Can a Trail bike really “do it all”?

PB Forum :: All Mountain, Enduro & Cross-Country
Can a Trail bike really “do it all”?
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Posted: Apr 26, 2021 at 15:41 Quote
It all comes down to how the question is phrased.

If we ask "Can a trail bike really do it all?", the answer is yes, it can, but that's naïve to the purpose of the question. It should be obvious that the intent was closer to:

"What are the nature of the compromises being made, and how severe are these compromises, if I choose to use a single bike for the specified range of trail types and riding types? To this end, please describe the optimal bike that would minimize these compromises."

Not a very catchy way to phrase it, which is probably why the original phrasing was used.

Posted: Apr 26, 2021 at 16:16 Quote
Indeed. You got it. these conversations though often invite peripheral topics, just as examining the bike invites the synergy of how these things work together and alter each others ranges of functions.

Hey I was there, just as many buyers looking for the bike that maybe can't do it ALL, but maybe the "bike that can do it most".
I came to; I'd like a trail-n-big-rocks-n-tree-roots-rider that could be modded and toughened up to kinda' enduro, but maybe could also be fun on the fire roads and still climb ok and would still survive a brief DH excursion when I was feeling invincible sort-of-bike.
I don't have the wisdom from the experience of folks like yourself (different profession). I have to learn more every time I buy another bike.

What did I really want "it" to do the best or most often, and what was I going to enjoy riding on in the woods regardless of its design capability, but mainly for the fun I was paying thousands of $$$ for. I definitely did something correct for my target-zone because every ride this thing feels more perfect--I mean that. I also don't care if I even rode my carbon bike around the block, I feel like a kid let loose in the amusement park every time I get on that thing. In the end isn't that what matters too? lol!

~JSV

Posted: Apr 27, 2021 at 6:51 Quote
It's funny how all these types of threads seem to bring out all of the "my bike is the best" or "that bike is hot trash"...Madder

I own a 2020 Fuel EX8, and I dig it for sure...
Is it "all mountain"? Nope...Thumbs Down
Is it "DH"? Nope...Thumbs Down
Is it "enduro"? Nope...Thumbs Down
Is it XC? Nope...Thumbs Down
Is it a "trail" bike?, Yep.tup

Can it do some of those other things? Kinda, some better than others....But to be fair, there isn't any bike that can "do it all" despite what's been posted here, not an opinion, just a fact.

For example, I've got a buddy that owns one of the "best bikes ever" that's been mentioned in this thread...it absolutely SLAYS in crazy chunky downhill lines, it's fast and stable and feels fantastic in flowy stuff too...until you have to slog the damn thing back up to the top, (we don't have those fancy lift access parks around here)...every single time we climb, I wait for him at the top (and I'm by no means a "pillar of fitness Smile ), the Fuel climbs just fine...does it climb like an light XC bike? Nope... Does it climb like a hardtail? Nope, but it climbs fine (I lock it out for the climbs).

I fully recommend the Fuel EX line for you, however, are there better options? I guess that depends on you, your main type of riding, your budget, and what you like in a bike.

The best advice has always been (pre Covid) talk to riders in your area, see what's been working for them, ride a few bikes, pay for some loaners & take them out your preferred trails.

Unfortunately there is no "one bike for everybody & everything", but I bet there is a "one bike for most things" for YOU! Happy Pedaling! Beer

Posted: Apr 27, 2021 at 7:40 Quote
BassistBiker wrote:
It's funny how all these types of threads seem to bring out all of the "my bike is the best" or "that bike is hot trash"...Madder

I own a 2020 Fuel EX8, and I dig it for sure...
Is it "all mountain"? Nope...Thumbs Down
Is it "DH"? Nope...Thumbs Down
Is it "enduro"? Nope...Thumbs Down
Is it XC? Nope...Thumbs Down
Is it a "trail" bike?, Yep.tup

Can it do some of those other things? Kinda, some better than others....But to be fair, there isn't any bike that can "do it all" despite what's been posted here, not an opinion, just a fact.

For example, I've got a buddy that owns one of the "best bikes ever" that's been mentioned in this thread...it absolutely SLAYS in crazy chunky downhill lines, it's fast and stable and feels fantastic in flowy stuff too...until you have to slog the damn thing back up to the top, (we don't have those fancy lift access parks around here)...every single time we climb, I wait for him at the top (and I'm by no means a "pillar of fitness Smile ), the Fuel climbs just fine...does it climb like an light XC bike? Nope... Does it climb like a hardtail? Nope, but it climbs fine (I lock it out for the climbs).

