Ask TEAM ROBOT

“What’s worse – Brakes that squeal or gum wall tires?”

Gum wall tires. Squealing brakes may or may not be your fault, but the same isn’t true about your decision to buy gum walls. I’ll use this borderline unforgivable example from one of my favorite people in the world, someone who, unlike you, is on the DO NOT KILL list. He took what would have been a wonderful, tasteful build and did… this:

Et Tu, Brute?

 

To review:

  • The correct number of colored anything on your bike is two, and that includes frame and fork lowers.
  • Stanchion color doesn’t count. It’s like blue jeans: at some point, for some indeterminate reason, everyone agreed it’s okay to pair with anything.
  • Color-matched anodized components are a flag that says “packfill.”
  • The correct color for stems, handlebars, seatposts, rims, spokes, and tires is always black.

 

“Santa Cruz Hightower or Specialized Enduro 29? I like a really progressive, almost impossible to bottom out feel.”

Neither?

The good news is you probably have no idea what you’re talking about, so you might very well be happy with either bike. There are dozens of variables in bike feel, and most riders haven’t ridden enough bikes with enough different setups to actually tease out which variables affect what, beyond the basic ones like frame size, spring rate, BB height, etc. Most riders that get really descriptive about suspension curves, anti-squat percentages, or high speed compression tunes are really saying “I rode a bike once that felt good, and I’ve also ridden bikes that didn’t feel good.” I guarantee you 75% of TR readers and 95% of Pinkbike readers couldn’t take the Pepsi Challenge and tell me the difference between a 66 or 64 head angle on the trail, a Lyric or a 36 on the trail, or small variations in rear suspension leverage rate.

Rear suspension designs are all incredibly similar now. In 2017 we’ve ruled out most of the really wacky shit, and most rear suspension designs these days are, ceteris paribus, rideable (recent phallic monoshock carbon DH bikes excepted). I’m not saying I want to ride a Cube, I’m just saying suspension curves aren’t the reason Cubes are unrideable. Modern suspension designs aren’t homogenous, but every design in 2017 is converging on some very similar characteristics. They’re shooting for a steady falling rate, they’re typically optimized around a 32 chainring for fairly similar anti-squat numbers, axle paths are pretty similar (with the exception of a few high-pivot designs), and overall progression and leverage rates are pretty similar from bike to bike. For instance, we don’t see rising rate designs, we don’t see 2:1 shock rates anymore, and with the advent of trunnion mounts, you’re not going to see many teeny shocks, either. Things are better now.

“It kinda felt like humping an exercise ball, or like someone used a soft-close drawer slide as the damper against this 800-pound spring. AIDS? Can it feel like AIDS? I haven’t had AIDS, but I think that’s what it’s gotta feel like.”

 

Having said that, you picked two notable exceptions. Santa Cruz VPP trail bikes have had a very distinct regressive/flat/progressive curve since… forever? But don’t trust me, ask Uncle Joe about VPP rates throughout history. The new Nomad would be the only SC trail bike that fits your bill because it borrows its linkage from the V10.

Specialized has always had a painfully flat leverage rate, from the Demo 9 to the alloy Demo 8, right up to the current spaceship-seatmast Demos and fancy 2018 Enduro 29er’s. The reason Troy, Aaron, Loris, Loic, Finn, and Miranda all ran custom links is because… drumroll please… the bike is designed by midpack engineers who think Gypsy at Northstar is THE testing ground for DH bikes. They literally *just* changed the leverage rate on the 2018 Enduro, but only for 27.5, because apparently 29er riders don’t hit jumps.

Every team rider has a custom link to get away from the stock configuration. This should inform you about Specialized’s design goals and ideal customer.

 

The fact that you cited either one of those bikes and then asked about “impossible to bottom out feel” leads me to believe you have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m not saying small differences between suspension designs don’t matter- they do. The whole premise of this site is that, no matter what engineers, tech writers, or marketers tell you, everything matters. I’m just saying that, based on what little I know about you, you’re probably not the princess and the pea. If you want a good bike, you should buy the one with the amount of travel and wheel size you need, that fits best based on the geo chart, and then play with air pressure and reducers til it rides like a bike. Seriously, I defy you, stick some volume reducers in the Hightower or Enduro, then take some volume reducers out of a YT Jeffsy, and tell me with a straight face you can feel a difference in progression. (Hint: you can’t)

 

“The 5010’s alright I guess, but the top end of the leverage curve just isn’t giving me enough support.”

 

If you really can’t decide between the LT or the Enduro, you should buy the Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz isn’t perfect as a brand, but they’ve always let you run whatever shock you want, they never went to press fit BB’s on their mountain bikes, they gave the world Ratboy and five years of Rennie, their marketing manager just won whip off worlds, they never made an awkward break up vid for Sam Hill, and (as a percentage of revenue) they’ve poured more money into World Cup downhill than anyone. If you’re ever choosing between two fairly equal products, buy from the brand that makes mountain biking better. If you had to take hard-earned money out of your pocket and give it to either Roskopp or Sinyard… hmmm… tough choice.

 

6 thoughts on “Ask TEAM ROBOT

  1. WUT BOUT PURPLE ANO STEMS? AND TIE DYE KNEE-HIGHS? THOSE R FRED TRAMPLERS FAVORITE BITS OF GEAR

  2. You help fill out the lower pages of the results sheets, i.e. You’re part of the pack, but in name only.

  3. “So you’re a pro racer?”

    “…No, I race in the pro category. There’s a big difference.”

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