Opinion - They're All Flawed Bikes

Oct 23, 2015 at 13:26
by Mike Levy  
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You can spend as much money as you want, source the best suspension and get the best components, but your bike is still going to be flawed. It simply can't be perfect at everything that it's designed to do, regardless of how great it might be at most of the ride. I'd argue that's what makes today's bikes so interesting, though, and also all the more important to think long and hard about what you need.




You learn pretty quickly in life that no one is perfect, but also that it's usually someone's flaws, however small they might be, that makes them interesting. Actually, we should probably call them quirks rather than flaws lest I offend anyone out there who's flawed by not having a sense of humor, plus it makes those idiosyncrasies sound more fun and eccentric rather than being annoying enough to make just one of your eyes twitch. You know, like how you're going to love your boyfriend despite how he prefers to use a fork and knife to eat his pizza, and how your mother will always be your mother even though you're convinced that she must have bought her driving license rather than earned it. And quirks seem magnified when you're in a relationship, don't they? I once dated an amazing woman who, at least in hindsight, was probably a "keeper" as they say, even though I swear that the cat was using her mouth as a litter box when she slept. Her breath was impressively bad, but it was still a small quirk that, in the grand scheme of things, added character and meant very little. Ms. cat-pooh-breath was full of character.

Mountain bikes are kind of like people in that way; a lot are great, but none can be perfect. There are a ton of bikes out there that are really, really, fun to spend a bunch of time with, but they all have their character and quirks that set them apart from one another. This is true regardless of how much travel they have or whatever their spec sheet says. As of a few years ago it became pretty hard to say that such and such 120mm bike is a shitty climber, or how that 160mm machine is no good at descending - they're all much more capable than what the large majority of riders will ever need. But as good as most of them are, and as close as a lot of them may seem, they all ride very differently. Different quirks and different characters, you see.


Kona Process 167 review test Photo by Laurence Crossman-Emms
Kona's Process 167 is a short-travel DH bike.
Breezer Repack Team review test Photo by Clayton Racicot
Breezer's 160mm Repack is a long-travel trail bike.


I'm not trying to go all Zen on you, and bikes are just simple machines that, in a lot of ways, are less complicated than your microwave or television. Your $6,000 bike can't even warm up leftovers or record the ball game for you, but it can do things that are much more fun, and no two bikes, however similar, will do those things in the same manner. They all have different personalities, and it's usually a number of small details that come together to create that character, which is why two bikes that appear to be relatively similar actually have about as much in common as that microwave and television do. One mistake is to only look at the empirical data: the boring geometry charts and spec sheets. While they certainly tell part of the story, those numbers can't come close to telling you everything. The number most riders look at is travel. Years ago you could look at how much travel a bike had and make a pretty reasonable assumption not only about its intentions but also how it was probably going to perform. These days, it's more complicated than that.
bigquotesThey all have different personalities, and it's usually a number of small details that come together to create that character, which is why two bikes that appear to be similar actually have about as much in common as your microwave and television do.

This couldn't be framed any better than by two bikes you might have recently read about on Pinkbike: Kona's fantastic, ready-to-chuck Process 167 and Breezer's 160mm travel Repack. One is a pint-sized downhill bike, and the other is actually a long legged trail machine that scales mountains more efficiently than bikes that are an inch shorter on travel and slimmer by five pounds. I don't think that I have to explain which is which, either. Both have similar amounts of suspension, yet those numbers sum them up as a whole about as well as what you ate for dinner last night says about you as a person. I ate a massive burrito from Taco del Mar and then drank a sugar-filled energy drink, but I'm neither Mexican nor that sweet. I do apparently like bad food, however.

The quick handling Breezer's quirk is that its 160mm travel runs out too quickly, requiring you to fill the shock with volume spacers and run more air pressure than it should require. It's so damn good at other parts of the ride that there are many people who will happily look past this fact, though, and many more who might not even take note of it. The Breezer is a great bike but, just like the Kona, it isn't perfect. In fact, it's just the opposite of the big Process despite the two being within 7mm when it comes to suspension travel. They're so close in some ways, yet so far apart in others that they can't really be thought of as being made for the same purpose, which they're not. Both bikes are great machines when each is in the hands of the right rider, though.
Mike Levy testing the Mondraker Dune in Sedona. Photo by Colin Meagher
Two bikes with similar amounts travel can perform wildly different on terrain like this.

Quirks and flaws like those are why today's bikes are so interesting. Pretty much every bike I've spent time on over the last year has been impressive in one way or another, but none are perfect for how I ride on a daily basis. So, in no particular order, here are some bikes and their quirks that are relevant to how they're intended to be ridden, as well as to each one's competition: the Foxy is impossibly efficient and one of the best short-travel bikes to be on when things get sketchy, but it's also a handful at slow speeds and on tamer trails; the Habit is an awesomely fun all-rounder, but its Lefty fork is a bit behind compared to the best from FOX and RockShox; the Repack climbs like no other 160mm bike can, but its suspension is far too linear; the SB6C loves to smash through it all on the downs, but it's a handful on tech climbs compared to some other 160mm bikes; the Spartan stays glued to the ground like a basset hound with cement boots on, but that makes it not as playful as I'd prefer; the AMR Riot Lector is fun but far too nervous to really push hard; the fun and lively Lifeline isn't as planted and forgiving as some other DH sleds; the HD3 gets it nearly all right at the sacrifice of feeling a bit pointy on steep and scary descents; the Strive is a good stab at doing a lot of things really well, but its Shapeshifter system is too finicky and can feel like a crutch.

I know for a fact that none of those bikes are going to be perfect for you, even if they're all more bike than we might ever need, but one or more of them may have a quirk or two that you're happy to look past just because it's so damn good at other parts of the ride. And no so-called quirk or flaw is going to be viewed in the same light by two different riders, either. Maybe you and your tree trunk legs can easily overcome a poor pedaling bike, or maybe that sort of thing just doesn't matter to you because of where you live and how you ride. Sure, mountain biking is fun regardless of what we're on, but I've always found that I have the most fun when I match the bike and its setup to the terrain and how I ride.

