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  1. #1
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    Read it & weep (frame geo history)

    https://m.pinkbike.com/news/nicolai-...ride-2015.html

    2015 article. Just a reminder to us all that the bike industry was incredibly resistant to actual R&D on frame geo.

    Things have settled down now, making it hard to find a shitty geo in the 140-170 mm travel bike you prefer for your terrain. But for many years Large brands threw all kinds of money at prototype frames, with articles in magazines proudly showing the raw aluminum mules that supposedly let them explore a range of geometries…yet they stubbornly stuck with short chain stays, slack STAs, not realizing how those two variables so directly influence how a slack HA and longer reach will perform.

    Thank god for the British steel hardtail industry, the Geometron above, Mondraker and a few others that actually treated frame geo as something to be really explored.

    I know the apologists have arguments like ‘well yeah geo was stupid but we didn’t have dropper posts then!’. That’s no excuse at all, plenty of W US riding consists of a long steady climb and a long descent, the kind of ride I did for years with a QR seat collar that only needed to be used once a ride.

    Or ‘well shorter offset forks weren’t yet available, so that delayed the mainstreaming of slack HA’. Nope. The industry could’ve been just fine sticking with 28” wheels (aka 27.5) and going to a modern geo, so the 29” need for a shorter offset really is a sidebar that doesn’t excuse the lack of decent geo 27.5 bikes for all those years.

    Conspiracy theories about government and industries are generally bullshit, since 90% of the time it’s just plain old incompetence or laziness that’s the culprit. Yes, the industry profited for all those years by keeping bike geo just shitty enough that when you tried this year’s incrementally improved bike it rode better & you sold your 2 yr old bike. But based on all the conversations I’ve had ‘in the industry’, this honestly was not some conspiracy to squeeze money by forcing you to upgrade every 2 yrs. It was more just general cluelessness about how to design a product effectively ie do actual R&D.

    Look I get it. That geometron in a large has geo similar to the current all rounder bikes I prefer, yet some of the 2015 commenters are convinced it wouldn’t work well, or handle switchbacks (bzzzt wrong)…so Yes the major brands avoided developing good geo because they wanted to not scare off potential customers. But we’ve all seen intermediate riders become advanced once they got on good geo, so you don’t have to be a marketing genius to understand the value of letting people purchase the ability to ride advanced terrain more easily.

    Those of you who’ve bought 4 or 5 or 10 longish travel full suspension bikes over the years…how do you feel about how the low resale value those obsolete geometries produced? Other industries (like biotech, smart phones etc) have real design challenges but our industry literally just didn’t bother adequately investigating something as easy as frame geometry. Thank god for the outliers, like the British steel frame builders who figured Hey let’s play around with CS and HA and reach, or Mondraker, …
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  2. #2
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    Word. Been riding FS trail bikes since 2012, with the exception of that Kona Stinky Deeluxe back in '05...

    Working for a shop, we'd always be looking for the next bike. The philosophy was always sell your current bike before it became obsolete. I think I've had eight FS bikes since 2012, all in the 5-6.5" travel range (not sure if that is longish-travel these days). Mostly Santa Cruz, Kona, and Giant in all the wheel sizes. Out of all the bikes over that timeframe, the only one I wish I'd kept longer is the 2016 Kona Process 111. That bike was amazing in what it could comfortably shred with that little bit of travel. And it was so damn dialed in terms of how it handled. I'll go as far to say it was the perfect FS bike for me, at least at the time. It was overforked at 140, but maintained it's nimbleness and pop, while staying the course in a straight line. I did destroy several rear rims, so obviously that bike could have used more rear travel at times (or maybe better line choices). Anyway, I always thought that the 2014-2016 Process series was closer to the edge than a lot of bike companies were comfortable with.

    I was intrigued by the Geometron and it was a frequent topic of discussion at the shop. Yes, indeed - thank you bike industry outliers!

  3. #3
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    I still own a 2017 transition smuggler. Geo similar to the kona and both were way ahead of the times. Resale value of that bike is basically nothing so I’ve kept it. Put some ground control tires on it this summer and made it my XC bike. Even with the XC tires it still rips and the fast tires are nice for long mileage. Good complement to my stumpy Evo.

  4. #4
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    Gorilla Gravity definitely came out of the gates fairly progressive, I applaud Matt for pushing the boundaries stateside.
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  5. #5
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    The bigger companies have always been constrained by what they could actually sell. Sure Nicolai / geometron / pole pushed the limits and they got some nice reviews, but they didn't actually sell much, regardless of how "right" they were.

    The thing that Porter / Geometron really should get credit for is the steep seat tube angle. Various other companies were playing around with slack head angles, low BB's and longer rear ends. But Porter was really the one who pushed the boundaries of steep seat tubes, which allowed for longer reaches (since the steep seat tube kept the effective top tube in check). That was the biggest driver towards modern geometry, but the resistance to it was also somewhat logical. The bike buying population needed to wrap it's brain around the winch and plummet mindset, which wasn't always a thing.

