding anything. It was total overkill but I liked walking away from cases and practising to get the right speed instead of laying at home off work injured. I liked being able to ride hard terrain even when fatigued. Had to sell it and have been on a Hardtail for two years. I do stuff on the hardtail now that I would never have done on a hard tail before I had a longer travel slacker rig. Just got a new Kona Abra Cadabra frame. Will have steeper angles pedal better but have a little more travel than my last squishy. Hoping for the best compromise. I think it is like riding clips or not. Don't decide do both and get the greatest benefit. If I could afford a cruiser racer bmx and a trials bike I'd get them too just for the skills training. I can only afford one bike so it is going to be long travel All mountain.
  • + 3
 It's really a matter of preference for a rider to choose which rig he wishes to use and for what purpose. From experience I do believe that the basic essential riding skills can be learned by the average rider by using an HT bike. It takes greater skill to ride a lower travel bike because it assists you less and Kudos to riders who have great skill in riding HT and lesser travel bikes. But when it comes to competitions, that's an altogether different story. It's like this: Why should I stick to using my 9mm pistol to shoot a man 100 yards away, when I can use this M16 Carbine to accomplish the task more efficiently.
  • + 0
 I can honestly say I wouldn't have ever gotten sucked into biking if I hadn't have bought a DH rig. I first started riding on a Giant Revel HT. EVERYTHING scared the shit out of me. Seriously, EVERYTHING. I have video of myself rolling down a hill with a 10% grade whilst having the brakes squealing and screaming at me. I crashed CONSTANTLY. I had no fun. Then..... my friend let me ride his DH rig. I loved it. I absolutely loved it. My world was turned upside down. I actually COULD ride down that 'steep' section of trail. A few weeks later, I bought a Demo 7.

Now, a little over a year since I bought that Demo, I LOVE RIDING. It's all I can think about. It's all I ever want to do. I've hit drops that are taller than I am with my hands above me head. I've flown sideways through the air over a 30 ft tables. I've done that 'river' gap. I've ridden that 6inch wide knife edge with cliffs on both sides.

Yes, I know I could probably hit any of these features on a shorter travel bike, but I would have NEVER in a million years even considered it if I hadn't learned, progressed, gained skills and confidence from having a DH bike.
[Reply]
  • + 112
 I love riding my DH bike.

I love riding my 5" bike.

I love riding my hardtail.

I love riding my DH bike on smooth flowy trails, steep gnarly trails, even up the street.

I love riding my 5" bike on smooth flowy trails, steep gnarly trails, even up the street.

I love riding my hardtail bike on smooth flowy trails, steep gnarly trails, even up the street.

Sometimes I just like the feeling of riding a DH bike.

Sometimes I just like the feeling of riding a 5" bike.

Sometimes I just like the feeling of riding a hardtail bike.

But admitedly, I can think of a very few occasions where I've thought, "I don't need my DH bike here". Or, "I'm a bit shit scared on my hardtail". But I still had fun.

But mostly I have fun, regardless of what bike I'm on.
  • + 14
 Forgto to say; great inflammatory report! Keep 'em coming.
  • + 3
 I'll agree with the "shit scared on my HT" part... LOL
  • + 5
 I like 'em all too! I'm a cheap SOB who has built a variety of bikes from other's scraps on eBay, so that I can try a varaity of bikes on the few pennies the wife lets me rub together. I have to say that having riden the 7", 6", 4", front 3.5" and full rigid bikes, that all have led to some fun. Chosing the bike by where I'm headded, or who I'm headded out with has an influence on which bike makes the trip. I'll find fun no matter which bike I have, it just may be on a different trail, or I might have truoble keeping up, or have to wait for the crowd... but fun none the less.
  • + 11
 Best comment! I have a 5.5inch bottlerocket. I love it. one of the most versatile bikes ever. Usually the only time I wish I had a dh bike is when I overshoot to flat my chest hits my stem. Then I get shit scared..and often hit a tree.
  • + 4
 I love my hardtail. Everything about it! BUT I am not rich and needing to buy new rims, spokes, or somepart on it is somthing I cant afford. I remeber the days when I had money to spend on it and I could go balls out on the big drop or race my friends on their 6inch bikes down the most technical sections and win but I unfortuantly it usually ends in something out of true and dented or something else broken. I will always love it but I cant always afford to ride it.
  • + 3
 i agree. i wish more people could afford to have a decent quiver of bikes of several sizes. i have a dj, mid travel (6"), and long travel bike. though i know i'm not the fastest and sharpest rider, i cant say that my riding would be as fast and sharp as it is without all three and using them all frequently.
  • + 2
 i got only , ONE 8 inches travel bike, and ONE 0 inches (hardtail)
8 inches for anything
0 inches for XC/Trail

@Mikey ... give me 5.5/6 i will it too

this world don't left me much option
  • + 4
 I rode a hardtail then I bought a 6in bike and now I have a 5in bike. I try not to judge people but when I see some 13yo kid that buys an full dh for his first bike and he is terrible it really makes me mad.
  • + 1
 Good points. I think most people will ride for fun mostly (except the up and comers who have dreams of making it as a pro). The only time I push it is when I race, three of four times a year.

I think in a race, most people will push to their control threshold. That would mean that riding a hardtail is safer because that limit will be reached at a lower speed.

Having said that, I like the idea of having a competitive bike in races, at the expense of a little less fun the rest of the time. I have a Corsair Konig (130mm) bike, and I'm planning to upgrade to a Wilson (216mm). Even though I know the Konig will be more fun 90% of the time, it will also be slower in a race.

This is just an idea that I'm not sure about as I've never done it, but wouldn't it be possible to fit a harder spring than normal to a DH bike to effectively reduce its travel for general riding duties? If you went for a spring 50% harder than your standard spring, wouldn't that limit the travel that you actually use by about 50% (except on really big hits)? I love the look of the Wilson and the geometry, but I would prefer to run it with 6-7" of travel most of the time, while still maintaining its serious DH credentials when needed.
[Reply]
  • + 100
 it's not about how big it is, it's how you use it.
  • + 7
 hahahaha, well played, Sir
  • + 7
 It's not the size of the sword, but, the master who wields it.
  • + 11
 This reminds me... a "friend" of mine back in NH got the carbon Trek Session 9.9 as a present (I'd give my left nut for that bike) and I made the comment that I was jealous but asked that it was a bit overkill for the trails back home (Highland Mtn. for example) and his gf got really insulted that I said that... Are those who are lucky enough to get such bad ass rigs really in denial that they will never really test that bike for what it's made for (aka WC tracks at WC speeds?) and why would you be insulted by something like that? I just found it really strange that someone would be defensive over having one of the nicest DH bikes on the market to ride around on local trails and bike parks... haha, anyways great write up and personally I feel that unless you're ripping the gnarliest stuff at wild speeds, 7 inches is more than enough... although more does make the ride more pleasant Wink . However I love having my Scratch because all I have to do is switch between the tubeless set up and the "DH" wheels and I've got myself a bike you can ride anywhere. Also having shorter travel (grew up riding a Diamondback XC bike even in DH races at Tenney and Mt. Snow) certainly allows you to develop beneficial smooth riding/ line choice skills that you cannot learn growing up riding a 7-8inch dual crowner.
  • + 2
 Scott-townes I agree - Highland is too smooth - maybe a few rough trails out there (Race course and others), but your friend needs to get that rig up to Killington, Plattekill etc.. and justify that bike. I started on a HT Diamondback as well. Raced the DH at Snow in an early WC event way back in the day - on a 2" travel front/rear bike, but the trails aren't like they are today (Highland aside.) I ride a RM Slayer and it's great, but on rougher stuff/bigger drops I'm on my Scott Voltage. Skills are best learned on a HT or smaller suspension bike.
  • + 5
 @Scott-townes - I see what you did there... Wink
  • + 3
 It all depends on what your hitting. Taking the Session on Threshold would be a dream, but i manage just fine with my 06 Big Hit... There are definitely the boasters though, the little rich kids in all the fresh gear, but where they're coming from it ain't too clear!!
  • + 3
 It's not about the size of the boat, it's all about the motion in the ocean.


... Blank Stare
  • - 3
 It's not how big your worm is, it's how you wiggle it
  • - 6
 I'll cut to the chase, It's not the size of your Pen15, it's how you use it. Oh wait, yeah it matters a little bit....
  • + 3
 I've been riding my hardtail for years before I got a downhill bike and it helped me lots! The DH bike just corrects too many mistakes and if you don't know how that would feel on a hardtail or short travel dual suspension bike, you won't get the idea of maybe hopping over the rockgarden instead of just rolling through it! But I wouldn't want to spend a week without my DH bike now! Just saying that it can be an advantage to start small and not get the biggest and baddest bike in the neighbourhood when you've just started riding!
  • + 5
 if it`s really about having fun, then writer of the article got it all tangled up, because what if I have tons of fun riding my DH rig and really don´t care about learning all the technical stuff there`s is to learn on a Hardtail? Hey hear me out! i really don´t want to be stressed about having to learn 2 years on a hardtail how to ride before I can enjoy my DH rig....have fun, ride whatever you want the way you want!!! unless you are riding World Champs why should you care???
[Reply]
  • + 40
 I've gotta agree with levy on this one, buying a 5.5" trail bike was the best purchase I've ever made! It has made riding really fun again and I definitely notice my skills improving. Obviously an 8" bike is great for long days at Whistler but now I prefer something smaller on pretty much everything short of balls out DH.
  • + 4
 I've been thinking this for a very long time. And just as you said when I quit racing downhill and purchased an enduro my progression shot through the roof. At first I felt foreign aboard the short travel rig but now I don't even envy my friends DH rigs and even at many of the bike parks I keep up with them especially in the jump lines I have to brake check while coasting behind them. They get away from me in the super gnar stuff but I truly believe that my progression was due to less travel and having to think more about my line choice.
  • + 5
 Start on a hardtail and progress on to a DH bike (if DH is what you ride) once you can ride the hardtail you'll kick your mates arses who have always stuck to 8" plus bikes. So many riders think they're super fast on their DH bikes but it reality they can't jump, hit berms or carry speed across rock gardens half as good as someone who learnt on a hardtail.
Didn't Peaty win his first DH race on a hardtail????
  • + 3
 Ya I'm pretty sure he mentioned that in one of his interviews. Nice reference man! Totally forgot about that.
  • + 2
 Actually think he won on a fully rigid Kona. He was known as the 'pinball wizard' in Mbuk at the time (93 if memory is correct), due to his riding style of pinging and bouncing off rocks and other obstacles in his path at full tilt
[Reply]
  • + 25
 it's pretty refreshing to see this sort of article and very useful for a lot of noobs, we all lust after super cars and top of the range bikes but realistically none of us can use them to a tenth of their potential. I had dreams of grandeur when i started riding and wanted a GT Lobo to ride my local 2ft high jumps i'm glad experience has taught me otherwise. My Pitch suits all of the trails i have ridden.
  • + 2
 Seriously, if we were all driving F1 cars around I'm sure we'd be pretty speedy, but can anyone honestly say that would be appropriate given the level of driving we see on a daily basis? I do think the article is trying to save people money and show them a more realistic perspective on riding. So what you can't afford the $6800 Carbon V10, you can spend $3000 and shred all season, maybe have more fun at home on a more all-rounder trail bike Smile
[Reply]
  • + 17
 Funny, this is the same thing I expressed in a ost o the "Privee HT: Review" article:
" I think HT's are something ALL riders SHOULD have... I grew up racing/riding BMX and frankly some younger riders have grown WAY too acustom to having suspension to bail them out. a nice HT can help you with line choice and teach you how to use the biggest bit of suspension on your bike: YOUR BODY Not to say HT's are only for "training", but they certainly can make a good rider even better. Try taking a HT to your favorite DH track and wrk on going as fast as you can on the HT and I think you;ll be REAL surprised at how much faster you are when you get back on the squishy bike aye. The Days of 20ft rock "dorps to falt" are nearly gone in most places, so with a good transition even shrt-travel fullys are more fun. Plus on a HT you'll be amazed at how you start to see every trail as a pump-track and you'll be popping off every root nd bump, you know the stuff your "squishy bike" just sucks up and floats over??? yeah that is some of my favorite stuff to hit on the HT. Are you gonna beat someone down a WCDH track on a HT??? No, but if you train on one I'll bet you get to be a LOT faster as you learn to pump for your speed and choose lines that keep you speeding along. There will always be need for good FS bikes, but HT's are just too much fun to write off. hell SOME of us older guys ONLY had HT's when we were inventing this whole sport and we're still alive to tell about it "...
  • + 6
 I firmly believe that growing up before the age of Full-sus, purpose built AM/FR/DH bikes, and racing BMX from an early age has made a FAR better rider overall. One of my favorite bikes to this day is my old 02 Norco 4x4 with 4.3" of FSR travel int eh rear and 5.5" of front travel... I have blown the doors of guys on VERY expensive "nice bikes" that just thought that an expensive FS DH sled was gonna do all the riding for them. Short-travel rigs and HTs are SUCH great tool to have in your training bag as well as being just plain FUN for 99% of the riding we all ACTUALLY do. DH Race bikes are great, nothing against anyone who owns one, but I see a lot of guys out on SUPER spendy bikes that are near replicas of WC bikes and it seems a BIT much. I'm sure I'd LOVE to ride one of these amaing rigs, but I'm not having any less fun on my stubby travel bike. I had a few VERY nice DH bikes a few years back before having neck surgery and while I loved racing and I loved to go as fast as possible on them, I always pulled out the 4x4 for everything else.
  • + 0
 I was thinking exactly the same Medic... When I saw the title of the article I thought immediately "Levy has read the Shan report and it gave him an idea for this". That may or not be true, however I completely agree with what you said there, and here. I am lucky enough to have made a bit of money to enable me to run a HT, 5" short travel and an Mini-DH build Uzzi. Whilst I have to agree with others that the Uzzi has given me the confidence to try stuff I would not dream of doing on the HT or 5"er, I don't believe it has actually given me any more "skills". Those I believe have come from the feeling of being much more in contact with what is actually going on "on the ground" through my HT riding. I enjoy HTs more than being overbiked on a DH rig, and that means to me that they make more sense on a daily basis, the only exception being when I'm trying to run the Japanese DH series courses!
  • + 1
 Exactly.
Back when I lived in CO and frequented Mojo Wheels, the owner saw me hacking through the jumps behind the shop on a bike I was test riding, and he asked if I had a BMX bike or a 24" cruiser. I didn't, and said so. He then loaned me one to ride for my next urban session, and I promptly bought one.
Why? First, because he said that it would make me smoother and faster (he was a smart fella, so I took advice where I could get it), and second, because in one ride, I felt myself working harder and faster to maintain my lines I was attempting (street riding), and that was leading to smarter riding on my part. A little faith, and to this day, I still keep a 24" bike in my stable, without fail. Great learning tool, and Bob was totally right;
"Smooth and fast on smaller wheels, smoother and faster on bigger wheels."
  • + 2
 ...The above to be an analogy to the short- vs. long-travel dilemma, and whither one make you better at the other...
  • + 1
 I find bigger travel bikes are just more forgiving in the end. I started riding Bromont with a norco rampage (hardtail w/ 170mm fork iirc). I don't know how many times I've went over the bars on the first few days but I ended up getting the hang of it pretty fast. At the end of the season I tried my cousin's DH bike and I was sold. On the first run I was like 30% faster. During the following years I started riding much harder/bigger/faster on 8" and they gave me the confidence to try stuff I would never have tried on another bike. Today though, I ride a demo 8 which I absolutely love but sometimes when I ride it my subconscious goes like "Don't know what the landing looks like? Don't know the best line? It doesn't matter, you can just plow through it anyway!" and while it's true, I know it's not a good thing skill development wise.

I'm a big fan of the steep technical gnar stuff and I always go apeshit when I find new challenging terrain but to be honest these days, I've been having a lot more fun riding tamer trails on a 5.7". Jumping is more fun because with less suspension you lose less energy going up jumps and the shorter sag stroke makes it a lot easier to get more speed pumping the trail features. Also, when you weight 145lbs, the 10lbs difference between a 40lbs dh sled and a 30lbs makes a HUGE positive difference on bike handling and tricking. My cornering, the area I lacked the most, also got a lot better on a very short time. You can also pedal up... To me the list of benefits is almost endless.

I will never regret riding a 8" because the extra confidence made my overall riding skyrocket but even though I have more than enough money to own 2 bikes, I'm thinking of selling the bigger one because quite frankly, I don't think it's worth keeping for the 5% of the trails I ride where it's totally justified.
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  • + 15
 My question to the author is, why does it matter? Who cares what everyone else is riding? Ride what you want to, when you want to, that's kind of what this sport is all about! Why do we all need to "develop our skills"? Some people just want to get out there an ride, not become a master of the technicalities. I frankly don't give a shit what anyone else is riding.

Put it this way: Who has a Ferrari and actually NEEDS a Ferrari? Dunno about you but most of the roads round here are 30-50pmh limit, and they aren't exactly polished races surfaces either. Yet that doesn't stop some people. I judge their waste of money but since trail and DH bikes can be pretty price comparable that's not really applicable here.
  • - 5
 we should work on our skills, mainly because when someone thinks o my bike can do that when they see a feature, then hit the feature and wrecking hard because they dont have the skills to pull through end up injured and your favorite trail gets ripped out because some idiot rode way beyond his actual abillities
  • + 5
 People always ride beyond their abilities, that cannot be prevented, and the type of bike bears no relation to ability.
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  • + 13
 People will never fully push their race bred sports cars to the limit either, but that sure doesn't make them any less fun to drive. Sure you can drive your Honda civic like a sports car and have fun but it's just not as fun as that Porsche 911 turbo.
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  • + 11
 I both agree and disagree here. There are some good points raised, but some of them are unrealistic.

I will draw an example from this weekend, My local downhill spot is Aston Hill, and it attracts a lot of visitors of all skill levels. There were many people there this weekend who were clearly new to the sport, yet sporting bikes with 7" and upwards of travel, and also a lot of newbies on cheap-o hardtail bikes. At the start of the day, they were pretty much on a level playing field in terms of skill level, but as the day progressed a larger and larger gap between the group began to form. The guys on the long travel bikes were pushing themselves harder, and trying new things because of the confidence inspiring nature of the bigger bikes. Big bikes= Confidence= Progression.

This was backed up when one of the guys on the cheapo bikes asked if he could have a little go on my bike, and i obliged, now he wasn't exactly steve peat, but he was defiantly faster on the longer travel bike, and he even hit a jump that he had been avoiding all day on the HT bike.

Furthermore, my riding buddy was on a 4x hard-tail that day. Same thing applied with him, He was much, much faster on the bigger bike.

This article may apply to you, in your local riding area Mike, but to the most of us who have the terrain (in my opinion anyway), A bigger bike is better. I find it kind of stupid saying that only the top level pro riders need 8" travel bikes.

I will mention that i come from a BMX background, so i do have a good level of bike handling, which is something that many newbies lack.
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  • + 14
 I think we would find Dan Atherton agrees with Levy here..
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  • + 14
 Shitstorm in 3 2 1 .....
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  • + 12
 A friend of mine just said 'if your travel is longer than your penis, you need a different bike'. Not sure what his rule for female riders is.
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  • + 10
 I absolutely agree with this article.

At one point, I was riding a Giant Anthem Advanced and Giant AC. When I rode the AC, it felt sluggish and even with the extra suspension 6.6" compared to 3.5", I never felt like I was getting any better because the suspension was hiding all of my riding flaws. This past year, I dedicated 100% of my riding time on the 3.5" traveled Anthem up on the North Shore, riding the likes of Severed Dick, Pingu, 7th Secret, Pipeline, and it definitely made me a better rider teaching to keep momentum, body position, and using my limbs for suspension. There are still sections of certain trails which I wish I had a bit more suspension...but as I push myself each time...I am forced to improve improve improve.

One day, I will end up back on the big(ger) bike and hopefully the skills I learned through riding a short traveled bike will transfer over.
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  • + 10
 what makes you a better rider is just riding everything and having fun. I raced BMX 7 years and refused to ride mtb because I looked down on them. Then I rode mtb after being convinced by a friend and it was fun, which it was, not least because it wasn't the same competitive stress, just dirt and trails. Then rode DH, trail, cross country, then back to BMX. After all that the thing I realised is that you're going to learn from each bike and get something out of it, and ultimately being snobbish about any other bike is just going to mean you miss out on whatever is unique about tht bike. PS, going from DH back to BMX is insane in the culture shock dept. try it sometime Smile You only have to think the word "whip" and you're already trying to get it back.
  • + 2
 When you change up where you're riding, or what you're riding, you will see improvement as long as you're always giving it your best effort. Every type of bike has its own unique skill set that you learn the more you ride. These skills make your overall riding improve whether you notice or not. The biggest thing is, Get out and ride. Who cares what you're riding... We all ride because we love, or at least enjoy the sport, not to judge what everyone else is riding.
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  • + 6
 Ok sure we know little bikes are fun. As a bmxer for over 30 years now I get that. But since when was riding a DH rig not fun? And what about peeps that actually like the feeling of riding longer travel bikes?
If I'm heading out on an xc ride with slower riders often i'll take the big bike just to slow me down and make me work harder. One old school local legend guy here used to take his intense m1 out on the Saturday bunch ride just to depress the roadies... And yes he smoked them...

Yes i suppose little bikes in gravity parks are fine if your sponsor/mummy buys you a new bike every season or you ride like a pussy... but they don't last that long with harder use. I've got a small bike graveyard in my shed to back that up...
I'm lucky to be able to own and ride all types of bikes (except road bikes cause they suck and yes i just said that Razz ) and to be honest i have the same fun on all of them as really its the people i ride with that counts more to me. If your not having fun on whatever bike either your local spot is lame, your too fat, or your mates suck.
That's not a reason to hate on DH rigs though.
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  • + 6
 This article makes a great point. 98% of us can ride 98% of our local trails on a bike with 98% less travel than Sam Hill. I agree. The issue I have with this article is the author's insistence that we are all trying to hone in every riding skill all of the time. If your only reason for riding is to get better, I feel bad for you. I would hope that everyone is riding their big or little bikes to have a good time. If we are on the trails to enjoy ourselves who gives a rat's ass what bike we are riding. If you aren't having fun on a plush big bike then buy a "smaller" bike. If you have more fun on a "big" bike go ride a big bike.

This article is all about countering the populous. No matter when or what the popular trend is, the same people are countering against it. I'm surprised we aren't reading an article on the benefits and joys of using bar-ends! It feels exciting to go against the norm and create a valid and strong argument. I get that. It's such a powerful feeling, but it is a fleeting one. As soon as enough people join your cause it's the norm, and that's no fun to fight for!

I ride for fun. Whatever bike is most fun for you, ride it, and quit worrying about how other people are having fun.
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  • + 6
 Well I started on an 07 norco sasquatch hardtail, did a few dh ride days and after a year and a half decided to upgrade to a dual suspension. I went for a 2008 Transition bottlerocket, 5.5 inch travel as most would know. such a fun little bike to hit any trail on and I could take it out with my dirt jumper friends as well. But I started doing some DH races and was finding the rear end quite limiting (it did run a fox DHX5 air shock which I could never quite get set up right, always had too much pre load but blew through on hits). Now being able to only afford one bike i had to make the choice to either stick with the short travel bottlerocket or move up to something a bit longer. In the end i decided to buy a 2011 Scott Voltage FR10. Best thing about the voltage is the adjustability of travel, I can change it from 140/160mm to 180mm (5/6 to 7 inch) travel and change the head angle with the interchangeable rear dropouts. This makes for a versatile bike which i can hit up the 'casual' trails on, having as much fun as the other short travel people. then I can head out with my dirt jumper mates and do some hucking. and then put the full face on, put her in long travel slack dropouts and race DH events on it. Its not just scott that have picked up on this adjustable travel either, the first other bike similiar to this that comes to mind is a transition TR250, adjustable from 160mm to 180mm (6 to 7 inch) and i am sure there are many others labelled as 'freeride' bikes out there that have similiar properties. But to be honest these bikes are the answer to this question, they can be set up for all different riding styles and be enjoyable in each. I am definitely going to be sticking with this style of bike for the rest of my time riding.
  • + 1
 I also own the Voltage FR. The reason to buy one was its versatility. I'm not a downhill rider and my background is XC (being riding MTB for 20years now) and I love the fact that I could stick on a slightly shorter shock that gives less travel, lowers the BB and slacken the HA a bit - for my trails that's all I ever needed and I can always change if needed.