That is the trick, of course, to find that one bike that best suits your trails and your riding style. Your "keeper" of sorts.

Or maybe you've already found your special bike. And if so, what quirks are you happy to ignore?





200 Comments

  • 294 2
 Lets all just put aside the flaws and stick with the simple equation that is N+1
  • 32 4
 Trying to find one bike that does everything well isn't really possible if you ride varied terrain. For my relatively bitch-groomed yet climb-riddled neighborhood trail network, my eight-year old rigid KHS is the best tool in the shed, as it plays to my weakness, climbing. If I'm off to the mountains an hour and a half away, my slack, playful Distortion fitted with a 160 fork is a boss in the eternal rock gardens and on the long, fast descents. At the bike park, the Distortion rides along as a backup, but there's no substitute for the travel and geometry of my Session. Trying to make one bike work for everything would inevitably result in serious compromise in one way or another. The closest thing is my Distortion, but it climbs like a pig on one end of the spectrum, and can't handle the serious, high-speed pounding of a bike park on the other end. The industry is getting CLOSER to the idea of a do-everything rig, but it's probably cheaper to buy three used bikes built for more specific purposes. Nine times out of ten, you're probably going to have a better ride because you actually have the right tool for the job, not some swiss-army clown bike.
  • 4 0
 Bikes have gotten much better but your right, there will always be a compromise. There are bikes that can do everything very well, but no bike can be great, or be one of the best at everything. Physics really just won't allow it.
  • 13 23
flag kubaner (Nov 5, 2015 at 4:17) (Below Threshold)
 My Nicolai is perfect
  • 25 3
 Recently I broke both bikes, 5" trail bike and a big rig, I couldn't afford to fix both so I hawked parts for a process 153 (would've got a 167 but couldn't get one). For me this bike does everything perfectly, it climbs like a love sick angel (I am a partial roadie so sadistically love going up [bring on the neg props]), is more fun and confidence inspiring than the big bike on the way down and is more nimble and flickable than the trail bike in between. If there is a flaw I don't notice it.
  • 75 0
 I need a bike that performs like a kitted-out $10K Nomad, but looks to everyone else like a $75 Canadian Tire special. That way my riding might match people's expectations.
  • 31 1
 My bike might be "flawed" but every time I ride her, she steals my heart.
  • 9 2
 ^^ Well said ! Same as my gf haha
  • 7 1
 It is stupid but i doeverything on my 10 year old, 19kg kona stinky with 180mm travel forks and rear sus... Climbing only lasts about 100m then pushing starts though
  • 7 1
 Any newer bike is so much better compared to where it started, kind of feel like spaceships in comparison. We should all be stoked on how good we have it now.
  • 4 1
 Yes DMR that does sound stupid , very stupid Smile
  • 4 14
flag abzillah (Nov 5, 2015 at 13:25) (Below Threshold)
 SC Nomad defeats the N+1 rule.
  • 4 5
 I would say Canyon Strive
  • 5 4
 Canfield one. 8 inch bike with dh geo andclimbs better than most 6 inchers. Of course im not biased....
  • 7 0
 There is a reason there are 7 bikes in my garage.
  • 4 5
 Might I suggest something in an Ellsworth perhaps?

I'll neg prop myself for that one.
  • 2 4
 Can we all agree to never use the descriptor "flickable" again.
  • 2 5
 I have never "flicked" my bike. What stupid terminology.
  • 3 0
 Yeah I don't usually go out on trails to push my bike around.
  • 7 2
 The only bike in my quiver is a Transition Klunker. Swap the gearing for the flavor of the day, whether it be the bike park, dirtjumps, or downhill. I've even done a 16 mile race on it. Moral of the story, a bikes a bike. Quit trying to find the "perfect bike" and ride what you've got. Its not the bike, its the pilot.
  • 6 0
 ^ lol just hard as f*ck eh
  • 2 1
 Klunker is my next purchase. Fuck technology, go have fun.
  • 3 5
 There's always that guy that comments "just ride your bike blah blah blah". We do ride our bikes. We also read pinkbike and dream about the full carbon bling that may or may not be in our futures. Shut up.
  • 3 4
 Hey, you do you, and I'll do me. I've owned $8,000 carbon rocketships. I'd rather have three or four less-expensive, purpose-built alloy/steel bikes like I do right now. Klunkers are raw fun. Have fun on your "full carbon bling" and fresh new kit, feeling like you're better than the guys who just want to go out and shred.
  • 4 2
 Ride what ever bike you'd like, whether or not you're doing it ironically. I just hate when someone writes "just ride your bike". Your preaching to the choir...
  • 3 2
 You do you.
  • 4 0
 Just bought me a process 153. As a gravity rider and a rather big guy, I would rather suffer a little on the climbs so I can enjoy the decents and huck what I want without worrying about getting a chainstay through the leg, but I must say I am rather impressed with how far technology has come in the past 5 years. No bike will ever be perfect, but I would have never thought that I would have a bike that can jump, corner, pedal, and desend as this one bike does
  • 2 1
 @santacruz-syndicate you're the second person on here who is stoked on the Process. I'm going to have to make it a point to take one for a spin. My Distortion is great in the park, but at 33 pounds, it doesn't climb well enough to be considered a viable all-around bike. When the time comes to replace it either next year or the year after, the Process is likely going to be on my short list.
  • 1 0
 So I can't just go out and shred on my 8k Carbon rocketship? It has to be about my kit and the cost of my bike? I'd rather have my slash 9.8 than 3-4 bikes that aren't as dialed, but that's just me.
  • 1 2
 Well, a full-on DH bike is going to be faster in the park, and a short-travel XC bike is going to climb more efficiently. 8k would buy a year-old carbon XC bike and a year-old alloy DH bike that will out-perform any all-arounder bike in their respective areas. That's my take on it. I'm sure you have every reason for going the route that you did, with the Slash, but for the varied riding I tend to do (the XC trails I used to ride in my hometown were sanitized snore-fests), a cheap rigid 29er was the tool for the job. But maybe that's just Pennsylvania. That place is crawling with obese guys on 10k bikes who can't clear a 10-foot tabletop.
  • 2 3
 I should also make it perfectly clear that I'm a lot closer to that "I always ride park" guy than I am to an enduro weiner. I'm cool with it. If I have a choice between lapping a solid park or riding my XC bike, the XC bike is going to collect dust.
  • 4 0
 fair enough, i'm not really a park rider. most of the good descents i frequent require a good amount of pedaling to get to and a short travel XC bike isn't what i'm going to want once i get there.
  • 2 1
 @TRE3TOP very true. Different strokes and all, as everywhere is different. What works swimmingly in South Carolina might ride like garbage in Utah, and vice versa. Another thing people don't really bother to address on these articles is durability. I've seen plenty of people turn perfectly good all-mountain and enduro bikes into rickety, duct taped pieces of shit in less than one season of bike park abuse.
  • 140 1
 True each bike is different and all bikes are a series of compromises and trade-offs, but watch a really skilled rider on pretty much any bike and be reminded that the bike really just doesn't matter much at all. My brother proves this to me over and over.

