Will I notice 10mm of travel difference?

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Will I notice 10mm of travel difference?
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Posted: Jan 13, 2021 at 12:52 Quote
Will I notice the difference in 10mm of travel between two bikes with similar geometry? Am I too fixated on travel numbers?

Hear me out... I'm in the market for a new bike. I ride in the Vancouver area. It's wet, techy, traction is king here. My current ride is an older Norco Fluid (120mm up front 120mm out back). To get the traction I want I run it fairly soft with extra volume spacers, and I still end up bottom out pretty harshly on bigger hits. So I ask myself, how much travel should my new bike have?

Given there are plenty of bikes in the 'all mountain' category that have very similar geo numbers, my question is will I notice a difference in travel of around 10mm?

~160mm up front seems to be the sweet spot for this type of riding. However, would bumping up to 170mm help with the bigger hits while still having that supple off the top feeling? Will it feel like mush when I ride easier flow trails with friends new to the sport? Will I still get the same bottom out issues if I go to a 'smaller' bike with 150mm up front? Heck, will I even notice a difference?

Ideally I would demo the range of bikes I am interested in. However, given covid, that is really tough. Therefore I am asking those who have had the privilege to ride different bikes in this travel range (ideally back to back) and can speak to this.

Posted: Jan 13, 2021 at 16:53 Quote
Yes you will notice a difference. Going from 150-160mm front I noticed a huge difference in terms of margin for error on techy roll ins. Every bit in the back just reduces bottom outs. Don't believe me? Go rent a DH bike for a day and be shocked at the things you can get away with.

NOW that being said if you're riding the shore the bigger problem you're going to run into is that as you get more travel the bikes tend to get slacker and longer. The shore is all tight techy jank so super slack head angles won't help you, and in fact will make tight trails harder to ride because it also makes the bike longer. My personal preference for riding blacks and double blacks on the shore would be something 150mm rear and 160mm front with 64-65 degree head angle.

Curious to see what others say, but do pay attention to wheelbase lengths.

Posted: Jan 13, 2021 at 19:28 Quote
160 front is really nice, 140 to150 rear. And don't go too slack for slower riding.i
150 front is still a lot more than your current bike so it would be good.

Posted: Jan 14, 2021 at 5:58 Quote
To bear in mind though when you run a longer fork you also run a bit more sag, granted it's peanuts, but you don't get the full cm more of compressive travel all the time, only when doing jumps after the fork has fully extended. Even my 180mm fork looks pretty small once I'm standing on the bike and it's compressed to 30% sag. For example at 30% sag a 180mm fork will be 14mm longer than a 160mm fork rather than 20mm.

Posted: Jan 14, 2021 at 8:15 Quote
coast2coast-4 wrote:
Will it feel like mush when I ride easier flow trails with friends new to the sport? .
A 170mm bike could be mushy on flow trails. But you can bump up the air pressure by 20% or so and add a few clicks of compression damping. Assuming it's an air fork with good adjustability, of course.

Based on what you describe I think you'll absolutely end up using the extra 10mm. You can run lower pressure for when it's wet compared with 150mm or 160 mm and have a little more wiggle room on bit hits. The only permanent downside of a longer travel fork is the extra weight but that doesn't seem to be a concern.

Posted: Jan 14, 2021 at 14:03 Quote
Good point, adding a little compression damping is a good call for flow. That is the direction I was leaning too, figuring that it would be easier to make a longer travel bike feel good on flow then it is to make a short travel bike handle better in the chunk and on drops. If weight is the only penalty for going more travel I don't see that being a big issue.... I think... haha. First long travel bike so this may be a learning experience.

Posted: 1 days ago Quote
I think if you ride a 160 bike and then go ride a 170 bike right after that you'll notice a difference, but I honestly think You'll be fine with either. People don't give bikes enough credit for how versitile they are these days, and realistically as long as you aren't trying to win world cups both bikes will be fine for anything you want to do. I'd call the travel numbers basically equal and focus on spec.

Posted: 1 days ago Quote
It's not really the actual amount of travel increase you notice, it's the reduction in air pressure etc as well, for the same percentage sag you run less air pressure with a bigger fork whilst simultaneously making the air spring a bit more linear.. net effect is better traction and better bump absorbtion... So you could argue 10mm isn't much, but neither is 1 or 2 psi yet we know that it makes a noticeable difference to our tyres when we change pressure by just that amount.

