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  1. #1
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    Totally unique topic, never before discussed... what bike do I want?

    Getting the itch to try something different. Currently have a large Santa Cruz Hightower. I like a lot of things about it, but there are some spots for improvement and it's a modern enough frame without any/many weird standards, so I might even just be able to find a different frame to parts over and try out, or it's at least relevant enough it shouldn't be too hard to sell.

    So..

    Likes:
    - Pedals well
    - Small bump performance when everything is setup juuuuust right
    - Suspension performance generally speaking
    - Geo is pretty good for an all-rounder (though already getting a bit dated), have saddle slammed forward on rails to compensate for STA.

    Dislikes:
    - Reach could be a bit longer
    - Small bump compliance when I *don't* have everything setup just right
    - Integrated headset prevents tweaking geo with angleset

    Recently demo'd a large carbon Transition Smuggler. Geometry felt spot on. Small bump compliance was phenomenal. Rode on the same trails back to back with my Hightower and rooty sections just disappeared beneath the Smuggler. I did not like that when flipping the Fox shock to one of the trail modes how much harshness increased on similar sections, but I don't know if this is best attributed to the Smuggler or to the Fox shock itself. I have a Manitou Mcelod on the Hightower and it has a platform adjust that works very well and very differently than the compression adjustments I've had in the past on RS and Fox stuff. With that said, the traction in open mode over the rooty/rocky pedaling sections was much appreciated and perhaps the firmer modes would've felt fine on smoother trails.

    Previously have had time on a Kona Process 111. Super fun, felt way more capable than the numbers would suggest. If it didn't bob like crazy and could fit a water bottle, I'd just get one of those and call it done. But change those things and you kind of have a Smuggler, so it is definitely on my list. With that said, I love a good deal on a bike and the best way to find one is to not only look for one thing.

    Other possibilities:
    Giant Trance 29
    Guerilla Gravity Trail Pistol
    an XL Hightower (solves the reach issue, doesn't change much else)
    Ibis Ripley/Ripmo
    Pivot whatever amalgam of "Mach" some numbers and "Trail" is currently accurate
    One of the Fezzari 29ers, if only because of their 30-day test ride deal

    Or something else altogether? What short/mid travel 29er with fairly progressive geometry and well-suited to rolling, technical, pedal-y trails am I forgetting?

  2. #2
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    I'd guess that the Hightower will pedal better than anything else on your list, but like you noticed with the smuggler, there are better options if you want supple, traction-y suspension.

    I'd start by narrowing the list down by geometry. What reach / hta / chainstay / sta do you want?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
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    477
    I think you're on the right track for the right bike for your terrain.

    I bought a used Smuggler frame with a DVO Topaz on it. It is a great shock for that bike because you can tune the progressivity so finely. I'm running 2 bands in the positive chamber, 0 in the negative, and it feels surprisingly bottomless considering it's only a 120mm bike. The switch on it is actually a 3-position LSC. I haven't done it myself, but I hear that DVO will walk you through tweaking the shim stack to make it firmer if you desire (default firm is nowhere near an actual lockout).

    Of those other bikes on the list, I'd narrow in on the Trail Pistol and the new Ripley.

    The TP will feel very similar to the Smuggler (both Horst link designs), but more more firm and less supple. That's just how GG tends to design their suspension. But you could offset that with a coil as their frames are more progressive. Geo will be similar, except GG has the advantage of a straighter seat tube (insert length on Smuggler is quite short). I don't think you can put an angleset in the new Revved bikes from them though (although I think I read they're looking into that).

    Ripley will trade small bump for great climbing. And be a lot lighter.

    One of the guys at my local shop tried out the latest Pivot trail bike when they were given one to demo and really liked it. I'd imagine it's very similar to the Ripley, since they're both DW Link.

  4. #4
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    Jan 2008
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    livin the dream
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    Totally unique topic, never before discussed... what bike do I want?

    Word on the street is SC is revamping the Hightower & Hightower LT as one new 140mm bike with updated geo and a low shock position similar to their new long travel bikes. Some say we will see it released this summer.

    If it does exist, it would be on the short list for me... along with the Ripmo, Offering, and Sentinel...