A few weeks ago we were decending some typical Utah single track. He was on a 2015 Transition Patrol, I was on his 2013 Covert 29 (both with XX1 and enve everything) and of course he was outrunning me as usual. Meanwhile our young nephew took a hard crash on his Scott Spark 740 and destroyed the rear brake. I gave my nephew the Covert so he could have a safe ride down and I limped along on the half brakeless Spark.

With a couple miles left to go, my brother took the Spark and gave me the Patrol so I could have a little more fun. It barely slowed him down, despite a 69 degree head angle, 80mm stem, 720mm bars, entry level suspension, pizza cutter tires, and dead rear brake.

I'm not a complete hack. According to the Almighty Strava, I'm in the top 10 out of about 800 on all the descents at my local trails. But while I'm always upgrading and fiddling with my bikes, my brother always seems to be riding faster and having more fun on whatever is available. Rider>bike always.

With modern bikes, it's pretty hard to go wrong. Pretty much every trail bike review is, "it could climb a little better, but it's worth it on the decents!" And unless you're constantly riding different bikes, you won't notice the subtle differences as much as Mike is describing here. Just like the color and picture quality of your new flat screen TV really only matters in the showroom next to all the other TVs.

The Pinkbike community is entirely too worried about gear. I'm as bad as anyone, but just look at which articles get the most comments on Pinkbike. Of course it's in the financial interest of the industry (including the media) to get us debating, wondering, doubting, and salivating, sure that whatever we buy next is going to take our ride up a level, but it really doesn't change much.
  • 6 0
 Nice little post, I agree.
  • 5 0
 Good post with a lot of truth. Going fast is a lot about the rider and a little about the bike.

On the comment of noticing the subtle differences, I think we could notice those more if we took the time to demo and try out more bikes before we buy. But, obviously, there are financial and time constraints on that route. And I'm not so sure that we would pick up on the details of the subtle differences, but we would notice whether an overall package fit us better or not. I.e., "This bike just feels better."
  • 8 3
 You know your problem.... You're focusing on strava!!! Just ride for fun and the speed and flow will come
  • 7 2
 it's the rider, not the bike .. give Gwin an hardtail or even a bmx, he will still be faster tan you with a demo!
  • 3 1
 well said @BiNARYBiKE. That said, though I love biking and would be happier on any bike than not on a bike, I still appreciate certain characteristics. The crass metaphor would be sex. Generally, sex with a partner of the gender you dig will be a whole lot better than no sex, but within that their are all sorts of variations to aesthetic and sensation to optimize the experience. Personally bike wise enjoy a bike that is more playful and am willing to sacrifice a bit on the climbing and high speed stability for that.
  • 1 1
 post is truth. its about the rider not the gear even though the gear does play a role in riding. Down here in hawaii im runnin an 02 santa cruz bullit with a dual crown marzoochi bomber and a fox van rc both shocks are back from 01 and i can climb as fast as my friends 2010 nickel and keep up with him on the downhill on his session 9.9. so it really does come down to the skill of the rider
  • 1 0
 @Kainaluu , you would not happen to hang out on Poipu beach, would you?
  • 2 0
 being honest with one's needs and skills would save all of us money but the latest shiny bits floating in kool-aid...
  • 3 0
 brilliant post
  • 2 0
 @biking85 Agreed. I'll still always try to get the best bike possible. I wish there were a better system in place for demos; seems like if you aren't the right size and living by the right shops it's pretty much impossible to try bikes. I've bought a lot of bikes and I've never been able to demo one first.
  • 3 0
 @rrsport Gotta defend myself here! I'm not quite sure where you got that I have a problem or that I'm focused on Strava. I use Strava because I like to keep track of the miles I ride and it helps me push my fitness a bit because I often ride alone. I was just emphasizing that I'm not a hack, my brother is just plain fast. I got over the jealousy a while back. Now I'm content to try to stay close and watch him pick lines.
  • 3 0
 Its just a yarn mate haha I'm used to teasing my mates who talk about strava segments all the time
  • 1 0
 In that case, cheers!
  • 1 0
 @santoman no i dont hang there i live on a different island
  • 2 0
 Ah OK, I got married in Kauai last year and there was a guy in Poipu with an "old" Bullit that caught my eye. It would have been a funny coincidence.
  • 78 8
 This article is so enduro that I cant even
  • 68 5
 The only wheel size out of 26/27.5/29 that can even is 26"
  • 4 9
flag dirtbiker100 (Nov 5, 2015 at 4:58) (Below Threshold)
 yep because DH bikes are all the same and none have boasted pedalling/sprinting ability either
  • 29 0
 "Ham661" made a whole number, math joke.....it did not go unnoticed.
  • 29 0
 29 is a prime example...
  • 18 5
 The root of 29 is evil. The power of 26 is unfathomable.
  • 2 3
 ????☺️????
  • 52 2
 If everything was perfect, the world would be boring
  • 27 1
 ^^^ wisdom. Refreshing perspectives from Mike and you. Expect nothing. You won't be disappointed. And if you get pleasantly surprised then that's all the better
  • 4 0
 @lee -perfectly agree with your answer!
  • 2 0
 With respect, it's because the world (trails) isn't perfect that I want a rad bike.
  • 7 1
 Im boring then
  • 1 0
 But if we're looking to spend big $$$ on bikes and parts, wouldn't be it wise to have some expectations?
  • 3 0
 I expect I'll be broke...
  • 18 0
 So true. Great article and makes you think about if that next upgrade is really worth spending all that extra money on. Will the ride actually become more enjoyable? Will it actually put a bigger smile on your face while riding? If not, why would you spend all that money on that upgrade?