I fully recommend the Fuel EX line for you, however, are there better options? I guess that depends on you, your main type of riding, your budget, and what you like in a bike.

The best advice has always been (pre Covid) talk to riders in your area, see what's been working for them, ride a few bikes, pay for some loaners & take them out your preferred trails.

Unfortunately there is no "one bike for everybody & everything", but I bet there is a "one bike for most things" for YOU! Happy Pedaling! Beer

Definitely agree. I started on a "Jeep" bike over 15 years ago, you know, the one you get when you buy a "Jeep" vehicle? Pretty much equivalent to a Walmart one and loved it.

Yes we can get into then nitty gritty, techy, geo angles, small bump sensitivity, suspension linkage, coil like talk (which I LOVE) but at the end of the day - so many bikes are capable these days. Some even come with a electrical motor. I'd go for budget and what fits best, ride/demo as many as you can instead of pumping all your coins into 1 bike that looks good on paper.

Posted: Apr 27, 2021 at 8:07 Quote
@BassistBiker
Well what you're recommending is sort-of where I was at picking out my carbon FS. I was thinking along those lines, and frankly my best target was something nice, but I was trying to include "versatile". That's probably the best one could do, is to consider versatility if you're not going after something very specific, kinda' like your friends DH bike or if you're really just in the market for an XC racer.

That Trek Fuel you have IS definitely one of those more versatile bikes I think, which many trail bikes will fit the description of versatile (and Process, Bronson, Jeffsy, to name a few) I'm assuming this is where the origins of the discussion and query come from--the trail bike. (or at least what the industry REFERS to as the trail bike)

I was waiting for a new EVO expert and bailed on that for obvious reasons based on the industry issues right now. My original choice was a SJ expert, similar bike, I ended up going w/the SJ expert and I'm glad I did because it's definitely a bit more versatile and I'm enjoying the feeling of the bike better. But back to your point about personal decisions; I'd say within those bikes that fit the versatility definition, individuals will still argue on the variations of THOSE from one to another, BUT the travel and geo of the commonly referred to trail-bike is likely the most versatile by definition.

~JSV

Posted: Apr 27, 2021 at 8:20 Quote
We're straying from the point of the thread, which is to explore the most effective ways to broaden the performance envelope of a bike. Not that I want to curb friendly chatter, just offering a reminder that if we want to discuss actionable ideas, I propose modest travel and aggressive geometry as the best route to a broader performance envelope.

Posted: Apr 27, 2021 at 10:29 Quote
The modern trail bike: Jack of all traits, master of none.

Completely adequate though.

Posted: Apr 27, 2021 at 10:59 Quote
As more disciplines have evolved so the industry has expanded the range of bikes available to fit. Now pretty much everything is niche as the quest always appears to be "no compromise". There are very few "adjustable spanner" type bikes around as that is not what the industry needs. In a mature market you have to create a need and creating a tool for each discipline does that.

This may be true for the handful of true professionals at the very top of the sport but for most of us it is only the extremes that are apparent. For most of us an middle of the road bike will do everything we need it to perfectly well. Industry marketing, hype and fashion have turned this into something where having older equipment is seen as being somehow inferior. Mountain biking is a mature sport and whilst there are people willing to spend money the industry will do everything possible to encourage us to part with it.

If you have a super light weight thing and try to throw it all over rocks and big features, guess what it is not going to be great and you may break bits. At the other end as others have said, a huge burly downhill rig is pretty much useless for anything else.

As things have evolved extremes have become more extreme in build and weight. Whilst things clearly do evolve this is very an activity for those with disposable income. Look at the costs of what is deemed to be an "average bike now". Then look at the components, I mean £1000 for a fork, £100s for "consumable" wear parts and it is not that those are themselves items you don't see often, trail centres are full of machines only a year or two old dripping with the latest bling. Now if people want to spend their money on the latest and greatest that is fine as long as they are happy. If, in order to be happy that means you need multiple bikes then that is fine but don't judge those who either don't want to or cannot afford to be part of gravy train for having bikes that are not the latest. At the end of they day we should be in this for the enjoyment of riding. If riding a 10 year old bike is good enough that you can do everything you want to then great.