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  5. #5
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    Aug 2008
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    Central VT
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    I'm in the same boat with my '16 Hightower. The new 140 mm Hightower and 120 mm Tallboy are due out 7/2. Its worth waiting for either of those bikes to see how they've changed the reach, STA, HTA, etc.

    The new Ripley is a solid choice but seems more on the XC end of the trail bike range from what I've read.

  6. #6
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    Mar 2008
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    northern BC
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    Another Santa cruz ?

    my buddy the SC dealer/former Nomad owner tells me the bikes are all going to that low shock thru the seat post design and he thot the small bump action is really good

    and the Mega tower is already sold out

    never owned an SC and at this point probably won't
    Last edited by XXX-er; 06-20-2019 at 10:21 AM.
    Lee Lau - xxx-er is the laziest Asian canuck I know

  7. #7
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    Dec 2006
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    The Smuggler comes in orange, which isn't quite as fast as red, but it's pretty close.
    The Trail Pistol is only black, but it does say "I like goin' fast" on the top tube, so it should be almost as fast as the Smuggler, especially if you get red decals. So that's a good choice too.

    More seriously, when I bought my Patrol I thought that I'd use the trail mode on the shock a lot, but I really don't. (Worth noting that I have a DPX2, so different shock). The bike is definitely not the most efficient peddler but I got used to it pretty quickly. I have come to appreciate the traction that it has when climbing. Basically the only time I flip switches on the shock is when I'm pedaling on a road (flip it to firm). At my last enduro-bro race there was one very pedally stage with very little chunder, and I ran the shock in trail mode for that to get a little more support when sprinting on the pedals. Otherwise, it's just open all the time.

    Much as I hate to recommend a Yeti, Smuggler geometry with a more efficient pedaling platform is pretty much an SB130...
    Quote Originally Posted by Norseman View Post
    All ye punterz! Leave thine stupid heavy skis in the past, or at least in the resort category, for the age of lightweight pussy sticks is upon us! Behold! Keep up with the randocommandos on their carbon blades of shortness! Break thine tibias into spiral splinters with pintech extravagance!

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by toast2266 View Post
    I'd guess that the Hightower will pedal better than anything else on your list, but like you noticed with the smuggler, there are better options if you want supple, traction-y suspension.

    I'd start by narrowing the list down by geometry. What reach / hta / chainstay / sta do you want?
    Hightower reach (on paper) is 450, probably a few ticks less with the 150mm fork I have on there. I think somewhere in the 465-480 realm will work. HTA, anywhere between 65-67. STA... well, that depends on the actual relative to the effective. The Smuggler supposedly has a 75.8 effective angle, so somewhere around there, plus or minus a degree? Saddle position can compensate to an extent.

    Quote Originally Posted by HankScorpio View Post
    I'm in the same boat with my '16 Hightower. The new 140 mm Hightower and 120 mm Tallboy are due out 7/2. Its worth waiting for either of those bikes to see how they've changed the reach, STA, HTA, etc.

    The new Ripley is a solid choice but seems more on the XC end of the trail bike range from what I've read.
    On the one hand, I'm obviously trying to move to something newer, but I am also not likely to buy a new bike.. the near-instant depreciation is just silly, and I'm quite happy rolling around on something someone else just had to have the minute it came out, but for half the price they paid. Not that I couldn't wait another year to upgrade, but that's also just time lost not riding something else.

    Quote Originally Posted by adrenalated View Post
    Much as I hate to recommend a Yeti, Smuggler geometry with a more efficient pedaling platform is pretty much an SB130...
    Can't afford a yeti new, not interested in owning a yeti without a warranty.

  9. #9
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    Mar 2006
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    Maybe try to demo an Evil Offering or Following MB? At first glance it looks like the Offering may have the geometry you're after.

  10. #10
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    I’ve spent quite a bit of time on the Hightower LT which I enjoyed. On an Offering now. The Hightower feels like a toy in comparison. It was a good bike, just ready for an update. The extra reach and forward pedaling position is money. More straight line stability than anything comparable I’ve ridden.

  11. #11
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    Oct 2003
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    Totally unique topic, never before discussed... what bike do I want?

    New Hightower is coming July 2nd. I’m sure the geo is updated and pretty sure it will have the lower link. I’d also check out the Revel Rascal. Bikemag just did a review. I’m hoping to demo it next week.