Also how long will it take till you will find the next flaw?

I recognize myself in this: every time I feel like 'just need to do this one ugrade and than the bike is perfect and finished'. Five of those exact same type of 'final upgrades' later, the bike is still not finished, and I easily spent three times the budget on that bike as I was supposed to. But did the bike become three times as much fun to ride?
  • 7 2
 Like you I spent lots of time and money trying to create the perfect bike, but for the past ten years I just buy them complete and off-the-shelf, maybe change the tyres or stem, and then sell them after a year when the new models come out. If there is a 'flaw' then I only have to put up with it for a year, and then get something different. This may sound expensive, but the changeover cost is not much more than replacing a drivetrain, which would need replacing if I kept it for two years.
  • 15 9
 The true cost of your consumerism won't be felt by you. Please tell me you don't do the same with cars. Maybe if people held onto products longer they wouldn't suffer flaws as well and company's would make better products.
  • 13 4
 Chopper, I don't throw the bikes in the bin, I sell them. There's no over-consumption going on. Over the next five years there will be six bikes used by six people, the six I buy, and the five that people buy from me. If I only bought one bike over five years those five people would still buy a bike - they just wouldn't be as nice as the ones they get from me.
  • 8 0
 I think, realistically the biggest flaw on my bike is the rider on top of it! I don't know anyone who can truly say that a tiny quirk like the foxy being a handful at slow speeds is holding them back more than their riding skill, granted it won't help but i'm quite happy with my Ariel 15X until i'm EWS pro level, then i'll whinge about it's climbing efficiency and slow speed handling being 2 tenths off a nomad on a 13.347m climb.
  • 3 2
 Perfect explanation iamamodel
  • 9 5
 well, maybe not so perfect. How about if the 5 people didn't feel they needed to upgrade either? 5 less bikes, less aluminum smelted, less coal burned to smelt it etc.
  • 7 0
 Maybe companies should look into leasing new bikes like car dealers do? Leases just hit a record 30%+ of all new car sales. It would give some riders the option of the latest n greatest, but also price conscious riders the option of used lease bikes at affordable prices.
  • 7 0
 I would love to pay 20% of a bike's value and give it back after 12 months no questions asked.
  • 2 0
 Who wouldn't love that.
Problem with leasing is that it works on the residual value of the product and the finance company can then sell it on. If everybody keeps doing that (myself included) then second hand prices will eventually plummet and the residual value goes down. Great idea to kick start the automotive market after the recession but It's not really sustainable in my eyes.
  • 2 0
 Leasing a bike for a year would probably cost much closer to 50%, and I don't know too many people who would pay that. Heck it's easy enough to find bikes at 30-40% off online to actually own them. There's also lots of bike parks that sell off demo fleets after a year, if that's your thing.
  • 1 0
 I understand that. You're definitelKyle looking at 50% or more. I wouldn't go nubs 20 though. 20% of retail is still a lot of cash!
  • 14 0
 By 2015 standards, some would say my bike is a f*cking joke. a relic. a point in time that has been forgotten by many and consigned to the bin, but I tell you what, I sure as hell DON'T finish a ride and say '' man, this suspension rate is so damn linear/progressive" I slide to a halt, breathing hard having had a blast. and push to the top again. Ignorance is bliss. Just ride yer bike!!
  • 12 0
 I may just not be picky but the bike I have now is pretty close to perfect. It doesn't feel heavy, slouchy, touchy, or anything else. In fact I have had two bikes now that while I was riding them I forgot every complaint and just loved it. Seems like a good relationship. When you are doing it right you stop thinking bout other possibilities and just enjoy the one you are with.
  • 6 2
 There is a place where all troubles disappear, we all know that. I found the place where bike stops to matter. I'd rather call it the zone. I find it above 180BPM
  • 10 1
 This article makes me wonder what happened to the hardtail. (actually most of the reviews on pinkbike and related sites makes me wonder if hardtails are still alive) I do still enjoy the hell out of my 29er LTHT (in steel even!) but I feel these bikes are not taken seriously anymore in the media...
  • 2 0
 I took a Superfly HT out yesterday, and felt like I was going to die on every fast, rocky descent. Not the adrenaline I am going for! Super fun and fast on the flatter xc trails though
  • 10 0
 This is what I want from a review - a subjective comparison! There are a ton of bikes in each class, but what is the feeling they convey when you ride! Please add this to your future reviews!!!!!
  • 14 1
 The 167 is rad. The end.
  • 4 0
 ^^Let's just end the discussion here. enough said
  • 2 0
 167, Voltage fr, Delirium...
  • 9 0
 I'm no longer N+1, I'm now N+167....
  • 9 0
 Ignorance is bliss, I've never ridden a better bike than my current one so I don't feel like I'm missing out. It also means any quirks it may have aren't obvious.
  • 1 0
 On the other hand, when I bought my current bike, I was so afraid to make the wrong choice and miss out on something better. I've thrown a leg over a bunch of different bikes since then, some of them supposed to be the cream of the crop and it seems the more bikes I try, the more I find mine to be perfect for me in the end.
  • 7 0
 I love my spartan. I'm a plow guy, I try to ride light and hop around in appropriate places but you can't avoid smashing through stuff a lot of the time. I suck at jumps, love drops. Sounds like a bought the right bike.
  • 6 0
 I always assume that if my bike's not doing something I want it to do, it's my fault, not the bike's.

