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Time to Upgrade: The best "marathon" bike?

By Tristania - Posted on 07 December 2015

NB: Originally posted elsewhere on the Global Riders Network and appears via syndication.

Well, I know this is going to turn into a never-ending debate, but, heck, it gives people something to do with their time, and as a bonus, it may actually give me some useful information.

The question: What is the best bike currently available (or to be available within the next six months) to be ridden by a serious contender in a mountain bike marathon?

The context: Two and a half years into my predicted lifespan of my 29er Trek Superfly, I've started to realize that it is soon going to be time to start thinking about a possible upgrade for it. It's been a great bike that has suited my riding style well, as well as the type of riding that I do.

I am convinced that, universally, 100mm travel dual suspension 29er bikes are the optimum bike for a 100km marathon encompassing a variety of terrain, and seeing as the Superfly is now defunct, my natural choice of upgrade is its successor, the Trek Top Fuel. But I'm keen to hear what others think is currently the rage on the market - is a 29er dually the best marathon bike in other people's eyes and if so, which is the best 29er dually?

I think the leading contenders haven't changed that much in the last couple of years. For me it was Spesh Epic or Scalpel. Scalpel won it on value for money - 11kg bike for $4.5k (at the time) with a stiff frame and great geometry was hard to go past.

I rode your bike and really liked the suspension, but found the frame to be quite flexy in the rear end in comparison. Now that I have my suspension sorted out (which if you recall I was grumbling about at the time), I'm enjoying the Scalpel more than ever.

I read on another forum that LaPierre has some of their carbon models on runout for as little as sub-$3k. Could be worth a look.

The Spesh Epic has the Brain shock and fork. Set up properly I reckon it would be the ultimate in not-having-to-think-about-it pedalling efficiency for marathon racing. Some comment that they can be a harsh ride as the Brain units can be a bit laggy in opening up. I wouldn't mind having one to play with for awhile to see for myself.

I wouldn't worry about anything less than a 29er wheel size unless you are a midget whippet.

I went through the same process when buying my bike. I also wanted a marathon bike - something light, 29", able to fit a full size bidon in the frame (not under), comfortable, decent climbing and if it looked good then that was a bonus.

I ended up with the Jet 9 RDO. I've only done the Kowalski 100 on it so far but I loved it, the bike never missed a beat and while loads of others were complaining of pains in their lower backs and arms from all the single track, I felt good.

Niner have just released a new XC bike called the RKT which may be worth looking at but I think that's more XCO.

 photo 20150821_074751_zpsjvinzslz.jpg

....If you buy a top of the range XC dually from any decent brand and its weight is say 10.5kg all inclusive then I don't believe your results will differ between brands.

For example Julien Absalon seemed pretty decent when he rode for Orbea, and seems to be coping with BMC as well. I think (no research done) that if you look at the pro's who change teams/sponsors, the bike makes very little difference to the rankings.

Closer to home, Nobmob's own Minter bought his first race bike in about 2012, a Scott Scale 29er and won the Fling on it for the first time. In 2014 he had bought a Scalpel and won the Fling on it.

So to my mind it becomes either buy what you like the feel/look/brand image of if you have the cash, or buy the best spec/weight (i.e. value) proposition within your budget if cash is constrained, and I always aim to buy the last years model which at the top end should be discounted by at least 30-35%.

However, if interested, at the 2015 Cape Epic, 36% of riders were on Specialized, 14% on Scott, and 9% on Cannondale (may have been more in the beginning but they cracked during the race Eye-wink)

I have to agree with Chitts on this. Bikes of similar specs and weight wont have any real difference. Buy the one you think will be the fastest and it will be Smiling

To get ideas of whats available I normally jump on bike exchange, just filter to 29er dually and sort with the most expensive at the top and start scrolling though.

....I do the same as Brian does, but what is frustrating is that for Specialized (not sure what other brands), none of the stores around Sydney use it, while Victoria and WA shops clearly do.

Yeah just do Australia wide to get ideas. You'll get a lot of duplicates but once you have a better idea then start narrowing your search down

Given that all agree - most are similar in weight and performance, its the small things that make the difference.
The Spec has two bottle cage mounts on a dually. Noone else does. For me, on a marathon bike, that is enough to win it alone. The brain is good, the bikes are light - but it wont be any 'faster' than the Superfly or the TopFuel.

The brand everyone is talking about in Oz at the moment is Canyon. Their top end dually is a good one. Will be well priced, light, and well sorted.
Still only has one bidon cage mount though....

Totally agree with the 2 bottle cages makes it a winner. Surely others will eventually go that way.

Funnily enough I'm on the same bike as Tristan (just running carbon rims) and am also looking to upgrade soon. I'll probably get a frame and build up from there if possible.
One of my prerequisites is 2 full sized bottle cages within the triangle - hence why I'm waiting and waiting....... (being very mildly supported by a Trek dealer I almost pulled the trigger on a Trek HT but don't think I can go back to one after the dually).

