The Pinkbike Podcast: Episode 17 - XC Field Test Insider [Spoiler Alert]

Aug 6, 2020
by Mike Levy  
Art by Taj Mihelich


We're only halfway through our cross-country Field Test series, but this week's podcast is all about exactly that. Sarah and I answer a bunch of questions about our nine bikes, including favorites and least favorites, surprises, and whether we've changed our minds about the future of cross-country bikes. Warning: plenty of spoilers in this one.


Available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, or wherever else you get your podcasts.




THE PINKBIKE PODCAST // EPISODE 17 - XC FIELD TEST INSDER
August 6th, 2020

Spoilers included!

Hosted by Mike Levy (usually) and featuring a rotating cast of the editorial team and other guests, the Pinkbike Podcast is a weekly update on all the latest stories from around the world of mountain biking, as well as some frank discussion about tech, racing, and everything in between.

Previous Pinkbike Podcasts
Episode 1 - Why Are Bikes So Expensive?
Episode 2 - Where the Hell is the Grim Donut?
Episode 3 - Pond Beaver Tech
Episode 4 - Why is Every Bike a Trail Bike?
Episode 5 - Can You Trust Bike Reviews?
Episode 6 - Over Biked Or Under Biked?
Episode 7 - Wild Project Bikes
Episode 8 - Do We Need an Even Larger Wheel Size?
Episode 9 - Why Are We Doing a Cross-Country Field Test?
Episode 10 - Getting Nerdy About Bike Setup
Episode 11 - Are We Going Racing This Year?
Episode 12 - What's the Future of Bike Shops?
Episode 13 - Are Bikes Too Regular Now?
Episode 14 - What Bikes Would Pinkbike Editors Buy?
Episode 15 - What's Holding Mountain Biking Back?
Episode 16 - Who's Your Mountain Biking Hero?


71 Comments

  • 60 0
 I just want to give some positive feedback for the podcasts in general. They are well done and I’ve really enjoyed them so far. It’s always nice to listen to the conversations/debate/banter every week. Keep up the great work!
  • 12 1
 Agreed! I also think Sarah should be a permanent addition to the podcast.
  • 2 0
 I'm loving the Pod as well, nice job crew.
  • 5 1
 @Nainalerom: or Christina Chapetta
  • 11 0
 ust getting the gears turning here; PB should do a custom bike Field test. It would pit the wildest bikes out there against one another and determine if some bloke with a welder and CAAD know-how can actually create a well performing super bike. This field test would feature bikes like that of Dangerholm's builds, the Euro crazy bikes, Evan Turpen's high pivot sled, and potentially the Grim Donut. And then at the end they would be compared to the top mountain bikes from the biggest and most popular companies in the industry to see how they stack up. #PBcustomfieldtest2021
  • 3 0
 Gotta make sure PB has reaaally good health insurance for their employees first though lol
  • 8 0
 Maybe not a Field Test, since we focus on bikes that people can buy, but definitely we should do some A vs B cage matches with some more radical bikes. Actually, that's basically what Part 2 of the gr*m d*nut is. Smile
  • 1 0
 Maybe include a giant, specialized, or trek to form the baseline in the test
  • 8 0
 17 episodes in and they have yet to even start to unpack downhill tandem racing. Or even where super enduro tandem racing currently is and how that landscape continues to evolve.
  • 2 0
 Speaking of the tandem universe, any chatter on stoker of the year front runners?
  • 2 0
 @JamesPA: No idea who might take SOY this year honestly. With world cup tandem racing on hold for a good while everything is really off this year.
  • 1 0
 @JamesPA: I can stroke it like no man.

Wait - where's the "r"...
  • 1 0
 @hllclmbr: im Toker of the Year
  • 7 0
 Haven't listened yet, guessing the Epic EVO was a favorite. All that thing needed was updated geo and a lobotomy and it got both.
  • 5 0
 On the lines of comparing bike prices to motorbikes, things have changed. A normal top end motorbike is £25k (32k USD) and BMW will sell you a works race bike for £68k (89k USD). You haven't been able to buy a premium sports bikes for £10k for over a decade! Bike prices have increased like everything else.
  • 1 0
 They have increased prices considerably. In the US, a Kawasaki Ninja ZX10 can be had for $15,099 though.
  • 5 2
 In the time that's passed since Mike Levy started teasing readers of Pinkbike about the "downcountry" field test, head angles for bikes in this category have gotten one degree slacker. At this rate the even the Grim Donut will be obsolete by the time Pinkbike publishes this article.
  • 4 0
 I'd love an article/podcast about what gear the testers prefer. They often allude to gear they prefer, like Kaz saying he's got a saddle he really likes for riding without chamois.
  • 6 0
 We touched on it a little in Episode 14: www.pinkbike.com/news/the-pinkbike-podcast-episode-14-what-bikes-would-pinkbike-editors-buy.html, but we can definitely revisit that topic and go into more depth in the future.