@ Apete - I need to point out that replaceable drop-outs are not affecting the head angle on the Voltage, they only make the chainstay longer or shorter (i.e. long for DH, short for dirt).

Safe riding dudes!
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  • + 6
 I'm a firm believer that all newbies should start on a HT. It teaches you to pick your lines and expect a hit. I've never owned a DH bike and TBH never will. The stuff i ride is very varied and i can't really justify a fleet of bikes, I'm back on a HT and loving it. I ride DH (slowly) and ride AM all on one bike... I'm happy!
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  • + 6
 Why do people own sports cars and never go over 65 mph? Why so many Hummers that have never seen dirt? Why ask why? I tell you why. Because that's what we want and that's what we're going to get.
  • + 1
 Haha man just nailed it, best comment so far.
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  • + 5
 I'm one of the cretins who went straight onto bikes with "a lot of travel" and agree with both sides of the story.
As an old"er" fart, the big bike has given me the cockiness to take on things I never thought I ever would. I've also had 160mm trail bikes, but of late I've found my riding to plateau a lot, even getting worse after a few injuries.

I decided to take it down a notch and get myself an aggro hardtail, bring the grin factor to riding and going back to basics. I still have my DH rig of course, but I'm loving rediscovering and finding out the things I take for granted on a big squishy bike.

There's also something to be said for the fact that when you rock up with a HT, there is no expecting faces thinking that you need to shred and justify that expensive 8" between your legs (oooh err). I can just rock up and have fun.
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  • + 7
 "while those on smaller bikes coast and look for backsides to pump" ....

Woah ! c'mon Mike, lets leave that side of the sport out of it eh !
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  • + 4
 I totally share your opinion. BUT after a couple of years owning different short travel bikes and having the opportunity to ride a lot more on different presscamps I have to admit I haven't found one which would be capable to take the beating over a longer time of use because they are built on the lighter side. After one year of ripping they keep falling apart...

A lot of people wouldn't accept a frame with the weight of almost a DH-rig but with "only" 160mm of travel. Also the most of the bikes didn't offer a rearend which has some serios progression in it so hit the trail like you would do it on a full on 200mm bike. A light frame combined with tiny air shocks like Fox RP keeps banging through the travel and heat up over a long descent, loosing the abillity to keep your backwheel traction because the oil is so hot that you loose your rebound...

Conclusion? I keep searching for a 160mm frame which is able to resist some serios beating without feeling like a noodle (stiffnesswise) and offer a good compromise between BB height and headangle.
  • + 1
 See my reply to ak-83 above!
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  • + 4
 There is a place for all bikes for sure and putting a smile on your face is the name of the game. The only thing I would add is to challenge the diehard DH bike guys that say their skill is all good to jump on a 4" bike and ride the same trails. You may be a bit slow in the gnarly sections but if you can't handle it or find it too scary, then keep riding that bike until its easier. When you jump back on your DH bike a month or year later, you will be amazed at how much faster you are. It does take skill to handle a DH rig but you will agree it takes way more skill and focus to ride that terrain on shorter travel bike. If you can only afford one bike remember that it will not be your last. Invest the time on short travel and your skills will improve.
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  • + 8
 It's be said before, but I'll say it again - hard tails rule!
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  • + 4
 I think I'm in agreement but I think there's more to be said about geometry than travel. I always opted for bigger bikes because the smaller bikes were so twitchy and poor descenders. But now that 6" bikes are slack and long but still good climbers I rarely ride my 8" bike. Now that 5" bikes are available in similar slack configs my next 'small' bike will be a 5" Specialized EVO Stump or something like it. I like the margin of error my 8" bike gives me but it insulates me from the trail a bit too much. I ride my 6" bike 90% of the time. There is nothing I wouldn't hit on both bikes but on bigger features (or ones at the end of my skill level) the big bike lets me carry more speed and make more mistakes. As I get older there's an increasingly strong case the hit the same trails on less bike to continue challenging myself while reducing risk.
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  • + 4
 I agree with Mike. I realized it 4 years back when I was just riding my big bike setup most of the times. I used to think that its cool to have it around all the time. But ever since I built a full suspension trail bike... my riding, distance etc expanded. I could ride at so many places...and climb too! Though I still have my big hit which I love and use it very rarely when riding some bad downhills. Coming to components... Kashima coat, blackbox, 200 mm travel or 210 mm or 180mm DH travel forks.. and i see all the guys pinning it..be it 200 or 210 mm travel fork..(Honestly I wonder how 10mm of extra travel helps much).. thats the reason why I'm still sticking to my 170mm single crown fork..which was considered to be a bad ass back till 2007/08. I dont think I have reached a level yet where I would need a 200 mm fork. (thought I dont mind making my bike look cool with it)... but why..another truth is "I cant afford it either".. I spent all my hard earned money to build my 2 beloved bikes.
But.. I must say.. a full suspension bike does help a lot when riding those kind of trails. I remember when I started riding. My hardtail bike frame was literally made of iron pipes.. and the fork had maybe 1 inches of travel. Just a spring inserted with lot of grease. I had amazing time. There was no high end bikes in my country that time... But riding skill changes..and it did for me too...and i started experimenting.
I think it also depends upon the individual choices or preference. People do offroading on quad bikes, people love offroading in a Hummer too.. and then here comes mountain bikes. I have no idea what am i writing now...so i must end this by saying... I think Enduro Bikes these days looks fantastic and bridges the gap. You can do so much with them.. going big to climbing big. Whatever mountain bike you have or ride... till you enjoy riding..it makes sense. Mountain Bike is forever!
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  • + 4
 I ride a dh bike and an enduro bike. After riding my dh bike for the weekend and switching to the enduro, the enduro is like riding a little bmx bike that I can flick all over the place, this would not be possible for me personally had I not been trying to flick my big rig around. Another thing is if i want to ride my big bike on the smaller trails who cares?? Im a grown ass man and this point in my life is about comfort and being able to cruise over big stuff and not worry about my life. Im not trying to be a pro racer, im trying to ride my sick ass dh bike that i worked so hard for and enjoy the comfort of cruising a cadilac down the mtn. These posts are getting a little out of control and ppl are getting way to serious about RIDING BIKES!!! ride what u want smash a couple brews, smoke some cali dank and chil the F*ck out ppl.
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  • + 6
 this is for those riders who have gnarly long-travel full-suspension bikes that don't even know how to properly set sag.... then ride on roads all day.
  • + 3
 Pretty much.
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  • + 4
 Great Article and video. The Writer has done exactly what he set out to do; that is got us talking about riding: job well done! Don't Get so offended if you disagree with his opinion he has his opinion You have yours. By the way, I agree with him.
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  • + 8
 homey on the green bromag is straight killin it.
  • + 36
 Does everyone in California speak like this?
  • + 12
 No. He's just spent too much time in LA.
  • + 4
 Brah I'm nor cal homey, were hella better then the dudes in low cal. the dirts way more tacky up here yah fee meh.
  • + 4
 it's true.
  • + 13
 Yo up in the streez of eugene Oregon we so g it's scrilla to the villa up in thiz shiza! Na what I mean bratha across the pond?
  • - 2
 yo stop doing drucgs yo
  • + 5
 drucgs help me keep speed on my short travel bikes and I can really apply those experiences to riding a my Operator
  • - 3
 And could kill you too but whatever
  • + 1
 cfrank is not wack cause im from compton!
  • + 1
 well nor cal could explain a lot why he talks like that
  • - 2
 'Brah'? Oh please! Hate the use of that 'term' (meaning 'brother' in 'cool, down with the kids talk'- yes ,I know...) isn't a 'brah' a garment women use to support their mammary glands???
  • + 1
 actually a bra does that...
  • + 0
 I know thanks, I was being sarcastic. I forgot, you have to explain every statement you make on pinkbike, for those who don't get, ummmm, anything haha.
  • + 0
 ya sorry haha, its kinda hard to tell if someone is using sarcasm over the internet.
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  • + 3
 I wanted a huge DH rig at first when I got into the sport, but then realized I didn't have the money for one. Thanking myself that I didn't, I would not be the rider I am without a hardtail. Me being a piss-broke 13year old, I can't afford a decent bike so I just ride my Rockrider 5.2, if you don't know what that is well its a janky lug of a bike but a decent aluminum frame and disc brake mounts. Rockin the regular setup with deore hydraulic discs, and I actually outperform my buds that ride full sus. Drops ain't half as bad as some people say they are, I probably haven't hit higher than 5 foot drop or 9 foot gap but still it's a lot easier than i thought it would be and I can still rip up my local XC trails too. thats my 2cents downtoke if ya like
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  • + 3
 Dudes I rode a single speed p2 with a 36 float wide bars and dh tires for almost two years on trails that I really should have had a DH bike for and it was so much fun and so worth it. When I bought a Demo 7 again recently and really spent some time setting it up or me, I realized just how much gnarlier I can get on a big rig now. Before my dh bike break, I was a hack. Now I'm shredding and jumping so much better than before. It's totally fun to keep up with your DH buddy's on a hardtail too.

Don't be fooled though. Pinkbike wants us all on the latest industry trends. If they had it their way we'd all be riding 29/650b bikes. When was the last time anyone was shredding a gnarly trail way over their head and thought to themselves, "if only these 26" wheels and 7" of travel weren't holding me back!". Personally, never.

So don't be fooled by pinkbike and their 29" ambitions, but do recognize that everyone can benefit from riding a hardtail, bmx, or moto. And if you don't have proper dh trails to ride, don't buy a dh bike duh!?
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  • + 3
 Once upon time in a country far, far away a guy called Chris Kovarik was back in Oz for a break, 2002 I think. He turned up at one of the State DH races on a short travel hard tail and absolutely slayed everyone.
You don't need more travel, you need better skills. If you "can't" ride the same trails with either 8" or 5" then you probably can't ride.
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  • + 3
 I completely agree! I applaud Mike for this insightful and timely article. I have ridden big travel bikes for years, and this Summer have finally decided to switch to a 6 inch rig. It wasn't due to a massive injury or any negative incident. I just basically started comparing the fun I had on my 5 inch bike to my 8 inch bike. It made me realize that though the 5 inch travel bike was a little steep for real descents, the feeling of stomping a section was far, far more satisfying than on my big bike. There is a cerebral quality to riding shorter travel bikes, you need to be focused, strategic, and damn good to make sections that a big bike wouldn't even sniff at. I personally believe that 6 inch 650b bikes are the ultimate weapon for nearly any scenario. I love that these bikes reward a competent rider. There are certainly times when a big bike is the weapon of choice, but the capability of short travel bikes is rapidly shaving down these scenarios. My other nod to the short travel bike is a rediscovery of the spirit of adventure on a short travel bike. Go anywhere, ride anything, no excuses. They can climb and they can descend and can explore that little goat path that leads off the main track. DH bikes can only access a narrow band of trails. Short travel bikes are free to explore and discover for hours on end with the riders leg power being the only limit. Of course the more exploration the more powerful the legs become!
  • + 1
 That's exactly how I see it.
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  • + 3
 I learned to ride at Bromont on a rigid bike the early 90s. I still have rigid bikes and ride them quite often. I Ride my 6 inch AM Bike at Bromont and regularly pass guys on brand new DH rigs like they were stopped. I will ride any trail any time with no suspension and have just as much fun as you will. I am not bragging, just think you should try a rigid bike, you might like it more than a squishy.
  • + 2
 hell yh im not the only one who rides ridged, that's where the real funs at
  • + 2
 To the Penny Farthing shop!!!
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  • + 5
 Every time I watch a Jinya video I seriously question selling my full suspension bike. The simplicity of the hard tail is pretty darn attractive.
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  • + 3
 It all comes down to your environment. If you put 4 big days in a year at a bike park and 80 days riding trails, there is a good chance a full on dh bike is a bad choice. Trail bikes have come a long way. I remember when 4 inch bikes with v-brakes were considered big bikes. So why would not be able to rip anything on a capable 5 inch trail bike theses days. Here's a great argument for short travel bikes.
vimeo.com/40560345
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  • + 3
 This is a good subject and one I think has no 'right' answer. The phrase horses for courses springs to mind. There will always be a place for rigid, big travel and everything in between so long as there are people who want to ride them and wouldn't it be a sad day if everyone had to ride the same type of bike.
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  • + 3
 not everyone is riding to get more skills, of course it is nice to do some improvement, but fist I ride for fun. I also agree you get better faster on HT, but the biggest improve I did in the short time I ride bikes I did when I get my new 7 inch travel bike, I had HT before, but riding mountain bikeparks was really hard for me, then I switched to "short" (5") travel bike, then to the 7 inch travel and this helped me a most at that point. Now it is about 6 months I´ve bought also HT to have two bikes and I have to say the progress can be seen here too. Today I use the big travel one for gnarly lines, bikeparks in mountains and HT for the rest - anyway the biggest progress I´ve ever made this year for me I did on pumptrack. That is the discipline where you get skills about how to turn, pump, to control your way and your bike
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  • + 3
 I MURK my friends that ride their DH rigs on my dirt jumper 90% of the time downhill and 100% uphill. I'd say that I definitely got some confidence from my couch bike back in the day, with a 110-155 adjustable front setup it rips, and when they have to get off and push their shit up hills I blow by without even having to downshift....pretty nice to be sluggin down a gatorade taking a break while your group is strugglin' to push their 40 lb monsters up to the top
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  • + 3
 for the first three years of riding i rode a hardtail bike racing dh, riding trails, 4x and pretty much every other type of riding on one bike. when it was eventually time to upgrade i went to a freeride bike. having 7 inches under my belt and 3 years of experience on a hard-tail i can confidently say that i was able to keep up to most local riders and even did pretty well in some races against bikes with an extra inch or two. after 3 more years ive eventually beaten that bike into the ground. upgrading once again to my first dh bike (giant glory) i can truthfully say that in so many instances the bike has resulted in a lack of speed rather than a increase in it. sure straight high speed choppy terrain it eats up but if you get into any type of steep tight corners it gets caught and slows me down. again i believe that my experience riding bikes with progressively bigger suspension has greatly enhanced my ability to maneuver the colossus of a bike. my next bike will definitely be a shorter travel all mountain/freeride bike. not only did i enjoy the shorter travel bikes more but the versatility went through the roof! So thank you for this article. i take my hat off to you sir and agree 100%
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  • + 3
 Does it really mater. Some people have full downhill rigs because they really enjoy the technology involved. People have always bought motor cycles and cars capable of going way faster than they can ride/drive them. It's like doing xc on a $5000 6kg carbon bad boy, you would get much fitter on 20kg bike. But have the technology is fun. Ride what you like we're you like anything is better than sitting at home reading about home to ride.
  • + 1
 Best comment I've read so far.
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  • + 2
 Nice write-up Levy. I've been telling people that an AM 6" rig is what you need if your not a hard-charging DH racer and want to work for the terrain. I downsized from a 7.5" bike over a year ago and I have so much more fun on some of the nasty stuff (techy stuff at whistler and such) with my short travel rig. Lightweight, nimble, enough travel if you use your body correctly, perfect.
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  • + 2
 Spot on, Mike!
I routinely have to ask riders on monster bikes to let me past on all but the most gnarly sections at local resorts.
Experience allows me to navigate my HT over most everything, but it is hard work.
On those days I feel off my game, or just lazy, I ride down on a couch. I can get to the bottom a tad quicker, but I feel emptier, as the adrenalin rush is lessened.
On board the HT, I need to be sharp as a laser, or I'll eat it...atop 8", I can (usually) let skill & experience fly out the window.

Both are great, but learning bike-handling skills on HT or 4" bikes is the way to go.
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  • + 2
 Good article ! I started downhill racing on a hard tail in 1998. I know it made me a better rider because I had to use my body to finesse my bike up and over every root, rock, hump, bump, etc.

I moved to Calgary in September from Vancouver and went and rode at Canada Olympic Park (which is a very small hill, that does a fairly good job at making the best of what they have) and was surprised at the amount of people with long travel DH bikes who solely ride at that park. Not to slag them in any way, as I feel it's the fun that's more important but it certainly makes me curious as to why they chose to invest so much money into a bike that is very overkill for that kind of location.
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  • + 2
 I started riding again about 5 years ago ( again meaning not since I was 13 ). I started riding XC with a friend and quickly decided I wanted more of a challenge and probably not so many miles. I bought a jump bike after my XC bike to get some skills and practised in skate parks, My brother and myself then started to ride trail centres and loved it, every weekend I would see the lads riding there DH bikes and I really wanted to try that out, luckily a friend of mine also got into the sport and also wanted to ride DH. We both bought freeride bikes thinking this was the perfect compromise of pedalling and DH capability. We rode DH ( not very well ) and rode trails and park on our bikes. We then decided that we needed a full DH bike, but instead of going straight to the first shop and buying DH sleds, we thought we'd ride our DJ bikes downhill and see how we got on. We rode for over a year on our DJ bikes, riding everything Hamsterley forest had to offer until we finally bought full on DH bikes. Now I know I can ride the same trails on shorter travel bikes, but I just love how a big bike feels. I'm glad we rode DJ bikes for a year and built up skills in line choice and not relying on travel to get you over stuff, I now feel like I ride my DH bike like a smaller travel rig but with the extra confidence of more travel to cushion me. Plus were all forgetting how good DH bikes look which I'm guessing is one of the main reasons we all have or want one, whether or not we do, can, or need one.
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  • + 2
 For almost 10 years I'm riding a trail-hardtail and a 6-7" fully side by side. It's the best way to improve your riding skills. Go out on your favorit trail with your fully and pin it down. Now try to hold the same line with your hardtail. It's a challenge, but after a few times you'll be able to do it. Now go back on your fully and you'll feel like having so much reserves..... untill you became a fully bitch, getting lazy and counting only on travel. It's time to take the hardtail again;-)
Do both - get strong and have fun.
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  • + 2
 Funny thing, sold my dh rig for a blur lt 160/140 and I find it much better in all situations, in fact a was able to hit a jump I could not clear because I was riding a bike with 40mm less travel but also 12lbs lighter! This article is vindication that I made the right choice,
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  • + 2
 Having started riding before there was much suspension out there, so we had to learn where to put that front wheel, or how to keep appropriate contact w/ both front and rear wheels, and your ass maybe didn't see as much saddle time. Even slight variations in tire pressure made a difference in the ride. I may have a 7" bike now, but I still ride that full rigid bike. (my first lift access ride was full rigid StumpJumper rented at Mount Snow VT in the early '90s)

I was reminded of some of that fun after a couple seasons on my "big" bike almost exclusively, when renting a hard tail XC bike from Liberty Bikes while on vacation in Asheville NC. Getting that Trek 6500 off the ground, feeling the acceleration, or making it over those obstacles or through that washed out area at speed, all felt great. And this was at Bent Creek forest, on not really the most difficult terrain, but an awesome day anyway. So this brought me back to splitting time on all of my bikes.

So I guess my 2 cents is that there can be value and fun on any bike, and that there may be some wisdom in trying to push your own skills while using a potentially less capable bike.
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  • + 2
 I completely agree with this article 100%! I've often seen kids riding dh bikes down stuff that they really don't have the skill for and it's only the bike that is allowing them to ride the trail, every kid should start off with a hardtail for the first year of their riding before they get a dh/full sus bike, and they always keep a hardtail to remind them that they haven't magically got wayyyy better, the bike is just doing more work! I've decided I'm getting a bit lazy on the dh bike recently so it's all mtn bike for dh all winter!
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  • + 2
 I agree with the basic point: most people who ride super burly long travel bikes could probably get away riding smaller travel bikes and, with practice, hit the same runs they *believe* they need long travel bike for... maybe even at the same kinds of speeds... and if they were to then take those skills back to a longer travel bike really progress in the sport and become much more accomplished riders.

However, what the article omits is the fact that most of people don't really ride to progress but to have fun. This in turn takes us back to the disclaimer: Different strokes for different folks. I firmly believe that most amateur riders on long travel bikes ride them exactly because these bikes are forgiving of a rider's lack of certain skills and exactly because these bikes don't require riders to log hours on end on the trail (or worse yet in the gym) just to be able to get down some of the steeper runs and larger drops.

Personally, I'd rather stick my hard earned dollars into a better kit or a carbon frame than into a super long travel suspension or 2 foot rotors with brakes will bring a semi to a dead-stop in the blink of an eye but I do also see the appeal in that.
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  • + 2
 Totally agree, unless your hometown terrain is just crazy, I am of the opinion that riders should start hardtail, move to short travel full suspension, and finally to DH rig if they really feel it's necessary. Makes the most economic sense and will progress rider skills much better.
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  • + 2
 Started on BMX bikes as a kid, learning to jump, pedal fast, manual, and wheelie, then went on to the first bridgestone MB-2 , then onto the early pro-flex full sussy rigs, then the first specialized 4 bar steel framed bikes, then it just progressed into the last 16 years of burly medium and long travel bikes. The technical riding skills that I developed riding hardtails and low travel rigs, transcended my riding abilities when I got onto the bigger stuff. So the small to big theory worked for me!
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  • + 2
 I have seen articles in 4-wheel Off-Raod magazines where folks w/ endless money for monster travel and tires can tackle any trail, but having found a rewarding challenge pushing an un-lifted rig up an easier trail really pushes that skill level, lending to some more enjoyment to their favorite sport. I think this is the same sentiment for mountain biking, and I think they have something here.

I'm not sure everyone will see this message the same, as they compare it to their own available trails. I'm not sure that feather-light weight-weinie XC racer has much of a place at a freeride park, but that's not to say that a heavy-duty hardtail wouldn’t make you a little more conscious of the line you chose, or where you are balanced over your bike. Maybe look at an enduro race, where you need to apply some torque to the wheels on the pedal portions, and still be able to handle some speed on the downhill sections. Is this an argument for your perfect one-bike-quiver, or to spend some time on the "small" bike to maximize your experience when you use the "big" one? I don't know, but I hope everyone comes away with some critical thought on why they are riding which bike any given day.
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  • + 2
 I'm riding 2 bikes, both hardtails. A steel hardtail w/150mm for jumping and dropping, with flats. My second bike is a SC Chameleon, setup kinda XC with 130mm, slightly longer stem, lighter weight parts, clipped in. It's far from an actual xc racer at around 25lbs. I use the clips and weight of this bike to do some crazy stuff trying to keep my speed up going downhill. Fun as is the key word there. I've owned 4 full sus bikes with 4 inches being the minimum. A few single pivots and a few linkage bikes. I raced bmx for years before moving to mountain bikes. I was a shop mechanic for around 10 years and had a chance to ride a number of different bikes, including a 2 downhill bikes that most people would sell a kidney to ride. They were great bikes and a blast to ride. It was super steep with shoots and rock gardens. But, I had more fun later in the day riding a 5" bike. I could flick it around. I had to pick my lines. The DH I had to figure out where to hit the brakes to make the turn.

