The Pinkbike Podcast: Episode 95 - Field Test Down-Country Bike Debrief

Dec 9, 2021
by Mike Levy  
Pinkbike Podcast
Art by Taj Mihelich

We're halfway through the latest Field Test, which means it's time to sit down and chat about the six down-country bikes that Henry Quinney and I reviewed in Pemberton. There's a lot to cover, and we've brought Mike Kazimer and Alicia Leggett on the show to ask us some tough questions, as well as a bunch that readers have posted in the comment sections under the reviews. Episode 95 sees us talk about the Field Test bikes we wanted to keep, why we didn't get on with a few of them, and what we'd change to make them even better.

Waiting for the trail bike reviews? Those will start to roll out next week.

Dec 9th, 2021

Less travel, more fun?

Fall Field Test photo by Tom Richards
Canyon Lux Trail
• Travel: 110mm rear, 120mm front
• 29" wheels
• 67.5° head-tube angle
• 74.5° seat-tube angle
• Reach: 460mm (medium)
• Weight: 26.62 lb / 12.07 kg
• $6,299 USD
Trek Top Fuel Fall Field Test photo by Tom Richards
Trek Top Fuel 9.8
• Travel: 120mm rear, 120mm front
• 29" wheels
• 66 - 66.4° head-tube angle
• 76 - 76.4° seat-tube angle
• Reach: 480 - 484mm (large)
• Weight: 26.18 lb / 11.87 kg
• $7,499.99 USD

Fall Field Test photo by Tom Richards
Niner Jet 9 RDO
• Travel: 120mm rear, 130mm front
• 29" wheels
• 66 - 66.5° head-tube angle
• 75.5 - 76° seat-tube angle
• Reach: 469 - 475mm (large)
• Weight: 28.31 lb / 12.84 kg
• $7,700 USD

Fall Field Test photo by Tom Richards
Rocky Mountain Element Carbon 90
• Travel: 120mm rear, 130mm front
• 29" wheels
• 65 - 65.8° head-tube angle
• 76 - 76.8° seat-tube angle
• Reach: 475mm (large)
• Weight: 25 lb / 11.33 kg
• $9,589 USD

Fall Field Test photo by Tom Richards
Santa Cruz Blur TR CC
• Travel: 115mm rear, 120mm front
• 29" wheels
• 67.1° head-tube angle
• 74.9° seat-tube angle
• Reach: 457mm (large)
• Weight: 23.75 lb / 10.8 kg
• $9,449 USD

Giant Trance Advanced
• Travel: 120mm rear / 130mm front
• Wheel size: 29"
• Head angle: 65.5° (low)
• Seat tube angle: 76.3° (low)
• Reach: 472 mm (low)
• Weight: 29lb 9oz (13.4kg)
• Price: $7,000 USD