  12. #12
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    Spot Mayhem fits on that list.

  13. #13
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    I'm sure you could find an AL Trail Pistol or Smash for a relatively cheap. Not as flashy as the new carbon offerings, but still great bikes and plenty long/low/slack.
    Remind me. We'll send him a red cap and a Speedo.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by jono View Post
    Spot Mayhem fits on that list.
    I had considered those my last time shopping around, but my research told me they weren't the best for small chatter bumps... that that carbon leaf spring setup did wonders for pedaling efficiency and pop, but gave up a little compliance as a result. Do you have experience with it?

    Quote Originally Posted by bagtagley View Post
    I'm sure you could find an AL Trail Pistol or Smash for a relatively cheap. Not as flashy as the new carbon offerings, but still great bikes and plenty long/low/slack.
    Been looking around a bit, but the market is slim for the alloy GGs at the moment. I've only seen one trail pistol in my size and it was kitted out to be a full on bruiser, which is cool, but I need something that strikes a better balance.


    Does anyone have time on both the old and new smuggler and can compare how the geometry and suspension performance compare? I was very close to buying a 1st gen smuggler before ending up with the hightower and still wonder if maybe just swapping to one of those would be a good call. As I mentioned above, I'm not necessarily looking for the latest and greatest, just looking for something incrementally better (for me) than the Hightower. I'm not putting in huge epic day so I don't need the lightest wunderbike, and I'm not riding lift served or even doing a lot of sustained rough descents, so all-out stability and big-hit performance is not a top priority either. Think BC/PNW riding without the vert. Constant pedaling over awkward rooty rocky terrain that goes up and down up and down, usually not more than 50 vertical feet at a time. I'm not sure what the true sweet spot is between super-active, traction-friendly suspension and snappy pedal-efficiency, but its somewhere in the middle, maybe just a tick or two more active than VPP. So yes, the new lower-link driven VPP would maybe be the ticket, but it also sounds like that would be a bike for next year or the year after.

  15. #15
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    I went Large Hightower LT to Large Smuggler this year, and it's the best bike decision I've ever made. Swapped all my parts straight across except for a shorter stem. So much more fun, and supple, with way more comfortable (for me) geo. Bike is more playful and poppy, while Strava says I'm also consistently faster up and down everything I ride. And that's the AL version, I'm sure it would be even more fun and playful if it was three pounds lighter. That said, I've heard July 2nd tossed around as a date you might not want to buy an old Santa Cruz before, since more lower link bikes are on the horizon.

    A lower link Hightower would be sick, if they updated the geo a touch too. Still, personally, good luck getting me off my Smuggler for anything.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by radam View Post

    Been looking around a bit, but the market is slim for the alloy GGs at the moment. I've only seen one trail pistol in my size and it was kitted out to be a full on bruiser, which is cool, but I need something that strikes a better balance.
    Bummer. Long shot, but you could contact GG and see if they have any demos for sale.
    Remind me. We'll send him a red cap and a Speedo.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by radam View Post
    I had considered those my last time shopping around, but my research told me they weren't the best for small chatter bumps... that that carbon leaf spring setup did wonders for pedaling efficiency and pop, but gave up a little compliance as a result. Do you have experience with it?
    I've put a few rides on them. The Mayhem is a shorter travel bike than some of the others and with less travel you'll tend to run it a little stiffer than a longer travel bike, with the expected pros and cons of that. I wouldn't say the leaf spring makes it any less sensitive, though. On net it feels pretty similar to the Yeti SB130 to me: more definite/less plush/less wallowy compared with the Transitions I've been on. It sounds like you might prefer to be on the longer travel side of that compromise, but the Mayhem deserves consideration if you're looking at other short/medium travel 29ers--the specific advantages of the Mayhem versus other good pedaling/similar travel bikes are somewhere between splitting hairs and stuff you'd expect to notice when riding back to back. Worth a test ride if you can reasonably get on one.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by radam View Post
    Does anyone have time on both the old and new smuggler and can compare how the geometry and suspension performance compare? I was very close to buying a 1st gen smuggler before ending up with the hightower and still wonder if maybe just swapping to one of those would be a good call. As I mentioned above, I'm not necessarily looking for the latest and greatest, just looking for something incrementally better (for me) than the Hightower. I'm not putting in huge epic day so I don't need the lightest wunderbike, and I'm not riding lift served or even doing a lot of sustained rough descents, so all-out stability and big-hit performance is not a top priority either. Think BC/PNW riding without the vert. Constant pedaling over awkward rooty rocky terrain that goes up and down up and down, usually not more than 50 vertical feet at a time. I'm not sure what the true sweet spot is between super-active, traction-friendly suspension and snappy pedal-efficiency, but its somewhere in the middle, maybe just a tick or two more active than VPP. So yes, the new lower-link driven VPP would maybe be the ticket, but it also sounds like that would be a bike for next year or the year after.
    I've spent a bit of time on the old Smuggler, a very little bit of time on the new Smuggler, and I owned a Hightower.