As for saddles, the WTB Koda and Ergon SM Enduro are my two current favorites.
  • 6 0
 These days I'm loving the combo of a Specialized Power Arc saddle with those super-thin SQ-Lab chamois. This is for a moderately upright position on a Raaw Madonna.
  • 3 0
 @mikekazimer: @brianpark:
Much appreciated, cheers!
  • 2 0
 @mikekazimer: Koda is great, I got most of my riding buddies using that as well.
  • 6 1
 Alright, but what about the Revel Ranger? They’re holding my deposit as I type.
  • 2 0
 Talking about head tube angles on XC race bikes.. I think Levy is right whrn he says we will hover around 68 degrees for some time, for all the reasons Sarah mentions. But what about reach and stem length? Is a longer bike with steeper head tube angle and shorter stem more or less stable than a shorter bike with a slacker hta? I’d like to hear your thoughts peeps! Cheers!
  • 2 0
 Wheelbase is the stability king. A slacker shorter bike and a steeper longer bike that have the same wheelbase will have similar stability characteristics, but you'll be further behind the front wheel on the shorter slacker bike. Theoretically that'll be safer feeling on the descents, but less able to load the front wheel for corners, and potentially more cramped in the saddle.
  • 4 0
 Can we get time stamp for topics? Like go to 0Mad x for news, go to xMad x for round table
  • 2 0
 Great podcast episode, thank you. Follow up for @sarahmoore, which would you prefer the Cannondale scalpel you chose as your favorite race bike or the Epic Evo that you got to ride?
  • 1 0
 If you're doing a straight-up XC race that's 2 hours or less, I'd definitely go for the Cannondale Scalpel but if you're not just in it to win it, I'd choose the Epic Evo since it's more versatile and fun on the descents.
  • 1 0
 @sarahmoore: Thank you!
  • 1 0
 I don't know if this will happen, but I think it SHOULD happen:

I think MORE XC racers should ride these "DC" bikes. Let the more dedicated Cat 1 and up suffer with the handling cons of riding a pure XC bike. They are already consuming massive amounts of quinoa, suffering is what they do. The guys who are just racing for fun should stick to the more fun DC bikes and lose that slight amount on the climbs, in trade for better handling and something more fun to ride when you're not racing.

I rarely ride my XC bike. It just sits there. But when I'm racing, I'm glad I have that dedicated XC bike. Because my E29 is a poor compromise for XC
  • 6 0
 The same way 99% of us don't need 170mm monster truck bikes meant for smashing EWS stages at mach chicken, 99% of us also don't need 19lb WC XC race weapons designed to turn your suffering into marginal gains.
  • 3 2
 Do you remember that one time where we were teased with DC bike H2H reviews and then had to wait like month before we actually got to see them? It's almost like a "New Bike Release" that isn't available for 3 months after it's "released"
  • 2 2
 If you don't want to hear about what we're working on, please don't listen to our podcast. Smile
  • 2 0
 @brianpark: it’s not like that at all. I can’t remember the last time PB milked a content release longer (aside from the Grim Donut). Let’s get on with the DC content! We’re Covid-ing and hungry!!
  • 2 0
 @giantkeeper: Agreed... the drawn out nature of this field test is crazy. Maybe its Covid related, but perhaps offer a timeline of the review post dates so we don’t have to check randomly and be disappointed when there is no new post.

Also... kinda disappointed that it’s combined XC/DC... but not really? It’s combined which makes it appear to be a 9-10 bike comparison, but it’s really two separate 4-5 bike comparisons.

I think most folks are here for the DC content, and this emerging category deserves a dedicated effort with multiple rider opinions.
  • 1 0
 Great series and podcast. And quick question - it strikes me that the Pivot Mach 4 SL from a couple years ago would fit pretty well in the downcountry group of bikes. Wondering if you have any impressions of Pivot's approach vs. say the Cannondale or Epic Evo? Seems like all three are designed to be fast and light but also more capable, and I wonder about the differences between these models.
  • 4 0
 Best Episode Yet - thanks for taking it DEEP on the Upduro Downcountry content!
  • 1 0
 Really disappointed the discussion of why you would want a steep head tube angle didn't go further. Levy says when you're breathing out your eyeballs, you want to be able to easily stick to your line. But doesn't twitchier steering make this harder? Sure, it takes slightly less effort to adjust your line, but it also only takes a tiny mistake to send you off-line, which is probably going to happen if you're jostling in a crowd of other eyeball breathers.

