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I recently bought a 2012 Epic comp 29" and am super excited to start hitting the trails, back country, camping, etc., but I'm starting to think I should have bought a bike with more mm of travel. I've been doing a lot of reading up on the sport while also checking out videos and stuff, and I noticed that a lot of riders go with a Specialized Camber or Enduro for the "do everything" type of bike, so my questions are:

  1. is 100mm of travel enough for a do everything kind of bike?
  2. also, say down the road, can I change my shocks to have a higher mm of travel?

I'm new to MTB and was curious if I made the right choice with the Epic, as my fears are that I will do a some jumps, etc and not have enough travel, thus damaging my bike. Any feedback is greatly appreciated!

UPDATE: not sure if my weight is a factor, but i'm about 160lbs, 5'7"

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No bike is perfect. And there is no "do everything" kind of bike. –  Daniel R Hicks Aug 2 '12 at 19:31
    
@DanielRHicks that does not really answer any of my concerns. nothing is perfect in life, so i'm not sure where that came from. what i meant by "do everything" is a bike that is versatile - climbing or descending. Downhill or XC –  fady Aug 2 '12 at 19:49
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I'm reminded of the advice I used to give people when they bought a new computer, back when a computer was two months' salary: After you buy it, don't read any computer ads for at least 6 months -- otherwise you'll be constantly worried that you made the wrong decision. –  Daniel R Hicks Oct 20 '12 at 1:30
    
Watching the XC mountain biking events from the Olympics seemed to suggest that the pros actually prefer hardtails with no rear suspension at all, so travel isn't everything. –  GordonM Oct 20 '12 at 10:55
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4 Answers

up vote 11 down vote accepted

I'm going to see how many answers I can say this in today - don't overthink it.

A 100mm full suspension 29er is going to be able to shred anything you can throw at it for a long time. That's a good amount of travel to start with, and on a 29er it's going to feel like even more while staying efficient. The epic has a really well balanced geometry as well. It's not too twitchy, and it's not so slacked out that you have to fight it through twisty slow stuff.
Full squish 29ers are great 1st mtbs because they are so versatile. Plus if you end up really enjoying mtbing, then believe me, you will end up owning more than one bike down the road so don't sweat your decision- you made a good one.
While you own the one you have, swap with buddies, go to demo days, take advantage of opportunities to ride different styles of bikes instead of just guessing what type you think sounds good for your next purchase.
Keep in mind that everything is a trade-off. More mm of travel equals more fun to point down technical descents, but less fun to get there, and less precise handling. Heavy big squish bikes can be really taxing for riding cross country, which I'm assuming is what you'll be starting off doing.

Regarding your 2nd question, you can safely go up 20mm in the front (fork) although it will slack the geometry out a bit. The RockShox Reba that came installed on that bike can be converted to 120 by removing a couple of spacers inside the fork (it may only be 10mm of spacers that can be removed in newer models, ask your dealer). As for the rear shock, that's a bigger can of worms that you probably don't want to open.

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thanks for all this info jm2. –  fady Aug 3 '12 at 0:27
    
@fady sure thing. Enjoy the bike. –  joelmdev Aug 3 '12 at 0:51
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I have a hard tail 29er (Motobecane from bikes direct) with 100mm of travel and do ride everything from cross country trails with friends to downhill trails with my son. I put narrower tires on for a long 50 mile fireroad type of ride (tons of fun) I did last month and wider tires for when it gets really wet in the pacific northwest (most of the time).

  1. I agree with Daniel, there really isn't a 'do everything' bicycle, but with 100mm of travel your ride will be plenty comfortable.

  2. I don't know. I'm sure people have put higher travel forks on bikes and ran them fine. The frame was designed to run with 100mm of travel, increasing the travel more than 10% might not ride well with the angles and dimensions of the frame/headset.

With proper air in the fork it will be hard to bottom it out. I have that same fork on my bike and hit the smaller jumps on the downhill trails and it does just fine. I don't have the guts to hit the really big jumps my son hits.

I think you made a great choice with the Epic.

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thanks much for this detailed answer! this is my first mb, so i don't really know much about a lot :\ –  fady Aug 2 '12 at 20:00
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If you wipe the top of the fork between rides you can get an idea of how far you are compressing the fork. Some folks put a loose wire tie on it and measure the amount of deepest compression. I just look at the dirt marks. As your skill and confidence grow you may notice that you are getting closer to bottoming out. Until you reach that point your stock fork should be enough. –  mikes Aug 2 '12 at 20:43
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I prefer hard tail/forks, I feel like I have better control in tight/quick maneuvers, but there are times when I need that extra cushion and just run the standard RockShox and have never felt like they are not enough. Just learn to catch your self on the back and absorb as much as you can with your legs and arms. Especially with your first bike, you should not have any problems bottoming out that fork, unless you are dropping cliffs that I would be scared of... –  BillyNair Aug 2 '12 at 23:10
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Epic is a fantastic bike. Its more "Do Everything" Than a Camber or Enduro. Those bikes wont climb as well as the epic. With a simple fork change as suggested here you could be just as fast on the downs with big drops as a camber. –  Matt Adams Aug 2 '12 at 23:57
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To shortly answher your question :You can aproximate a proper bike to buy, but you can be sure only by actually riding it long enough.

Now, to elaborate my answer:

First of all, there is no such thing as a true "do it all bike". However, there might be a bike that perfectly suits all YOUR needs, as long as they are reasonably close. For an extreme example, ther will be no bike that allows you to jump rampage style 5 meter drops while being so lightweight that you can climb the Everest on it. Having that said, lets asume your needs are not to far from each other in the MTB activities spectrum.