Yes, quite a topic Tristan.

I won't give my view on bike as I'm one of those people who everytime I get a new bike swears it's the best thing on Earth... I think my current rig is also!

One thing I've always had envy for is the Spec with 2 bottle cage mounts - hey that's hugely important in enduro racing. I hate wearing a Camelbak!

So I haven't been any help so far. I can highly recommend TWS wheels. I just had a set of bling carbons with DT 240 hubs and custom coloured nipples made to match my bike and can absolutely recommend TWS. I recently had a big stack that cost me dearly in bike damage but when it came to wheels TWS gave them a true for nothing and reminded me if I destroyed them from crash damage they would replace at cost.

I'd also get SRAM components. I moved across to Shimano nearly 2 years ago and every time I need new cassette, derailleur, chain rings or bottom bracket I try a million bike shops and local web sites then eventually have to go to Chain Reaction in UK. Shimano Aust don't seem to stock any parts. All the shops will confirm my comments as they basically tell me to go overseas if I want parts.

Having seen you ride, I think you'd be fine on a Kmart special though. We'd still struggle to keep up.

I reckon you're right. I have a seatpost mount for that bit a second cage in the frame would be better.

I can't believe some manufacturers were making XC 29er frames with no room for bottle cages at all!

I've kept a bit of an eye on the double bidon cage, and the only alternative i've come across is from Swift Carbon.. very old-school 29er geo though

Looks nice though. Smiling

Looks great. What makes old school geo

I actually spoke (via email) with SwiftCarbon Aus about the Evil Twin earlier this year. I would love one but the price for the frame alone is close to what I could get a complete Trek Procaliber 9.8 for. The XX1 build Evil Twin is similarly priced to a S-Works Epic though.

Selling my Santa Cruz Tallboy 29er
Full Carbon frame and rear triangle
XL size (similar to Spesh "L")
Fox Talas fork and RP23 rear shock
Easton EA90 wheels
SRAM shifters
Magura carbon brakes
Rotor Q-rings
Rotor Aegilis lightweight cranks
Ritchey carbon bars
RS reverb seatpost
2 bidon cages !
10.8 kgs
excellent condition
...make an offer over $4990


Hang out for the new Liteville 101. It's 120mm travel but if it rides anything like the 301 it will pedal at least as good as any 100mm travel bike.

I've ridden Hans' s Tallboy. It rides very nicely and I really liked the way it converts pedal effort to forward movement. Update the cockpit eith some wider bars and a shorter stem and you've got a race rocket.

I know this is a bit of a flaming - I dont want it to come across as rude, but Tallboys and Litevilles are barely marathon bikes. They are certainly not near the list of 'best' marathon bikes.
Lovely though they both are.....

Was mainly looking at the head angle (71.5) which is rather steep compared to the epic (70.5), and the top fuel (70)

From memory, even racier bikes have been slackening out a little bit in recent years. I'd put the geo in the same class as the Giant Anthem 29er (71) which has yet to undergo any revisions since launch in 2011 - i.e. old school

Sworks Spesh Epic - but i think you already knew my answer !

P.S. I believe Shaun Lewis is selling 2015 model with RS1 in your size that has had very little ride time - he spent alot of time racing on a hardtail last year.

PM if you want his details.

Well I'm glad we could resurrect the topic on bike discussion with a large amount of input from all around. Definitely agree about the 2 bottle cages being a great asset - much better than shoving one in my pocket, but I'll wait and see over the coming months if any deals come flying my way!

I know this is a bit of a flaming - I dont want it to come across as rude, but Tallboys and Litevilles are barely marathon bikes. They are certainly not near the list of 'best' marathon bikes.
Lovely though they both are.....

I'm interested in how many Tallboys or 120mm Litevilles you've ridden to base this on? Tone can be lost on the net so that is a genuine question without meaning to sound rude either. Mine is the only 140mm 301 I've seen around as most go for the 160mm version. I haven't ridden a Tallboy so can't comment on that. My 140mm Liteville pedals better than my old 90mm travel Giant Anthem or my Pivot Mach 5. I'd imagine a properly set up 120mm Liteville would be a very fast and capable marathon bike, as it's designed to be. I'd definitely consider it.

Did you try out the Epic at the recent Specialized demo day Tristan ?
I'm from the epic fan club so my opinion is a little biased. They don't have as many models as before on offer this year and the colours look ugly IMO.
The 2 bottle cage have made my camelbak redundant and I've never used the camelbak since I use the 2 bottle cage frame.
The BRAIN takes a while to get used to. Great bike if you like to go fast Smiling

Canyon website is online with Aussie prices

How about this:

Cannondale now look to have 2 bottle cages on a dually

2 bottles Smiling

I might have to get one.

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