Why didn't I keep riding a full suspension? It was a toss up between an Specialized Enduro, SC Nomad or a Cotic BFe. I wanted something fun and different to ride. In one season, I have yet to see another Cotic. No pivots. No sag. The 150mm soaks alot up. I have to keep a rear end light. That might be why when I rode the 5" bike mentioned above, I felt like I was going faster, it skimmed all but the biggest bumps. The Cotic also comes in at under 29lbs. Doesn't climb like a goat, but I never need to push it uphill. I keep up nicely with my friends riding 6" full suspension carbon bikes, even on the downhills. I'll get a full suspension again one day, but for now, I'm having too much fun...
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  • + 2
 My "big" bike for downhill is actually a slopestyle bike, I got a corsair Konig with 160mm (6.2 inches) up front and just 5.1 in the back, I keep up with all my buddies on their big burly DH bikes no problem. I never got why my buddies have all that suspension even though we ride Black Rock and Crawfish all the time....I did start riding on a p.1 about 3 years ago and still ride it regularly to keep skills up in the winter months. I didnt have a choice when I first got into riding a hardtail with little suspension was all I could afford being in college, best 250 bucks ive spent...Now that I got a full suspension a few months ago I think I would be worse if I started on one.
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  • + 2
 I ride a 6" Nuke Mega which I love and is probably over kill for most UK trail centres although just about everyone seems to be riding Orange 5's and what not. But I recently built a Dartmoor Hornet with a 150mm fork, what a blast! Yes, I had to work harder but this is precisely the point! I was proper connected back to the trail and got the bike off the ground way easier than the full susser. I'd say we're all a bit seduced by travel and tech and features, a hardtail looks dull next to one, so we buy these bigger bikes thinking this is the tool for all the jobs. Takes time to discover your style I guess?
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  • + 2
 For those of us who cant afford both, it just makes sense to own something in the middle - 5 inches of travel weighing in around 28 pounds and as good pointed uphill as it is rolling back down. The real question is, if you have the cash, what's your next purchase - the paper mache light carbon hardtail for ripping up the XC or the 40 pound mother of lightspeed for downhill?
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  • + 2
 After spending 10years away from mtbing, and riding nothing but hard-tails (suspension was to expensive) i learnt the hard way when you got it wrong. I recently decided it was about time to get back on a bike, I bought a stinky air and my boyhood dreams of owning a proper dh bike are fulfilled and love it, but I have started riding with a bunch of people who are more about cross country/all mountain, so i bought a secondhand trance so i could climb and keep up with them! I went out on it sunday and did my local trails and came back with the biggest smile on my face, the shorter travel was a lot more responsive and i knew what was underneath me and in some sections made me pick my lines a lot more carefully, which to me is all part of the fun of riding. needless to say the kona is now up for sale, and i think a reign would be perfect(even a little over kill) for most trails in the uk.
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  • + 2
 Glad to see some love for the real riders who know what they're doing and ride what is right for them and their trails. Big bikes are so often used to get around any challenge and to avoid building skills that its like bringing a tractor to a corn maze... just blast through the obstacles because you've bought the shit that can do it for you.
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  • + 2
 After starting Mtb 20 years ago with a steel Cycle Craft and going through a lot of bikes of all kinds, I still kept that hardtail until it was recently stolenFrown
Long travel bikes are certainly more comfortable but make you lazy and give a false impression of safeness !
After all this long time I decided to go back now and join the dark side ...hardtail, 29" and steel...its plain more fun!
www.2soulscycles.com/products/quarterhorse-qqhq-98
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  • + 2
 That's just why I love my 160mm miniDH bike ... no need for a big DH bike (that'd be trully used 2 weeks a year), and I can have as much fun as many, if not more! Oh and you can have smaller travel bikes that outperform many full-on DH bikes ... as long as you have the proper suspension, parts and setup.
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  • + 2
 As a pro race BMX guy once told me: "There are only two things that will teach you complete control over bicycle, it's BMX racing or Trail". I'm purchasing street/dj bike to ride BMX track and to learn to control bicycle in slow motion on Trail like attractions. 80mm is all it takes at max to learn how to ride a bike. Having said that, I still bought DH bike first Big Grin
  • + 3
 Fully agree... Grew p racing BMX and when you learn to pump for your speed, you get SO much faster on the big bike... I've never had REAL Trials bike, but I've screwed aroud with my HT's after the first time I saw a Hans Rey vid back in the day and again, I think it's greatly improved my overall balance so much. Of all the stupid crap MBA has published over the eyars, there was ONE article on riding skills that said something like "ever been at the trail head watching some guys ride wheelies all over and do trac-stops or hop around on their bikes like trials riders??? Those guys are always the best riders cause their balance and control over the bike is just so much better..." I liked that cause at the time (like the late 90's) I was going on rides with a nch of XC and early "trai" riders and I was the kid who ws jumping off everything and manualing all over and a LOT of these guys realy sstruggled to keep up and seemed t really struggle when it got tight and overly tech and/or steep... There is wisdom in what that old BMX guy told you Wink
  • + 2
 Thats cool, and I totally agree him and you, you're both right! So no more excuses, just HT bicycle and hours or riding correctly! Smile
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  • + 5
 After reading this article I've decided that I'm going fully rigid, single speed and brakeless.
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  • + 4
 I ride a hobby horse. it improves my skills loads. inner tubes allow you to just blast over the bumpy stuff, you'll never get any better that way
  • + 2
 Well played.
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  • + 2
 Yes! We so readily forget how capable a short travel bike is, which today are capable of what the burliest bikes were capable of not many years ago. Sometimes I take my short travel Trek Fuel to my local bike parks, and get the weirdest looks. Lift attendants, riders, shops, they all seem to have a simultaneous expression of contempt for my poorly chosen bike, and fear for my life. But every time, I ride every trail, and have just as much fun as those guys of a full on dh rig. Yeah, in the future I might get a Downhill bike, but only when I've damn well earned it.
  • + 2
 I saw two middle aged men ride national downhill in rotorua last weekend on 4 inch xc bike and where faster than some of my friends who where of dh bikes. Also on a lot of trails 8 inches would just soak every bump up, you might as well be riding a smooth walking track.
  • + 2
 I agree. I've had my 5.1" Kona Tanuki on the local DH trails, which are world class and super gnarly. And I've raced it in a 12 hr race. It's very versatile. It's definitely a "ballsy" bike as Kona says. Sometimes I do shy away from drops higher than 5-6 feet for fear of the bike...but it may prove to be able to handle it if the landing is smooth enough. Plus it's tons of fun to be able to keep up with guys on DH rigs and 7" freeride bikes on all the downhills Big Grin
  • + 1
 don't worry about sending it minkey.... I've hit spots that are about 20ft out and 10ft down and the tanuki handles them very well. the transition at the bottom was acceptable, but it's not a built spot. just make sure you got enough air in that shock, it blows through the travel fast as i'm sure you're aware.
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  • + 6
 I'll keep my Demo, thank you.
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  • + 2
 I started off riding everything on a hardtail, grew super confident on it, then stepped up to a dh bike. As that's the main riding I was doing at the time. I kept the hardtail, and still ride it now and again. Admittedly not as often. But I feel it sped up my learning process. I'm hardly an expert at any level though. My 5inch am bike is still awesome but nothing is as fun as my bigrig! Full blast into stuff. Ha. Totally agree that people should start on shorter travel then move up in travel dependant on tracks. Get the skills then the equipment.
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  • + 2
 Problem is my short travel bikes get trashed is a short time. By the way, the Champéry WC track on a short travel bike is totally do-able if you just let the bike run, pick lines and accept that you are not slowing down until the road.
  • + 3
 Short of having massive skills doing the Champery WC on a 140mm bike is an exceedingly dangerous idea even if you take the chicken lines (doing the pro line would lead to injury). I live in Châtel and have ridden Champery several times this season and it is hardcore in the dry I can't imagine riding it in the wet ala Danny Hart!
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  • + 2
 i have to agree that a big bike will give you the confidence to hit stuff that you will then go back to hit on a smaller bike. this i think is more to lack of skill on my part tho as i have done most local trails on both bikes and it WAS more fun on the smaller bike. i can also remember doing an up lift at bringewood with a load of mates on dh bikes. one guy brought his trek remedy and went faster and bigger than everyone else on the day. i also seen him on a ht making dh riders look slow and cumbersome. i photographed another race where peaty was riding a tall boy 29'er and beat everyone and most were on dh bikes. but then peaty would have won on a penny farthing.
  • + 2
 hey just had to ask - what is the british "penny farthing" term? Rigid?
  • + 1
 thanks MontanaRider
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  • + 2
 This article is very valid. I was contemplating buying a long travel downhill sled to get back into thing after not riding for over 5 years. Instead after thinking long and hard about it I had decided to build a big hard tail up to get back into the swing of things first to get my skill level back. Then ill get another big bike.
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  • + 2
 This is the same argument that I have against 29ers! Unless you're using your bike for a single purpose on a very specific type of trail, you're not using the bike to its potential and missing out on the little things that make mountain biking enjoyable. Why put on bigger wheels to smooth out and numb the trail feel? Isn't that why we left the road? Why use a bike with 8" of travel to make obstacles easier? It requires larger, more dangerous obstacles to give you the same thrill that a more common obstacle would give you on a hardtail or short-travel bike. Unless you're a serious racer or hucker, you don't need a big bike. So what if it slows you down a bit. Who cares? Like the article says, it's almost always more fun on a smaller bike, because it makes everyday obstacles more entertaining. Go ahead, pop that root that you never even noticed on your 6" bike.
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  • + 2
 I see the point of this article but it seems somewhat hypocritical coming from this site. By that I mean we have the author telling us how a long travel bike essentially makes things 'to easy' and that riders are riders don't need them.

But can't the same be said on some level about almost all the products this site pushes on a regular basis? Every new advance in mountain biking is designed to essentially make the bike ride better and handle terrain better is it not? Smoother suspensions, wider bars, lighter carbon parts, dropper posts, etc. All these products make bikes ride and handle terrain better correct? Make it easier to ride.

So I mean why the push against only the DH bike? Is the article rallying against the dropper post next? Telling us that real men just take it to the nuts on the downhills?

The truth is that these 6 inch "short" travel bikes Levy is advocating now were essentially what downhill bikes were 10 years ago. So what you can almost say he's against the advancements in technology and that's fine, I agree that alot if it is not needed. But like I said it seems hypocritical in a way coming from a site who is constantly featuring the latest and greatest technology.
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  • + 2
 I personally had a big downhill rig (ironhorse sunday) and well its a great bike dont get me wrong but it just felt numb i then sold it a downgraded to a nukeproof snap and well it is great it fun lively and not boring like the sunday i personally go for short travel anyday because why have a numb bike when you can one that is like a bucking bronko?
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  • + 2
 i like to ride every sort of style of mountain biking but up untill latley have only been able to afford one bike . so at one time or another ive rode day long xc rides on a dh bike and like wise had a day at dh venue on a xc bike. surley it dont matter what you ride and wether your a pilot or a passanger on your bike just so long as you enjoy it.
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  • + 2
 I think its 100% wrong to say that riding a downhill bike requires less skill. It's not less skill, just a different kind of skill. Also what hasn't been taken into account is most "average" , to use Levy's words, riders financial situation. Its no good having one bike for one thing but then wanting to progress without the finances to do so. I have ridden all types of bikes for many years and I've gotta say, even if its a bit more work, I would always choose my downhill bike over anything else. Its good training for a start. People don't go weight lifting to increase their fitness and strength and lift fluffy pillows do they. The extra weight provides good conditioning for the body. At the end of the day its the "condom" situation that springs to mind, "I would rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it". I've had years of fun on all types of trail on my downhill bike and I intend to have many more!
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  • + 2
 i recently did a dh race on a dh bike. 2 weeks later same track in an enduro race on a enduro / freeride bike. on a 4 minute course i was 40 seconds slower on the enduro race. yes i did just pedal up to the top and had another 4 race runs to go on the enduro race but still. A full dh bike is only really needed for racing dh in my opinion and is pretty much the only time i put down the lapiere froggy to use it. Oh and and the dirt jumps on a hardtail is where u learn style Wink
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  • + 2
 Definitely agree with this article. I been riding my Cotic BFe hardtail for the past 4 years for everything. Done plenty of uplifts and days out at DH tracks with it. Yes it is never going to be as fast as a fully sprung bike but it really does make you pay attention!
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  • + 2
 Riders that benefit the most for making the right bike choice are the ones that recognize what type of trails/terrain is in their area and choose their bikes accordingly. Riders make trails but trails define the rider's style and the type of riding in that specific area.
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  • + 2
 great article, coming from BMX, the XC background, skills are the only reason that we become better riders, it gives on more confidence. Now on an M9, I know what it takes to ride my bike properly, its not always the bike that makes you better rider, but the rider him/herself.
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  • + 2
 Granted, the author prefaced the article by saying that we all ride bikes for fun. But that having said that, why write the article at all? It's essentially correct; if you start riding on a HT or short travel bike you will, generally, become a better rider, but it assumes that we're all care, an responsibility, free youngsters who have aspirations of being pro racers. I'm 31 and only started riding 3 or so years ago. I've got a family, and currently don't get much chance to go riding. While I'd definitely like to be a more skillful rider, I'm more interested in just having fun. I started on a Mongoose Black Diamond, then got a Glory FR and now have an old-shape Solid Mission 9. Despite my monster truck (which is totally excessive for the relatively mild tracks on which it's regularly ridden) I'm by far the slowest and least confident rider in my group of friends, some of which on much shorter travel bikes, but I have just as much of a laugh as they do. I'm willing to bet that riding a 5-6 inch bike wouldn't change any of that. I don't see why I should feel ashamed or guilty of owning a bike that I will most likely never reach the limits. Other than jealousy, or a chip on their shoulder, I can't see why a lot of riders take such offence that people spend their hard earned money whatever they want, or that loving, hard-working parents buy their kids the best they can afford.
  • + 2
 Another thing is that AM-type bikes don't really interest me. I like big bikes. If a bike is basically an engine short of being a 'crosser (one of my dream bikes is a Race Link), that get's me more stoked than the latest carbon-framed whippet.
At the end of the day, as long as they're honest about what kind of rider they are, it shouldn't matter what people ride, on what terrain and what level of ability. Everyone should be able to ride what they want without feeling that have to justify it to fit in with the current trend, which I feel this article propagates. In an ideal world, some people would be cranking out road miles on an Avalanche-sprung Karpiel, while others would be ripping Whistler on a carbon roadie, and no one would give a shit.
Whoever posted this;
www.pinkbike.com/u/cseachris/blog/To-Each-Their-Own.html
Said it much more eloquently and concisely than my ramble above did.
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  • + 2
 I ride my 6/6 bike 95% of the time because it's flickable, pedalable and for most of the trails in the Kootenays, the best choice. I race DH and rip bike parks (and not always then) on a DH bike. Problem is, DH is so freakin fun and many, especially young, people can't afford two bikes so they go DH. That's why I think Super D/Enduro has strong future...fun racing on fun and challenging trails that can be handled on an all-mountain machine. And don't forget, the same technology that has been driven by the DH side of the sport has improved all-mountain bikes by leaps and bounds. A 5/5 or 6/6 bike today is more capable than a DH bike a decade ago. Great writeup Mike!
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  • + 2
 I completely agree with Levy, that said I have never owned a DH rig, but I also started on a hard tail and on the North Shore and that is a steep learning curve. It definitely taught me about line choice and kicked my ass more than once. Now on a 160 mm travel bike, I find it is all I need for the trails I ride. I have always wanted a bike I can pedal up as well as shred down. Living at the base of Mt Fromme where you can't shuttle anyways makes this an easy choice for me.
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  • + 2
 I like many here started on a super market bike. A crapy steel hunk of junk with short travel if a shock that barely works even counts as short travel. Ive rode all grades of bikes. Ive earned my downhill bike and ill ride it on whatever trail I want. Even at 50lbs im killing the xc guys in spandex on my local trails. And on campus while all the hipster fixies hump their handlebars to stop at every staircase I fly right down them. A downhillis overkill? Lack of skill? BULLSHIT
  • - 2
 Ahem. You are sooooo hardcore. And yet you appear to still be at school/college/uni/whatever. I wish I could read your comment without laughing to myself. And then take you as seriously as you clearly take yourself (which is FAR too seriously) 'Even at 50lbs im killing the xc guys in spandex on my local trails'. You gotta love a boast (I'm not sure it's even something to boast about though) over the internet with nothing to back it up. Its like me saying ' I once beat Ben Reid in a junior race in Ireland'...I may well have done... I may not have... who's to say really? Anyone can make empty big man talk over the internet with no proof or truth to really back it up. BULLSHIT? I think you certainly talk it. Get some listerine please. And don't take yourself so seriously.NEXT!
  • + 0
 Coming from the guy named big head know all.
  • + 2
 m.youtube.com/watch?v=izJe-8v1f7I. There's your proof. As the quality of the video shows and the date it was posted I clearly dont have that video file anymore compaired to the date I created this account. Lets see your drop with less than 180 mm.
  • + 2
 Thats right you dont have any videos either. You dont even have a profile pic. You're the one to call talking talk when thats all you have.
  • + 1
 Yeah I don't have to post videos on here to make myself feel good or do the bigman 'look how great I am' to others. I know I'm f-king great and that is all that matters. I don't care about a profile pic on here. I'm not a teenage girl who has discovered facebook for the first time. Oh yeah I could do tthat drop on my hardtail. Piece of cake. ( Maybe I'm playing devils advocate, I know some americans dont get humour.) Bored now. What else? I called myself bigheadknowall because I'm being sarcastic (see above sentance, mr pro serious). You know, because there's a lot of them on here. Everyone's (ok not everyone, had to point that out incase you start crying again) an expert engineer, pro level rider etc. People who know me know the score and that's good enough for me. I don't need to toot my own trumpet like you. Are you really that insecure about yourself and your riding? When I want a laugh I come on here and poke the oh so serious know everythings who bite, like you. You were fun. Still wound up?? Don't be. go ride or get laid or something.
  • - 1
 Oh by the way, just watched your video..... I won't lose any sleep tonight, I could do that on my hardtail. In fact I have done bigger in the '90s on heap of crap bikes with square taper bb's and elastomer suspension. And I still do. Not just on my hardtail though, I'll admit, on all bikes. Bmx, DH etc.Oh no, now I've stooped to your level. Oh well. You really have made me laugh today, well done. Nothing is as it seems, remember that sonny.
  • + 2
 The point of your account is to post what you ride and where you ride and share it with fellow bikers of all kinds. Not come on just for laughs and troll comments. My point was a downhill isnt overkill even on flatland college campus full of fun staircases. ive rode my road bike on campus and yeah that bike is faster but I have to go around the block to avoid stairs that my dh would soak up. I could ride them on my old hardtail just fine but I got sick of constant pinch flats, the chain jarred of the cranks, oh and the crack on the chainstay from constant abuse such as stairs. All bikers of any kind need to learn your bike might handle certain thinks for a while but they arent designed for or intended for that kind of abuse. We could run short 4" travle hardtails on the downhill circut again but we would just turn back to the 90s when even pros were cracking frames and headtubes.
  • + 2
 Its a simple safety hazard. I cant belive pinkbike is even pushing it. Lets go back to the days when pro riders were snapping their headtubes in the middle of their runs for our viewing pleasure. Its common sense hairdtails get stress fractures and crack way sooner than even the smallest travel full suspensions. The point of suspension was to take away the beating not only on yourself but the bike itself. Then someone got the idea to huck off big cliffs and even more travel was needed. Yeah a hardtail could still get the job done but so did that supermarket bike viseo a while back and we all saw what happened to that bike.
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  • + 2
 Att. Levy, this is a backwaterish view making a case to buy many bikes as you go. It is a thinly disguised marketing argument. This schtick is getting booooring to make pinkbike something that it isn`t: a cc/xc site. Face up - get your armor and fullface and start to test what your followers want.

Dh-bikes are way better quality than your average slinky cc or xc. If they are not - dh-people wont buy - they want to ride and not fix. Bikes last 4 to 5 years under heavy abuse. Good investment.

Been riding dh since 1992 and today ride 200+/200 bikes and I want more travel and even lower BB and slacker angles... My skills improved everytime I had a better bike under my ass and now they also help minimizing and masking the effects of aging - like slower reflexes ;-(

To all beginners: Buy a long stroke bike and take it from there. Less fatiguing, less accidentprone,last longer and a huge amount of fun.
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  • + 2
 I totally agree with levy here. Hardtails are especially good for learning skill. I think that the same thing can be said for pedals. I ride clipped in, but i learnt everything on flats, then when transferred over to clipps the skills are multiplied. If you learn everything on a short travel bike you will force yourself to improve your skill level, and if you do go back to a "big" bike later your skills will have improved a ton.
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  • + 2
 Personally i have ridden a short travel bike all of my life. i have used a long travel bike before and it is true it made me feel more confident. however a short travel bike makes me feel on the edge of survival every run. and quite frankly that's a feeling i wont ever give up. a short travel bikes forces you to think while riding, to be on with the bike while riding, when a downhill rig can quite literally just be held on to and pointed down the mountain. Its the feeling of complete control with a lighter more versatile short travel bike. a feeling that is not reproducible. I've noticed over the past few months that my skills have improved tremendously and those guys that i couldn't keep up with in the beginning of the season i can now rip right behind them. Short travel is the answer when you truly want to be in tune with what is going on around you. you can feel the wheels grip and rip through every turn. you can feel the wheels bounce over every rock. And to me that feeling has gone from a non confident sketchy rider to a comfortable ride where i see the line three turns ahead. i have become a chess player on a bike and the feeling is great!
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  • + 2
 I see a lot of people talking about having skill, being very technical and saying things like "people who ride downhill bike have no skill and its the bike that's doing all the work" but if you look at the first sentence of this article it clearly states we all ride bikes for fun and because it makes is happy so if somebody wants to ride a downhill bike even if its a bit much for a certain trail and might even make it more hard work than a shorter travel bike as long as there happy that's all that matters. Some of us can't afford 2 or 3 bikes so we choose a downhill bike. Because its better to have to much than not enough and some of us have to get up and work and pay the bills, like most people have said were not pros so that's why we ride a bike that's going to minimise the risk of us getting seriously injured and we confident riding it.
To summarise stop hating on people who chose a downhill bike if there happy that's all that matters and the same goes for a shorter travel bike if your happy then great. We should all be supporting one another not putting each other down because of what we ride.
  • + 1
 You are right in a way but you are missing one thing: you are having certain level of fun at certain level of skill and fitness. As you get better your fun levels go up, more you can, more joy it brings, there is no way around it. And certain technological advantages be it long travel, dropper post, vlipless pedals while increasong your fun, have their limitations in that respect and cannot match the potential of your heart, mind and body. In the long term they will slow your progress or eventually stop it.
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  • + 2
 The case and point of this article is not telling everyone to sell your downhill rig and buy a hardtail, but simply if you mob a dh bike and just cruze over whatever you wabt on tge trail where is your skill and knowledge of how to properly pick a line taje a berm hit a jumpand clear it smoothly and descend steep terrain .. if you havent learned the basic and control of your body posture and bike which you have to on a hardtail to get the smooth rides .. thrn your simply cutting corners in your progression of yur own personalriding skill .. and limiting what you will be able to do / ride in the future
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  • + 2
 I found,for flow and bike control a hard tail teaches you a hell of a lot of bike skills,a long travel travel teaches you big balls and speed
I tried a nukeproof mega for a brief period but felt a bit lost,
it would plough though the rough like the big bike but wouldn't install confidence on the big jumps.
For the riding I do I prefer either hard tail or 8"
I would have liked to try a foes amx if they'd ever released it
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  • + 2
 After riding 9" rear travel COVE to 6" hard tail 243, I have to say that my 7" DEMO is the best bike for ALL terains, from a steep trail like the FIFTH HORSMAN on Cypress to PLATNUM at the woodlot to the now very very( thanks to the NSMBA paving crew) very very LAME CBC on Seymore.
I truly beleive that all mountain "light medium travel" bikes are the way of the future if you don't race DH and can only get ONE bike.
I will always have a few myself. And yes the demo 7 is a freeride bike.

That said, My hard tail single speeded requires NO maintenance to speak of except a hose down and a lube after wet rides and will resist our cruel winter riding without busting the bank ever.
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  • + 2
 Just looked at a re-run of the Men's Olympic Mountian bike final at Hadleigh Farm this year and the majority rode hardtail with less travel.

Definitely ties in with the point you are making here Mike; i.e choosing a bike that suits the type of riding.

The commentator also mentioned three of the leading riders had 3 different wheel sizes, another debate within a debate.
  • + 2
 To be honest, they could have ridden cyclocross bike the course was so lame. They should have held it at Swinley forest, the other side of London, not much more elevation, but at least there are roots and good trails there. Oh well what can you expect from the olympics though?
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  • + 3
 Little bikes make shit more wild. You're generally well within your comfort zone on a downhill bike, and almost never on the limit, whereas on a littler bike you're definitely nearing the limit of what that bike can do!
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  • + 2
 I genuinely couldn't give a flying f**k what people choose to ride at their trails, if you want to ride a uni-cycle or a hard tail at whistler, as long as you've got a smile on your face then I'm happy for ya. Enjoy yourself and dont worry what the inter web people think.
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  • + 2
 All i know is a few weeks on the hardtail is a lot of fun, and normally ends first out when the weather is poor... Then when i pull the DH bike i sure feel faster. either way i'm having fun and escaping the rat race, so all's good.
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  • + 2
 Really cool article. I've been riding a hardtail and used a rentable FR bike at a bike park and I think what happens is the lighter hardtails build more skills with reacting, turning and leaning while the DH or large suspension bikes give you the confidence to try more sketchy sections, try bigger drops and go faster.
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  • + 2
 I get a huge kick out of blowing by group of guys on DH bikes with Go Pro mounts and full body armor riding my XC hartail then riding up the sections they have to walk. Better yet is flying up on a guy on an FS 29er riding my CX bike and clearing a section he had to walk. Alot of riders have more dollars than sense. I have been demoralized by 60 year olds on early 90's rigids and have been dropped on the road by AARP members on hybrids.
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  • + 2
 Hi,

In my oppinion biggest problem with this article is that author somewhat is usurping right to judge what it is to have fun on the bike.
The problem is that there is no one definition of FUN. Some people are having fun on DH rig, others on rigid single speed.

There is no one way (thanks God...)

