So, which FS 29er to buy, hmmmm? Beats me, but I have narrowed it down and my choices have been heavily influenced by the time spent on the KM.
I have been very impressed by how little you can get away with regarding suspension travel and gearing choice after riding this bike. I would have been very skeptical a few months ago if you had told me that a rigid SS 29er is a viable bike in most conditions. I still know it is not a one-bike-solution for me, but now if you told me that now, I would nod my head and say "yeah, I can see that". I have been running the front M29 fork locked out for a lot of climbing lately as I have begun to appreciate how it does not drop the h-bar height as I stand to climb. The other day, I forgot to unlock the fork and headed down a very fast, albeit smooth, down hill and only realized I had screwed up when I hit the bottom and the rougher creek bed. "Huh", I thought. Interesting.
And I have really enjoyed not having a grannygear. I would not want to pedal the Rockies this way, but on a group ride, while other riders spun away like mad hamsters up a steep, rocky climb, I pedaled up in the 32/34 and never missed a beat. Now I could not have done that for a one mile climb of that pitch, but it proves a point that you can make do with less if you have more....more wheel size that is. It is the 29er wheel and the hard tail frame that has made all this work for me.
The bigger wheel is so much smoother that less suspension is needed unless you are talking drops and hucks, etc. The bigger wheels really seem to come alive when a bigger gear leads to more momentum and torque. No science to back this up, but it sure works for me on the trail. The HT just gives back so much of your effort and puts it into the ground. I am spoiled by the pedaling efficiency. I jumped on a Gary Fisher Cake and pedaled it a bit and I thought it was broken or had a flat tire or something. Ick.
So, I think that in my neck of the woods and for the way I ride, the FS needs to be a few things: Light, a fast pedaler, agile, and good on long climbs. I have struggled with 3" or 4" of travel. I think 3" in the back and 4" up front would work well. A good 3" bike should pedal well and be a bit lighter. The 4" fork will take the bigger hits and the rear wheel should follow nicely with less travel.
My choices as of now:
Titus Racer X 29er
Niner JET 9
Lenz 3" Leviathan
and....just to look a bit at what is supposed to be a very firm pedaling and light 4" bike, the Gary Fisher HiFi is being demoed at a local riding area and I am planning to check it out. Fisher bikes tend to break an awful lot. Not too crazy about that.
The JET 9 could be the hands down winner. I like the .25" shorter CS length and it looks built for agility and speed over long distances. Not on the market yet though and I am too nervous to pre-order one without feedback from new owners. I am not an early adopter by trade. If not, the Racer X is no spring chicken but is so proven, it is no gamble at all.
We shall see. In the meantime, I am happy with less on my Monkey, but I better buy soon before I talk myself into a fully rigid 29er SS.