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?
Episode 17 - XC Field Test Insider
Episode 18 - Electronics on your Mountain Bike: Good or Bad?
Episode 19 - The Hardtail Episode
Episode 20 - MTB Conspiracy Theories
Episode 21 - Stuff We Were Wrong About
Episode 22 - Does Your Riding Style Match Your Personality?
Episode 23 - Grim Donut 2 is Live!
Episode 24 - Why Even Buy a DH Bike?
Episode 25 - Fall Field Test Preview
Episode 26 - The Three Most Important Mountain Bikes
Episode 27 - The World Champs Special
Episode 28 - All About Women's Bikes
Episode 29 - Freeride or Die
Episode 30 - Would You Rather?
Episode 31 - Wet Weather Riding Tips & Tricks
Episode 32 - What Needs to Change in the Bike Industry?
Episode 33 - Behind the Scenes at Pinkbike Academy
Episode 34 - Grilling Levy About Field Test Trail Bikes (and His Bonspiel)
Episode 35 - Story Time - Stranger Than Fiction
Episode 36 - Grilling Kazimer about Field Test Enduro Bikes
Episode 37 - The 2020 Privateer Season with Ben Cathro
Episode 38 - Editors Defend Their 2020 Best-Of Picks
Episode 39 - Predicting the Future of Mountain Biking
Episode 40 - The Pinkbike Awards!
Episode 41 - Racing Rumours and Team Changes
Episode 42 - Mountain Biking's Guilty Pleasures
Episode 43 - Dangerholm's Wildest Custom Mountain Bikes
Episode 44 - Mountain Bike Suspension Decoded
Episode 45 - What Makes a Good Riding Buddy
Episode 46 - The RockShox Zeb vs Fox 38 Deep Dive
Episode 47 - High Pivot Bikes: The Good, The Bad, and The Why?
Episode 48 - Rides That Went Horribly Wrong... & Why That Made Them So Good
Episode 49 - What's the Best DH Bike?
Episode 50 - Are Bikes Actually Getting Less Expensive? (Value Bike Field Test Preview)
Episode 51 - Should MTB Media Post Spy Shots?
Episode 52 - Our Most Embarrassing MTB Moments
Episode 53 - Should Climbers Still Have the Right of Way?
Episode 54 - Best and Worst MTB Product Marketing
Episode 55 - Big Dumb Rides & Staying Motivated
Episode 56 - What Were the Most Important Inventions in Mountain Biking?
Episode 57 - What Were the Best (and Worst) Trends in Mountain Biking?
Episode 58 - Debunking Mountain Biking's Biggest Myths
Episode 59 - Value Bike Field Trip Surprises & Spoilers
Episode 60 - What Kind of Mountain Biker Do You Want to Be?
Episode 61 - Athlete Pay, Lycra, Equality and More from the State of the Sport Survey
Episode 62 - Editor Preferences and Why They Matter
Episode 63 - Our Best (And Worst) Bike Buying Advice
Episode 64 - Who's On Your MTB Mount Rushmore?
Episode 65 - The Hardtail Episode
Episode 66 - The Best and Worst of Repairing Bikes
Episode 67 - The Story of Mountain Biking's Most Interesting Man: Richard Cunningham
Episode 68 - Who Are Mountain Biking's Unsung Heroes?
Episode 69 - The Good, Bad, and Strange Bikes We've Owned - Part 1
Episode 70 - The Good, Bad, and Strange Bikes We've Owned - Part 2
Episode 71 - The Story of Mountain Biking's Most Interesting Man: Richard Cunningham - A Pinkbike Podcast Special, Part 2
Episode 72 - Hey Outers!
Episode 73 - The Details That Matter... and Some That Shouldn't
Episode 74 - The Best Trails We've Ridden and What Makes Them So Special
Episode 75 - Things MTB Brands Waste Money On
Episode 76 - MTB Originals and Copycats
Episode 77 - Interview with Outside CEO, Robin Thurston
Episode 78 - Modern Geometry Explained
Episode 79 - What's the Future of eMTBs?
Episode 80 - The Best Vehicles for Mountain Bikers
Episode 81 - You've Got Questions, We've (Maybe) Got Answers
Episode 82 - Behind the Scenes at Field Test
Episode 83 - Does Carbon Fiber Belong On Your Mountain Bike?
Episode 84 - Explaining RockShox's Computer Controlled Suspension
Episode 85 - Is the Red Bull Rampage Too Slopestyle?
Episode 86 - Greg Minnaar on the Honda DH Bike, World Cup Racing, and Staying Fast Forever
Episode 87 - How to Love Riding When it's Cold and Wet
Episode 88 - Mountain Biking on a Budget
Episode 89 - The Derailleur Pickle
Episode 90 - Is Supre the Future of Trouble-Free Drivetrains? (with Cedric Eveleigh of Lal Bikes)
Episode 91 - Riding Every Double Black in the Whistler Bike Park with Christina Chappetta
Episode 92 - Does Bike Weight Really Matter?
Episode 93 - Staying Motivated and Overcoming Burnout
Episode 94 - PBA Contestant Tori Wood on Her First Race and Finding the Right Mindset


  • 21 0
 I think I disagree with probably 75% of what Henry has to say but I could listen to him talk for hours.
  • 6 0
 Those soft, soothing tones eh
  • 16 0
 I definitely relate to not wanting motivational slogans on my bike.

I don't know if I just look like I'm old or struggling or there's some culture of support or what, but there are way more people shouting affirmations and encouragement at me while I'm riding these days and it annoys me. I'm not opposed to friendliness and I greet everyone I pass on trails, the encouragement/affirmations just feel sort of ...condescending?...weird?...I don't know.

I've been riding for ages and the trails are no big deal for me. Maybe it's just because there are more people.
  • 11 0
 They feel cheesy at best. Send It, Shred Til Death, etc, all that stuff is bullshit middle class fancy live, laugh, love type pinterest material. The ones who actually do "Send it" rarely need motivational stickers...
  • 4 0
 @Explodo - I am finding (with practice) that just pretending I'm watching things from farther away, just witnessing something, takes the 'taking it personally' out of it for me whether is some asswipe throwing his frosty at the Wendy's staff, a jagoff speeding up to tailgate with brights on, or someone being petty & condescending. Sure - you're involved, but you can change your perspective such that you dont' see yourself as a target or victim (whatever) and that you're just witnessing something that has nothing to do with you and then roll on. Hard to do but I'm working on it and I'm a hella lot happier when I remember to do this vs. feeling victimized otherwise.
  • 6 0
 @Mtn-Goat-13: I think you've misunderstood how annoyed I mean I get. It's just the smallest bit of annoyance. I ride a GG which has one of these annoying affirmations right on the top tube, so it's not like it's an "OMG THIS BIKE IS RUINED" level of annoyance. I can't really get mad with people trying to be nice. It's just not the choice I would make.

Thanks for the life advice though.
  • 1 0
 @Explodo: My bad...guess I've never seen the affirming lingo on a bike (and missed that in the article, haven't hear the cast yet tho). WTF is this about? And yeah, that would be scrape-off-and-paint or sticker over level of annoyance.
  • 12 0
 I just don't understand why you'd put something like that, something that 50% of people are likely to think is stupid to see on their expensive toy, under the clearcoat where it can't be peeled off. It's small beans, but it has to turn some people off, including me.