Cheers!
I.
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  • + 2
 HT indeed. 140-150mm at the front. Stiff at rear. Yes! I had a go at full susp trail bike and yes it is so cool to ride and it forgives you much more than a HT but then...as aforementioned....if you can't ride it on a HT then practice more. I just simply love the HT vibe. I enjoy DH and FR but there is nothing that flows as sweet as a good HT rider.
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  • + 2
 Kind of agree, kind of dont. I'm sick of my friends saying they can ride anything on their little bikes Lately, so now I'm building trails that are only possible on a dh rig. It's all about the trails around you. The place I ride most will eat a five inch bike or a 29er. You will end up in the hospital, and your bike will be broken. I'm not going to suggest anyone to ride there on anything less than a 7" bike.

Hmmm... Funny that the bike companies cancelled almost all "freeride" bikes, forcing everyone to buy a race sled.
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  • + 2
 im lucky enuf to own 4 bikes of different types including a Yeti 303RDH & a Dialled Prince Albert with RS Pikes. i lent the Yeti to my 6ft brother & i (5,8") took the Dialled on a trail in Scotland & i followed him thinkin he would tear off ahead. however i was surprised how well the hardtail coped with terrain, findin that i was right behind him even through a badly potholed series of turns & a lot of roots. & it was Scotland so of coarse it was wet! the bottom line is that even tho he is bigger & stronger & was on a way more forgivin bike, im a better rider than him. that dont me an Atherton by any stretch but it proves the point (to me at least) that the most important aspect aint the sus or type of a bike, its the rider. i would have killed meself on my 20" trial bike tho!
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  • + 2
 In my opinion, hard tail and short travel bikes are quite cool, but at a point of agessivity and rowdyness of the trail, hardtails are not the right choice. It's true, a pro rider shreds most of the lines with a bike with less or almost none travel on the rear, but this is target missing. Downhill bikes are pointed to big hits and fast runs. If you shred this shit with a Hardtail bike, the material will not last that long. And in my eyes, Material means not only bike. Think about the bones and Knees and so on. Those hits go straight in to your body and with every hit you destroy very small things in your body. This will not show up immediatly, but when you get older, you will have problems with doing sport because your knees hurt or something like this. It's possible to rock massive things with a short travel bike, but the world created bikes with more travel not because you don't need them. It's always the best if you choose the right bike for the thing you gonna do. Cheers
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  • + 3
 Great article Mike...really informative and entertaining too. Ultimately it is all about fun!! If I could handle my hardtail as good as the guy in the video, it'd be fun central everyday.
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  • + 2
 i started riding seriously on a rocky mountain pipeline, which weighed half as much as me at the time. untill grade 10 i always rode heavy, large travel bikes everywhere, even the local dirt jumps. i finally got a dirt jumper and broke my fully dropping 12 feet dead sailor and nose heavy as f*ck, and started riding a hard tail everywhere. imo untill that point i was just learning how to steer my bike at the gnarliest stuff i could find and stick my ass on the back tire till i came out of it. riding a hard tail will teach you sooo much bike control compared to a big rig imo. the stuff you learn about the response of a bike translates back and forth between the two. if my hard tail had a brake i would rather ride it on 90% of my local trails, just for the fun of it, even tho it has slicks and 24s and 1 gear. breakless kindof kills it for trails tho.
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  • + 2
 haha yeti85 thats y ill stick with my country seeing we dont have to pay out the ass when we get hurt even when it is our fault... not chirpen just saying how much more money you would have for other things if you were not stuck paying for casts or something silly EH
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  • + 2
 I love downhill racing. I love watching it, i love reading about it. That being said, i believe skill and mental toughness trumps all when it comes to riding as in most other sports. Chris Kovarik came onto the scene in 99 and smoked a lot of guys on a 6 inch travel gt lobo, when other guys were riding newer 8 inch travel bikes. The old aussie qranc team used to crush people on these bikes. Search the video of Richie Schley and Thomas Vanderham destroying BC trails on xc bikes and how fast and smooth they are. In my opinion most people do not need these type of bikes, unless they are racing all season in a competitive class. People get too caught up in what gear they have instead of going out and riding constantly to improve. Bottom line, mountain biking is awesome and you can ride any bike and have a blast. Although having gwinny's bike would be pretty sick Smile
  • + 1
 Spot on bro, Just ride what you got, have fun & pin it!
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  • + 2
 I have to say. Nothing is as fun as going faster than ever before on crazier lines than ever. I ride a steel hardtail AM bike 99% of the time. The best thing about this is that it is very rewarding to chace guys on dh rigs and keep up. But even though i love the climb (sometimes) the highlight is always pushing your bike as hard as you can on the downs. And dh rigs make that so much fun,faster ,bigger and forgiving. I always come into corners too fast (not crazy about squeezing the brakes the whole way down) and sometimes run off. Dh bike and you can just run over all that stuff at even faster speeds and yeah. I came down nose first years ago and collapsed my front wheel and ruined my fork. Lost a tooth and ruined my bike. I was bless for 3 months. Dh bike would have ate itup for sure. I have to say the only reasons i don't have a Dh bike is because i like to climb to my downs. Not rely on a 60$ lift pass to ALLOW me to ride. I gess my dream rig would be a 5-6" bike dual susp that is uber light and easy to climb.
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  • + 2
 Its true! I've always rode hard tails until this year. The lessons i've learned about flow and control would have never happened if not for that. This year I up graded to a 7in travel bike, and feel i'm a better rider for learning on a hard tail!
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  • + 2
 I couldn't agree more with this article. over the past couple years i have been riding my big bike less and less because i can't really justify spending the money to shuttle/ ride bike park, or spending the energy trying to pedal it to the top. Now i feel so natural on my short travel bike that i can ride it on downhill trails and i actually find it way more fun. The way you can effortlessly throw it around and pick up speed everywhere; to me the little bike is just way more fun. not to mention the efficiency i can now get to the top of large descents with little to no effort, and ride down them with a huge smile on my face.
And nothing is better then riding down a downhill trail on a 5" travel bike and passing a group of fully kitted out downhill riders with ease. that is the ultimate glory.
next season i am selling my downhill bike and my 5" bike and building up a really nice 6" bike because i know that is what i will have the most fun on
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  • + 2
 Who cares if kids wanna go out and drop money on a downhill bike, dreaming of being the next Sam Hill or Aaron Gwin!!!??? Let them dream!!!! Besides, our favorite bike companies do great by selling thousands of their downhill bikes. It helps them to continue to have the finances to keep building more and more AMAZING bikes! Modern downhill bikes are truly amazing, and i feel that if someone wants to drop the coin on one, why not experience ownership of such an amazing machine. In my opinion, this article was completely unnecessary, un-called for, and petty. The only reason i can think of that one would write such an article is if they get jealous and angry every time they see someone on a downhill bike.
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  • + 2
 Another point towards short travel bikes is a monetary one. Simply put, DH bikes are damn expensive. Be it the
back of a truck or on a chairlift, it's costing the rider money every time they go out. DH bike rides; in my mind;
require too much logistical planning and organization that could be better spend pulling the bike out and pedaling
up.
There have been too many times where I have been riding my chromoly hardtail and blasting by DH guys or leading a
pack to think big bikes are the only option. Perhaps even machismo plays a bit of a role when someone decides which
bike to buy. It could be the same reason guys buy giant trucks that never get used properly.
I have no problem with guys riding bike bikes. If you are having fun that is all that matters. But an ability to
explore anything, hammer the pedals to accelerate rapidly, and the satisfying feeling of a stomped technical
section.. nothing better!
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  • + 2
 this is why pumptracks are good these days, you take your hardtail to the pumptrack to hone your skills on berms, jumps and rollers and it all helps out on the trails whether your riding a 4-6inch trail bike or your 8inch+ DH rig
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  • + 2
 Gotta agree with Levy here. I rode light XC oriented hard tails on everything from fire roads, double track, singletrack, hiking trails, slow and techy, open and fast, rock gardens, airs, you name it... And I rode those bikes from the time I was 11 or so until I got my first full-sus at 21. I was amazed how much faster I could go downhill and the terrain I could now handle going uphill. The bike enabled the base skills I had developed as a kid on a hard tail to progress. I'm no pro, but a background of picking lines, and getting it just right on gear that demands a more nimble rider has certainly made me faster now. All new riders should start on a hard tail for a couple seasons, or 10... They should also start out climbing for their descents, XC/AM/Enduro/whatever style. I've been amazed at seeing kids plow through rough sections (then skid into a turn with way too much speed) and airing sketchy doubles, but not being able to climb up and over a root ball or step like rock feature...
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  • + 2
 If you're young and have carefree summers off to learn how to do it right, then yes get a hardtail or short travel bike and put in the hours to learn how to really ride. When you do get on a DH bike you'll tear it up. That's a natural and healthy method of progression if you start young and have the time. But the explosion in the growth and popularity of the sport is at least partially due to the technological improvements that make riding easier and more comfortable, especially for beginner adults. Few adults I know have the desire or the drive to learn slowly from the ground up, and to take the beating that comes from being a beginner riding a hard tail. After a few sessions on a bike that has more travel than a good rider needs, you can have the (albeit false) confidence to try things that are really fun and which plant the fire to progress. I think anyone who gets really serious about it will eventually Benjamin Button themselves to smaller travel bikes for most of their daily riding. But there's a reason most people come out of the whistler rental shop with a Glory and not a Blur. It's about fun and comfort. Long suspension is the gateway drug for a lot of people that would otherwise never take up the sport. Let those newbs buy the carbon V10. Eventually they'll realize it's too much bike and they'll sell it for 3 grand less than retail to someone who knows how and where to ride it.
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  • + 2
 People that own downhill bikes are going to defend their purchases, so this article was destined for controversy - I think that's partially why it was written to be honest. Having ridden every cycling discipline over the last 10 years from XC to BMX to dirt jumps to downhill to enduro, I can wholly say that I would not be the rider I am today were it not for my dad's old Stumpjumper hardtail. Sure, I have a friend who wins expert DH races regularly and has never owned or ridden anything with less that 8" of travel, but I am convinced that full suspension bikes are best considered as a progression from hardtails (same as long travel being a progression from short). You learn line choice on hardtails/short travel rigs because they're harsher and more nimble. By learning that smoother line choice at the outset and then progressing to the plow-ability of a bigger bike, it opens your eyes to areas of trail where you should be pumping and weaving to find the flow and where you just need to bang over some obstacle. The progression brings added trail perspective that isn't necessary, but helps a lot in becoming a better all around rider.
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  • + 2
 I was with you the whole time until you brought 29ers into it. First you were talking about building skills on a more maneuverable, more rewarding machine, but then you somehow connect that enlightened, prophetic insight of essential wisdom to the God-forsaken 29er, a bike that was built explicitly to "roll over objects with greater ease." It would be better for people to pedal their downhill bikes in XC races than to learn the fundamentals of riding on a 29er that cannot turn, or manual, or pump.
  • + 1
 says the winner of the recent Thrillium DH race (on a short travel bike) theteamrobot.blogspot.com/2012/10/thrillium-enduro-dh-race.html
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  • + 2
 I've ridden for the past 18 years, all over, have gone through all sorts of bikes, and now the fleet consists of a 29er hard tail and a stumpy evo. Funny thing is, the hard tail is my "downhill bike"...strong, reliable, big wheels roll over more shit...and the stumpy is mainly just for 30 plus mile rides to lessen the soreness the next day and have a granny for endurance climbing. I'd love to have a DH whip for giggles and maybe some bike park trips, but can't really see why I'd want to push a forty pound beast up the trail only to romp less hard than on a short travel/ hard tail that was ridden up the track. Most of my skills translate to whipping around the neighborhood on a hard tail when I was six or seven years old, so riding bikes that encourage that feeling is what I like. Not against DH bikes, just a traditionalist I guess...
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  • + 2
 My old knees can't handle the lesser travel bikes. At my old age I'm not yearning for skill. I'm yearning for a smooth ride. So more is better. And before someone says to go ride road, I dare not in New England. Besides, I don't own any spandex.
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  • + 2
 ive destroyed several long travel all mountain bikes because im out trying to ride the stuff i ride on my dh bike i do not agree with this article entirely but i do agree that there are to many little kids buying dh bikes and not riding them. all i could think this whole time reading is that this sounds like some sort of subliminal stump jumper ad and no i do not want a stump jumper, ill stick to my flatline.
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  • + 2
 I don't agree, but I also don't disagree. Some of us never had the option. When I started riding mtn bikes (1989) there was not full suspension, and front forks with travel were just starting to show up. Did that make me a better rider? Probably. However, I don't think we need to assume that folks who only have ridden FS bikes have no skills, or lack technical skills. Its just different. I have met many people who shred on all kinds of bikes. I prefer a DH bike to them all these days, but also love my XC/AM bike. I have no desire to get back on a hardtail. Recently I rode my shuttle area on my AM bike and it was plain ole scary, steep and loose but on my DH bike it is just great. Pick the right tool for the job..

I do agree that its silly to see big bikes in the the wrong places (porcupine rim is one that I see often)..
  • + 2
 I'm in the same boat as you. Started riding mtn.bikes in 1990. If i grew up riding today, i would definitely never have ridden a fully rigid. Nor would I ever want to again! I doubt it helped my riding at all. Riding xc for years held me back too. It was only when i bought my first downhill bike and started riding much faster that i escaped the plateau i had reached riding xc. I rode xc for 13 years before I bought my first dh bike in 2003. I progressed more in a month than I had in the previous 5 years. No joke.

Now I would never consider riding anything less than 30lbs with less than 5". The ability to ride a shorter travel bike like it's a downhill bike is way more important to me than a bikes performance uphill or on level terrain.

I think once you experience first hand what can be done on a Dh bike it makes you faster when you hop back on a short travel bike. Once you know whats possible you can gain skill by riding a short travel bike too. However, if you have never ridden a Dh bike you will never be as good at riding fast downhill on a short travel bike.
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  • + 2
 TOO MANY DH KIDS ARE IGNORANT RICH BITCHES. If you cant ride a short travel bike down the same thing you just rode on an 8" bike, its because you're a flaming pussy and lack actual skill and confidence on a bike. The only reason you can ride something on an 8" bike but not on a 5" bike is because you didnt actually KNOW how to ride that line. But your $10,000 bike sure did. This whole arguement is the exact reason so many BMXers think MTBers are pussies.
  • - 1
 So true. Exactly what I was thinking as I was reading this article. Most of us are spoil brats and nowhere near the level of hardcore that BMXers are despite what we may tell ourselves.
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  • + 2
 HTs are the most versatile form of bicycle in existence. For some people an overpriced bicycle is nothing more than a status symbol. The most skilled bicycle riders on earth have the least amount of suspension. It's just a fact. BMXers, trials riders, DJers are the smoothest, most co-ordinated & most capable of all riders. If you think otherwise 'cuz you can ride your 8" travel $8,000 951 off a drop & around a corner then ask yourself if Dave Mirra, Danny Mac or Brandon Semenuk couldn't do the same. You're not that special 'cuz you can go down a hill at a speed that you think is fast.

Most of the people I rode with as a kid never had the patience for something like trials riding. They all rode big bikes even though they lived nowhere near anything that warranted it & they all sucked pretty hard at anything beyond turning the wheels on the ground. I had a full suspension bike once, it was very limiting most of the time except on bumpy terrain. I didn't learn anything new on a full suspension bike. I'm a better rider thanks to my hard tails & thanks to watching the best riders in the world who also ride hardtails or rigid bikes.

No matter what you ride, if you wanna be a better rider & you have the opportunity, ride with those who are better than you. If you're the kind of person that owns the bicycle equivalent of an iPhone, then I'm sure you're afraid of riding with people who are better for fear of looking bad but you won't overcome your limitations if you can't admit that those limitations exist in the first place. Your status as a rider is always determined by how you ride, never by what you ride. What you can do with the tool is what matters, not what tool you use.
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  • + 2
 As a heavier rider, I like to use the long travel dh bikes. I always tend to bottom out extremely easily with a short travel bike unless I crank down the spring real tight. But then it's way too bouncy in rough sections and I end up loosing control.
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  • + 2
 I firmly believe that if you don't know how to ride a short travel bike (or hardtail) with skill, you won't be able to ride a long travel bike with skill either.

^^^^ I disagree wholeheartedly with the above statement. Mike Hopkins anyone? He consistently jokes about his lack of skill on a hard tail, yet he crushes it harder than almost anyone on a DH bike. Do you think Ryan Dungey, Ricky Carmicheal, or James Stewart pissed about on hardtails before they decided they could race moto? That was a stupid remark by Levy. I fully believe that skills on a hardtail will transfer to bigger bikes, but just because you can't crush it on a hardtail doesnt mean you wont be able to crush it on a DH rig.
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  • + 2
 I only own a hardtail. I've had DH bikes in the past, but I've always ridden a hardtail more because I'm scared it'll make me lazy! I do think having a bigger bike opens you up to different line choices that you can take back to a shorter travel bike. Different bikes = different skills. If you can ride a hardtail fast, then you can ride anything fast.
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  • + 2
 It's not about long travel or short travel. It's about as a rider being 100% honest about how you ride and the type of trails you ride the most...then buying or building a bike that suits you and how you ride the trails. For most of us out there we can only afford 1 bike, so we tend to make the 1 bike the most versatile and the most fun for what we like to ride. At times we ride that bike on trails that it is either over kill or under gunned.
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  • + 1
 So late to post on this article, but learning how to ride trails on a hardtail and getting the right technique for your body to adapt to the trails and not your bike is fantastic. I started with a bmx on trails, pain in the ass but when I upgraded up to my full suspension it was so easy to maneuver around corners and through root and rock gardens. Deffanitaly beneficial. Good article, had a fantastic read this morning.
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  • + 1
 I started out on a ridged giant boulder when i was about 12 and at 13 i got my first haardtail. I had such a huge skill increase from riding those two bikes that when i got my first full suspension (a 120mm travel xc bike) i was able to ride just about anything i wanted ranging from easy to moderatly rough cross country/all mountain trails. (Keep in mind that this was before i could go to bike parks) now im racing and doing well on my 8 inch travel dh bike but i always loved the feel of blasting down a techy dh trail on my short travel. In my mind nothing can ever replace the feel of a short travel am/fr bike and i will always love them!
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  • + 1
 totally agree with the article. i love chasing(and usually passing) kids with their big DH bikes down ski hills on my shorter AM bike.
all the extra travel and weight just makes you sloppy. having the skill to finese the bike down the fastest line cannot be learned as well unless youve at some point
done it on a hardtail!
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  • + 1
 Its also an easier adaption for newer riders. I gives some forgiveness. And when you can shred a big travel its like no other feeling, sure I have tried the XC and AM is acceptable in some rides. I will soon probably get a AM but its still boss to have a FR bike. Meat sauce.
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  • + 4
 Ride your bike, don't worry so much about what other people are doing. Just MY argument/opinion.
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  • + 1
 This is a good argument short vs long travel and i have boat loads of experience with both. You can ride a dh bike thru the dirt jumps and you can ride a 5" trail bike thru the freeride jumps but only if you a real ripper. Bottom line is he who own the most fundamental bike skills rule the trails. Whoever was the nastiest bmx rider in their youth usually have massive advantage later in the game. The big wheels and suspension can't hide your lack of fundamentals but alot of riders trying.
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  • + 3
 I don't know. Seems this article might be little pointless. Obviously, there's a tool very every job, and riders (groms) who don't get it, won't get it.
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  • + 1
 Really have to thank you for this article - that's what I#m sayin'for a long time: "On a Hardtail you learn riding well, get a feeling for the terrain you're in and pick your line carefully!" I own a lot of bikes for different terrains - beneath some trackbikes and fixed roadbikes i got a Freeride Bike, a BMX for my Pumptrack, a CXFR for fun and a Hardtail MTB for some jumping, trailsurfin and whatever comes to my mind. I my area you didn't really need a DH rig for the majority of the trails - and i see a lot of youngsters wigglin' their DH rigs down the trail - not realising that a huge percentage of the run is getting done by the bike itself. So it's just like a MX as a beginner or even a horse - if you want to learn to ride it - it's really necessary to train on a bike which supports your skill level! None gets his first drive in a car on a Maserati - in driving school you'll stick with something smaller and less powerful - same goes for flightschool as someone is training on a chopper or plane. So for the start get yourself a proper Hardtail which is versatile and with time comes skills and a better knowing of what type or rider you are and what terrain or kind of riding you'll prefer. Buit most people seem to choose a "krasses" or "derbes" Bike over a clever decision to master the bike itself. Takes patience and most people didn't seem to have to confidence so start on a "low" bike.
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 They just want to tell us we need to have any type of bike in our garage Big Grin I had a huge amount of fun on my hardtail,on my XC trail-er and on my FR Reign. I'm sure that without the hardtail in first place i would be a worse rider. So...yeah, buy a hardtail and go on the pumptrack some time Smile
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 All of these debates that are put forward by various forums on various topics, not just this, seem to boil down to one key thing, for me at least. Sure, most of us don't need a World Cup bred downhill bike to ride any downhill trail, and as shorter travel bikes have slackened head angles and lowered bb's etc we've seen more and more of them ridden and available, because they work, but it only ever comes down to the one point, no matter who is factually correct, ride whatever makes you happy.

Back in the day i used to ride Les Gets every single day as a a guide and general local knock about, i was lucky enough to ride with some of the Worlds fastest riders, Fabien Barel on several occasions, would only ever ride his mid travel Kona (forget the actual bike) on single crowns and would of course, absolutely punish all of us, while still having an absolute blast and making it look easy. We would all be on DH rigs, we'd be having a blast too. Point being, he didnt need a big travel bike to rip those trails, he had more fun on a short one, after all, he would have been riding by himself on a big sled! His grin and general stoke is infectious.

Here's the point, ride what you can afford, that makes you stoked to go out and ride everytime you look at the bike, never mind ride it, ride it where you want, how you want. If your determind enough to start racing and riding professionally, start worrying about what bike to ride on what track.
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 Didnt really agree with this article at first..

But my DH bike was getting fixed so a got my XC/DJ hardtail out, and absolutely shredded. it was the first fun Ive had in a while. It was awesome ripping turns on it. I got my downhill bike out on the same trail and did still shred, but it was no where near as fun. It was so much more predictable on my DH bike when i was going to break traction, on my hardtail it was always a surprise, and some times i left corners with much more speed than my downhill bike could ever carry and always left me with a huge grin on my face.

Overall, im going to ride my hardtail much much more.
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 Horrible article. Not sure the what the motivation behind it was but it seemed like some misguided witch hunt. Like someone said "do whatever you can to pick apart dh bikes no matter how ridiculous it sounds" Everyone is different so to generalize is just silly. Tons of good comments above that essentially prove that every bike aids some in how you ride another. I can certainly agree that riding a dh bike has made me a better all around rider, no matter what I'm on.
The article should have argued for riding unicycles before a hardtail so as to not get so dependent on two wheels.
Or maybe the fixie is what we should all learn on. Who needs brakes and a freewheel?
Penny farthing's were the shit back in the day.
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 Rented a DH bike for the first time @ Whistler this summer after riding there for the past 6 or so years on my AM bikes. Really cool, fun progression with all the confidence afforded by massive amounts of plush, rode things I'd previously written off my list (Fade to Black, Freight Train container and D1 as examples) and had a blast. Couple of HARD pedal bashes due to low BB. I may rent there from now on, but for the rest of my riding... love the (for this article anyway) medium travel beaut I ride for everything else.

I also agree with the idea of getting coaching. I've attended clinics such as Schley's 2-day freeride camp, and various other clinics put on by Joan Jones and Kat Sweet (yea, I've learned a TON about riding from these women, and my riding progressed more from their instruction than nearly anything else) and videos like Ryan Leech's Mastering the Art of Trials. Focusing on skill development pays huge dividends. I now coach a High School team, and it is fun to watch the learning curve of young riders as they learn techniques that improve their trail skills, and passion for a sport that can last a lifetime.