Doesn't climb well? I need to get in better shape.

Won't make it through that rock garden? I need to learn to ride better or pick better lines.

Never occurred to me that it was a shortcoming in the bike's design.
  • 6 0
 Bikes have gotten better over the years obviously. Claims in the marketing talk of how good it is grew with it. And so did price and expectations. That's understandable. You paid enough to be very, very critical. If you paid 50% more for XT over Deore because they told you it is so much better, you expect it to be so. With Deore you would have accepted and probably not have bothered with the flaws, with XT you would as your wallet still hurts. And claims got pretty unbelievable lately.

"Climbs like an XC bike, descends like a downhill bike!" That's excellent! I've ridden a real XC bike up climbs and also a downhill bike down some rough descends. So if it does both like that, I'll just spend the money for two bikes on that single bike and be done.

"This bike with 27.5" wheels rolls effortlessly over obstacles where a 26" wheeled bike would simply stall." Oh well, let's get that then. I'm always getting stuck at this tree trunk across that climb, let's invest in the new bike so that I can really blast up these hills and save some energy for the downhills then.

"We've developed this replacement damping cartridge for your fork that will transform your ride from good to amazing for only 699USD". Well, that's going to see some tough scrutineering.

Compare that to an early Stumpjumper ad: "Because it's bitchin', that's why." Can't argue with that. It was the way into mountainbiking and you wouldn't be disappointed. There were no flaws. Obviously climbing is hard, descending is tough (yet bitchin'), stuff is going to break if you crash and parts are going to wear out.

The other thing is that there are more complex bikes now (not saying the simpler bikes got extinct) and complexity comes with room for flaws. On a hardtail you're not bothered with pedal feedback, brake squat and whatnot. Whether the clutch rear mech is stiff enough without affecting the suspension system too much. Also, there is no issue of whether front and rear suspension work together nicely. Now add dropper posts and on the fly adjustable geometry and the range of applications hence also the opportunities to be used out of its depth rise proportionally.

So if you're bothered by flaws, just get yourself an nice steel hardtail. Don't get the lightest, don't get the strongest, obviously it shouldn't be the most expensive either. Accept that it won't be amazing at anything. Don't bother with color coordination, don't bother with Strava. Then just go out and have a blast. It will be bitchin'.
  • 1 0
 I pretty much did what you said and ran mediocre hardtails for the last 2 years. The world didn't explode but I am so glad to be back on a new spesh enduro
  • 8 0
 Knolly Podium and Knolly Chilcotin here.
I ignore so much their quirks and flaws that I don't even know what they are Big Grin
  • 6 0
 Great read! U guys should do a top 5 old bikes (ahead of there time) 2012 or older with adjustable geometry that can be set up close to today's geometry's????
  • 2 0
 good idea @mikelevy
  • 4 0
 The only bike I have is an '04 Bullit rockin an '06 Zocchi 66SL. The only components newer than 2006 are tires, grips, bars, stem and pedals. Everything else is almost a full decade old, including the entire drivetrain, brakes, wheelset, etc. Weighs about 36-37lbs and as I'm never in a hurry goin up, it does everything I need. I'm perfectly comfortable on it and it's fun as hell, and anytime I think I need to spend my last 5k on a new bike, I think about Berrecloth hucking a superman seatgrab on a Bullit at Rampage way back in '03 or something like that. I do have plans to replace the bike soon for safety reasons, and that frame is getting hung on my wall like a slashed Picasso. Almost nothing on that bike is great anymore and it simply just doesn't matter. Nice article ; )
  • 6 0
 I think Mike should sum up every bike he has tested this past year in just one sentence.
  • 2 0
 "A little sluggish on the climbs but decends like a rocket."
  • 1 0
 That could also argue ably be the rider Smile
It described every bike I've ridden but I think it might just be me that is sluggish on the climbs
  • 3 0
 When I built up my current bike I was let down a bit with the way it handled in the parking lot, what with the floppy slack head angle and all. As time goes by, I guess I was lucky I decided to go that way because my riding style has progressed a bit and some of the traits that weren't on top of the list (like head angle, and frame stiffness despite only weighing 75 kg) would be there next time.

I tend to also look to see if the bike is going to age gracefully. Creaks, groans, stiff joints and worn out parts after the honeymoon is over is a let down.

Don't look down on a cheap trick, either. If you haven't taken a dirt bike out for a spin you don't know how much fun you're missing. Doesn't have to be carbon this and 11-speed that for a good time, sometimes it gets in the way.
  • 3 0
 Design will always be a compromise of things. Evolution and technology lead to the compromises getting smaller, but they're always be there.

Fortunately, humans are very adaptable creatures, so unless you're a pro athlete looking for the ultimate performance,you can have a pretty good time riding "flawed" bikes.
  • 4 1
 Get a bike that suits most of your riding needs then tweak it to your own personal needs...that's why companies are developing and selling offset kits, after market shock tuning, bars, stems, etc. Ride the bike. Then decide what would suit you and your needs better.

Bike manufacturers go for the middle of the road in the genre of bike they develop and sell. They have to take an average. It's fun to find your genre then personalise.

To me..as I've been riding them for 7 years..is that 29" wheels were/are the real game changer in all but the most demanding DH disciplines...and will continue to be so as manufacturers are delivering such fantastic 29ers such as Evil, Santa Cruz, Specialized, intense, Trek, Whyte etc.

The other factor is you need time to get used to a bike. A couple of runs doesn't cut it. A couple of months does. Hence why so many riders love "their old 26"... Put simply you are used to it and have adapted your riding to suit...and why so many riders coming from decades on 26" just don't get on with 29" and default to 27.5" as its familiar.

A great article. Hits it on the nose ( we are all different).

Get on that old 26" and enjoy !