Hypothetical question: You have the best performing bike in the history of bikes, but it says 'Live Love Laugh' on the downtube in huge letters and is painted a color that makes you want to throw it into the ocean... do you mind?
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy: I'd throw Karen and Karen's bike into the ocean (and hope that the enviromental damage was worth saving humanity from motivational insanity)....
  • 5 0
 @mikelevy: You could always use it to pick up middle-aged white women.
  • 5 0
 @mikelevy: Honestly can't believe someone at Kona signed off on putting '69/420' on the top of the downtube of the ESD, then ran it again for the second model year. Love the bike but it's super, super cringe.
  • 3 0

I'd like a top frame sticker that said ya know: 1) you suck, 2) nice underwear, 3) consider an e-bike. Just respond better to a bit of derision I guess. Thanks Dad!
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy: throw a sticker over it and move along. Or a nice black bar. Lol
  • 11 1
 Gotta say, an Enduro rider bud of mine scored a Transition Spur recently and then proceeded to not only blow his own times away on the Spur - in crazy, gnarly steep (unsanctioned) terrain - but all the rest of us. These are on trails most of us say trail-bikes are less capable on, and this dude brings out the XC+ Spur, granted with 8 less pounds (or more) and slackened geo and now we're all wondering if we're just on the wrong rides. This dude blew right through shit he normally did on a 160/170 travel fork and so we're left concluding that maybe less weight and greater maneuverability plus better geo just mean we're overkilling (?) This is in western NC (mountainous terrain).

I doubt this would work in park conditions we all ride bigger bikes in, but for the gnarly steep stuff with drops and roots, the Spur seems to not only juke the rest of our crew on enduro schoolbuses (by speed), but allow our bud to go even faster ,tighter / faster turns - and climb better. Anyone else finding this too? I'm debating dumping the YT Capra and getting a Spur or Izzo (or whatever) now...but damn, the costs are so high.
  • 8 0
 Geometry over everything else. But yeah, I think some riders are experiencing exactly that on their trails, even if there are certainly places where a bike like the Spur, as good as it is, can't match something with more travel. Another factor, I believe, is that some people's riding styles just suit a short-travel bike more than an enduro bike. I'd put myself on that list as well, although I'd have to really think about why it's this way.
  • 2 1
 The Spur sounds amazing, but the Izzo is on the firmer side of the spectrum. It climbs great, fast and lively, but don't expect a plush ride.
  • 2 0
 I'm no proponent of 29 wheels, I actually run 27.5 because I prefer them. But was your buddy, and other riders in your group, riding 27.5 bikes? Just the switch to 29 wheels should be faster, especially in gnarly stuff.
  • 2 0
 I just think that 66 degree HA, 1220 wheelbase, 460-475 reach is the sweet spot for east coast shreddy bike regardless of travel figures.*

*for a person of average height range
  • 2 0
 @Endurahbrah: Went from 29 to 29, just the bike was the change. These rides are also on some of the sickest, steepest , off-camber cobbed in (off radar) trails around...its kinda shocking. Not endless rock drops and totally insane stuff, but gnarly enough that most people get off & walk down
  • 1 0
 @withdignityifnotalacrity: could be it. My buds bike is a Med frame as well so - haven't even ridden it. I'm on XL and could probably use XXL.
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy: Maybe so...I've just never even considered this option at all for some the off-camber, steep / rooty terrain here (in the unsanctioned realm). Maybe worth a look now, but I don't know if anywhere I can test an XL or XXL rig of any DC style bike...its a big dive to take.
  • 1 0
 @Mtn-Goat-13: Sup bro, wanna give me and my homies a tour during our winter pilgrimage from the frozen northeast?
  • 3 0
 Love my Izzo, which has now fully replaced my 160mm travel Reign. Overall Is it "faster", eh not sure. But it's super capable and fun. I really only notice a difference for super chunky big hits, not as forgiving as the Reign that could monster truck through most anything. Maybe your friend was just all fired up feelin that "new bike" vibe.
  • 1 0
 @withdignityifnotalacrity: Sure - DM me...have a couple of winter trips planned so of course, if I'm here & slightly depends on the size of the crew. I'm not much into XC, just getting' to the steep off-radar (and some on) gnarly stuff and hitting that. I don't ride Pisgah district much tho, as there's better crowd-less / off-radar stuff closer to home I prefer and its 1.5 hrs from me so mostly don't bother. How do ya even DM here btw...hit me up & lemme know when yr around.
  • 1 0
 @Moonie2123: Interesting...and where are ya riding most? Is that trail or more steeper style stuff (and was the Reign overkill for all that?) My bud's a ripper and faster that the rest of the crew anyway, but the Spur put him out even farther (we suspect) as it is fully capable on the steepest stuff since that's rarely miles & miles and since most steep trails still have plenty of steep to moderate pitches that are "normal" riding, where apparently he's picking up even more speed. Anyway- wish I could demo some of these rigs, esp the Izzo and Spur but - that doesn't seem to exist!
  • 1 0
 @Mtn-Goat-13: Ya tricky enough getting a bike, let alone a demo. The wait was 6 months for my YT. So far I've ridden it in OR, Moab UT a bit in CO and then NWA. The Reign is certainly more forgiving on big steep tech descents for sure, like where these guys ride around Squamish. But other than the 29" wheels, which is what I noticed most initially on the Izzo, it's only bigger square edge rock hits (at speed) that seem to blow through the Izzos travel, ping. But like u said, even on a techy double black, big chunky elements are more exception than rule. 4-5ft drops , 15ft jumps etc, the Izzo has felt fully capable, then super fast in the flowy stuff. Hope that helps.
  • 1 0
 @Moonie2123: I recall seeing the 6 mo wait times and demo-less-ness has been the MO the past nearly 2 years. Heard on that square-edge rock-hits thing and I guess at 130 travel that makes sense. Are you saying that the Izzo is bashing 4-5 ft drops, 15 ft jumps (maybe park style) and just fine?
  • 2 0
 @Mtn-Goat-13: Ya it's totally comfortable hitting medium sized park jumps. Bigger drops definitely use every bit of the travel, but it doesn't feel out of it's element. That being said I'm 5'9 165lbs, it might be a completely different story if I was 6'4" 220!
  • 2 0
 @Moonie2123: Wild - this kinda sounds like what my friend is saying. We all rode Snowwhoe (WV) bike park several times this summer, all the rest of us on enduro rigs and my bud on his Spur and all his times were faster than us, he hit alll the tables & drops the same, with the lesser travel issue you noted, but still felt fine - he was marauding. I'm 6'4'' and 200 so I'm not sure how this would work but I do know that till I have an extra 5-6K or whatever, nothings gonna happen soon!
  • 1 0
 @withdignityifnotalacrity: Revel Rascal size L fits that
  • 1 0
 @gsspirit: Yeah those are definitely super cool. Don't see them a ton around here (east coast).
  • 10 0
 Yeah, but how would a Process 111 compare to these newer DC bikes. I'm confident a 111 would hold it's own.
  • 3 0