...Yea, I'm an old fart.
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 Who cares? If some kid goes about and buys a full DH bike as his first bike, then he is putting money into the biking industry...If he is doing things out of his skill range and gets hurt, tough luck for him, and the bike industry is still making money. Maybe people should start on hard tail and work up to a bigger rig...What it comes down to is if you are having fun doing what you enjoy. Keep pedaling, keep smiling, and that should be enough.
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 My personal choice is that i'm going to build up a hardtail some day......but it's going to have a difference.... i'm going to pretty much spec it with the kind of things you'd expect on a big rig. wide bars, short stem, DH wheelset, 1x10 gearing, chain guide, 2.4"-2.5" tyres etc. and have a 160mm fork. this would be my training and all round bike which i'd ride all the time. Riding this would basically make me be able to flow real nice! and learn proper techniques and skills well. So that, when I compete in say and enduro or DH race, i'd then kill it on a big rig or full sus! (obviously practice a bit on these bikes as you can't just hop on any bike and ride well)
Also, being only 14, a hardtail bike is definately the best thing for me as i'm in between beginner and intermediate in my riding. I believe that everybody should start on a hardtail and build up to full sus as their skills set improves.
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 Another point towards short travel bikes is a monetary one. Simply put, DH bikes are damn expensive. Be it the back of a truck or on a chairlift, it's costing the rider money every time they go out. DH bike rides; in my mind; require too much logistical planning and organization that could be better spend pulling the bike out and pedaling up. There have been too many times where I have been riding my chromoly hardtail and blasting by DH guys or leading a pack to think big bikes are the only option. Perhaps even machismo plays a bit of a role when someone decides which bike to buy. It could be the same reason guys buy giant trucks that never get used properly. I have no problem with guys riding big bikes. If you are having fun that is all that matters. But an ability to explore anything, hammer the pedals to accelerate rapidly, and the satisfying feeling of a stomped technical section.. nothing better!
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 It's interesting. I've been wanting a big rig for ages, but then I started to look at the terrain around where live and thought it would be better to get a shorter travel machine. There is of course the demon on the shoulder saying "you need the longer travel for when you go abroad or to gnarlier tracks". The truth for me is that I hardly ever get to the gnarly terrain, or at least not often enough to warrant buying a long travel bike. So I'm presently sticking with my hardtail with 120/150mm travel and honing those skills.
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 I believe in having a lil bike (short travel) and my DH rig. like it says above, proper tool for the job. I started on a hardtail and it helped alot.
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 Learn on BMX then move on to DH. Thats what i did. I wish i still had a BMX cuz it makes u smoother and faster on a big bike. I like to think if u can rip on a BMX and dj mtn bike well then u can on a dh bike. Thats my 2 cents.
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 Horses for courses as they say, That's basically it. Do I see too many younger riders with big bikes on local hill that are not lift access? Yes. Sure, I think its the wrong way of going about acquiring skills, at least until you have a foundation of skills that allow you to take advantage of a big bike. Many are too young to really be thinking about such things and , frankly, they are spoiled rich kids who's parents can apparently drop $6000.00 on their 15 yo's X mas gift. They want what their heroes ride, fair enough. I wish I had that opportunity!
I'm 40, grew up with ET and BMX but never raced, just trail rode/basiclly mountain biked. Was never that good. Worked as a messenger and trail rode on the same Kona Kula back in the 90s then didn't get back into it until half a year ago and bought a 29er hardtail, still thinking that FS had not been perfected and that most still rode hardtails...whoops...was I ever wrong! Love the 29" wheels for the techncal single track of Vancouver Island BC but think that a short travel FS would be better. It surely would climb super steep tech bits better but I grew up on lighter weight bikes that are tossable and yes the 29er is just that. We have a few popular trail networks near Victoria but none require a DH bike because the speed rarely gets you there not that there isn't a lack of crazy features, there are, but a smaller bike is all thats needed. To me DH is fine if you like it and /or you do lift runs.
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 Sure you have skill on a hard tail, but that's no excuse not to wear a full face helmet when bombing those trails. A tree or rock to the face won't be kind to you're skills on getting girls.
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 Short travel is just fun, the bikes are more flickable, accelerate faster and feel better (in any wheel size) than a long travel bike on all but the most gravity fueled trails
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 This guy's so right!!! I used to jump 20+ foot jumps and go downhilling on a 4" bike! Now that I've cracked the frame tho, I'm moving to an all mountain or maybe freeride bike. But I'm not gonna be running a dual crown forked thing till I absolutely need it
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 @papapendrel. The same can go the other way muh man. Ask yourself "how many big bike moments are better, and bigger than you would have normally done because you finally sacked up and hit something large on your short travel bike?' and you'll push it on your big bike because you feel confident hitting stuff with no suspension. It's like swinging a lead bat so to say.
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 Agree! Really good article! Riding a shorttravel bike (mine is a spitfire) gives you much more feedback from the trail than a longer traveled one. I just say that: too much travel kills the fun on a trail...
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 That is so true. I am surprised it took this long to see an article on the subject.
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 There's always going to be big bike in my quiver. Only comment I'll make on this...
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 The part about the bike having a conversation with you about the trail is brilliant. From a builder's perspective, I notice that people do less damage to trails when they match the bike to the terrain they're riding.
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 i started out riding on a dj bike. i was doing local dh runs on that thing for a couple years. once i got on a dh bike i left most my riding buddies behind. I feel the hardtail bike made me a better rider.
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 Interesting article, but why does it matter what kind of bike others are riding. I recently wrote a blog on this issue www.pinkbike.com/u/cseachris/blog/To-Each-Their-Own.html
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 I think I may go back to V-brakes on my bike because all that hydro disc power makes me a lazy rider slowing me down when I should just hold on and see what happens. Slick no knob tires are next.
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 In an ideal world, I'd have a DH rig, an AM rig, an XC bike, a BMX and a roadie, but I'm not minted, and I'd be willing to bet that 99% of people here aren't either. I'm limited to just a roadie and a DH bike; opposite ends of the spectrum. I started riding DH on a 4.5 inch full-susser and bought my DH bike several months later, because I wanted more squishyness and less breakages.

Call me immature, but I find it fun just to plough through the crazy shit because I can. I don't find it fun to carefully pick a line and tiptoe through it; I prefer having the faith in my bike just to eat up the stresses of me flying like a corpse through the gnarly stuff, and not having to worry about getting thrown off by a wayward root or rock. Yes, it's an unskillful and generally not-pretty way of riding, but in my opinion it's the most fun you can have on two wheels: Fun is what MTB's all about, for some that's leg-burning 30 mile XC rides, others it's technical descents on a trail bike, and me it's just unceremoniously throwing myself down shit that I don't even nearly have the skills to. Because I can.

In short, you can't argue for or against what bike to use, it's all a matter of personal preference. Why can't we all just get along?
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 so with all this in mind does that mean because im a beginner bike rider i cant buy a nice bike or if i had the money for a Ferrari that i shouldnt because i cant drive it like a pro driver if it makes u happy whats the problem lol
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 At the end of the day if you feel comfortable bombing down steep hills all day then a proper D/H is going to take everything you throw at it, providing you have the skills (and balls if you like air) and dont mind shelling out a fortune on body armour, but for an older rider like myself that still like to spin the legs now and then and not wear a ton of safety gear on all terrains, a swiss army bike (xc/am) is just what 'i' need !

Im not against any style of bike, ive owned nearly all of them and they all have positives, for instance on the flats/roads, riding to or from a trail im often overtaken by hybrid town bikes, theres no point trying to outride one of those on a full susser as they light as a feather, but if they were on a muddy trail then my bike would come into its own... so skill does have alot to play to a point, choosing your weapon to suit your skillset is alot more important in my humble "old-fart" opinion.

No type is better than the other, in reality it comes down to 2, well maybe 3 things, what your comfortable riding, your skillset, what you can sensibly afford to buy.
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 I ride a 2007 Santa Cruz Chameleon Hard-Tail with a 5" FOX fork for mostly XC work................wicked great bike !

I ride a 2009 COVE STIFFEE FR Hard-Tail with a FOX TALUS 100/120/140mm fork on it for Trail and Single-track work....... also a killer bike !

I ride a 2008 Santa Cruz BLUR LT2 Full Suspension rig with a 140mm fork on it and it does everything a hard-tail does but a little plusher........and a great bike to boot !

Just built a Santa Cruz SuperLite Full suspension rig with 100mm rear travel and a 120mm front Fox fork...........haven't ridden it yet,but I expect it to be on par with the Chameleon.......

And the bike I ride the most ?? A 2009 FETISH Fixation Single-Speed with a Rock-Shox 100mm Reba Race on it.......so simple,so light,and so fast.......4 inches of travel is always enough if your suspension is dialed in right.........The reason I answered this post is because ALL my bikes are short-travel bikes and they ride perfect and never bottom out !!

By the way..........I had a full Downhill rig too.......a 2007 GT DHI with 8 inches of Rock-Shox BOXXER and the best FOX rear coil money can buy ..........great bike for doing one thing...............Going downhill fast ! That's it............sold that bike,never rode it much. Case closed............
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 So True!!: "if you don't know how to ride a short travel bike (or hardtail) with skill, you won't be able to ride a long travel bike with skill either" - I love getting behind some schmuck on a downhill section with his heavy DH bike, face mask and elbow pads on and yelling out "on your right" as I pass him on my "cross country performance" mountain bike!!
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 I bought a (used) downhill bike because I was breaking too many parts. Downhill bikes are designed to take much more abuse. While I have ridden more downhill trails on my nomad, I ride my downhill bike on those trails now because I don't have to work on it after every ride.
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 All I'd like to add is that bikes, like most other things are partly functional, partly status symbols, and as such are subject to trends and fads just like clothes, cars, music, etc. In my opinion what I think the higher proportion of DH/FR bikes on XC trails is due to many people just following the trend. DH/FR bikes are the big thing right now. That's where the big money in the industry is being spent, that's where the big leaps in technology are being made, so that is what gets most of the attention. Would starting out on a hardtail or a short suspension bike make you a better/more technically proficient rider? I'd say most likely, but I don't think most of the people showing up on these rigs are really into the sport for that. They're typically younger, into the X-games scene, and just want to ride the jumps and the drops, and those bikes allow them to do that. And besides how technically proficient can you be on a 50 pound downhill bike anyway? To be open and honest, i've never ridden a DH bike, it's not my thing, but I do think they look like wicked beasts that you could take on anything on. I only wish i was 18 today, I'd have a DH bike in my basement.
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 if you can only afford one bike why not make it a bike that can handle everything
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 Is a short travel bike still full suspension? Is short travel 5" in the front and 4" in the back? Or do they all have to be hardtails? We need a definition of a term made up by guys who think the same and understand each other but some still do not quite understand...
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 mike levy...... why do you even care so much what everyone else is doing? seriously. are you going to tell somebody off on a trail because you think he is using the wrong bike? i doubt it. almost every single person riding is doing it for the same reasons you are. you sound like a school kid who got the wrong lunch and i think its i think its ridiculous that anyone else thinks the same. just ride whatever you want how ever you want where ever you want because im pretty sure there is no rule book for mountain biking.
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 Hi Mike, that are really some good points you made. But do you know how is it really from the "other side" ?
I started on 8" dh bike couple years back. It was smaller very old, steal, basically homemade frame, with hardly working suspension but at least nice double crown Junior T. But it was f*cking cool bike, which was way different from others and that i loved too. It took me a while to learn how to ride... bruises, crashes, flat tires, ripped helmets. But it the end I had a lot of fun, and big rig saved me lots of time. And there is an economical aspect too. Shorter travel bike, nice and light - true. But these guys are not really forgivable. You crash couple times and the thin aluminium its done like a pop can(I know some DH bikes are as hardcore fragile too).
I never rode hardtail or small travel bike. Until this summer , and you know what? I have no problem to drive that think and I am killing it the same way I am sending my DH bike. So its working the other way as well. I would say its individual thing and approach. I know that people say that its better if you starts from hardtail to full . But really is the difference so big ? You'll spend time to learn how to handle bike no matter if its DH rig or light short travel. Depends on the style and trails you wanna shred.
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 The title and intent of this is obviously provocative. We would have been so much better off to title this as "Choose the right tool for the job".

Personally, I agree with a lot of what's said. I also have an AM bike and a dedicated DH rig. Nor is it lost on my that an AM bike can blitz A Line and Blue Velvet all day long an be just as fast if not faster then a DH rig. In other words, it's not lost on me that the Air DH in '12 was one on a 6" bike.
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 I have never ridden anything but a hardtail....was riding Whistler quite a bit last summer and loved evry second of it. My bike is a beast...love it! I rode with guys with bikes from all parts of the spectrum...I personally think it is about who you ride with...not what you are riding. You could be riding the best bike money can buy, if you're riding with asshats it doesn't really matter does it? Ride what you have and ride to have fun!!!...the rest is irrelevant!
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 Owning the right tool for the job is an expensive proposition. After spending most of the Summer on my DJ bike, my 6" bike feels somewhat like a sloppy mess. Yes, its an awesome bike for gravity fed trails but it's not nearly as responsive as a DJ bike and way too soft for anything that isn't really steep. Who can afford to build up an awesome short travel rig along with a dirt jumper and a long travel bike for the big stuff? Not me! Levy made some great points that I believe are right on. My problem is, I'm not gonna spend another 5-6K on a short travel rig when I can have a really good time on my 6" bike.
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 And then again, My hardtailbike has a 110mm travel DJ1 fork. I really like to pump this one up untill it is almost like a ridgid fork.. Everybody looks strange at me, but i know it gives me way more speed (i will do all the work myself..)
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 Well, it all comes down to the trails that you're riding. I have been riding hardtails for a few years now, and i think a hardtail is actually a better bike (off course it all depends on the track.) in pretty much all cases. It gives me more feedback, and i can easily get around tight corners, i also manage to pull off a bunnyhop on my hardtail. (in the meanwhile i can also do this on my downhillbike, wich i have for a few month now) It really surprised me how much easier a fully rides!! Because of my knee problems i like to ride a downhillbike on the rocky surfaces, and there where hight (read free speed) is not an issue. But, i think it would be a good thing to ride a hardtailbike for a while, just to get your technique right. In my opinion most of the trails should be ridden with a hardtail, the fully makes me a lazy rider!! I don't have to put in much efford to go around the course, wich is another thing on my hardtail.
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  • + 1
 We have no place being pejorative to other riders but we can all appreciate a fun argument. Our sport is about hedonism: we don't get to act like there is a "right" way to feel good. Everyone has different physical strengths/weaknesses and willingness to take risks. I ride 7 mountain bikes and love them all for different reasons. After 25 years of riding bikes as my religion I can say if you want to get better you need to ride more. Because we all have limited time we pick the funnest bike and trail. If you wanna have even more fun you gotta add more biking not trade one type of riding for another. Trials bikes cost less then a new fork and offer a way to build skills at home when you don't otherwise have time to ride. Trials riding teach the most useful lessons you can apply off road. Once you can track stand, ride backwards, pedal-kick etc you will have more fun in all riding conditions and you don't gotta judge anybody to do it. Go ride.
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 I'm 43 and started riding trails just last year. Bought me a hardtail 29er back in April this year. Went to Highland Mountain Bike park back in September, and was blown away - rented a bike and took the lessons that came with it. Now, I want I full suspension 26er, but have been debating as to what I actually need. I do cross country mostly, and really enjoy the exercise that comes with it. I've learned so much on my 29er this year: bunny hopping; very small jumps, hitting some steep declines, going over obstacles, etc... After much thinking and reading so many forums and articles I've decided that I'll be okay with a 5" or so travel bike. It seems that so many on the forums tend to steer others towards getting a dh rig. Hey, that's great if you like it, but honestly I don't think most people need it. I loved the article because I found it to be honest; not intent with a marketing agenda to get us to buy the more expensive dh rigs. Just my opinion.
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 All I know is that I've had way too many bikes just looking for that "it" factor, looking for a bike that will satisfy me. In my experience (and I've ridden everything) there's all kinds of fun to be had on all kinds of bikes. But what I find frustrating is my own consistent lack of contentment with what I currently own. That's why I'm a big fan of riding what you have and pursuing contentment and joy over being the best rider around. I've got enough of an ego already. - Sorry about getting philosophical. I'm currently enjoying my SC Chameleon with a Pike, single speeded for EVERYTHING! Of course I do live in central FL Smile .
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 I find that there is nothing more satisfying than keeping up with someone on a bike downhill rig when riding my hardtail with 100mm travel at the front down a DH track....believe me people dont like it!!. I have had downhill bikes, short travel bikes and a hardtail and to be honest I prefer the hardtail as I always know what its going to do. I was riding a downhill track the other weekend and i didnt miss suspension once. I was forever crashing my dh rig and I realised that I never actually learned to ride properly on a hardtail. Now I have learnt how do ride half decently and taken on some coaching over the last 4 years its made a big differnce. I never hear my self say "i cant do that jump/drop because im riding a hardtail" If I cant do it then thats down to my skill not my bike. Dont get me wrong my hardtail is of a very high standard but I certainly dont miss having suspensio
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 N+1

Got a hardtail, a 4" a 6" and a 9" bike. They are all suiting, and its fun to ride the same trails on different frames. 6" bike is a XC plow, but a little tougher on hard stuff, 4" bike is fast on XC, and hardtail reminds me I suck at riding!
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 My XC bike doesn't have any suspension at all and is so damn fun to ride Smile Bigbike stays nice and warm inside untill the parks open again, no need to trash that bike when it's not needed, expensive enough to maintain as it is.
  • + 1
 yeah, and don't forget to mention that you live in the netherlands... Where there are pretty much no hills... :-)
  • + 1
 Details... details.... Wink
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 It is not about the bike, from road to mountain its about the rider. their skill, their engine and their will to pin it and huck their meat. I have been riding a 1999 specialized stumpjumper pro with skinny tires a road casset and skinny flat bars since the beginning many years ago. I blew out the fork trying to negotiate a blackdiamond rock garden. Truth is you can ride all but the gnarliest terrain on a complete rigid bike. gotta have some skills. I believe that you should learn how to ride everything on a steep angle short travel bike. once you develop those skills everything becomes easy. I have ridden well dialed trail bikes 5inch travel and i felt like i could send any line anywhere. that said i got some funny looks atop sidewinder at kingdom dropping in on the xc rig. it was about shear joy, and scare factor, some respect too. not everyday you see a lyrca clad rider pointing a machine built downhill run and sending it faster than most on luxurious freeride rigs(pussys). Bottom line, know the roots of our sport;old beach cruisers sending it. get back on that hard tail and ride your favorite trail then go back to the cushion you will improve your skills and enjoy the ride.
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 I have 3 bikes 2 of them i ride on the same trails both xc bike and dh bike rip the same jumps same dh but the dh bike stays home for the long trail rides . I benefit from both bikes and learn from both bikes couldn't ride as smooth on the big bike without the skills from xc bike but couldn't rip xc bike without the skill and confidence my dh bike gives me and were would i be without my good old blkmrkt, and yes i do get my sam hill on with my boys and we get our brendawg on to nothing wrong with that we all have our idols and our own moments of glory now put down the keyboard and go get your gwin on
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 my second proper bike was a norco manik 170mm travel hardtail, with the geometry (and weight) of a downhill bike. the only reason i had it for so long was cause of the massive confidence boost it gave me; no fears about drops, doubles, ect. i have now downgraded to a jump again, and my riding has improved no end due to my norco, and i am thankful that i had it. although, now i have learnt to do things like step ups and drops, i find it much easier on my 100mm travel bike.
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 Haha Mike you are a hater by all modern standards - but well if we wait a bit this word might eventualy become synonymous with: capable of forming relatively own opinion and performing deliberate intelligent actions?

Awesome article, I agree 100% and bow to that ideology, nobidy said it better though than Lee McCormack himself: long travel is a remedy for polr technique: same could be written about
29" wheels, clipless pedals, lighteright components and many more ,even tubeless. But you are still a hater...

All the best, keep that heart burning for anserrs and let the clear mind follow Smile

Always yours: WAKi the hater
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 Funny I made this argument in a thread the other day and I got mixed emotion answers from people. I totally agree with you levy. But I feel like it comes down to someone's budget. Yes it is fun to slay everything you can on a 6" bike. But if you can AFFORD to have more then one rig and can have a full
On downhill sled, it would be better to rail the crazier stuff with that. It simply makes it easier. Though to me easier isn't always "fun-ER".
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 I think that the geometry plays a big part in the trails, not just big travel. I went riding up at Deer Valley with my friend who had an all mountain bike. On the really steep brutal trails, he went over the bars several times, where I had much less of a problem, and when I rode his bike, and I had that trouble. The point is downhill bikes are not all about the big suspension, the geometry is different then your XC bikes, and much more enjoyable to shred with your friends. If you don't want to ride DH bikes, then don't. We will though.
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 2nd getting personal instruction on riding. It's amazing how much of a difference having an instructor critique your riding can make. Before dropping several grand on a new bike, get some and instruction and become a better rider.
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 Im with Levy for the most part on this one. A full on DH rig makes next to no sense unless you only ride lift accessed black/double black trails. There are way too many videos on pinkbike of people "exploding berms" on tame loamy singletrack with their 8" rigs. That being said, there are a tonne of places where a 6-7" "all mountain" bike is going to slaughter all comers in terms of fun AND speed.
  • + 1
 True, true talderson. Now get yourself a lighter bike and come ride with me in Vic... after my term ends that is. Or just bring your kona, that would do too.
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  • + 1
 I think what this article misses the point of in some respects is that travel is irrelevant in some cases you go buy a 150mm sektor and try and get down some of the more hardcore stuff and then compare that to riding a 150mm (internally dropped) lyrik, they have the same travel here yet the lyric is going to make the job easier as it tracks better, thats not more travel thats better suspension. I dont see many people posting articles on "lets rip out our rebound and compression dampers because that makes us better riders".

The other point this misses entirely is are there enough 120mm tough bikes out there ? im not gonna even attempt to claim ive ridden enough bikes in that category to answer that question, but for the ones i have ridden, they have been crap in all fairness. Yes they climb, yes theyre fun because its about rider skill. But they also break down a lot due to mainly the fact theyre all spec'd around weight. now you could argue that "well put better components on then" which then adds weight and leads to the arguement "well if im gonna have to crank a ton of weight up hill why am i going to settle for a 32mm fork with 9 mm drop outs when i could have a 34/5/6 mm fork with better tech and the potential for more travel?" (key point to note there being if you have solo air or similar just because the fork is spec'd at 160mm do you need to run it that way ?)
  • + 1
 I think this article really is only just scratching the surface and instead of pointing the finger at one aspect ie travel it should really be pointing at the tech. The market is geared towards big bikes with big forks/travel with lots of tech, in the main, as thats the "cool" sector of the market. maybe if we start seeing mission control and its counterparts by the other manufacturers trickle into Revelations/sektor/recons and the like people will first of all not look to long travel as the first port of call and secondly consider some of the more stripped back forks. Finally lets have some more burly short travel bikes. Hardtail market is fine and with nukeproof producing a smaller travel mega that market looks to be getting what it needs ie burly mid travel bikes not weight obsessed XC rigs. Trail bikes should be able to hit DH without bearings and pivots dying and by that i dont mean fort william, ive killed 2 FS frames here in FOD and thats not exactly WC territory.