    Hightower is more bike than the old Smuggler. The suspension feels different for obvious reasons, but the Hightower has more travel and is a bit slacker, which makes it feel more inclined to go downhill fast, but it also pedals better. Smuggler was more poppy and playful.
    New Smuggler is probably a better descender than the Hightower, mostly due to geometry tweaks. Still doesn't pedal as well (but it's a short travel bike, so it still pedals fine). Loses some playfulness compared to old Smuggler due to slackening and lengthening.

    If you're looking to buy something fairly soon, a current generation Smuggler seems like a solid bet for the type of riding you've described. I think a Trail Pistol, the new Ripley, maybe the new Hightower, or a number of other bikes out there would work well for you too, but most of those are harder to come by in the short term. A Following MB would probably be good too, but a Smuggler might be do-able for less money.

    Other option that I don't think I've seen mentioned: if you want something similar to the Hightower (i.e. a bit more travel than the 120 mm class like the Smuggler), but a bit longer, slacker, and plusher, look for a current generation Devinci Troy.

  19. #19
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    you can mentaly masturbate over the numbers till you virtualy come but soon er or later you gotta ride the thing eh

    ride some bikes and see what speaks to you
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by XXX-er View Post
    you can mentaly masturbate over the numbers till you virtualy come but soon er or later you gotta ride the thing eh

    ride some bikes and see what speaks to you
    Completely agree, which is why I've bought some (used) bikes and dumped them after a few rides.. and also how I ended up with the Process 111 after a demo ride and realizing I'd never had so much fun on a bike. It's actually my wife's bike now.. she gets a fun, confidence-inspiring ride, and I know I have a backup bike if mine is ever out of commission.


    Toast, that's super helpful. Sounds like if I'd gone directly from Process 111 to 1st gen Smuggler, I would've been plenty happy, but going HT to 1st gen Smuggler is more of a toss up. Having owned a HT, any thoughts on improving small bump compliance? I didn't get on twell with the stock Monarch RT. The Manitou Mcleod is much better, but still not perfect. There is some tuning that can supposedly be done to improve oil flow on that, which I would think would help, but can't decide if I should go through with it. Been wondering if a Fox DPX2 or DVO Topaz would be a better choice.. or maybe even one of the new Marzocchi coils. Really would love to add some consistency to the feel of the bike. Could all be in my head, but still kind of drives me crazy how some days it feels good, some days it does.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by radam View Post
    Toast, that's super helpful. Sounds like if I'd gone directly from Process 111 to 1st gen Smuggler, I would've been plenty happy, but going HT to 1st gen Smuggler is more of a toss up. Having owned a HT, any thoughts on improving small bump compliance? I didn't get on twell with the stock Monarch RT. The Manitou Mcleod is much better, but still not perfect. There is some tuning that can supposedly be done to improve oil flow on that, which I would think would help, but can't decide if I should go through with it. Been wondering if a Fox DPX2 or DVO Topaz would be a better choice.. or maybe even one of the new Marzocchi coils. Really would love to add some consistency to the feel of the bike. Could all be in my head, but still kind of drives me crazy how some days it feels good, some days it does.
    Yeah, I wasn't a fan of the stock Monarch either. I went to a DPX2, which was definitely better. It's still a fussy bike to setup though. I don't think a coil would work well - that bike isn't progressive enough, and I think you'd bottom out a lot. I think a DPX2 or maybe a Super Deluxe is probably the best bet for that bike (although I haven't spent much time on a Topaz - those might work well too).