I’m putting this question here from the “ask us anything” article, since you guys didn’t anwser it (lol)

Loking for your honest opinion here, Levy often talks about the kona process 111 as one of the first downcountry bikes made.
How does it compare to downcountry bikes these days?

If you update some parts for a 2015 Kona Process 111 for instance, like 12 speed drivetrain, dropper post and 4 pot disc brakes, or even using offset bushings for the rear shock and a angleset up front, could it still be a considered a modern-ish bike?

And does it make more sense to you guys buying a used Process 111, and update it were it makes sense, or buy a lower end 2022 29er with similar caracteristics.

Love the podcast guys! Keep it up!

  • 1 0
 Probably decent with a couple of tweaks, despite the weight though
  • 1 0
 @zzz216: I kept a 111 as a +1 for several years. Ran a 140 fork on it with a 1 degree Works headset. Ran a water bottle inside the frame with a quality epoxy/cage hack. I always had other, bigger enduro bikes too, which all verified that the progression rate on the 111 was magical. It felt like it had 150mm travel, but pedaled beautifully. And yeah, that STA....had to point that saddle down and all the way forward.
  • 10 0
 @JDFF, the Process 111 was (and still is) a great bike, but it can’t really be classified as a modern downcountry bike. Even when it was first released it was always positioned as a short travel trail bike, which is how it rides.

The weight is one hurdle - that aluminum frame isn’t light, and unfortunately a carbon version never emerged. The geometry was ahead of its time, but nowadays the seat angle looks really slack, and the head tube angle is on the steep side.

I’d love to see an updated version of the 111 - it’s become something of a cult classic for a reason.
  • 3 0
 Kaz nailed it. We've talked about getting an old 111 a few times for a comparison test against a new bike but haven't got it done yet. I think we'd find it less impressive now - bikes are longer, slacker, and have steeper seat angles these days. They were working on a carbon version but it never happened.
  • 1 0
 @mikekazimer: I definitely agree.
  • 1 0

How was the spark vs the blurr and element? Im looking at these 3 for my next bike for the midwest.
  • 1 0
 Wasn't the Process 134 supposed to be kind of the modern take on it? I don't see much hype on it, so maybe they didn't quite nail it...
  • 1 0
 @withdignityifnotalacrity: yeah the newer 134 (29er) was an attempt at the old 111, but just wasn't the same.
  • 2 0
 @withdignityifnotalacrity: A video on Kona's website has the product manager saying the 134 is the 111 brought back to life. I love my 134... such a fun and capable bike. I think there is just so much competition in the space and some people get turned off by its looks.
  • 5 0
 Now that seat tubes angles are getting steeper but are way less consistent across brands, I find myself paying as much or more attention to the effective toptube than the reach to understand how a bike will feel on trail. The front/rear balance is super important, but the effective top tube and stack will tell me more about how my body position will be on the bike and how the bike feels (as far as more racey or more relaxed feeling).
  • 3 0
 For sure, ETT is still a big factor, even if we almost never talk about it anymore. If you watch the review of the Canyon Lux Trail, Henry talks about how the SA and ETT put him on a medium rather than the large he tried previously. It's neat how everything is tied together.
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy: I think the best way to explain it is that reach is the most important dimension for a bike where you’re going to set the saddle up in the same spot relative to the bottom bracket no matter what – like, say, a pure XC race bike, or a road bike. This works really well when most bikes had a similar STA for a given type of riding. If the reach is the same, you should be able to make the bike fit in this case.