Im a firm believer in having at least 2 bikes, a "hardcore hardtail" and a do it all full sus. The skills you learn on each one crossover and make you a better rider. EG: Theres no way im gonna try a drop for the first time on a hardtail so i'll try it on the full sus and once comfortable with it i'll give it a go on the hardtail.
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  • + 1
 I agree with the Article, the main thing about a DH bike is really you can only use it properly on uplift days, for general riding you want something that makes the ups easier as thats where most "average" riders struggle. The easier the ups are the more of them you will do, that means more downhill sections in a day Smile

I've been riding since 1990, and even now will pick up my 1993 hardtail, with 35mm of elastomer front suspension and take it out for a spin to keep my skills sharp. My gnarly bike is a Heckler for uplifts, and a superlight for faster XC. The bike I have used most this year is a 1997 Sintesi hardtail which I've done 600 miles on this year according to Strava, Vs 250 on the Heckler ...
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  • + 1
 I've gone from a hardtail to a glory and now I'm riding a 5" travel DMR bolt which has turned out to be the perfect bike for me, I can ride everything that I rode on the glory but actually slightly quicker because the bolt rolls considerable better.
There was nothing wrong with the glory but I am very glad I made the change as it has improved my riding no end.
I do think its simply down to personal preference and what type of bike suits your riding style, also some people may not lack ability but confidence and a long travel bike can help improve the confidence and so let the ability shine through.
Thats my two cents, let the debate continue.
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  • + 1
 after riding a killswitch all over whistler mountain for three years i am a firm believer in the viability of a small bike. sure it may not be the best on trails like crack addict or crabapple hits but it is something you can ride on just about any terrain. Not being able to monster truck your way through technical sections makes you be more creative as a rider, jumping sections, or having to quickly sort out the best line. Nothing against dh bikes but I'll stick with my short travel bike
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  • + 6
 Just shut up and ride.
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  • + 1
 I used to ride a sc nomad, but now I ride a 5" giant trance and for my local trails (west garda lake, italy) it's perfect. for most of them, by the way. and, of course i get more satisfaction riding on a short travel bike with my friends with their longer travel bikes, doing the same things. ciao!
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  • + 1
 This is something I can't agree with more. I live in an area where the trails have maybe 20-30ft of elevation change, yet I constantly see guys on 6-7 travel Enduro bikes. Some of them I'll chock up to they just moved to the area, but many think they need the travel to deal with the roots (no rocks). Yet I fly past them on my FS or HT XC race bike.
I have fallen into the same trap, but 4 years later all I use is a HT and 100mm FS. The fun comes form flying over obstacles on a light bike, railing corners, flicking the bike side to side and passing guys on longer travel bikes.
I recently built a Demo 8, a bike that is just not sold at any shop where I live. Everyone asked If I was going to test it out at our local trails, my prompt response was no, I built it to send to a family member's house who lived in the Sierras.
Out in the Sierras I also brought a 100mm travel Specialized Epic and I started by having my wife shuttle me to the top of a few of the local trails and the demo was a blast, allowing me to hit features I was not able to hit before. Then I started riding the epic and found the trails more enjoyable. I wasn't able to hit some of the features I could have with the Demo, but the Epic would accelerate out of the corners faster, clear jumps easier and overall make it down much faster. I can't tell you how many guys I caught up to and passed on the Epic and they were on bikes with 2X the travel (and quite surprised).
The Demo has it's place on the Black and Double black diamond runs at the local Bike Park, but for most things, 100mm travel will work just great. I actually enjoy riding the HT more, unless I am just tired and don't feel like picking lines.
I always encourage new riders to get a HT first. It helps you perfect your skills and read the bike and terrain better, then when you get a longer travel you can compare and be more lazy on trails.
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  • + 1
 Rode my HT with Lights for a night ride on trails I usually take my 6" and it was a blast..........HT was light and fun to throw around..........lot's of "oh shit" moments when the rear slid over and around rocks instead of cruising over them.........teach you to pick a line! I'm all for riding what you got and if you can afford it, have two, otherwise, pick a smaller suspension and have fun! ...........course I'm a hack that's almost 40 now...........
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  • + 1
 This past year, I sold away my DH rig (Demo Cool , and my cross country bike (C'Dale Lefty Carbon) for one bike I could ride anywhere. I bought the BMC Trailfox TF01 Sram XO Carbon. I am BLOWN AWAY by this highly capable bike. It can handle any downhill I have thrown at it (Whistler, Kamloops, Colorado, Northstar California, Virgin Utah even.) It has been the best choice I have ever made in regards to buying a mtb. I have learned so much more on how to ride aggressively on this bike within eight months than I did on two years on my Demo. It goes to show that bigger doesn't always mean better.
  • + 1
 Demo 8 ** not a smiley face..
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  • + 1
 I'm gonna say i agree with the general premise of this article. I have a Transition Trans-am that i have built up with a fox float 36 up front that absolutely is pure joy to ride. I have a Banshee Spitire (127mm) travel out back with a float 36 up front with a 66 hta that is absolutely fun to rip. both bike bring huge smiles to my face, am i going a bit slower down certain sections of trails, yep, am i having fun going slower, yep!!!
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  • + 1
 Just ride guys. Mtb is one of the few sports on earth where I feel a sense of community with just about any person who rides anywhere in the world. Just this weekend I had loads of fun riding with a dude who only spoke Italian, not a word of english. Now, this article poses a great question, but let's not get our panties in a wad over it..instead how bout you hardtail and short travel rides go out there and prove him right, you DH rig aficionados go out there and prove him wrong.
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  • + 1
 Great article!

I find myself mainly riding DH these days. I have been riding with a crew that likes to bomb and go stupid fast. On my DH bike I would keep up and would hit 90% of the stunts we come across. Now that I am older and working full-time, I am realizing that it really sucks when you crash going all-out on a DH bike and realized that just as much fun can be had on a smaller travel bike. Crashing while going slower hurts less. For the past few years I have found myself grabbing my "little bike" ie. Transition double/bottlerocket/xxxx/trance for the NorthShore and Whistler. I am the guy that hits crabapples on a 4 and 4" slopebike. Yah I am a tad slower because I have to pick my lines and its super scary going down the steeps, but I have more fun. Riding my "little bike" is more rewarding for me because I feel like I am doing what guys on DH bikes do and I only have less than half the travel. I still go bigger than I should on my little bike but i am just a tad slower on the speed/technical sections. I also feel more in control when riding skinnies on my little bike.

A couples years ago, a buddy and I decided to ride Mt.Seymour (CBC, Corkscrew, Pingu, Pangor) on our dirtjump hardtails with a front brake, DH tubes and smaller DH tires. Man was that a blast. We were going probably 60% of our normal speed but boy was it fun. Had to choose every single line and had to look at every single jump before hitting it. You guys should definitely try it. Change it up and ride "little bikes" once in a while on your DH mountain with your buddies. You will thank me. After riding a "little bike", you go stupid fast on a DH bike, TRUST ME. Now that I have read this article and shared my thoughts, I am going to rig up a DH worthy DJ hardtail again for this winter. Now with the cold/wet weather, Fromme and lower Seymour is calling me to ride it with a hardtail. PM me if you want to join. Happy Riding - Brian
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  • + 1
 I ride my all mountain 160mm travel bike for everything. I can keep up and with almost all of the guys on thier DH bikes. I think there are probably about 10% of the trails in my area that would benifit from a DH bike but for that 10% I can take the extra punishment and be a little slower. I started riding on a hardtail with 2in travel fork and then moved to a longtravel hardtail and finaly to a fully.
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  • + 1
 I loved my VP Free when I had it but in Scotland there is Fort William and a couple of trails that you need a big big for if you have the ability. Hard Tail riding is where it's at for me....You are much more engaged as a rider. It develops a stronger understanding of line choice, use of body balance and riding relaxed on technical terrain. But each to there own.
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  • + 1
 i used to a have a do-it-all bike...
not the best for climbing, or descending... :s not the best for peddaling on a AM ride, not the best on a bikepark

got an extra dh bike (best thing i ever did)... got me the confidence to go bigger & faster on DH trails & bikeparks

the do-it-all bike, just lightened it up (air shocks, lighter wheels etc 2,5kgs less) and just gives me the blast while riding now the same AM trails

if this wasn´t an complexed sport, wouldn´t be so many bike choices: XC, EN, AM, FR, DH (you cant have best of all worlds in only one)
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  • + 1
 I'm thankful that my first mountain bike was a hardtail with 100 mm fork up front. It pushed me to become a better rider, forced me to learn a skill set and technique that has help me transition to my current full suspension bike with adjustable travel. Which I always dial down the travel to get that "Old Hardtail Feel" again ! By the way I passed on my old Gary Fisher HT onto my 12 yr old nephew who is having a blast every time we go out on the trail. "Long Live the Hardtail"
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  • + 1
 i really dont see the point of this topic, if the person who wrote it isnt rying to cut into anyones fun and doesnt see a problem with downhill bikes then what was the point in writing it. personally ive ridden for 15 years and progressed from a hardtail and my onl;y opinion is that if people complain enough for them to stop selling dh bikes to the masses then they will go up in price an people like me who want to ride them and can ride them properly will suffer with the prices going up even higher than they are already!
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  • + 1
 Riding the different disciplines of mountain biking improves the others. Yes, you should start with the basics, learning balance, stopping, bail-out, turning, climbing techniques first before you jump onto a full DH rig. I started out on a hard tail, worked my way up to a Demo. Love my Demo by the way! But spending a couple of days in the bike park you learn those high speed techniques, cornering, jumping, and gravity based techniques you don't get on your average trail ride. Your average trail ride you maybe get 10 to 20 min of pointing your bike down rather than climbing, so riding a DH rig is a great learning experience in the grand scheme of things. Now, I have taken those skills from my time in the bike park and applied them to riding my '11 Stumpy Evo. I tell you what, I have been able to find killer lines, push the bike to its limits and have had some fantastic rides. Any type of riding will aid in improving another. But what I see is a lot of people do not want to climb, or do any sort of "work" while on a bike ride. (Yes I do understand that cranking out DH runs is hard work...I do it too) And for those folks, too bad for you! You are missing out on so may great adventures.
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  • + 1
 I have to agree with Levy here, I think there is too much "overloading" if I may use the expression when it comes to bike choice. There are a lot of videos of really smooth trail (steep, sure, and with some big jumps and drops, but the actual trail is smoothed out and not really many challenging rocks around) being ridden on 8' bikes.

Also, and a point that Levy didn't make but it's also big imho, is that not everybody can afford more than one bike. I myself am in that group, and it makes no sense to me to have an 8' bike, even though some of my local trails have enough rocks and tricky stuff to make the use of a full dh sled reasonable. I find that a short-shortish (right now I'm on a Mondraker Prayer, 160 front and back air sprung) travel bike is the way to go in that case. With two rings and some patience, it gets me to the top of the trails and then lets me enjoy the way down even if there's technical stuff. Sure, I have to pick my lines more carefully, but it is indeed a great feeling when I find a new line or another way to do an old one and I flow through it carrying more speed than ever because of me and not because the bike is making up for my mistakes.

What I don't agree with, though, and I think it's just a part of the world popular trend (not only mtb) of going "retro/old fashion is great", is the hardtail part. I do agree that it'll hone your skills sort of, but riding a hardtail on a rocky and blunt trail is just calling for slipped pedals, unnecessary flats and not that much fun. Sure it looked fun in that video, but steep and slippery as it may be, there are not that many rocks or roots or uneven terrain which is where you fall in love with your rear a travel. Just my 2 cents. Hardtails are cool, but not for everything. Graves' pic is a pretty good summary I think.

PS: Also, Levy, if you could please elaborate a bit more on what well set-up means? Would be much appreciated.
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  • + 1
 The other thing I noticed recently is that everyone thinks that they MAY have to use super stiff suspension setups like the pros. Those riders don't notice that they are wasting their bike's potential when riding 10% sag and coming to the end of the trail with 60 or 70% of the travel used. The real deal is that suspension should be tuned to work almost all the travel, leaving a small spare for "emergencies" - And be tuned harder as long as the rider is able to reach those limits.
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  • + 1
 i've been riding for 6 years, 5 of them have been spent on a hardtail, even though my new full suss only has 5.5" travel i'm riding faster,smoother and jumping bigger than ever before, that's all from the skills riding a hardtail gave me. i've never been on a trail where i thought i would need a full dh bike but sometimes a little extra travel could come in useful,
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  • + 1
 I agree with this article. Most people that have a DH bike don't need one or really make the most of it eg how often are you bottoming out? Either due to lack of narly terrain or due to lack of skill. They'd be better off with a shorter travel bike. Heck I think even at most bike parks a 160-180mm bike is all you need. Having said that I have only one bike (due to money and lack of space) and it is a DH bike. I use it for everything though. I've done +2hours climbs with 1000m in altitude in the offseason (I live in the french alpes), done some allmountain riding as well as ripping up the bikeparks in the Portes du Soleil area during the summer season. I just adjust the bike (eg longer seatpost for climbing and lower gearing) and man up cause the bike is still 18.5kg. Does a DH bike have it's handicaps for non DH riding? Sure! But that's all I got at the moment and frankly I can keep up with most riders around here on the climbs so it's cool.
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  • + 1
 I miss the time when a ride was just that and it didn't matter about the bike. Bikes were usually hardtails and the trails just as knarly. Getting out there to have fun and forgeting about the daily grind was what it was about. Dh,xc,all mountain, it was all the same. FUN
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  • + 1
 If I had the money I would have a DH bike, hardtail, heavy duty AM bike, light duty AM bike, XC full sus, 29" XC bike, road bike etc etc, but I don't.

I recently sold my AM bike (Transition Covert), it was a really beautiful bike and the only time I've ever bought a brand new frame and fork. I don't ride DH trails often, I just ride my bike. But it was still too much weight and travel for the stuff I ride 90% of the time.

I was lucky enough to also own a HT at the time (Evil Sovereign) with 140mm forks, this bike was lighter which was HUGELY noticeable not just on the uphills but on the flats when accelerating, I began to crave this light weight feeling when riding my Covert, but still wanted the slightly steeper head angle (68ish), low BB (13") and short chainstays.

I ended up selling the Covert and HT, then bought a Blur TRc (a Yeti ASR5 or Transition Bandit) would also have been good, now I have almost the weight of my old HT with sensible tyres, the same geo, a little bit of squish on the rear to make up for my lack of skill, I can no longer plough through the few rock gardens on my local trails, instead I have to read the trail, get every ounce of performance out of my bike and be as loose as possible to make my line smooth, this is HUGELY more rewarding and I literally could not be happier on my bike now.
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  • + 1
 I got a Freerider with 18cm travel 3 years ago, had a hardtail before, and I can feel how I have lost a lot of skill since that time. Obviously in the beginning it was great, because you continued progressing and going faster and further, but it stops if you mostly ride large travel stuff for freeriding.....

Looking forward to the transition Klunker Big Grin
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  • + 1
 I bought my scratch air9 for a reason... It does it all. Short travel, long travel, adjustable geometry, adjustable lockout for rear shock, full lockout. Gears. I can ride it anywhere. I ride east coast trails, bike parks and its been to flat Iowa, and it excelled there with some adjustments. Either buy a bike like this that you can ride anywhere or a specific bike for every different type of riding.
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  • + 1
 I got back into MTB a couple of years ago after a long time away. In fact, suspension didn't even exist 1st time around!
I'm now on my 2nd susser, a 150mm "do-it-all" but still love a hardtail & hope to have both soon as i still think they are more fun - which is what its all about.
Big bikes are common over here but rarely do you see anyone using them to their potential as we just don't have enough of the right terrain for them.
However, each to their own!
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  • + 1
 This makes a great point! But I don't really care what people ride. But dh rigs should be a second bike have all mountain or hard tail to ride everything else the bike park have the dh. I talked my buddy out of getting one due too we don't dh all the time. We trail ride so why 8 pluse travel. But if you are into it and can only afford one bike then more power too you!
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  • + 1
 yeah i agree i rode a hard tale at Aston hill, woburn and some places in wales granted very slowly compared to my mate on his big hit but iv recently purchased a longer travel bike and Ive been destroying my mates who have ridden DH bikes all the time just feel i know the trail more after knowing what part my back wheel was going to smack me in the balls on my hard tale (not a fun experience) i can now float over on my full sus
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  • + 1
 I want to ride all kinds of bikes and gain as much skills as I can, I agree that riding a short travel or a hard tail can be like training with weights on. Then getting on your 8" DH can show you the rewards of that training but at this point I couldn't pick just one. My dream would be to have at least four or five bikes so that I could ride the one that's best suited for the terrain I'm riding. Each different type of bike can really help you grow as a rider and help you to keep your skills balanced. You cant really pick just one. I used to manual my BMX forever, and still could manual my DH, but after two years on only my DH I can't really do it anymore. so you gotta ride all disciplines to keep all your skills sharp.
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  • + 1
 Ride what ever you want, just have fun. I agree with Mike to a point, but most of my skills came about when I started riding my Giant Reign because it gave me a lot more confidence to push the envelope. It's a really versatile bike.
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  • + 1
 Bikes, trails and riders all work together, all have their limits and all make the ride for better or worse. I believe learning on a HT is best and progressing up. My bikes dictated the trails I rode and those in turn dictated the skills I learned. The bigger bikes are way more fun, they allow you to really push your envelope. No, not everyone is WC material. But how many times have the bigger bikes saved some dudes tail because he was in over his head in his skills dept? Many times I'm sure.
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  • + 1
 I have very little experience with DH riding, but for normal trail bike riding I think the same applies. I was riding a 5" stumpy fsr and would switch to a SS 29er hardtail every few rides. Found after a while that there was barely any line on my local trails I wouldn't ride on the hardtail, and whether is was true or not, the hardtail "felt" faster and more exhilarating. Ended up ditching the stumpy for an AM hardtail, and after one ride in I'im pretty sold. Sure, it's way more comfortable rolling over roots on squish, but the fun factor is higher on the hardtail, and that's all I need to know.
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  • + 1
 When I started trying to DH about 12 years ago or so I wanted to get a BIG bike so bad. I went to a few races to watch and I ended up meeting a lot of great people that I am still friends with today. Then the best advice that I got was to get a HT. Doug said "What say you if you spend $4000 + on a big bike and then not like the sport, then what?" He said to get a HT to learn on to learn to carry speed on tech lines, and most important to teach your body to be more fluid on the bike and to use your body as suspension of sorts to try and keep up.

I'm glad that I listened to him. It gave me all the skills that I needed to get better at what I wanted to do. www.pinkbike.com/photo/7606081 This was my last bike that I raced DH on in the Ontario Cup.
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  • + 1
 I think people should start off on short travel hard tails because it gets you used to riding and finding those right lines and everything. once you have your confidence, get a DH rig. I've had 2 hard tails and once my parents allowed me, I got my first DH rig, a 2000 Kona Stab Primo. yea, its old, but it has given me even more confidence and I have comined both the hardtail skills with the DH ripin, and Its awesome.
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  • + 1
 Talking about short travel bikes, do the most experienced riders here think that the difference between a 6" and 6.7" travel bike with similar geometry is noticeable enough to justify the change? (for riding in proper enduro environments, lots of downhill sections with some breath taking uphills).
  • + 2
 I would just stay with a 6" bike, if that is what I only have. Yet if I have to buy a bike for enduro, I would get a 5" bike with the CTD adjustments from fox. One remote on the bar to adjust the fork and shock at the same time makes it all worth while.
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  • + 1
 I'm learning downhill on a Hardtail 29er with 100mm travel. I imagine if I had started out on a downhill bike I probably wouldn't have had so many falls, bent wheels, scrapes, bruises, hands to sore you had to massage them back into shape or making my already injured back hurt like the dickens. I spent all summer do afore mentioned things until just last month I rented a Specialized Status...it was so much fun! I was way less sore and waaaaay less tired by the end of the ride; I could have kept going all day. So am I saving up for a Specialized Status? Yes I am. Am I going to probably spend all next summer on my hardtail? Of course. Its harder, more tiring and it hurts more but that didn't stop me from falling in loving with DH. I'll keep falling and learning from mistakes, watching instructional videos and pro videos until I can afford a Status and I'll still keep falling and learning. What Levy said actually made me feel a little better about the fact that I'm learning on a XC bike...
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  • + 1
 I got a cheap HT, put a bar and stem on it, and I ride it whenever I go out alone. Suddenly I can whip on bumps! Love it. I think everyone needs a HT. get a FS when you are ready for a second bike and d DH when you are ready for a third.
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  • + 1
 Even my 6" bike can take more than I can give it an is a blast to ride, up and down the mountain and at the bike park, but riding an all mountain bike DH and at the bike park is simply going to destroy an all mountain bike over time. I bought a DH bike to ride trails it was meant for, DH trails. I bought an all mountain bike, for everything else. I started on a hardtail, and both my all mountain, and my DH rig have improved certain skills. Even if we don't need DH bikes, or a 6" trail bike for certain trails we ride, it's better than being out of work and not providing for the family cuz you cased a jump on your hardtail!! Just sayin...
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  • + 1
 Like riding my 150mm bike the most often but the big bike gets a fair bit of play, and will stay in the stable as it can take a pounding. Full on DH bike has the benefit of lasting alot longer under a less skilled rider in tough conditions. I'm quite fortunate in being able to have a handful of bikes, and If i was limited to one it would be a short travel/all mountain/ what evever you'd like to call it bike, but I do like the feeling of riding a big travel bike as it allows me to play, where a shorter travel bike would allow me to just survive (and the bike would die beneath me sooner)
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  • + 1
 i'm still riding my trusty scott voltage hardtail for the past 3 years and whenever i got onto my friend's dh or fr bike,i felt somehow weird.but now i get a little more familiarize with long travel bike.though ever since i tried a short travel full-sus,i felt in love with it cause it feels like riding my voltage but there is a cushioning when riding trails or doing big drops.most probably i'm gonna get one soon after new years
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  • + 1
 The pic of Kelly McGarry being used as a reference for a DH bike worthy trail is in my hometown! Southern Utah riding is pretty rough. I prefer less travel, 6-7 inches, due to a more lively ride quality although a day at the lifts make me want more than that Smile
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  • + 1
 Great article and nice discussion. Sold my DH ride last season and bought a 5" Spesh stumpjumper. I'm one of the guys who just goes off the drop and hangs on to the bike. I got stuck on some jumps/drops because of my lack of skills. I bought the short(er) travel bike to build op skills and try again.
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  • + 1
 variety is the spice of life! Our local dh hill is gnarly gnarly gnarly and dangerous as hell. I am one of a small number of people at our local hill who, if my big bike is broken or in the shop, will ride the downhill trails on my XC bike (a Trance) or my hardtail if need be (then again maybe many others don't have a 2nd bike). It's a HUGE wake up call having to readjust your lines and keep in mind that a Crossmax cannot take the same beating as a Deemax and your fork will not save your ass if you roll a bubble rock rather than hucking it. But yeah, it's pretty awesome and it totally changes my perspective and helps me improve more quickly. I love my bikes. All of them. Bringing the "wrong bike" to the trails, jumps, skate park, etc, is SO FUN and helps hone your skills SO MUCH more than ploughing the same run on your dh bike repeatedly.

THAT BEING SAID-- downhilling a hardtail *does* seem like it's harder on trails due to having to slide your rear wheel and use the rear brake more. Jinya is a great rider and I've noticed in some of his edits that the trails seem to get torn up rather much.
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  • + 1
 I live in S. Oregon home of the Ashland Enduro. I've been preaching less is more for a while. Our trails just don't justify a big bike. Sure there are a couple of tracks that are funner on a big bike but 99% is easily doable on a short travel bike. I started on a hard tail in 2000 then went to a 4" bike then several DH bikes then started going back to short travel and now I am loving a Blur TRc. I am faster and have more fun on my little vs. my big on most every trail in our area.

That being said. I did learn a lot and expanded much of my "big balls skill" riding a DH bike in areas that warrant a DH bike. And is still have a DH bike for lift access and the 1% of local trails that warrant one.

I however have learned much more from a short travel bike. How to finesse, gap sections of trail, and just better bike handling techniques all around. The smaller bikes are just so much more responsive to input and body english.

I see people on big bikes in Ashland and I think to myself how they are missing out. I know for a fact I am faster and am having more fun on the short travel bike than I ever was on a DH bike on the same trails.