  22. #22
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    I have had a Topaz on my HT for awhile and I am quite happy with it. I can only compare to the stock Monarch, which is relatively terrible. I know almost nothing about the other shocks you mentioned, but a nice feature of the Topaz is that it is easy to adjust the negative chamber with volume bands, thus altering the small bump compliance.

    I am a fairly large, aggressive rider(~225 lbs) so I couldn’t ride with 2 bands in the negative chamber. Small bump sensitivity was amazing, but it was not supportive enough. You also have the ability to pump up the reservoir thingy -can’t recall the terminology right now, to further dial in the platform.

    Another thing I did was to replace the rear shock mount bushing with needle bearings. I feel this also had a noticeable affect on the initial stiction. I had to alter my shock tune a bit because I was going through the initial part of my travel more easily.

    Having said all that, a new and improved HT sounds intriguing! Maybe you can buy my XL HT in 2 weeks?


    Quote Originally Posted by radam View Post
    Completely agree, which is why I've bought some (used) bikes and dumped them after a few rides.. and also how I ended up with the Process 111 after a demo ride and realizing I'd never had so much fun on a bike. It's actually my wife's bike now.. she gets a fun, confidence-inspiring ride, and I know I have a backup bike if mine is ever out of commission.


    Toast, that's super helpful. Sounds like if I'd gone directly from Process 111 to 1st gen Smuggler, I would've been plenty happy, but going HT to 1st gen Smuggler is more of a toss up. Having owned a HT, any thoughts on improving small bump compliance? I didn't get on twell with the stock Monarch RT. The Manitou Mcleod is much better, but still not perfect. There is some tuning that can supposedly be done to improve oil flow on that, which I would think would help, but can't decide if I should go through with it. Been wondering if a Fox DPX2 or DVO Topaz would be a better choice.. or maybe even one of the new Marzocchi coils. Really would love to add some consistency to the feel of the bike. Could all be in my head, but still kind of drives me crazy how some days it feels good, some days it does.

  23. #23
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    I currently ride a Pivot Trail 429. It's a super snappy fun trail bike but if you're looking for an all mountain ride from Pivot bike's either the Switchblade or Mach 5.5 better fit that bill (just pick your wheel size).

    I also demoed the Transition Smuggler. That bike is super fun. My size was sold out last year otherwise that's the bike I would've bought.

  24. #24
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    Totally unique topic, never before discussed... what bike do I want?

    Quote Originally Posted by greasyslope View Post

    Another thing I did was to replace the rear shock mount bushing with needle bearings. I feel this also had a noticeable affect on the initial stiction. I had to alter my shock tune a bit because I was going through the initial part of my travel more easily.
    This is probably the easiest and cheapest thing you can do to improve small bump compliance on any VPP bike without making your shock setup overly progressive or wallowy ... as long as you’re not using a CCDBA! (In which case you need to bore out the shock eyelet to use the bearing kit)

    Look up the info on real world cycling. There’s like an 80 page thread on MTBR. This change is specifically a big deal on VPP bikes due to how much the rocker link rotates as you move the rear triangle through its travel. By changing the eyelet bushing to a needle bearing you get rid of the friction when the link rotates, which is immediately noticeable in almost eliminating apparent shock stiction. It allows you to have a more linear rear setup and even a higher sag height that is much much more supple over small bump chatter over the stock DU bushing.
    _______________________________________________
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  25. #25
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    I forgot to add that I have done the needle bearing upgrade. It did help, but it was not mind blowing, perhaps owing to the fact that the shock eyelet / reducer tolerances when I had a standard DU bushing in there were such that it was a pretty loose fit that did not seem to introduce a ton of friction into the equation. Honestly, the Process 111 feels much more supple off the very top and that is with a plain jane Monarch RT and nothing fancy going on.

    There supposedly some a different compression piston available for the Mcleod that is meant to promote higher oil flow and help. I may try that. I may also just see if I can grab a DPX2 or Topaz on a deal and at least they're both fairly easy to sell if I'm unimpressed. I'd still love if the bike were a little longer, and I may try to find one of the above bikes to remedy that and the suspension issue... but if I only need to swap a shock to be a good bit happier, that's a pretty easy solution as well.

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