I think one really has to take ETT into more account with these newer, more progressive bikes, as the STA varies a lot from bike to bike, and you don’t really see anyone ramming the saddle back on the rails, as it would make a bike with long reach and slack head angle just understeer every turn, and you’d fall off the back climbing.
  • 5 0
 What about next test be on the testers themselves. I want to see if levy can feel the 100g weight difference when using carbon cranks. Or if Henry can tell which setting the fox live valve is in. What about a game of guess the seat tube angle with Kazimer.
  • 3 0
 Great description from Alicia on what a Trail Bike is...which doesn't necessarily equate to what type of riding you do. All bikes are so capable these days and I've seen riders on XC bikes (even gravel bikes) tackle tougher features with more speed than riders like me on trail and enduro bikes.
  • 3 0
 Question for the downcountry-reviewing team: Do you guys feel like you can really wail on a Stepcast 34 or a Sid in rough rock gardens? I've got a very "down country" bike myself and I really enjoy my short travel Pike, but I've consciously gone for a stiffer fork rather than a lighter one in this case. I'm curious about the light forks but don't want to give up too much.
  • 2 0
 I do, yes, but I'm about 155lb so it's going to be different for a larger rider. The 34 and SID are just so damn good these days. If I weighed 200lb, I'd probably want a 130mm Pike instead or something.
  • 3 0
 @mikelevy: what if ur hypothetically 175 pound and often choose bad lines?
  • 2 0
 @withdignityifnotalacrity: I resemble that comment. I'd go for a Pike Ultimate 130mm, or even a 140mm if I was focused more on descending than climbing.
  • 1 1
 id go for a manitou r7
  • 3 0
 250lbs rider here, my biggest complaint is finding out how some bikes suspension handles the weight. Leverage curves and shock tunes. It sucks to buy a bike and find out after too long that it’s just not a good fit for a big rider, have to replace the shock or find out the leverage curves suck. Brakes, forks, wheels, they can all be upgraded easily to hold up. Design flaws in the frame and suspension require a new bike, and in the difficult search to find one that works.
  • 1 0
 Side note,currently on an Evil Following with a custom tune DVO shock and getting along quite well with it. However it’s taken years of experimenting with bikes and shocks and having to geek out on leverage curves.
  • 8 4
 Putting up the debrief before all the bike reviews are up? Kinda makes things a little anticlimactic for the Rocky review that I'm waiting to see..
  • 6 0
 Let's be honest, the way they've been using it as a benchmark in all the other reviews, you kind of knew from the get go which one they liked most...
  • 1 1
 @m47h13u: I agree as far as it being a benchmark which is why I would like to hear more about it before the round table discussion..
  • 6 0
 Podcast went up only an hour before the Rocky review Smile
  • 7 0
 But how do they compare to the Spur...
  • 1 1
 @mikelevy: order of operations..
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy: the podcast was available on Acast a couple of hours before the post here (as it usually is) - not sure how much control you guys have over the scheduling on other platforms though!
  • 7 0
 To be fair, Levy does mention that there will be 'spoilers'. Plus, we're talking about bike reviews here - it's not like they're race results or the surprise ending of a movie.
  • 1 4
 @mikekazimer: "There will be spoilers if you haven't already seen all the reviews "
Nobody had seen the Rocky review when this popped up... Was this an attempt at getting a bunch of interaction?

Waited for the Rocky review before I started listening to this..
  • 1 2
 Spoiler alert.. 37 minutes in for the Spur and Stumpy Evo comparison..
  • 4 0
 @lumpy873: IDK why they put the Stumpy in the conversation. We wanted the Epic EVO comparison... Maybe they got confused
  • 4 0
 God dammit Pink Bike, be perfect at EVERYTHING, we DEMAND it!
  • 2 0
 @ksilvey10, there are so many bikes to keep track of... You're right, the Epic EVO makes sense to compare too - I swear someone was asking about the Stumpy in one of the articles. The Epic EVO is closer to an XC bike than either the Element or the Spur. It has a steeper head angle, slacker seat angle, and a shorter reach. The seat tube length is also on the longer side.

It is very light, though, and definitely a fun, fast bike, it's just not quite at the same level on steeper terrain.
  • 1 0
 @huckbuckit: and don't even think about charging us for it!
  • 3 1
 The Blur and Element prices are silly. I'd far rather buy the Lux, and use the leftover $3200 to buy an aluminum enduro sled. Whatever personal service you get by going through a bike shop cannot be valued even remotely close to $3200.

And don't give me the "SC gives you free bearings for life" line. A set of bearings will set up back $30-$50ish. It's not like Santa Cruz removes and presses the new ones in for free.
  • 2 1
 you're paying for the warranty. if the caynon cracks or a part fails, you're shit outta luck. the caynon also performs like it performs worse than the two you mentioned in my opinion
  • 4 1
 But did you watch the Lux review? They basically said it does everything worse than the Blur. Y'all keep acting like the only thing that matters is spec sheet vs price.
  • 1 0
 My wife used to have a Juliana (Santa Cruz). Needed new bearings - great, hey, they're warrantied, so at least the parts are free, right? Except the way the warranty works, the local shop (a Santa Cruz/Juliana dealer, no less) had to send the old bearings in to get new bearings sent by Santa Cruz. Meaning we had a choice of waiting 3+ weeks without getting to use the bike, or just paying for parts (the shop, of course, was stocking them) and get back on the trails. Meaning if you actually care about riding your bike, the first replacement is very much on you, and then you have to make sure you follow through on having them send in the old ones, get the new ones, keep them in a safe place, and have them ready to bring to the shop the next time you need a replacement.