Posted: 1 days ago Quote
Lord knows I could always use more traction riding the trails around here... hahah. I am definitely leaning towards the larger bike. I always feel like I need to ride gingerly with my current ride. It would be nice to ride knowing the bike is more of a tank.

Posted: 1 days ago Quote
coast2coast-4 wrote:
Lord knows I could always use more traction riding the trails around here... hahah. I am definitely leaning towards the larger bike. I always feel like I need to ride gingerly with my current ride. It would be nice to ride knowing the bike is more of a tank.

Sounds like you're someone who'll appreciate the extra travel. The original question is a little loaded, since different shocks, suspension designs, etc. can feel wildly different in the same travel bracket. Adding (light) tire inserts for extra peace of mind (or going up to a double casing, dh casing w/ butyl inserts, etc) for when you're going full smashy-smashy or run into a nasty, wet day where you need to drop some PSI will help as well.

(Good, modern) Big bikes don't pedal like soggy marshmallows anymore. However, they won't feel nearly as responsive, up to the point that they legitimately make slow speed maneuvers or slower days harder compared to what you're on now. Obviously, you don't have to work as hard on the chunky stuff.


Also, yes, demo whatever's available...which I'm sure isn't much! If you give specific models, price ranges, etc., I can help out with a quick rundown of what certain bikes would feel like. As a starting point, I normally recommend the ripmo AF, aluminum reign, or vitus sommet CR as "good value" bikes that'll pedal well (granted, the vitus not so much compared to the other two, which are fantastic) and have that extra bit of travel in reserve while still letting you feel connected to the trail instead of completely deadening every input you make/get. Good tire clearance is another one IMO, since there's better 2.6" options coming out daily that will help you get the grip/float you need on slimy roots without being too different from a "normal" mtb tire. As a side note, this rules out the hightower, since it has tiny shock and tire clearance.

Ripmo AF w/ coil shock, progressive spring, and some carbon wheels (in your neck of the woods, the ever-shilled for WAO's are great) with a light insert in the rear would be top value if you wanted to spend medium money and get top drawer performance. I'm also partial to knolly for bikes that pedal well, have good QC, and will last, but you'd be into one of those for a good bit more than the aforementioned options.

Posted: 23 hours ago Quote
It's not only the amount of travel, but how the travel is delivered.

On the front, a less-effective damper can feel harsh and still blow through its travel, while a top performer - even with slightly less travel - may offer better feel and support. For example, my own fork was disappointing and a friend's Fox with GRIP2 damper and coil spring was so much better, despite 10 mm less travel.

The same is true for the rear, plus there's the additional variable of the kinematics (as opposed to the intrinsically linear and 1:1 ratio for a fork).

The more travel we're talking about, the less 10 mm matters. If it's 10 mm vs. fully rigid, then yeah, you'll definitely notice it! If it's 1,000 mm on a Baja truck, 10 mm is a drop in the bucket. In your case, 160 mm vs. 170 mm isn't huge. You may notice it, but 6.25% more travel isn't a game-changer.

You made a good observation about possible negative consequences during mellow riding. Travel reduces responsiveness: it takes more effort to pick the bike up, pumping has to be more exaggerated, turn initiation is delayed - it just moves away from feeling like a BMX and toward feeling like a motorcycle. A long-travel bike doesn't feel like the right tool for the job until you're going fast on rowdy terrain and easy trails are less rewarding. Some riders prefer to optimize the bike for their most demanding riding and will accept the consequences for their less demanding riding. Other riders prefer to split the difference with a bike that's a little out of its element at both ends of the spectrum, but never as far out of its element.

Posted: 13 hours ago Quote
Tbh though a coiled fork will feel better than a longer travel air fork, my 2018 Smaspotted 36 was night and day better than the air Lyrik it replaced, is was like running tyres at half the pressure but with none of the drawbacks, it was so uncanny at first because you feel like the tyres have like 5-10psi in them and yet you experience none of the drag and squirminess.

What I will say is a lot of people are fans of Avalanche and say he knows his stuff... Yet he produces dampers that go against all the current ideals as far as everyone else is concerned, they are open bath and they 'blow off', I know after speaking to Chris Porter and a few other suspension tuners in the UK they almost universally all agree that 'progressive' damping is the best option, and that poppet valve shocks etc are inferior....and yet here is Avalanche producing dampers that are firm with poor small bump compliance for better pedalling efficiency that suddenly blow off and eat up their travel on big hits... And yet a lot of people swear by him and his products.
We are talking professional experts in their field here with polar opposite opinions of what makes a good damper.

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