Maybe I am just an old fart but al lot of this appears to be along the lines of "here is a solution nobody thought of, now let's invent the problem".

Posted: Apr 28, 2021 at 10:59 Quote
The fact that all of us sound like we make our bikes do everything indicates that maybe it's not about the bike

Posted: Apr 28, 2021 at 11:02 Quote
The bike may not make the rider, but if we're going to drop a heaping pile of cash on a bike, we might as well do our research and make the best choice possible.

Posted: Apr 28, 2021 at 20:25 Quote
R-M-R wrote:
We're straying from the point of the thread, which is to explore the most effective ways to broaden the performance envelope of a bike.

Yup. While it would be awesome to have a stable of vastly different bikes on hand so that you could choose the best purpose-built bike for each ride, the reality for many people is that storage space and budget limits the number of bikes to just a few or even just one. At that point, you just want a bike that is designed to be as versatile as possible, over as wide a range of domains as one can reasonably expect.

And I think my personal expectation of “doing it” (as in the term, “Do it all”) is basically doing it well enough not to embarrass me or fill me with regret while doing it (whether “it” is an XC race or a blue trail on Whistler or on the North Shore). Anyone who turns their noses down at trail or DC bikes might have higher expectations than me, though.

Posted: Apr 28, 2021 at 20:39 Quote
There’s also this YouTube video that got me thinking about just how modular and hence versatile bikes are:

https://youtu.be/5C8OTWx-sw8

I mean, who doesn’t love tinkering with their bikes... swapping parts in and out to see what changes they can make to their rides? To me, that’s a huge part of the enjoyment of this sport.

And that’s another factor to put into the equation for each person’s bike selection. Do you pick a base bike at one end of the spectrum, and then tinker with it in solely one direction, or do you pick something somewhere in the middle and tinker out in either direction?

Posted: Apr 28, 2021 at 22:52 Quote
MB3 wrote:
Do you pick a base bike at one end of the spectrum, and then tinker with it in solely one direction, or do you pick something somewhere in the middle and tinker out in either direction?

The desire to tinker with the goal of shifting the performance window should raise questions. It could be a sign the owner is trying to make a frame into something it's not, possibly creating imbalances, i.e. a chain with some weak links. Equally, the owner could be correcting imperfect spec choices by the product manager or the owner's terrain or riding style may not be a perfect match to any stock bike.

The most common theme is to make a bike burlier. It's easy to be swayed at the point of sale by light weight or a cheaper price, only later to understand the value of heavier, more durable, more capable, and/or more expensive parts. The frame is a component, too, and sometimes that's the one in greatest need of upgrading.

My modifications are usually tires and contact points:

• Tires: If a bike comes with fast and sketchy tires, I'll usually put something with more traction on the front to significantly increase control at only a small cost to efficiency. If the bike comes with burly tires, I may put on a faster rear tire. I'm also a fan of fairly wide tires on rims with enough width to properly support the tires, which are rarely found on stock bikes. The latter is an expensive change and may influence my initial choice, if buying a complete bike.
• Grips: I like fat, push-on grips for hand comfort. Almost never found on a stock build, but at least it's a cheap modification with high return on investment.
• Saddle: I will forever be searching for the Holy Grail of saddles. Again, high return on investment if one selects a version with steel rails.

Posted: Apr 29, 2021 at 6:25 Quote
MB3 wrote:

Yup. While it would be awesome to have a stable of vastly different bikes on hand so that you could choose the best purpose-built bike for each ride

I’m really not convinced that is such a good idea. I’ve been fortunate enough to have had a garage full of high end wonder bikes spanning different supposed mtb disciplines when I was searching for ‘ the one’ and what it does is stop or hinder you fully gelling with a bike because you are always wondering if you’d be better on this climb on that bike or better on this section on the other bike. There’s an old hunters adage that goes ‘ beware of the man with only one gun’. For me the same rings true with bikes up to a point.

My approach to finding my ideal one bike went something like this: I’ve got a garage full of bikes, there’s only one that I’m really impressed with and ride most of the time but it’s still not perfect (that was a pivot switchblade when they first came out). I classed it as a trail bike and it was very competent but the geometry was conservative and when hammering fast technical terrain it was bottoming out and pogoing unless I firmed up the suspension to cope but then it was very unforgiving on milder rocks and roots and terrain features. The suspension was superb for most trail rides where I wasn’t hitting the DH track though. I had a couple of bigger/longer travel bikes for more aggro terrain and uplift days but they weren’t night and day better in those conditions compared to the switchblade but they were significantly less comfortable and efficient on longer milder trail rides ( I ran the same tyres on all bikes at one point to benchmark).