I like Santa Cruz bikes - they release solid, well built bikes, they have a well earned reputation for solid customer service, and they do a lot of good stuff to promote the sport and a lot of worthy initiatives around trail access, inclusion/diversity, and sustainability. All around solid citizen. But that whole "bearings are free for life" thing and the big deal being made about it rankles me. If you can't trust your licensed dealers to tell you that hey, here's a customer with a busted bearing, I'll send it to you, please credit me on my next invoice and I'll give them a fresh one to get them back on the trail, then you're missing an opportunity for good customer service and making it harder for your LBS partners.
  • 1 0
 @jeremy3220: I'm biased as I've got one, but even I was surprised it was faster downhill than the Blur
  • 2 0
 @jeremy3220: Ultimately, tons of riders these days are buying bikes on paper, so if you can save a few hundred or even a thousand dollars and get the same spec, they're going to pick the Canyon.
  • 2 0
 @mikelevy I understand the whole "down country" moniker. I used to call them "real world" cross country bikes. It's the type of cross country bike that we rode a hundred years ago on rough BC trails. Fast race bikes that we could feel somewhat comfortable riding rough trails instead of having to walk them. Our XC bikes had 100mm forks instead of 80mm ones. That was a down country bike.
  • 2 0
 My takeaway from each efficiency test is that there seems to be more of a correlation to the bike's weight and their times than how they "feel" while pedaling. It may explain why a bike like the element, which might not "feel" as fast, is still second in the effiency test. Also happens to be the second lightest.
  • 2 0
 As a two-time winner in the Clydesdale category of local XC races, I am happy to offer up my 6'1" / 220 lbs frame for bike testing in the name of pseudo-science :-)

Jokes aside, it would indeed be very interesting to see how the bikes might rank under a heavier but strong rider.
  • 2 0
 Interested to hear your opinion of stack in relation to reach when comparing sizes. A taller stack with the same reach measurement will result in a longer bike, right? Are stack heights similar enough for this to not matter? Seems like it might when considering 5 or 10mm differences in reach.

Also I would really like to hear limb length and/or ape index talked about when it comes to sizing. At 5'8" with exceptionally short legs and long arms for my height, I find my current 485mm reach to feel great. I realized that I need a "bigger" bike than my buddy who's 5'10 but with longer legs (by 2") and shorter wingspan (also by about 2"). His 465mm M/L reach Slash feels a bit cramped to me, while he's overly stretched out on my bike. Longer and lower is perfect for me.
  • 5 4
 @BikesNRussets To me the problem is geometry: Geometries nowadays are the spawn a downhillish speed cult, sacrificing their false gods of speed all the lovable traditional characteristics of former sub 150mm bikes (f.e. snappiness, playfulness, agility)? To my mind dc bike counter that trend.
  • 4 0
 Levy sounding a bit like he thinks anyone at 200lbs is a big fatty who doesn't actually ride.
  • 4 0
 I don't feel like I said that, but sorry haha
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy: You kept your thoughts in check nicely, but you were leading that way. It's all good.
  • 4 0
 @mikelevy: I'm 220 and didn't feel that way at all. You're fine.
  • 1 0
 Hey Henry I hope you read this but as a person who dominates the conversations on the podcast my only complaint is how quiet and softly you speak. When you were talking about live valve my mind wondered off because I could barely hear what you were saying without turning my volume all the way up.
  • 4 0
 I'll bump his volume up a bit for next time - still figuring this stuff out Smile
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy: I think it's something to do with how deep his voice is. Nothing wrong with a deep voice, just might want to adjust the sound for that. I find it's clear in my decent ear cans, but hard to ear in my old econobox car with bad speakers. I don't think there's an issue with the volume he speaks. I'm not a recording expert so idk
  • 1 0
 Hey guys! Looking for Mike and Mikes’s opinion here. I recently switched over from a transition patrol to a transition smuggler. Really enjoyed the 29er and pop of the shorter travel. I feel that the smuggler was a bike that was ahead of it’s time a bit. I’m struggling a bit with the front tire wanting to wash on the smuggler. I feel that it might be because of the steeper head angle? I’ve really had to focus more on getting my weight back on the smuggler which has been hard because I spent a lot of time learning to weight the front wheel more in corners on the patrol. How much of an effect can headtube angle have on this feeling? Thanks!
  • 1 0
 @mikelevey @mikekazimer
  • 2 0
 Fucking lmao, Henry's Coldplay reference. Was barely relevant but it was too cheeky an analogy to not make. Love shuttling up the mountain to my playlist of Imagine Dragons, Coldplay, and Maroon 5.
  • 1 0
 Bike categories 2030:

Cross country race
Cross country
Comfort Country
Down Country
Trail Country
Light Trail
Aggressive Trail
Over Mountain
All Mountain
Down Mountain
Fly Mountain
Enduro Race
Enduro Light
Triple Crownduro

Can’t wait for E-comfort country bikes
  • 1 0
 I really like the spectrum of bikes between this year and last year. And the best of this year's crop didn't really seem to make Epic Evo, Spur, Revel Ranger from last year outdated. You have the Blur similar to the Epic Evo but more XC. The Top Fuel similar to Epic Evo but heavier. The Element and perhaps the Jet similar to Spur, Revel Ranger. Good stuff!
  • 1 0
 Which one of these is best for those of us that live in a flat place?? My longest local climb or descent is ~100 feet, so the best way to have fun here is pedaling fast.