Most people think suspenssion travel is the (only) key factor determinig the habilities of a bike, but actually other factors can be even more decisive.

Fork tuning: Any fork that has good adjustment capabilities, asuming your ideal setup falls inside the fork's range, will have also a configuration that you'll feel terrible. A decent contemporary fork should have at least two adjustments: Preload/Sag, rebound speed.

Preload and sag are intimately related, being sag the amount of travel taken by the fork by just aplying rider's weight to the bike. Every manufacturer will state an apropriate sag range for every fork model. Rider weigth affects sag, and you reduce it by increasing preload, or augment sag by decreasing preload. But there is a range (instead of a single solid number) for a reason: two diferrent people, riding the same bike will handle it with their own style, technique, etc... For example, when I descend a rocky XC trail, I do it standing on the bike, in a neutral posture and "helping" suspension with my elbows (and knees), therefore, I tend to use more preload (less sag) for a more precise handling, and a more responsive feel. My father, instead, will take the same trail seated, leaned back as fas as he can go, so he tunes his suspension towards the higher sag recomended value. Neither of us will feel comfortable/comfident riding each other's bike.

Rebound speed is how fast the suspension will return to its "normal" position after hitting a bump. Rebound speed is also intimately related to rider's personal technique, but also the ridden terrain, to the degree that some riders use a different setting for some trails than for others. In my case, as a DH rider, I usually set rebound according to the particular track, but as a XC rider, I just have set a rebound speed that is a fair compromise that will allow me to confidently ride most of the trails I use to ride.

Fork Design: Further than just travel, check what's the indended use and rider weight of your fork. There are, for example, 100mm XC forks, 100mm Dirt Jump forks, and I have seen 100mm forks for commuting/touring/hauling bikes. For each one different design choices have been made, and ones can be unsuitable for other uses. For example, a fork designed for a skinny rider may be imposible to adjust properly for a chubby one. Or a fork made for a hauling bike will be perceived "rock solid" if put in a lightweight XC bike for a small rider.

Rider related factors Besides factors related to the fork, there are factors related to the rider. Note I have mentioned "style" and "personal technique" several times. These are characteristic that a rider develops with time and practice, but also, they evolve once established. Thus, a "proper" fork tuning is espected to change over time, specially for a beginner rider (even if beginer in one specific discipline and expert in another).

Changes in rider's body also affect performance, style, technique. These factors are normally changing, except maybe for stablished professional riders and a few other, but for most of us, "simple mortal riders", we are constantly gaining or loosing weight, aging, going through fatigue/recovering cycles, etc... All of them change "who we are" while on top of our bikes, so, the perfect bike one day, can be a terrible one a few months later, but may become ideal once again later. Consider in this category injury recovery time.

Other components of the bike When you swap some component you may be changing bike handling characteristics. The most likely to interarct directly with rider's perception of the fork is the chosen tire. Some tires will contribute positively or negatively to handling. For example a hard rubber tire with low adhesion is not a good combo with a fast rebounding fork. But a soft tire, with good traction and specially a fat one that can be used with less presure may work wonders with the same fork setting. Rim, spokes and wheel lacing are also factors to include in the ecuation, though to a lesser extent.

Practical considerations You mention "... start hitting the trails...", that leads me to think you are kind of novice. (Please excuse me if not the case). That means you will be growing in experience, technique, possibly getting more fit and also trying harder challenges, longer rides, faster racing, etc. With all of these you may find yourself wanting to change something on your bike, or even the hole bike, but you can not know for sure until you ride it long enough.

You get your new bike, make sure to "properly" fit and tune it, but remember: most setings and specific measurements for fitting and set up are given in ranges, you get to choose the specific value for each. Even so, many fitting rules are actually starting points, not unbreakable laws, so you can deviate slightly or not no slightly from them to suit your specific needs. Also, a single setting may not be enough for all the things you ride, sometimes you'll have to cope with the compromise, sometimes you'll have to plan ahead and tune your bike for what you'll be doing.

The same goes for all the bike, including the fork, so, don't get desperate if you find yourself making constant changes during the first months. As long as you ride enough, you'll find the sweet spot for every adjustment that can be made. So, if after riding enough, after learning about the practical limits of your bike and your body, you find yourself hitting the extreme of an adjustment dial, the maximum or minimum extension of something, then, start considering to change that component.

It is advisable to change one adjustment at a time, so you cope with less variables. Do the adjustment, test it by riding, do not just take a few loops in your backyard or in the street in front of home, cope with the differencies for a while and then evaluate if it's really better or worse. When you make an adjustment, I recomend: change it until you notice it is too much, then go back a little.

P.S. Do not get overwhelmed in case I've thrown too much information, if you are a beginner, you will lear all of this an a lot more step by step. the general idea of the whole answer is (again): You can aproximate a proper bike to buy, but you can be sure only by actually riding it long enough.

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Any bike is a 'do anything bike'. The question is, how hard do you want it to be? I have a rigid bike, front suspension, and full suspension. I ride the same trials with all three. Which depends on what kind of ride I want. Highly technical and challenging = rigid. Fun, fast and easy = Full suspension.

100mm used to be the standard for ling travel years ago. Guys were riding pretty sick stuff back then on older hardware and it stood up to it. Now things are better, but longer travel is more common. Needed? Nope. Just available and makes it easier.

For a smaller build like yours I would say 100mm is plenty and you are not likely to break stuff. My friends who are 220+ never did despite their crazy lines and drops.

One rule I learned way too late: the sport is best enjoyed riding. Get out and ride.

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+1 For the last line advice –  astabada Oct 23 '12 at 10:43
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