So, I really love fast technical descents and racing my mates and doing the odd uplift day and enduro race BUT 80% of my typical ride is realistically composed of a mix of climbing, flatter more mellow trails and a bit of tarmac. In all those areas the switchblade was fine but for the 15% that really floats my boat, it was holding me back.
With that in mind, I went for a bike that would allow me make the most of those fast technical downhills but which is also quite adjustable in terms of bb height and suspension platform. It has a shock and fork which are custom tuned for me erring on the side of firm and efficient rather than super plush and a relatively light carbon wheelset, as such it’s remarkable efficient for what it it is. I’ll happily swap tyres when required.

The new bike is bigger, heavier, running a coil shock and has more travel than the switchblade, the performance gain on the 15% of the ride I love is massive, like you wouldn’t believe it unless you tried it massive BUT with only a relatively small trade off in efficiency. I’ll happily be a little slower on fire road climbs when I can be a LOT faster and safer when balls out and I can get up technical climbs on this bike that have eluded me for 30 years on more XC orientated contraptions as well as the switchblade.
So basically it will do everything the switchblade could plus the flat out downhill stuff. So it’s more versatile to me and less of a compromise.

The only time I really miss the switchblade is when I have it’s heavy uncomfortable to carry replacement on my back hiking up steep paths. The pivot was a very comfortable bike to carry!!!

I have spent around 30 years looking for the ultimate all rounder and trying new stuff. The bike I have now is the first one that I could happily say “mission accomplished, I don’t need or want another bike, if I only could have one bike then this is it” But hey, I can have another so Ive built up a hardtail with similar geo for winter riding in th slop and really flat rides, ha ha!

So that’s how I got to where I am. whether you start in the middle of your mtb capability spectrum or start at one end is up to you and only you can decide. Just keep in mind that geometry is what really matters and everything else can be tweaked. Wheels and tyres make a massive difference. I would try and get as much saddle time in on different bikes as possible because that’s the only real way to figure out what attributes matter most to you and bear in mind that a poor cockpit setup can make a great bike feel uncomfortable and unwieldy (bars too low and wide and an uncomfortable saddle with its nose too high are the usual culprits in my experience)
Don’t get too hung up on weight, Keith Bontragers assertion ‘Strong, Light, Cheap. Pick two!’ Is worth remembering.
I’ve experimented with some really light, high end stuff in the past and generally find it offers poor performance and value for me and my riding. XTR for example just doesn’t last as long as XT for me and offers no real performance gain yet costs twice the price.

Posted: Apr 29, 2021 at 7:30 Quote
Pigglet13 wrote:
I’ve experimented with some really light, high end stuff in the past and generally find it offers poor performance and value for me and my riding. XTR for example just doesn’t last as long as XT for me and offers no real performance gain yet costs twice the price.
There's some great advice offered here as a result of your experience and efforts. It makes sense too, it's logical.

This one thing you've said which I quoted, it seems to be a point of confusion in a lot of MTB discussions. The mountain bike doesn't make sense when you start making it too light. For the roadies, I get it, the fly-weight thing, lighter is better in their world. Propelling yourself forward with the least amount of drag is the general idea.

MTB requires grabbing hold of the terrain (at least that's my basic interpretation). When these things get TOO light, they want to kick-up, chatter, whip around, not too desirable for most dirt riders. There are many instances where I'm trying to dig-in for better traction and control, and I don't want the bike getting too light where the center of gravity starts tipping higher and higher toward my body. Different disciplines of the sport require variations of course, but this general idea is always of concern.
It takes considerable time with a highly adjustable suspension to really get it dialed-in. If the bikes keeps getting lighter I could see the suspension issue getting more difficult. As you require more responsiveness, it becomes more difficult to properly support the rider's weight. I'm merely suggesting that there's a butter-zone for MTB weight, but I see growing desires for making things lighter. Maybe you could shed more light on this, but I'm glad you addressed it in your post. Shaving off a just few grams here and there always sounds like roadie tech to me and I haven't understood yet why this has become so important to MTBrs.

Anyway, interesting to read you quest for the all-around bike @Pigglet13. What was that heavier bike you went to right after the Pivot btw?

~JSV


 
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