However I do have a quiver of bikes from HT to DH and use the bike I feel is best suited for the trail I will be riding. But most of the time it's the TRc that comes out to play.
  • + 1
 Couldn't agree more with you.. We went to Ashland this year on our annual big bike trip and wished we had our other bikes, but could only bring one bike for the trip. I hope to get back to Ashland with the right bike someday. It was super fun regardless, but wish I had a bike I could pedal and whip around more. Howenver, where I ride most of the year, a big bike is pretty much a necessity..
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  • + 1
 No one talks about health. But, high travel give much than overconfidence, fake skills or some other bullshit. It gives confort for your back ! I can t imagine having so fun moment in the alps and preserve my back bones for old dayz without that confort. I used to ride hardtail, when i was 20, i can tell u that my back remebers every rocky single track.... So, it s cool to ride bikes with short travel or hardtails, but technology gives us a way to envoy without suffering.
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  • + 1
 I agree there is nothing more rewarding than pedalling your way up a smaller travel bike and earning your descend even on a hardtail i agree that improves your skills but then again there is nothing like riding a DH rig at the park or on a fast steep trail.
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  • + 1
 IMO, there is a bike for every trail and there is a bike for every rider. Nobody will take a DH sled to a cross country ride (unless that's your only bike, which means that you are not interested on cross country trails) and nobody will take a rigid hardtail for DH.
Good article anyways.
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  • + 1
 I think the type of bike you get doesn't define what terrain you ride, but how fast you can ride it. A XC will be the fastest going uphill, but it will the slowest going downhill. You can ride a 29" xc bike down a world class DH track, but it will be at a very slow pace. A all mountain style bike will not be the fastest uphill, but it will also not be the fastest down. A downhill bike will be the slowest up hill, but it will be the fastest down. You can ride a DH bike up a XC course, but it will be at a very slow pace. So again, the type of bike you get doesn't define what terrain you ride, but how fast you can ride it
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  • + 1
 I ride coil 6" in the rear and air 7" single crown out front. I am doing all the trails that the guys with 8" of travel. Im of course a little bit behind but to some degree i think a bike with more than 6" is a bit overkill. Unless you are doing things like rampage.
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  • + 1
 i started on a kona hardtail and learned how to pick great lines, got some flat tires as i pushed my self but i soon found when riding a full suspension bike on the same trails i grew more confident, faster, and was able to clear a lot more jumps.
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  • + 1
 Love this article! I started riding on a 6" bike and my learning curve was warped. I ride a Enduro Evo now but I have a rigid SS that has made my riding better than ever. I do everything better on my Enduro ever since I started riding my rigid SS. A big bike doesn't force you to learn how to go fast. You wanna go fast? Train on a less than super bike or go to a skills clinic. Even if you are the fastest in your group, there is a thousand people out there that can smoke you! Besides getting better is fun Smile
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  • + 1
 I started on a 4" XC, jumped on a 6", and now i'm on 7". I can see the progression but I really didn't feel the confidence needed to steam through gnarly lines until just before I got my 7". yes Skills are extremely important. Couple that with a sick big bike and you'll trump anything!
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  • + 1
 look mike this happened in all sports the newest genaration dont really pass by our older learning phases, they just go to the sport with the 8" bike period and learn with it of course that your point of view is the moust correct, but nowdays the new kids on the sport skip all does things they just want to charge like they see on the internet our bike movies we where the ones who add to have all these evolution for this kids and grown ups new in the sport have what they have today.

it´s just evolution that always be like this, i can´t even imagine what the next generation will have man it´s just crazy.
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  • + 1
 These comments are pretty interesting. People have different experiences, depending on age group, location, riding background and who knows what. I'm in my mid 30s and I've been riding for 20 years, starting in the early 90s on full rigid. When I started riding DH in 2000s, over the years my conception of what is possible (for me) on a bike has completely changed. Like many other people, that in turn completely changed my trail-riding. Granted, I'm 200+lbs, but I was pushing my Titus Moto-Lite to the limits in recent years, flexing the shit out of it and bashing it, and it was squirley as hell on drops. I moved to a Giant ReignX1 and I can push so much harder on my local trails and do things that would have simply exploded my Moto-Lite. A certain level of riding on my Giant was made possible to me due to DH on a Demo 8 (and predecessor bikes). Demo 8 for DH/park, ReignX for everything else. My case proves the merits of both small and big travel riding - starting small travel and learning to ride with technique, then pushing that to new limits with a big bike and transferring those pushed skills back to a smaller bike. And there's just nothing like schralping a line balls-out with a train of 7 dudes on DH bikes...sorry.
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  • + 6
 Run what ya brung!
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  • + 1
 My bike used to have 100mm forks on but i upgraded to 150mm purely for the reason the frame is a very aggressive geometry and it actually looked pants with smaller forks and was very switch on corners and even on bumpy straights sometimes the choice is chosen by fame style by the way my frames a hardtail. Miles
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  • + 1
 Funny thing is that I've ALWAYS rode single speed hardtails with really steep geo (14.5 stays, +35 bb and 75 head angle anyone?) on even DH courses up until September this year when I purchased my carbon Jekyll. Holy shit what a difference of riding hardtail single speed did for my line choice when going to full squish with gears. I felt like I was able to plow through anything and my times increased significantly (I'm still slow in comparison to the other guys I ride with though)
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  • + 1
 If I could afford it, I would have my 5 or 6 inch bike and a downhill bike. I don't get why this is such a hard concept for so many people to grasp. You pick the right bike for the terrain you will ride that day. The point I agree with most Levy brought up is that a lot of times riders bring their downhill bike to trails where that much travel isn't necessary. There are lots of places where a 160mm bike would make a lot more sense to ride versus a 200mm dh bike, and the opposite of that being true on more gnarly terrain. In a way it is the bike companies fault for not educating riders about using the right bike for the right terrain, just letting the riders assume that more travel means more speed, which isn't true 100% of the time.
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  • + 1
 I think a few people are missing the point. if you can't transfer the confidence to a shorter travel bike after riding a long travel bike then you're skills have not improved the big bike has just been holding your hand through the sketchy stuff. Sure there are limits to what short travel bike can do but those limits are not as far off the big bike as you might think. a truly talented rider like Wade or Thomas V could ride 80%of the most aggressive terrain on a slack geo 5" trail bike. I think more riders need to push the limits of their 4-5" travel bikes & once you can feel that limit & ride on the edge with control then you'll see your big bike performance increase. if you don't believe it look at what Fabian can do on a short travel bike on terrain most of us would be brake dragging on our DH bikes.
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  • + 1
 I recently swapped my fully spec'ed Intense M9 full blow DH race bike for a Devinci Dixon AM/Trail bike. Not regreting it for one second, love my new rig.
I do miss the bigger monster I left since it could eat everything in its path and forgive me for my lack of skill in the gnarly terrain, yet, I wanted to make a change to a more versatile and nimble bike I could do everything with, which means more fun, which is my reason for riding; threfore, I am truly satisfied with my decision. I am just starting this shorter travel endeavor, yet, it is looking great already.

My plan is to hit the trails with the AM crew but also with the DH crew, which is my main group of riding friends, and I am sure that my new bike will be able to keep up with that. And why not, even hit the trails with the XC crew every now and then, the bike can do all of them with the fun factor as a constant. I'll improve as a rider due to versatility, improved skill and of course, FUN.
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  • + 1
 When I go to the DH park I bring both my 6" nomad and my 8" rig. I usually start the day off with the 6" and do fine and hit everything I'd hit on the 8" bike. But eventually I'll switch to the 8" DH bike and I'll notice how much of a difference it makes and I'll fly down the trails. I have lots of fun on both bikes but nothing can match the feeling of flying down those trails on the 8" on the edge of disaster!!
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  • + 1
 Well, i started on a DJ bike, had a shiteload of crashes, cant say i got a lot of skill on that, then came an all mountain/enduro bike with 6" travel, went pretty well, all fundamentals i learned were on it... Now i have a 7" Freeride rig, cant be happier, even though most of the trails i ride don't need a bike with that much travel, i'm happy with it, for every time i get to ride a hard tail, i can push it further than i used to...
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  • + 1
 Certainly got some good debate fired up here Mike...
Agree 100%, for a lot of the average riders out there it's fashion over form. I started riding an xc bike years ago and gradually changed to a longer travel hardtail. This bike still gets ridden around here in Aspen area just as much as my Nomad, both are just as much fun as a DH bike, jut a different (more enjoyable for me) mindset is all.
Horses for courses.
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  • + 1
 Modern mountain bikes are becoming a fun tuning exercise, like other more mature wheeled sports.
If I lived near DH/FR areas,big bikes and gear would be a lot of fun.
But, it's really good fun rolling through the local XC trails with a group of friends on HTs and short XC bikes.

In that context, a DH/FR bike would be ridiculous.

As with all other sports, horses for courses...
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  • + 1
 I just got a Kona Taro in place of my freeride bike and I love it! Instead of pushing my bike halfway up the hill, I can actually ride all the way to the top. The 29 inch wheels help it rolls through everything faster, allowing me to get speed up for jumps without pedaling. It also handles amazingly in tight, technical terrain with shorter chainstays than a full-suspension bike would have. The only place I don't ride it at is at Whistler. I use my DH bike for that. The Bottom line is: Hardtails excel at all trail and all-mountain riding. Short travel fs bikes excel at everything except for full-on DH. If you're DH riding on trails where you actually need a DH bike, then get a DH bike. Otherwise, a hardtail or fs trail bike will do just as well, if not better than a DH bike.
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  • + 1
 i think this article may have generated more hype than any other article I've read haha, I definitely love my DH bike but there are times when I say to myself "i wish I didn't have to push 40 pounds up this hill, or through this turn right now"
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  • + 1
 i started really doing free ride on my dads Specialized Hardrock which is a hardtail XC bike(which i still ride about the same amount as my current bike). i then made the change over to a Lenz Sport Spankster which is full suspension but really stiff and not 8". After having ridden both of those bikes(and by no means am i very good tbh, im average at best!), i went out on my friends Demo 8(first time on a full DH rig) and holy shit i felt like i could do anything! im not very good at jumping but on the hardtail and spankster i can smash through rockgardens and drops at pretty good speeds to be honest, mainly because thats all there really is on the trails by me. I have learned to handle the bike quite well because of the time i have spent with the hardtail and my stiff/short travel bikes, and my friend who has only ridden full DH was pleasantly surprised at how quickly i was able to catch onto biking. I have onyl been biking for a year now, and he has been biking for like almost 6. he is still loads better than me and i will probably never be as good but i am loving biking and i am glad i have the ability to ride both bikes well. i just need to learn to jump and work more on my cornering a little more.
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  • + 1
 HAHA, all of you who ride your 8'' Downhill rigs at GRAMMARS COMMON on the ISLE OF WIGHT, or BRIGHSTONE FOREST on the ISLE OF WIGHT, or indeed, anywhere on the ISLE OF WIGHT, this article could almost have been written for you guys! WELL OVER-BIKED
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  • + 1
 So if i'm correct, you're saying to ride shorter travel bikes which makes things more technical, fun, improve skills etc? good point, until you said use a 29"er, which rolls over the gnar easier, therefore requiring less skill. seems contradictory. Got a demo for out'n'out dh, and an enduro for everything else. learnt basic skills on a GT chucker with no real suspension on the front, and agree you should start on a hardtail to learn the skills of technical riding, but really progressed when I got my first full sus!
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  • + 1
 Rode 5.5hrs last Sunna on 29er SS with a crap fork, short stem wide bars and dropper post, rode with a dude on a 7" light freeride bike and a 29er 5" bike, and kicked arse, black diamond to serious grade 4 trails mainly with roots that made the others nearly cry towards the end of the ride they suffered the next day and I still worked a hard day, 1 of this group has to much travel very little basics of mtb but is new to the sport, so the fundamentals have eluded him but he has balls fit for a dump truck sooner or later he's heading for a major digger, not if just when, 7" has helped and hindered him so far, the other dude has been riding a long time and riding a Niner he lacks the fundamentals on mtb skills basic stuff any long timer should know, I see this allot on many types of bikes long travel or short, 9er long full sus and DH.
Racers though and a bit general here are forced through competition to progress or die especially in DH, having hard-tail old-school skills really helps but DH skills also help a hardtail rider, in my case this G4 root fest with anaconda size roots natural drops ledges off camber that threw everything at me including the kitchen sink I used every trick and loved it, manuals wheeis, drops front wheel wheelis cutties whips and this is on single track that went on for miles. Basically I do think techology and marketing has dumbed our sport and also hurt the core of what mtb is for the average mtb rider, Hurting for Vert for example is a reminder of what real MTB was is about, but without going to those extremes, you rarely get to ride that nature of trail or environment, most riders live in an overly buff wide and tamed environment and many are riding too much travel for maybe 10% of the trail network while 90% of the network a 5"full sus max is all they need properly setup and tuned suspension wise also something most bike shops cant or don't do so the most consumers end up with very bad habits in bike know how and ride ability.
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  • + 1
 Zero travel bikes (both fron and rear) can be a lot of fun in trails which would be boring if ridden with a full suspension bike. Not only because with the suspension less attention is required, but also because depending on the descend, the speed may well be higher with the rigid bike. At least the sensation of speed is higher! But of course suspension allows a much greater variety of trails to be ridden fast, and descents which were uninteresting to me 15 years ago because they required too much braking, can now be done with speed thanks to suspension. However I can also ride much faster now with the rigid bike over some pretty rough trails, as long as they are not too rocky. When there's just rocks it's not possible to shift the weight between front and rear to not feel the impacts.
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  • + 1
 I raced the Sunshine Coaster XC Marathon on a Trek hardtail last year, as well as Crud 2 Mud on it without complaint! That said, I have traded it for an even lighter Storck Adrenaline to ride Top of the World and some intermediate DH. While I love a big bike, I'll never trade learning on a lean set up!
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  • + 1
 I think it's interesting that the shorter the travel, the less head protection. For instance, that chromag video, if they were riding the same trails on a DH bike, they would have full faces on, i can almost guarantee it. Just a thought
  • + 1
 we wanted to keep it as a trail riding video because that's what we do most of the time. whatever you ride on, I think fullface lids are the safest way.
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  • + 1
 Just my opinion, But I started out with the xc, then an all-mountain, then a FR, now a DH bike. From each I learned things mainly because each have their nitch in which they are better at. My problem is the lack of education on any type of bike in general(I'm not claiming I know everything. I don't even consider myself that great of a rider).
I hear it all the time, people that say a DH or FR bike to too much bike for them. In many of these posts I'm hearing things like I don't need that much travel. I think saying things like that is missing the point. If you have to everyone could get along with no travel, but that doesn't mean more travel is worse. One point is a lack of developing skills. Yeah you can damage you skills if you lean too much on you bike, but more often than not better tools allow for you to take your natural abilities to the next level. At least there isn't the excuse of your bike holding you back. Until you have ridden a specific type of bike for a good amount of time there is little room for assumptions. Thinking you know what you are talking about when you haven't taken the time to try a specific type of bike is leaving you wide open. Each bike has an argument, along with each style. I speak of myself; I spent years not wanting to buy a certain type of bike because I assumed It would not meet my wants and I listened to all the other people who were also assuming. In a way I feel like I cheated myself for all the years spent in the dark because I didn't find out for myself earlier.
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  • + 1
 I rode a trail this summer on my park bike that I'd been itching to take it down. And you know what? The 5" AM bike is so much more fun to ride down that trail. The park bike was flabby to pedal, it crushed over the fun stuff instead of sending it back through the wheels, and the bars were too wide to fit through the tight trees. I won't be making that mistake again.

And Levy's last point was right on - all my girlfriends ride 5" trail bikes, so that's what I ride when I ride with them. If I want to take that rock drop off the side, or the little gap jump, or roll a face - guess what I'm doing it on?
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  • + 1
 The suspension of DH bikes are some of the most advanced in the world and I feel like all it does is improve most aspects of riding especially balance, control, speed, transition, climbing, and safety. I also have bad knees and the plush suspension really helps save my legs from all the harsh impact that takes place when riding. These are a few of the things I have noticed that are misunderstood with DH bikes. There are many more that I don't need to address. Is seems as if the world still thinks the DH bikes of today riding like they did 10 years ago. I am not trying to discredit what has been said before about short travel bikes. Each excel in certain things and I feel they have already been covered for short travel bikes. That is why every person should find out which bike suits his riding needs.
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  • + 1
 If you start on short travel and stay on short travel you will never be as good as if you rode short travel then Dh then back to short travel. So basically, you need to have a Dh bike at some point in your riding career Or you will never learn to properly charge. I do agree with this article although at first it seemed offensive to me. I do think I could be on a shorter travel bike most of the time. The only reason I could rip on a short travel bike now is because I learned how to go fast on a Dh bike.
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  • + 1
 IMO you should work your way up. Start small and progressively advance your bike as your skills improve. I started biking with a 600 dollar trek mtb. After riding that awhile realized I was gonna snap that thing, as I'm 6 ft 220 lb. So, I bought an all-mtb full suspension and it suits me well. Until I'm ready for huge drops, I won't need to buy a DH bike. But I will always keep a short travel mtb and would never solely ride a DH.
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  • + 1
 I have been thinking this for awhile now about myself. I started on a rigid bike with flats, went to a 4" XC full susser with flats, then clips on that bike.. Then I got a 160mm bike with clips that I raced downhill, used for XC, free ride, you name it. I now am riding a 180mm freeride bike with clips for everything, but cant help but think I want to get a BMX with flats to relearn some basics. I can go bigger with more confidence than ever before, but I feel like I have forgotten some of the simple things that make you a faster and smoother rider.
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  • + 1
 I've pushed a 24in rear wheel big hit through some trails that didnt need it and was a horrible experience. And I've also have ran 29in tires on some AM trails where kids on DH bikes where riding. Go 29in and you will feel speed you've never had on a DH bike.
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  • + 1
 i got a downhill and a hardtail bike but staret with a hard tail. now i use the hard tail for single trails, pumptrack, crosscountry sessions etc. you can use them for all, the downhill i use for harder trails or just downhill trails + i have to say its easyer to jump with a downhill i dont actully know why but it works better
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  • + 1
 This article brought up a good point, and it kinda makes me about what bike I should get next spring. I was wondering whether a 150mm travel bike is too much for very rooty, rocky, singletrack. It's gonna be my second bike, and the trails I ride don't have a significant amount elevation change, but they do have pretty steep rockfaces, 3-4feet drops, and some pretty large steps. Anyways, if anybody wanted to say their opinion on whether the 150mm bike is too much travel or, not, it'd be appreciated.
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  • + 1
 I gotta say I'm not 100% on this. I bought a Intense SS1 following this articles thinking. Yes I can keep up with my 8' travel compadres. However, I got into DH racing and thinking about getting a full on rig. I feel I can use the boost of confidence from DH bike to make me go faster, especially in race setting. Plus the SS is flexy, sometimes I feel like Im flexing down the trail instead of actually holding the line (rear end bouncing EVERYWHERE!).
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  • + 1
 Good article! My friends have been talking about this quite a bit in the past few months. We all race DH and have recently bought trail bikes. We ride many of the same trails and the fun level has definitely gone up. As an added bonus many of us have become much faster on our big rigs. I started on a old specialized XC but these dudes were already running DH bikes so I didn't get a chance to develop my skills as such and after a summer jumped up to a Scream. But my skills were definitely lacking, I was a point and smash rider. Now, after riding a ton of trail my line choice and cornering ability have improved greatly which has translated into placing in some DH races instead of getting dead last...
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  • + 1
 The more bikes in your quiver, the more pleasure on more trails. I have a DH bike so I can go to Whistler and re-live my old DH race days of yore. I have a 6" all mountain bike so I can ride locally, and get myself out on day long epics like the Chilcotins. I have a BMX for tooling around town. My next bike will be a steel HT for a different feel on my local trails.

There's no way I could properly enjoy all the different types of riding that I enjoy, on just one bike. I think this is really the direction that this article should be pointed.
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  • + 2
 Spend a year or two riding/racing a Hardtail and then go back to a FS rig. You will be dropping everyone in your vapour trail.. guaranteed!!
  • + 1
 That's what I did. I rode for 3 years on a less-than-adequate specialized hardrock then bought a sx trail, and I am so much better because of it. I think that the worst thing you can do is start off on a full-suspension bike because you don't learn how to ride as well. For example, when doing 30+ ft jumps on a hardrock, you have to land every jump perfectly if you don't want to die, so when you switch to a FR or DH bike, you will be so much faster and smoother because you know how to use your bike efficiently. Nevertheless, I find myself using all of my 7" of travel on a regular basis, so there are definitely people who need/use a lot of travel.
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  • + 0
 I agree that more of a challenge brings higher levels of satisfaction and accomplishment. HOwever, I would never choose to do that much harm to my knees again by riding a hardtail. Likewise, riding single speed would kill my knees. The short travel rig is fun at the dh hill once in a while, but not good for the knees or the bike. It's not that I'm weak in the knees, but cartilage is not like muscle I don't think. Muscles come back stronger after abuse, cartilage does not.
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  • + 4
 Where can I get one of these magic bikes that make everything so easy?
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  • + 0
 An interesting read.

I agree with some of the points made by the author but alot of it is also opinion. I think it does boil down to where you ride and who with.

I Have only been riding 4 or 5 months, and planned to get a small HT like a 4x bike for my local trails. Somehow I ended up buying a 6 inch travel Kona coiler deluxe 2007, While I still would love to own a HT and shorter travel bike, Im glad I got the bike I did, in the short time ive been riding Ive been fortunate enough to go to uplifts at Forest of Dean and Triscombe and be able to keep up with my mates on their trail full sussers. If i had gone for a hard tail theres simply very little chance I would enjoy those sort of gnarly trails and keep up with my friends, granted it may have made me a better rider in the long run but thats not much use when my friends are riding where they are now. Im pretty chuffed I have hit some pretty decent drops, that I almost certainly wouldnt have If i had had a hardtail.. why? not because the bikes cant handle it, but because I wouldnt have been visiting some of the places I have been If I only had a small hardtail. True skill or not, I believe the ability of riding Ive developed is slightly due to riding similar bikes to what others are riding and learnign from them. But very few of them are on full DH rigs, just 5-7 inch full sussers/
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  • + 1
 Best of both worlds for me on my bottlerocket:
180mm Totem up front
150mm travel out back

Pops and plows in one bike. Riding is a lot more fun for me on this bike vs. my 09 Enduro SL.
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  • + 0
 Im lucky that i have access to every type of bike you can think of! but for your general rider on most terrain who can only afford one bike a short travel bike is a good option. I have two DH bikes worth $$$££££$$$$£££ sat in my house yet i use my 140mm bike every day and the DH bikes once a month. buy what you can afford and have fun!
  • + 1
 I have a hardtail, and a downhillbike. I ride my downhill only when it is really downhill. Buy the bike wich suits you.. (depending on your riding style)
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  • + 2
 I still remember Gee Atherton when he was about 17 turning up at a local race in Cheddar and schooling the entire field on a muddyfox hardtail with single crown forks.
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  • + 3
 Hahahahaha, I ride a 24" 100mm travel bike. And I'm not even small any more, trust me you REALLY feel the trail... -___-
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  • + 3
 You could also take a normal truck off-roading but wouldn't you rather have a trophy truck?
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  • + 1
 in complete agreement with the artical shorter travel for the average rider, what about those few brave souls who ride rigid bikes!, pretty much all line choice skill right there haha
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  • + 0
 I have been riding bicycles in general for as long as I can remember, since I was a kid, family too poor to buy me a new bicycle, building bikes out of parts I would find at the local dump, mowing lawns all summer to afford a new set of Skyway mags. My first new bike was a Proflex with those little sponge like cushions for suspension with those weird Girvin forks. Long story short it has been a long series of upgrades, currently building my longest travel bike, a 2013 Intense Uzzi (this was after doing downhill on rented bikes last year for the first time and getting hooked) I felt wow, that was fun but don't feel I need a full on DH bike to achieve the same level of fun.

Anyway, I suppose todays generations don't have much choice with all the new bikes have FS, even the walmart bikes with FS.

Good article, good read.
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  • + 3
 I used to ride downhill on a hardtail for training and use my full suspension bike for racing, so i got so much quicker!
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  • + 0
 I now ride a DH bike because I've personally tested them against other bikes. For technical, steep, difficult climbs few people will ever think the DH bike would be the proper choice. But I have tested them on the exact same climbs. I have videos to prove my point. I can climb everything better on my DH bike because the weight is on the back tire and the sag that DH bikes ride with hardly ever lets the rear wheel come off the ground. They are climbing monsters. If I can turn the crank I will keep going up- unlike the smaller travel bikes which slide everywhere and spinout with very little force applied to the wheel. This doesn't mean a DH bike is what you want to take on a 15 mile uphill trail. The added weight will slowly wear you out. Once again, each have their place.
Sorry this is so long added more in the next postAnother thing that I would never trade is the slack HT angle. In biking everyone makes mistakes and I have been saved hundreds of times from flip overs by the extra angle. I get on a xc/ all-mountain bike I feel like I'm on a unicycle constantly flirting with death. It is like choosing to not where a seatbelt or protective gear while racing a rally car. Once you are used to the extra angle it never seems be bother me and I'm always glad I had is when going DH or off jumps.
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  • + 2
 Huh, once I was wondering how would PB look like if everyone wrote such long rants as I tend to do. Well, here it is...