I don’t race. Which of these bikes is best for long pedally days, with speed but also some comfort?
  • 2 0
 You'd probably enjoy any regular cross country bike, but for this category my money would be on an Epic EVO. Levy seemed really impressed by its 'go fast' character in his review last year ( The model in this crop that makes the most sense is probably that Blur TR.
  • 2 0
 @mikelevy I can’t find the podcast on Spotify, latest one I see is episode 94. Please help urgently, my weekend is in tatters Frown I’m in the UK and not an Outside+ subscriber……
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy @brianpark ditto here? no episode 95 or 96 appearing on spotify?
  • 1 0
 For what it's worth, I'm 6'4" (195cm) and weigh around 245 lbs, and totally understand that my experience might differ from the 5'11", 165 lbs crowd. But I don't hold that against PB. I live in the PNW and on my previous budget-minded bike, I've broken countless spokes, a rear brake caliper at the mounting bolt, a pedal at the spindle, and a rear thru-axle (which also demolished by derailleur and chain). Earlier this year I got into a '21 Commencal Meta TR 29 signature edition (the same one @mikekazimer reviewed last year) and can honestly say it feels like this bike was made for me and my riding style. It's heavy, long and slack, and I love it. It's burly and stable, yet gets me up the trails without too much trouble. For me it's all about common sense; I probably don't need to be riding a sub 30-lbs carbon downcountry bike. My 36+ lbs aluminum Commencal just works.
  • 1 0
 @mikekazimer I noticed that you run the Roval Control Carbon wheels on your personal Spur. Are you running an insert? Are your concerned about longevity with the 28 spokes? Did you upgrade to the higher count star ratchet? Thanks!
  • 1 0
 No insert - the trails around here tend to be more rooty than rocky, so I can get away without one. No issues with the 28 spokes either, but I am on the lighter side of things, and I'd consider myself a fairly smooth rider. I'm fine with the 36-tooth ratchet too, again due in part to what the trail are like around here - there aren't too many slow speed, half-pedal type maneuvers required.
  • 1 0
 @mikekazimer: Thanks for the reply! Would you alter that setup if you lived in Colorado? Specifically Denver and surrounding trails?
  • 1 0
 Driving home from work and listening to the Podcast, where they mention the 160/150 bikes I started to think when they are they getting a few of these machines and start a brand new category


But in reality we should all get ourselves a downcountry bikes. I was always looking for a 4x bike that could climb but 15y ago it just wasnot the right time for that.
  • 1 0
 Field test and podcast are the best content since a long time. That what I am here for. Thanks! What I do not understand is why you loved the Epic Evo last year and seem to really dislike the Canyon. Yes, the Canyon M equals the Epic L but besides that naming of sizes the numbers are nearly the same. Same reach, Canyon 2 mm shorter toptube, 1deg steeper head tube, same seat tube angle.
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy - new podscast idea with regards to the similar stature of all PB bike test riders: is mountain biking biased towards tall people? I know frame sizing has been touched on before. I feel like size L is the default for bike manufacturers and those frames are always the most dialed. Then frames are scaled as best they can be for other rider heights. For reference I’m 5’6” and am just now feeling that I’m being considered with shorter seat tubes and mullet wheel setups. Would be interesting to know how bikes are designed/developed from the frame sizing perspective and how that may be changing.
  • 1 0
 LiveValve is like if they developed a 6-in wider splitter for F1 cars that help them get around a 3-mile track three seconds quicker, and then it was a $1,000 option on your Honda Civic. Might make you faster, but more of a pro product not worth the hassle for the regular person.
  • 2 0
 My favorite part of the field test episodes is Brian repeatedly saying some version of "chill out every, it's just pseudoscience".
  • 4 1
 I don't know much about Paragliding. But maybe leave out the much loved Huck to Flat in that Fieldtest for once Big Grin
  • 4 0
 Would love to see some feedback on the Wicked Wills.
  • 3 0
 *Ackchyually*.... Levy, isn't there a more recent Ibis than the Ripley AF.... the Exie?