My pennith.
  • 3 0
 I have a crappy 'crosstrail' (which literally translates to 'Good at Nothing') 27.5 HT, slapped a cheap old 29er Recon on, runs a 2.4 MKing at the front (cos damned, it's too wide for the rear) and a DHF 2.3 at the rear (cos damned, it's too skinny for my other ride) - screwed the BB height, screwed the HT angle, screwed the ST angle, screwed the stack, screwed the WB, screwed everything but the wallet and it rocks! for me at least. 'Flawest' of them all!
  • 3 0
 Except that it’s a 26er...such a dinosaur, I know...both my 2012 and now my ‘super cheap, blow out priced’ 2014 Specialized Stumpjumper Expert Carbo Evos are perfect. It climbs and descends perfectly and because it has great geometry and is so light, it’s a nimble, fun, blast to ride. It’s such a great bike that I don’t care that it’s a 26er. I know my wallet sure appreciates it.
  • 3 0
 Another aspect to consider, accessibility of components and how easy they are to work on. A.k.a. why the hell does ENVE use internal nipples? I'm not taking my tire and rim tape off every time one or two spokes need half a turn.
  • 5 1
 My mom got her driving license in Mexico, so I know for a fact that she bought it! My bike could climb and descend better, or maybe that would be me.
  • 5 0
 Or to put it another way: all riders are flawed and their desires are fluid and insatiable.
  • 3 1
 Bikes are only individually flawed if you compare them to other bikes. For its intended purpose, every bike is perfect. Sure you could point out the shortcomings of almost any bike, but the bike company could, in turn, simply explain why the bike just isn't designed to perform in that regard. So maybe we should just ride the bike and enjoy it for what it is.
  • 2 1
 It's true; there's no such thing as the perfect bike thanks to personal taste. That said, since you brought up the Strive, what if Shapeshifter WASN'T finicky? How would that change the discussion? You mentioned that neither geometry nor suspension defines a bike's character, but I'd argue that the combination of both, for the most part, does. Mountain bikes have evolved a lot since their inception, particularly in suspension and drivetrains, and now that the focus is moving to more progressive geometry, I can't help but see smooth and reliable geometry adjustment as the next step. Geometry is by nature a compromise; it can be refined to a point (the point of one rider's typical use) but a head angle can't be simultaneously steep and slack. Real-time geometry adjust shouldn't have to feel like a crutch; we're comfortable with shifting gears to suit grade and speed. I think it just needs refinement. Would it be that hard to mix something like TALAS with something like Shapeshifter in an intuitive way?
  • 8 6
 Travel adjustment has always been and always will be the best way to enhance bicycles range of application. Shapeshifter isn't even close. Ability to steepen the seat and head angle by 2 degrees as well as lowering the cockpit by 4cm, makes every climb easier. Talas is unfortunately giving such feature a quita bad name as it has never been reliable. Just like 2-step or Manitous RTWD.

Unfortunately trend sluts tend to look only at negatives and have ruined it for everyone. Bloody geometry nazis talking crap, evangelising the world about how dialed and balanced a geo of a trail bike must be. It is super fine to adjust dual crown fork height or add/remove stem spacers for DH rig but running a 180 fork on a 6" bike? Nooo that puts BB too high and bla bla bla.

When I had a 6" Nomad I rode it with Lyrik U-Turn and it was the most allround and adaptable thing anyone could ever imagine. I want one again and I will put Talas 140-180 RC2 on it.
  • 2 1
 The coil uturn was always so reliable, but my style and skill level being what they are I tend to like a 67 degree head angle whether going up or down. I am neither a great climber nor descender, but I can have fun doing either with my bike as it is.
  • 3 1
 I also really want a Talus 180 for my adjustable geo and travel Kona. We saw a couple of 180s at the whistler enduro so not everyone thinks it is a bad Idea. If we use the 1 inch of fork equates to about a degree of head angle I'd have 69.5 to 66.5 variation which sounds perfect to me. Yes magic link bikes are quirky even for Kona's but, that's why I love it.
  • 2 0
 On my Bashee Rune the coil U-turn Lyrik makes so much sense, full travel slack mode and 26" dh wheels for DH or drop the fork to 145 and flip the rear into high mode and put on light wheels for flatter trail.

A new 180/140 external adjust 650B fork would be ideal but reliability for travel adjust air forks seems a be a bit of a gamble. I wonder how much of a bodge it would be to fit the old lyrik U-turn spring into the new lyrik chassis? If internal diameter and top threads match i should be doable..
  • 1 0
 It should fit fine but the uturns are all limited to 160mm. There was a german company making a mod to increase it to 180 or 170 (for lyrik or domain). I bought one for myself and my brother. It worked out nicely.
  • 2 0
 @Feeblesmith - I want my Lyrik back... i'll buy a charger unit for it, you can take my 36 Van RC2 hahaha Big Grin
  • 2 0
 @ Taletotell _ I did the mod to 170 with a spacer, the U-turn unit itself goes to 180 but the original rebound runs out of stroke at 175.

@Waki - sure we can! Then I could adjust head angle by switching 650B and 26 front wheels instead. I am naive enough to chance that you are actually serious, even just a bit.
  • 1 0
 with the new charger the old lyrik could be a 180 uturn then. very nice.
  • 2 1
 It's funny that you mention the Breezer's travel ran out quickly because I ran into the same problems when I test rode the bike. I put approximately 150 miles on the bike while testing, I am a pretty aggressive rider and found the bike to climb very well yet descended just as good if not better while adding various amounts of air spacers, I found myself still running a bit more air than usual. Overall the bike rides very good, some bash the North Bay product that is Breezer but that is where MTB started, give em a chance and you might find yourself liking what is under you.. Just add a 50mm stem and a nice set of bars!
  • 3 2
 Struggling to replace my old 2014 26" Canyon Strive, it does everything well in the Lakes, the kit it came with is strong enough for the abuse it takes and easy to service. Been looking at Mondraker Dune, YT Capra and another Strive but they all seem to have flaws, maybe I'll just stick with what I've got and see if I can get another 12 months out of it before it wears out completely!
  • 1 0
 Bike: NS Soda Evo Air

Low-speed flaws: long wheelbase, slack HTA, a few pounds heavier than an XC bike

High-speed flaws: not quite as plush as full-on DH bike, and I had to grind a sliver off the chainstay to fit a mere 34t (oval) chainring

