Monday, February 1, 2010

Short Links = Hot links???

The era of the 'short link' bike is here in spades. Turner and Pivot have the DW, Niner the CVA, Santa Cruz has VPP, Giant has Maestro and who knows how many others are out there. If you read the marketing spiel and the ravings of many owners you would think that this relagates every other FS design to the dustbin of history. Buggy whips, perhaps, in the age of the auto.

I have dabbled on some of these bikes before and I have been impressed in some ways and not in others. To me, they felt best when seated and pedaling and I tend to like to get out of the saddle and climb. They did seem to hook up real well when climbing rough stuff and they did not require much ProPedal (but some STILL do) . Other than that...? Some designs have been downright ugly looking as well if aesthetics mean anything.

Now, extended ride time on the Tall Boy has been very interesting. VPP II (second generation) is pretty good and I see the appeal. Getting back on the older design of the Epic's FSR should have felt out of date if you believe the marketing hype of many short link bike builders. Forget even thinking about a simple single/high pivot bike. Stone age.

But I will tell ya' that my last bike, a Cannondale Prophet 130mm travel single/high pivot bike pedaled great overall and was very very fun to trail ride on. It could have been stiffer in the back end, and it had the traits of its breed (some which are a plus in my mind), but it was easy to understand and maintain and it was fun to ride.

The FSR is not all that great as an XC bike without the Brain shock, but the Epic with the Mini Brain is freaking fabulous if you care greatly about a fast pedaling bike. The jabs tossed at it as being a poor design covered up with a gimmicky shock smell of sour grapes to me. It works and it works well. Why do you care why it works? It is not perfect either, but it is effective.

Reading the list of claims made by the short link bikes folks as to the bennies of that type of design are pretty amazing. It seems that before this was made that we were all riding FS bikes that sucked and now all the other designs are off the back.


Any FS design is a compromise. Any of them. They will all have plusses and minuses and traits that you may or may not like depending on the values you really want in your ride. For instance the Epic is not as comfy or as good as the Tall Boy for seated pedaling up and over techy trails. The platform of the Brain adds juuust a bit or harshness and if you take that out with tuning it will wallow a bit and squat some. The Tall Boy cannot quite match the tighter and faster feeling pedaling response of the Epic and the Brain feels awesome on the trail at moderate to higher speeds.

So, I care more about how it feels when I stand and pedal hard or sit and spin fast then how it bumps up over logs and broken rocks in the saddle. It is a matter of where I ride and what I value, not that the bike is better than the other overall.

Combine that with the fact that even short link bikes are not the same as far as ride traits from one brand to the next and it even gets harder to make a broad claim of short link superiority. Also, the overall build of the bike is still important. A nifty link system on an otherwise poorly engineered bike is no step forward. It would be interesting to hear from owners that moved from some older design into the bright future. I bet there are some that feel they gave up as much as they gained in some ways.

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