And then there is the recovery factor on the descents. That steep head tube angle is now going to require much more effort to manage going downhill, where something slightly slacker and longer would be way more forgiving and allow more recovery, so you'll be first to the next climb and not have to worry as much about the other ocular-breathering folks.

And Kazimer's bringing wheelbase into the equation just got basically ignored: it got some "yup, that's a factor" responses, and then nothing. Wheelbase is a _huge_ factor in handling. Steep head tubes make the front wheel change direction easily (steering), but it's wheelbase that affects the entire bike changing direction (turning). It came up in one of the reviews: One of the bikes was said to feel "twitchier" than another, but it was slacker ( so should be less twitchy... slack HTA means slow handling, right?)... and had a shorter wheelbase (of course it's twitchier!)
  • 1 0
 Sorry to really disappoint you!
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy: Fix it by listening to Kaz more. I know it pains you to have to be nice to the intern, but he's got some knowledge to drop.
  • 1 0
 @just6979: I said I was sorry, not that I'd do anything about it Wink
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy: I guess you could have that intern Brian do it, I suppose.
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy easy way to loose the Down-Country descriptor is start calling them 'All-Country' (which they are in reality) and what Transition is calling the Spur btw, just as we have All-Mountain - that being said it is fun watching you cringe every time Down-Country is mentioned...
  • 1 0
 Wouldn't the Yeti SB115 be more comparable to a short travel trail bike rather than downcountry? Not to convolude more categories, but the Santa Cruz Tallboy seems to have similar specs to this rather than something like the Spur because of the longer travel fork. Thoughts on the comparison between those two?
  • 4 0
 What happened to testing the Process 111?!?
  • 2 0
 Still riding my tricked out '16 P111, but drooling over modern "DC" bikes. A comparison sure would be neat.
  • 3 0
 We tried to source one for Field Test but couldn't find an appropriate one. Still looking for the future though!
  • 2 0
 @brianpark: bummer! I was looking forward to this the most since that was a big contender in my bike search last year
  • 4 0
 Holy @#$* we've lost Levy to the Yanks, he said "prah-cess"
  • 7 0
 Stank-shun.
  • 2 0
 I hope that there's a more in depth review of the new EXT Era after some more time on it. I haven't wanted a new fork as much since the Grip2 first dropped.
  • 2 0
 Love the pod cast you guys. It’s really fun to listen to something light hearted and entertaining. Nothing about bombs or politics!
  • 2 0
 It was nice to hear that there will be more XC content coming up. I think despite all the "raciness" of it, XC is still the most accessible form of MTB riding.
  • 3 0
 Speaking of slack HTAs... did Kazimer get his hands on a Honzo ESD?
  • 17 0
 I did - look for some ride impressions next week.
  • 2 0
 @mikekazimer what about those "best mud tires ever" that were in an delayed embargo a few podcasts back?
  • 5 0
 They're still delayed... Hopefully September / October.
  • 1 0
 @mikekazimer: Ha glad I’m not the only one holding a candle for these! Just make sure your review notes that these are the much anticipated favorite tires!
  • 3 0
 Deposit is in on my Spur and I am psyched!
  • 2 0
 apparently a colon is an angry face.
  • 2 0
 Will there be a bike test on the new Giant Trance 29 X?
  • 1 0
 Bike polo is out due to covid, in its place bike jousting with extra long sticks
  • 2 1
 @mikelevy you smashed my dearm of getting SB115. what is the second best DC option if you don't like specialized?
  • 1 0
 Transition Spur!
  • 1 0
 What's the Gore shorts with the yoga waistband? I want something like that!
  • 4 0
 The Gore C5 Trail Light shorts were what we were talking about. Super comfy, and great for summer time riding.


www.gorewear.com/us/en-us/c5-trail-light-shorts-100150.html
  • 1 0
 @mikekazimer: perfect, thanks! Loved this episode btw, probably my favorite so far.
  • 1 0
 I didn't hear a single reference to gearboxes this week. Much dissapoint haha
  • 1 0
 did the epic evo win over all? i got one and its the tits.
  • 1 0
 Someone release an ibeam dropper post!
  • 1 0
 can you do a podcast with Jason? we don't see enough of him!!!

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