But come on... it weighs 13 pounds less than my DH bike, soaks up the bumps very nearly as well, climbs just fine, jumps great, fits great, and taking the wiiiide line around switchbacks is second nature to me now. I don't see myself shopping for another bike for a very long time.
  • 2 0
 Sodas are amazing, I just wish they'd make an xl
  • 5 1
 Every one of my bikes is "perfect" because they are mine, I built them, they are my babies
  • 2 0
 Buy a bike that satisfies the 90% rule and you'll be fine with almost everything you do. Sure, compromise is natural; but it'll make you a stronger rider if it complements your weaknesses!
  • 1 0
 I don't know... I've seen all bikes come and go, I've been in the game since ' 91 , have ridden lots of bikes seen trends come and go.. All I know, is the do everything bike is out there, it's up to the Rider to embrace it!!!! Wait looking for the bike to do all the work and get out there and have fun. That's why we ride, it's fun...
  • 2 1
 My 2015 Carbon Santa Cruz Nomad Blows me away (650b). I finally found my perfect machine. I can climb 3,000 ft + no problem and comfortable, and I can send big jumps all day with the safety feel of my Old V10. For me, my nomad has no flaws. The build kit it came with it is boss! I am a downhiller converting to trail riding.
  • 2 1
 Agreed! My Nomad3 is perfect...
  • 1 0
 I'm going to have to disagree. I have ridden the Nomad 3 and while it is good for its intended use, it is still a slug. I would way rather have a bike that pedals decently. I typically try to go on a couple longer rides a week (3+ hours), and the difference is huge. That's why I prefer a mid travel bike (130mm - 140mm).
Also, Nomad + long cranks = lots of pedal strikes if you're not extra careful (also depends on the terrain)
  • 2 0
 I ride rolling rough singletrack with short steep ups and downs and my Specializwd Enduro 29 roll perfect on them! During an ice storm I use my old Cannondale Prophet with Nokian studded tyres and have a great time!
  • 2 0
 I've had a lot of bikes, and my 2014 Enduro S-Works 26 carbon everything with Ohlins TTX for DH and the stock DB for the trails also is Dj capable is the closest thing to the White Unicorn!
  • 4 0
 Ride any Yeti from the last 5 years. Like a dirt bike up and brown powder down.
  • 1 0
 Quirks is the wrong way of looking at it. I see each bike as having it's own learning curve, and how easily that curve is achieved depends on the match of bike with rider skill. Learning to compensate, anticipate and master your bike's traits will make you a more skilled rider IMO.
  • 1 0
 I have a Gary Fisher Roscoe 2 with upgrades and I love the damn thing regardless of it being an older bike! It's flaws most would say weight but at 32 pounds I can see past the cat-poop mouth flaw. At 140mm it feels great coming down almost anything in SoCal and it climbs ( ALMOST ) like an XC rig, I'm tempted to buy something new and keep my GF but I like it to much even if it's not perfect. It's for sale by the way lol! Good Read...
  • 1 0
 Yes, bikes are flawed. The flaws give the bike its character/ soul. Find a good character and you will always have good times.

I needed a bike that I could put on the back of my SUV and ride it anywhere: Downieville, Santa Cruz, Tahoe, mt. Tam.

I gave up weight(30lbs) for a 6.5" bike that can
Climb, peddle and descend really well.

I will make that trade off any day of the week.
  • 1 0
 Being fortunate enough to have worked in both the bike and motorcycle industries for almost 30 years combined, and have amassed a collection of bikes, the most recent build that I would call as do it all is my knolly chilcotin with avalanche suspension. Fairly light, climbs as good as any bike and better than most, and descends like a world cup dh rig. And a few that i still have, that could fill that spot many years before this article, some faithfuls will recognize are my Balfa 2 steps. Standard and DH versions. Pedal incredible, descend boss and climb like a billy goat. 13 plus years old and still doing the duty like just built on day 1. So the machines are out there, they are just not your run of the mill off the shelf rigs.
  • 1 0
 Next on my bike list is avalanche internals for my basically stock 13' nomad. Already a top performer, the avy kits will take it over the top! The 34 won't be quite like my old dhf8 but alot lighter!
Checked out your race link, and other bmw's(still jealous), I modeled my bighit off of it with avy front and rear, custom 9" link and all. Pretty sure I've seen your bike in person, way back, there was only a handful of us hittin it hard in ct/ri back then.
Cheers
  • 2 0
 I have a Chromag hardtail. It rides exactly like a hardtail should. No flaws there. Pivots never come loose or wear out and neither does the shock. Has lots of room for a water bottle to.
  • 1 0
 I think it's fun to try and hit everything on one bike. I've got no one to race but myself so why not enjoy the challenge of taking one bike through various terrains not necessarily a fit for my bike or me. Sure something's my bike and I just can't do but I love the thing nor do I have the money to ride and upkeep mutiple bikes.
  • 1 0
 One very important lesson I learned that I hope another will take hold of by reading this comment... If you ease up on your brakes it's amazing what your full suspension bike will do. Also it doesn't matter how your squish is set up if your tires are running at 40 psi. Simple changes can affect how your bike performs, I needed to learn these lessons through many poor choices and injuries.
  • 1 0
 Good write up Mike! Nothing can be perfect and if it was then the world would be boring! Bikes are just like the car industry. Sure a Prius is great on fuel but if your looking to pull a fifth wheel then your going to need that big Chevy Duramax! As much as we wish a bike could excel at everything, you need to look at how your riding style is and what terrain you'll be riding. If you can get out to demo a few different company bikes, only then will you find the right match!
  • 4 0
 Mrs cat poo breath. Was there an article after that?
  • 8 0
 Doesn't that just reflect the stinkiness of Mike's junk?