  • 2 0
 Don't tell Frank haha
  • 1 0
 What I'd like to know is, with this new DC/Trail bike Field Test, how does the Specialized Epic Evo you reviewed last year fit into/compare to the bikes in this Field Test? Would it win this Field test too?
  • 2 0
 Why get a down country bike when many enduro bikes pedal amazing nowadays? Not hating on down county I’m just wondering.
  • 8 0
 Because they are lighter, faster on flat terrain and on climbs, are more nimble, and can be used to race XC. Enduro bikes don't really pedal well at all compared to XC-bikes, they pedal well compared to older enduro bikes. Also, a big bike will just tame everything and feel slow if you don't have steep and technical terrain to ride it on.
  • 4 2
 A CX bike is a mini down country bike A down country bike is a mini trail bike. A trail bike is a mini enduro biike. And Lefty's are still the dumbest thing in MTB.
  • 4 0
 In a lot of cases, it's for two different approaches to the same trail. I'll ride all the same features/moves on a good DC bike as I would an enduro bike, but I'll have more fun (but maybe be a little slower overall on the descent) on the short-travel bike because of how it performs and how I like to ride. Obviously not always the case - nothing feels better than smashing shit on a big bike sometimes - but more often than not, I'd prefer the little bike for how much life it has.
  • 3 0
 Didn't you all start this whole downcountry debacle?
  • 2 0
 It's not just height for bike size. I'm 5'9" with 6'2" arm-span and short legs. I fit funny. My bike setup reflects that.
  • 2 0
 only thing this test was missing was a new spark... im on the fence with the element, blurr, spark, and TF
  • 3 0
 I reviewed the new Spark a little while ago, and there are some comparisons to the Spur in there that might be helpful:
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy with the epic evo being your favorite from last year how does it compare to this year's crop particularly the blur and top fuel?
  • 1 1
 I'd have to get back on the Epic EVO, but I remember being blown away by how it rode. It's been a while, sorry!
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy:Yes, the Canyon M equals the Epic L but besides that naming of sizes the numbers are nearly the same. Same reach, Canyon 2 mm shorter toptube, 1deg steeper head tube, same seat tube angle. Why do you say the Canyon would have a strange geo if they basically copied the Epic Evo, which you loved?
  • 1 0
 Should bike categories only be defined by the travel going forward? It's seems like bikes have different intentions and travel doesn't always match up.
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy @mikekazimer I'm a few hairs over 5'10" and float around above the 250lbs bench mark, is there a place to sign up as a PB volunteer?
  • 1 0
 I've heard that the SID's commonly develop bushing play and damper issues, as they are more designed for bikes like the Blur or the Lux. Have you run into this?
  • 1 0
 No, they have bush play far earlier than if it was from riding. I'm talking bushing play from the second or third ride.
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy: That's wild. I looked at last year's DC field test, and you mentioned issues their too. Bummer.
  • 1 0
 @mikekazimer thanks for the explanation. I guess sponsoring the test isn’t really all that different than having a banner ad on the page that may happen to have a review.
  • 1 0
 what's up with the F1 podcast? this was your last chance... probably next week too but the race would have already happened.
  • 4 3
 Please no F1! Especially since Levi called Hamilton the GOAT. Levi knows bikes, not F1 ;-)
  • 1 0
 @tommynator: that's what makes it cool to talk about it, after Mexico I said "Max's got the championship already, there is no way for Hamilton to recover" look where we are now....
  • 2 0
 @tommynator: I've been F1'ing for longer than I've been riding Wink
  • 1 0
 Wait the guy from the country that named a boat Boaty McBoatface never heard of the chunnel?
  • 3 0
 I know, we don't understand it either. Worse yet, he says that the name is dumb even though it makes all the sense in the world.
  • 2 0
 Do you ever think about hiring "plus sized testers"?
  • 2 0
 Also, Levy insinuating 250 lb riders don't do laps all day hurts. It's true, but I don't like my flaws pointed out, I'd prefer to ignore them.
  • 1 0
 Offish topic question. How did you guys like the Rapha stuff? The jacket in particular, how bad was the overheating?
  • 1 0
 I will never understand why people liked Oasis. Blur was pretty good. Pulp was great. Oasis? Minor talent.
  • 1 0
 Will Niner's e-bikes have "Press the button, damn it!" printed on the top tube?
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy How does your personal Mondraker F-Podium compare to the bikes in the field test?
  • 1 0
 Pedals better, feels rougher haha
  • 1 0
 Will a downcountry hardtail ever be a thing?
  • 9 0
 I have a ~24lb Cotic SolarisMAX with a 62.5° HTA, 120mm fork, 213mm dropper, and proper tires. I think that might count.
  • 1 0
 I had a Pipedream Sirius S5 this Summer which is very similar to the Cotic. Awesome bike!
  • 2 0
 @brianpark: damn, can we get some details on this? That seems ridiculously light for a bike I would guess weighs at LEAST 30 lbs on paper.
  • 1 0
 @brianpark: prove it!
  • 1 0
 @brianpark: jk found it
  • 1 0
 @brianpark: but where we drive the line between a overbuilt ´´hulk smash'' XC and a downmoded trail hardtail?
Basically if i was to put some lighter tires/ lightweight wheels and a 120mm SID on a aggro hardtail i hit the downcountry mark, but when i put some meatier tires, higher travel trail fork on a xc superlight carbon hardtail i now allso have a downcountry bike. The weight between those two builds will be 1:1, comparing the geos, not much change between those two.
  • 1 0
 i’m sad there is wasn’t a slow motion hug to flat.
  • 1 0

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