The only thing for me to say then is: siiiiiick!
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  • + 0
 After started riding on a hardtail, drove it 2 years, i thought it was time to get a full on DH bike, so i got myself a Demo8. Thing was funn for 2 year, but indeed, i did let the bike do the work, instead of gaining skills. So sold it and bought a Transition Covert, man was that thing funn to ride. I realy taught me to pick lines, and to be more active on the bike. On that bike i gained more confidence, and did bigger gaps and drops than i'd done on the Demo. When it was possible, got myself a hardtail again, and man, that became even more funn. Now aways, for most things, i prefer the hardtail, or the 4x fully. Those bikes are so much fun to ride. Thing i regret most is that i've sold the Covert. Was the best bike i've ever owned. So yes, i do agree that short travel bikes are better to learn on. Gain convidence and skill, than get that bike bike it there are trails where you can use it, it'll be more funn then.
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  • + 0
 Ride a bmx and youll bunny hop really high. Youve gained skill. Now go and ride a downhill and bunny hop just as high? I think not. But you have the same skill. This article should collapse into a black hole on lack of sense. Skill is skill and winning is winning. Travel changes nothing. I would rather be over prepaired than under. This debate could go into clamp brakes vs rotors. Rotors take less skill. More skill doesnt change safety. If you're so skilled you could make a safe run on a dh track without a helmet and be fine but dose that make it safe? Nope.
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  • + 1
 i started also with 6" bike after i saw i ride shit i toke classes with a local pro rider wich i did on a hardtail and than i saw how shit i reallly am (oh well thank god im doing it for fun and good vibes :-) )
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  • + 5
 LESS IS MORE
  • + 1
 so you need one of those push bikes Wink
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  • + 1
 i love riding my dh rig where i might not need it but i also love throwing around a 5 inch stump jumper around. it is all what your feeling and if you want to hit big shit hard or ride it nicely.
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  • + 0
 I havent read a single comment on this, i cant be bothered with the ignorance that will be shown. i agree 100% with everything that was said in the article and have done forever. i grew up riding rigid cross country bikes and feel it gave me far more skill than if i had grown up riding a suspension bike. I do now ride downhill but do so on a max 160mm bike. Any more and its too slugish.
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  • + 1
 big bikes are more stable and give extra confidence to new riders, but the vast majority of dh riders don't use anywhere near the full potential of their bikes and would be better off on a mid travel bike.
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  • + 3
 cant afford loads of bikes so i get the biggest travle i can get so it can take anything...
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  • + 0
 didn't some feller win the world champs on a 7x7 kona at mount sainte anne (one of the more gnarly tracks on the circuit) some years ago? sold my loaf of bread and got a scalpel in the form of a long travel hard tail. i can still stave off my full suspension peers.....
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  • + 0
 Agreed 100%

What I hate is the - 'I can only afford 1 bike so I need it to do everything, thats why I bought a DH bike'...homie...you can't do everything. You cant even pedal that think up a local trail.

a 6-7" AM/FR bike is your answer if you want to do everything. I took my Demo, and Enduro up toi Whistler this last summer. Demo was great fro Garbo laps of course...but the Enduro did WAAAAY better on the lower mountain.

Way more fun, more agile, etc.

If you can afford 1 bike...get one that can really do it all instead of just claiming it..and as this article points out...you are not actually good enough 'to do everything' anyway.
  • + 3
 helll yeah man... couldnt have said it better myself!
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  • + 1
 The biggest things that a short travel gain over DH rig is responsiveness and as mentioned above, turns the terrain into a pump track.

How long can people actually enjoy straight lining over rocks for?
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  • + 0
 As someone who has ridden fast, gnarly downhill on a 5.5" bike, tech rocky trails on a 4x hardtail, flowy park trails on a 7" freeride bike, and xc on a full downhill race rig, i'm going to disregard this entire article and keep doing whatever the hell I like, because that's what i love about mountainbiking. I suggest that unless you want to learn to ride a bike from a book, you all do the same =]


As a side note, this article doesn't even begin to take into account that dh rigs are not the big heavy rock and root destroying sleds that they used to be. You only have to watch a fraction of the videos posted on pinkbike to see the number of riders ripping up and shredding trails you could ride on a hardtail in a pinch, and they don't look like they're having a bad time. They also don't look like they care what you think about their bike of choice.
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  • + 2
 I understand his angle; I learnt to ride downhill trails on a 140mm travel bike and it has greatly improved my ability on a downhill rig.
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  • + 1
 Heard what you're saying; but given most of us can only afford one or two bikes, they've gotta count for a really wide range of trails; hence the sweet spot might be the 160-180mm DH/FR mark...
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  • + 1
 Downhill bike was broken a while back and I was forced to ride an uplift day on the hardtail. What a fun days riding that turned out to be!!!
www.youtube.com/watch?v=MdNMxriGtWE
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  • + 1
 I have three bikes that I will chose from depending on the terrain I am riding: Intense Uzzi, Kona dawg delux, and a giant stp. I find myself riding the most between the Uzzi and stp.
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  • + 1
 this is so true. I ride with people that started on full sus and they are slow and slugish witht heir line choices, i now ride a full sus but used to ride a hardtail, my line choices make so much more sense!
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  • + 4
 I switched, and i did not regret, even though i broke my neck!
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  • + 1
 I agree with the writer of this article, mainly because I just got second in a local downhill race on my hard tail singlespeed dj bike, with the competition being full on downhill bikes.
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  • + 2
 He should have written this article two years ago. With the popularity of 'mini dh bikes' and enduro rigs it's kind of preaching to the converted.
  • + 6
 Na, 80% of the videos upload to PB are of people riding $6K+ DH rigs on XC trails. I don't think many are that converted yet.
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  • + 2
 Now when all these people have their full DH bikes, the time has come for Marketing depts to create the need for mini DH/FR. Sales, Sales, Sales!
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  • + 4
 Steel hardtail and dh bike is the winning combo.
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  • + 4
 Great article for new riders.
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  • + 2
 You guys discussing about this and that, now i would like just to have one bike to ride(mine was stolen and i dont have money to buy another one)

Frown
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  • + 2
 I've only ever ridden 100mm travel full sus bikes or hardtails, pretty much hardtails though, would take a solid, well set up hardtail anyday on 90% of the terrain I ride.
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  • + 4
 some true words...hardtail and small travel bikes make your skills....
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  • + 4
 this debate is annoying. ride what you like.
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  • + 2
 Most important thing is that the bike is right for your most common type of riding be it downhill all mountain xc or bmx or whatever as long as you enjoy it
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  • + 2
 who cares what bike you ride, the real problem these days is the groms that start with a world cup level race bikes and dont know how to ride for shit
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  • + 2
 i think hes right when you learn to ride on bikes with big travel you dont learn to ride smooth because you always relie on your suspension.
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  • + 1
 What fork should I put on my 2012 specialized hardrock sport disc 19'' frame, a rockshox pike,rockshox sektor or a rockshox tora ?
  • + 1
 Pike would be my choice, then the Sektor and no to the Tora. Others may disagree.
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  • + 1
 I ride a carbon Camber 29er because my usual terrain works well with it. My old 100mm 26" bike also works well around town. Horses for courses I say.
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  • + 2
 there's a tool for every job... XC bike for the XC .. big bike for DH park/racing
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  • + 1
 I'm wonderring... Why they need so much travel in those forks. If they want to improve their skill they should use less travel forks.
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  • + 1
 I bbiught a 2013 demo 8 as my first decent bike and now i find myself buying a dj bike to learn on cause i carnt pump for shit And jumping/boosting a dh bike i harrdd!!
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  • + 1
 Ride everything with a fuel ex 8, it can handle the 6 foot drops we have here just fine, I see no need a dh rig anywhere around upstate new york
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  • + 3
 Big bike for dh lil bike for everything else .. Simples
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  • - 1
 My opinion is obviously biased but I feel that you at least need to earn your stripes. I rocked a Gary Fisher hardtail that I bought brand new for less than 300 bucks. After two seasons I could keep up with most people on the trail (if not pass). Thats when I jumped into a mid travel bike and really started progressing. I have to say that all the different bikes add perspective and skill to our riding. Going back to a hardtail now is a blast but the suspension gives me the courage to rock it harder and take things to the next level.
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  • + 3
 it depends on the rider. not the suspension.
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  • + 2
 one of the best articles i have read on pinkbike in a long time. i have some friends that need to read this
  • + 1
 i think the article is flawed a bit, he states that riding a dh takes out the fun.I would say that there are two distinct issues here; 1st not pushing a bike to it's capability and 2nd doing the wrong kind of riding on it. A dh bike is not build for bmx tricks so if that is fun for you, you should buy a bmx and it's not for city messengers eighter.

My view tho is that if you wanna learn to dh you should buy a 8"+ full, cause it works both ways, shreding a trail for the 1st time on a hardtail will be as bad as tailwhippin a dh in the bmx park.

And about the skill part, i think there are different skills involved, if you push urself and your dh bike, you won't do the best endo like you won't learn to ski much, but you will develop some dh skills.
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  • - 1
 1 problem that you have to face if you go down in travel is. Bikes get lighter but are not built for hard abuse anymore. A few years ago i used a 4x Fully to get a short travel trailbike that can take the beating. Got a new 140mm machine 3 month ago and last week the mainpivot bolt broke. So i would say there are so many categories in bikebusiness already but almost no short travel freeride bikes.
  • + 1
 I'm currently building a new steel front end for my Prophet (see my profile for a few pictures). This will leave me with a pretty unbreakable (at the very least fixable) 5" bike. Once I've honed my skills a bit, I might be able to build you one!
  • + 1
 i ride a prophet mx size s at 1,80m, i think its a great bike!
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  • - 1
 All this talk about travel, but no one brought up the most important part. It's the geometry that matters the most. Just recently the bike industry took root to the idea of short travel slack angle bikes. The new range of bikes has made it much more capable to ride a short travel bike like one can on a DH bike. I have to say, I have never had an issue with a DH bike losing traction during a slower XC technical situation that you speak of Mike Levy. If that happens, the rider is at fault for not knowing how to ride said bike.

We are all different types here. Mike Levy, you must be a XC/ AM guy. 99.9% of the time that I have the most fun on my bike, I'm riding it really fast. The faster the funner for me. Each to their own.

Why would someone buy a bike for only their local terrain?! Anybody that is really enjoys the sport will travel and ride in all different situations. I ride legit DH way less than I would like, but I only have a DH bike right now. Why? Because the funnest riding to me is legit DH and in less I have the right tool for the riding I love the most, than I'm not happy. I started out riding XC bikes, and broke everything on them right away. Current AM bikes can handle a lot more than they use to. My local trails love a stumpjumper evo, I'll get one when I can afford one, until then I'll be blowing by people on my DH bike.
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  • + 3
 I am not a rally car driver, but I want one!
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  • + 2
 heres a good analogy, its like saying you cant own a ferrari coz your not a racing driver.... retarded!
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  • + 2
 Long travel bikes get a kicking and a video showing hardtails with 160mm travel forks? This could get messy
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  • - 1
 North shore trails are slow, that's why you ride a short travel bike Mikey. My googles fog up there because of all the really slow trails you have up there. Try riding at all my local trails with a short travel, haha. You will brake your bike and your face! Been there done that, no thanks...DH for life!!!
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  • + 1
 it all really depends on what you are really comfortable riding with. I ride a 7 inch, single pivot bike for DH (even though it is stirictly a free ride bike)and I LOVE IT.
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  • + 1
 Do that many people ride DH bikes on regular trails to justify this kind of bashing? I think I just lost a good portion of my lifespan reading this.
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  • + 2
 I just WISH I had a place CLOSE by that I could ride my 8" travel Boot'r !!! Frown
  • + 5
 You just proved Levy right.
  • + 1
 I know. And it sucks for me.
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  • + 1
 reminds me of this video, everyone in the race had full dh sleds and brian beat everyone with a 6in ibis www.pinkbike.com/video/231034
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  • + 3
 Been preaching this argument for years!
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  • + 1
 I agree. i have never even rode a down hill bike. dont need one. i ride a short travel gt distortion and loe it out here in bend oregon.
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  • + 1
 If you want to really grow some balls, and learn that the primary suspension is your arm and legs, do some "gnarly" trail time on a rigid.
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  • + 1
 Totally agree with Mike. My 150 mm travel bike is pure pleasure to ride compared with my DH bike. The last one is just plain adrenaline, that is all.
  • + 1
 Yeh, and who wants adrenaline. I mean let's face it, we all ride bikes for the jaunty pleasure of it.
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  • + 1
 Geometry has to count for something here. I'd take my road bike all mountain or freeriding [once] if the geometry was the same as my AM/ FR rig.
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  • + 1
 I ride a 150mm trail bike for heavy AM and at highlands. It is perfect.. It makes things more challenging like a Hardtail does, only less so.
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  • + 2
 would you worry about a bird at ten to 2 or would you just get on and ride it some times the big ones just feel more fun
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  • + 3
 Blablablablablablablabla......whatever just go ride
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  • + 1
 I can just imagine:
Question: Hey do you want to go to Whistler for week?
Response: No I only have a short travel bike so I would have to rent and that is too expensive.
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  • + 1
 important - not only to avoid all the DH - beginners injuries here in town´s hospital just on one weeekend -- also learning to handle a bike from the ground of skills....
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  • + 1
 I like get my BRAAAPPP on to feel like I don't suck as much as I do but I also appreciate railing on my short(er) travel rig through a hairy section.
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  • + 1
 This article won't go down well with some of the "DHers" I know. Well, does riding a DH bike on an XC trail qualify you as a downhiller?

BRING IT!!!
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  • + 1
 The one bike quiver killer is the 6" rig. For those with the means and the terrain, the full quiver, including a DH bike is awesome.
  • + 4
 This.. Granted my 6" has 7 in the rear.. It is my go to bike for any road trip and most rides because of how versatile it is, I can climb 4k feet and not suffer due to the bike, but can also blast the gnarliest downhills.. I have won Local XC races and then podiumed in a DH race on the exact same build in the same weekend.. A good rider can do anything on a solid 6" bike..

That said, I want a All-Mountain hardtail really bad, partly to freshen up on my skills and because even a 5" trail bike is too much for the trails around where I go to school..
  • + 0
 As someone who has ridden a 6 inch bike downhill in Australia, No.
  • + 6
 Do you need the extra travel to jump over kangaroos?
  • + 3
 Be careful @Swan, You wouldn't want to anger Mic Hannah....

Edit: Tracy Hannah*
  • + 1
 You're both very funny. I suggest you take into account that their are trails in other countries besides the US, and while a 6" bike might be suitable for the majority of trails over here, the case is not the same for Australia, and probably a lot of other countries besides.
  • + 1
 Probably don't need any travel in the outback. Pure cyclocross country from the Aborigines to the Great Barrier Reef.
  • + 1
 ive ridden a 4 inch travel bike on the downhill at highland and if youve been there you know its a gnarly track. that said it wasnt the quickest lap ever but is was extremely fun and probably on eof the most memorable
  • + 1
 @ em-j, I dont doubt that there is super-megadeath-hella gnar down under.. I am just saying that 99.99% of everything ride-able on a DH bike anywhere could be ridden on a solid build 6" rig. It may not be as smooth descending, but its doable.. and then you can climb to the top again easily considering that Australia doesnt have anything over 8k feet. The trail has to either be balls out technical and steep, like I couldn't walk down it steep, or it has to be Mt Saint Ann fast before I would personally favor a DH bike.. Personally, I like riding shorter travel bikes that test your line choice and skills vs riding a plow bike that gobbles up everything..
  • + 2
 swan, with all due respect, have you been to Australia? It's no accident that it's bred arguably some of the best DH racers in the world. I have ridden several downhill trails there in the last year on a very nicely built Supreme 6, which you can see in my pictures. For anyone who is familiar with the Australian trails, I have ridden Thredbo, Mt. Coramba, Shepparton, Beechworth and Short Course @ Mt. Beauty on this bike. I'm not a pro rider by any means, but i do have a few years under my belt which also include bmx and dirt bikes, any anyone who has ridden with me knows that there isn't much I'll shy away from.

Thredbo was painful, to say the least. Of a whole days riding (and it is a lift access trail) I only managed three runs before I was so battered I couldn't hold on anymore. For $70 for a days riding, and a two hour drive, that was pretty disappointing to say the least. Before you ask, Thredbo is a trail I am very familiar with having ridden it a number of times over the past few years on a 7" bike set up for DH with Push'd suspension. At Shepparton, after riding the trail once, successfully, I had to be helped down by hikers on my second go, and was taken to hospital with a suspected broken hip. I have never been hit by ground so brutally hard. At a race meet several months beforehand, a good friend broke the linkage on his Balfa riding the same trail. In conclusion, yes, it is possible to ride DH on a 6" bike in Austraila. But are you going to be having fun? Probably not, so why do it? I for one am not going to be a martyr for the sake of proving a point.
  • + 1
 In contrast, the trails I have ridden here, including Mountain Creek, Highland and Winter park to name a few, although technical are much better built, with safely spaced jumps, good drainage and quality features which are far less intimidating.

And to your point about our elevation, when was the last time you rode an 8km long downhill trail? We have plenty of steep, rocky and rutted, slippery gravel 'gnarly' trails which won't hesitate to remind you of your mortality.
  • + 1
 EM-J-- I am not saying that a DH rig is not more fun in certain applications.. I have done my share of DH riding and I will probably end up having a Dh rig again sometime.. I was just saying that a solid build 6" bike with a solid rider is capable of nearly everything a DH bike is just maybe not as fast or enjoyable.. I never said it would be better.. just said it was possible and that a solid 6" bike makes the best one bike quiver.. And like I said, if shit gets rough enough to justify it, then I would gladly take a DH rig. I wont ride my 6" bike at Schweitzer (Our local resort, used to be a NORBA national stop) just because its so rough that my 6" bike isnt fun.. What I am saying is that I COULD ride it there if I wanted to.

And I have never dropped 8k before but I have spent some significant time riding Downievill which is 4500' of climbing and ~5100' of descent.. Plus some epic descents up in BC as well.. And then ridden NorthStar on the same bike a few days later for lift access.. Its was not ideal for either, but it did pretty damn well at both.. Out of all the west coast riding I have done, I have yet to find something that I wouldnt ride on my AM bike..

My point was that If I was going on a road trip and I didnt know what all I was going to be riding, I would only take my 6" bike (and the DJ) and I would probably not have many regrets in only bringing that one bike..
  • + 2
 The point I was making about elevation, which you seem to have missed, is that it is irrelevant in determining any of the characteristics of a DH track except altitude. In other words, it is a moot point.

I appreciate what you're trying to say, which although as a standalone comment is completely valid, in this application it's not entirely hitting the point. Circes original comment about a 6" bike being the "quiver killer" is fair. Your additional comment that a "solid rider can do anything on a 6" bike" is what I was addressing. Yes it is possible, but so is inserting any number of things in your rectum. Let's not forget the whole reason we are talking about this: Because Mike Levy has a bee in his bonnet about people having a good time on a DH bike. I don't know how thoroughly you guys read this article, but he classifies 6" bikes with "big" bikes and draws the line at 5 inch bikes. The very fact that we're at odds over what a 6 inch bike is capable of just goes to illustrate that Levy is out of his tree and needs a nap and a good strong cup of tea.
  • + 2
 Eff it.. I had a great post talking about how we were both right and talking about Mike's approach, and then I accidently hit the back button on my mouse and lost the whole damn thing.. So I will say that I think we both agree that a 6" bike could be ridden essentially anywhere that a DH bike is ridden, Granted there are places it will kick your ass more then a dedicated DH bike would..

I say lets all go out and ride what ever bike we have and enjoy it.. that is what its all about anyways..
  • + 2
 Ha. My driver failed for my touchpad halfway though the comment before and I only just managed to save it. Computers are against us =/


"I say lets all go out and ride what ever bike we have and enjoy it.. that is what its all about anyways.."
This is the point I was trying to make albeit in a roundabout kind of way. I'm just so pissed about this article because it's so completely unnecessary and incomplete.

I really didn't mean to come off as attacking you.
  • + 2
 I took a dump an hour ago and smelled like bacon and eggs, which is crazy because I had cherios for breakfast!!
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  • + 1
 I actually found this article pretty useless and boring; due mostly to, "played out" subject matter and the author disregarding any type of concise idea delivery.
  • + 1
 sorry for the brutal honesty
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  • + 2
 You should take the bike down the hill. not the other way around. Just sayin.
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  • + 3
 Go ride your bikes boys and girls!
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  • + 3
 HARDTAIL FOR LIFE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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  • + 2
 I ride a full suspension because I can get more laps in. More laps = More riding. More riding = More fun times!
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  • + 1
 I have a hardtail but in if you want to be a pro dh rider you need a dh bike but everything you said in this article is true
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  • + 1
 well , without my friends Norco Atomic i would not be riding my Stumpjumper like a ride it today!
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  • + 1
 I attribute how hard I shred my DH to the skills I learned riding my hardtail for years. not the other way around.
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  • + 1
 There is no end argument to this topic... You've just opened Pandora's box!
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  • + 1
 The Specialized Camber should be available on NHS prescription - mid travel fun for all!
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  • + 1
 levy i can fully see where you are coming from. that said, lets go schralp ledgeview on some v10's.
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  • + 1
 Buy a bike that suits your ridingstyle!! You don't need travel, it's all in the rider!!
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  • + 1
 I'm using my Dirtjump bike for freeriding and It's so much fun! I believe it's better than 8"s
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  • + 1
 Question - Does that mean that guys who ride DJ's don't need a full face ?

Oh wait, it's preference.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Almost all of us started in short travel bikes. Never seen a kiddie bike with 8" travel
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  • + 1
 I knew from the beggining that this thread would count thausands of Comments......hehe!
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  • + 1
 www.pinkbike.com/video/254205

this video say it all, so go grow a pair and ride what you like
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  • + 2
 Tell me how your hard tail is at rampage then u can talk it up
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  • + 1
 Oh... And come to Tennessee if you wan to question how gnarly some of our trails are. Windrock and TTC are ass kickers!
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  • + 1
 Sorry for the above rant to seem directed to arczii, my bad using their quote, not intended, my mistake.
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  • + 2
 This page just broke my mouse ball.
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  • + 2
 there's a lot of hate out there for DH bikes these days lol
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  • + 2
 Completely agree with this. Started on Hardtail, on 5.5" Bottlerocket now.
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  • + 2
 GET A BIKE FOR WHAT TYPE OF RIDING YOU WANT TO DO PLAIN AND SIMPLE
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  • + 2
 I LIKE BIKES YOU SHOULD TOO..................
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  • + 0
 Excellent post. Living in ON I can't help but laugh at some of the hugely expensive full-on DH sleds people ride on 60sec Dh tracks that are 50% groomed, or more.
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  • + 2
 hardtail with 5.5inch best bike ever
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  • + 2
 Mini DH and freeride bikes for the win. Gotta love that intense slopestyle
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  • + 2
 short travel yes. skinny jorts NO!
  • + 1
 Ha! Skinny jorts
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  • + 2
 I agree with this article! The simple answer is to own 2 or more bikes! Big Grin
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  • + 2
 I am in total agreement on this. Minimized consequences with a DH bike
  • + 1
 +1... And if your a bigger (fat ass) dude like me riding dh on a 4inch bike is just out of the question. My sx trail was great till I hit a big drop blew through the suspension and landed on my head....I think I have video Smile
  • + 1
 Yeah thats a special circumstance but for the most part you really dont need a DH bike for anything less than full DH racing or intense rough DH trails. My Dartmoor Wish is literally the perfect bike Smile
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  • + 2
 yeah whatever.... shut up go outside and just feel the ride guys...
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  • + 0
 It might be fun to get a small shock and reduce my travel to 4" and see how it feels. I just worry about clearance
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 Jinya's bike is a beauty.
[Reply]
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 big hit for gravity days...rockhopper for lung bustin
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 Nuthin' wrong with sum old school to keep it real.
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 And this is why I'm getting a short travel bike Smile
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 Agree with the article, all about having no gear but all the idea!
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 Hiv you bin tae Pitfichie!!! The hale place is a rock!! plenty o rooots too!!
  • + 1
 but does it warrent a dh rig......
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 You wouldn't use a screw driver to pound in a nail would you?
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 quote from steve peat 'you dont need anymore than 4inch in the uk'
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  • + 2
 Less is more! Great read
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  • + 1
 It reminded me of my many years ride on a hardtail! Great vid!
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 just get on your bike and ride the fucking thing..
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  • + 2
 hardtails for the win!
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 I'll rather go Klunking
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  • + 1
 Mr. Levy is right. 4-6 in is enough. No more need be said
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  • + 0
 Well thats the kind of article that makes me feel like shit on a bike...
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  • - 1
 So I did build the perfect bike! www.pinkbike.com/buysell/1213529

A remedy with a coil shock is the future!
  • + 1
 Depends where your riding it. I would think a dh bike would be much better suited to the trails I ride.
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  • + 1
 we got a skinny here
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 "Big, gotta go big."
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 Awesome article Mike
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 I mostly ride uphill
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  • - 3
 WW3 has just broken out!
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 Nuke'em! Nuke'em all!!!!!!!!!
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 like my short travel (180/190mm) bike Razz
  • + 1
 Jeeze...sounds like a rant for government regulation for what you ride. Not a "PRO" NO DH rig for you. Learners permits should be issued, you gotta ride with you Mom for 6 months !

You make some fair points here and there but it should be intended as recommendations to better handing skills and not a mantra. Water seeks its own level here and while learning good skills from the start or anytime during ones ride life, bike riding should be left free of people saying 'you should do this to be a better rider' leave em' alone if they want to be a better rider they'll figure it out one way or another. I hate to see this opinion spreading in a way that empowers many that agree with this mantra to be self righteous to others on the trail. That would suck ! Stay out of people's faces that are just trying to have fun.

Rant over !
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