:-)
  • 1 0
 So true, I spent so long picking the bike that I thought I needed which always turned out wrong instead of listening to logic and buying a bike suited to my local trails which i ride 90% of the time
  • 2 1
 There was a year in mountain bike history where the worlds collided, the river met the sea, the flaws were just not noticed, and the fun was captured forever pure and bright. And that year was 2007.
  • 2 0
 My dmr bolt L was actually designed and developed around my local area on trails that I ride so I figured its the best for me! And it's hella fun to ride too
  • 2 0
 I have one too. It's an absolute beast. It's easy to forget that it only has 125mm of travel.
  • 1 0
 Yeah, it's mad! Just taken it up to rogate this morning, where it was developed along with Surrey hills which are half hour from me! Takes everything I can throw at it and then some. Awesome bike
  • 3 1
 Why are we still on the bash the Lefty bandwagon? It may not be a Pike, but it is miles ahead of ANYTHING Fox has produced in the last 5 years
  • 1 0
 I'm pretty much always searching for 'perfect'. But perfect evolves and means different things in different places. If anything perfect means what's working really well right now, what I'm used to.
  • 1 0
 Love this. However I would say the numbers can and do explain everything that you're talking about, it just takes a very detailed look, much beyond how much suspension travel is claimed.
  • 1 0
 This was a go article; though, people should never feel afraid to offend anyone. As there is no right to not be offended. And, we should not protect people who have problems being irresponsible with their feels.
  • 1 0
 @smoothlandin
yeah man the avy stuff is def. My fav. Has been since he first started.
I wont even buy or build a bike that cant fit one on it!
Keep me on the list for spring / summer, lets go romping !!
  • 1 1
 Comparing two bikes "designed for different purposes" is obviously going to make them be different. Comparing two or more direct competitors in the same category the differences will be more imaginary than actual especially for regular folk who don't need something to write about.
  • 1 0
 The perfect bicycle is the most reliable and versatile. We do not want sacrifice speed to stiffness. Most people do not compete.
  • 1 0
 my SB66 doesn't really work in slow speeds. fortunately, riding slow scares me... (that doesn't automatically mean I'm faster than you)
  • 1 0
 love my 2013 Norco shinobi great all around bike have ridden lots of other bike with great characteristics ,but the shinobi just feel right to me
  • 3 0
 All these comments read like a therapy SESSION.
  • 1 2
 Most frames are patternparts drawn up in a place and by people far removed from actual or-riding. Geometry is usually too steep, short and bearings wrong, underengineered to a virtual price point. Visual styling is more important than actualfunction. As such they are extremely flawed products with a high owners anguish factor. No marketing blitz changes that and thus small owner businesses get my bidding. Wear and breakage now happens only with Sramano crap. Wish there more alternatives.
  • 1 0
 Hey PB,if you think those 8000$ bikes you got to test are flawed,spare a thought about us poor fckers riding entry level or beat up bikes.
  • 2 0
 Great article. And very true. I'm looking for another bike to add .
  • 3 2
 My bike isn't flaud, it's the rider had tons to learn. I'll never get my skills close to what my bikes can handle.
  • 2 0
 TL;DR... my bike is PERFECT!
  • 3 1
 Just get a nomad and you will be content
  • 2 2
 Noooo, the last S-WORKS Enduro 26' is more all-around when have an Ohlins TTX as an extra shock for DH days.. since you can only get Ohlins on a 160mm from specialized right now. 26' for DJs and sub 27lbs for trails w/ stock DB shock
  • 1 1
 Giant Reign flaw: Quick release rear skewer which comes loose on xc trails after an hour of riding. Shit could kill if you don't notice it.
  • 4 0
 2015 Reign here. Thousands of Kms on it this year and the rear release hasn't come loose once.
  • 3 0
 2015 Reign here, too. Hundreds of Kms on it this year and the rear release hasn't come loose once.
  • 9 0
 Quick release skewers are pretty low-tech things, and one coming loose is in no way related to the bike.

Inspect it or replace it (it's a $10 part on a $4000 bike, what are you doing?).
  • 1 0
 I've seen others with the problem, but it must be something i'm doing - like not tightening it properly or something.
  • 1 0
 "nutelladonut" I had the same issue one time on a 2008 Reign X0. Converted rear hub to a 135x10 axel and not only did I never have the problem again but the rear end was noticeably more rigid. Worth the $$ & I Highly recommend this for anyone on a rig with standard rear drop-outs.
  • 1 0
 @E-ROG Cheers, i'll look into it now that riding season has started down here and i have a 3 month break. Big Grin
  • 2 0
 do not overanalize things! breath-relax-go out and RIDE!!!!!
  • 1 0
 I think nomad is a nearly perfect bike, able to handle nearly any trail. I even ride mine for XC trails
  • 2 0
 How dare you insult the almighty burrito. Bad food, nothing!
  • 1 0
 great article, nice to see someone in the knows' opinion on different bikes in a similar category
  • 1 0
 Mike: you have dated a girl with donkey breath... Do you want to talk about it?
  • 4 1
 Who gives a flying fuck.
  • 1 0
 Indeed all bikes that produced has flaws. For example you can't ride road bike on DH track.
  • 2 0
 I'm the flawed one, leave my bike out of it!
  • 1 0
 Chris Akrigg seems to be able to ride any old bike better then most? on rather "normal" bikes?
  • 1 0
 more bike than i'll ever need? shut your bitch ass up. some us us are still out here breaking bikes like it was 1999
  • 1 0
 "Kona's Process 167 is a short travel DH bike".

Funny, they used to call them Freeride bikes.
  • 1 0
 So many awesome bikes now. Agree Darknut, my carbon Covert blows my mind every time I ride it.
  • 2 1
 What about enduro or slash?
  • 1 0
 And then and at band camp.....
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy - curious did you marry Ms. Catpoo breath?
  • 1 0
 Nope.
  • 2 1
 This applies to all bikes except for the Nomad 3.
  • 2 0
 Just go ride!
  • 1 0
 Climbing highline. I know that turn well.
  • 1 0
 Why does it matter if they all ride like a session?
  • 1 0
 Transition Covert = Perfect bike
Dumb move to quit making it.
  • 1 0
 The Best have their flaws; the Worst, their Virtues. Like people
  • 1 0
 It's not the bike that's flawed, it's the rider.
  • 1 0
 ooh i want that Kona!
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