    Putting aside the fact that they're the death star, specialized actually pushed the limits of geometry more than most major brands. The SX trail was ahead of its time. The current stumpy evo is the continuation of that mindset.

  6. #6
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    ^^ Specialized definitely pushing it with SX Trail and EVO series. The Stumpy EVO Alloy frameset is on sale right now for $1300. Very tempting.

  7. #7
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    Forget what interview it was from, but I remember Chris Porter saying all you really need for a decent mountain bike is good geometry, single-pivot suspension, spherical bearing shock mounts and a well-tuned shock. Obviously with different linkages you can tinker with the performance much more, but from the success of bikes like the Starling Murmur, I think he has a point.

    He's also a big proponent of dual-crown enduro forks - I agree! He likes them for a bunch of performance and science-based bs, I like them because they look cool

  8. #8
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    Toast I felt my post was too long already so I didn’t mention Specialized Evo. And even in that case, they could’ve done it earlier.

    Your comment about the niche brands not selling is why I put much of the blame on the majors who had R&D and marketing budgets. Btw as I’ll discuss below, some niche brands DID sell these modern geo bikes.

    Every industry has ‘conventional wisdom’ and ‘disrupters’. In most of those markets, the playbook for disruption is fairly established. Get influential reviewers (or racers) to do some A vs B testing, give them pointers to accelerate the adjustment period, and use this to educate the buying public. When brands started using slightly longer CS and steeper SA, it took reviewers at say Pinkbike about twenty seconds to realize they climbed better. This shit ain’t rocket science.

    The cold hard reality is that most companies did not really do actual geo R&D. They phoned it in, and tweaked the geo from last cycle. Meanwhile, brands like the British steel frame crew literally built a business based on providing good geo in a bike with no rear suspension or, as time went on, a basic rear suspension.

    The ‘yeah we couldn’t release that bike because our customers are too dumb and conservative’ excuse gets used and shot down in other industries. That’s because usually a marketing failure. But again, based on conversations I’ve had, we can only blame the bike marketers to a limited extent if the real failure was lack of product geometry R&D.

    So brands like Mondraker and Pole and the British steel crew owe their existence to the general failure of the industry in this area. Great for them I guess, but we as consumers could’ve had broad access to modern geo 15 yrs ago.
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  9. #9
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    I was under the impression that Transition was one of the early pioneers, but when I went back and looked at the geometry of the Patrol, it didn't get one of the steep seat angles until the 2019 model. So yeah, definite credit to Mojo/Nicolai for making that connection.

    I agree that the steep seat angle is key to making slack bikes ride well. There's an ideal range of FC:RC that works for people, and if you simply slack out the bike a ton, or grow the reach a ton, you don't preserve that balance. I was watching a video last night talking about that, so like the good little armchair engineer I am, I went and calculated what that ratio was for all the bikes I've owned was. Sure enough, bikes that felt balanced to me all had a similar FC:RC ratio, and bikes that felt like the front was too long or too short drifted correspondingly.

  10. #10
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    Not to say that I disagree with you (frorider), but I think that kind of glosses over the adjustment period required to feel good on a dramatically different bike. Like, sure, steep seat tubes feel good climbing, but a steep seat tube means the front end needs to get stretched out, which dramatically increases the wheelbase. Which we've all gotten used to and come to enjoy, but if you took 2010 me and slapped me on a bike with a 1285 mm wheelbase (like my current bike has, which is about 150mm longer than my 2010 bike), I don't think I would have been instantly smitten. Using the example of racers doing R&D, there are plenty of racers who resist change because they want to stick with what they're comfortable with. Ratboy (at 6'1") rode a medium V10 because that's what he was comfortable on. And more recently, Bruni was slow to get on the new Demo prototype because he wanted to stick with the bike that he knew. The people that are best positioned to do R&D often aren't looking to push the envelope of progress.

    There will always be people that are looking for ways to make their bike different and (hopefully) better. And those people are generally willing to deal with some failures along the way. But a lot of people (most?) just want to go out and ride their bike and have fun, and the easiest way to do that is to go with what you know.

    My point is just that, yes, we've mostly come to an agreement that modern geometry is good, and it's easy now to look back with the benefit of hindsight and talk about how the industry failed to figure it out sooner. But evolution is a process, and it takes some time. All things considered, I'd say it happened pretty quick - the most progressive outliers started really experimenting in maybe 2013-ish, they'd refined their experiments by 2015-ish, the ideas started to catch on in 2016-2017, and by 2018-2019 almost everyone was on board, at least to some extent. So that's a ~6 year timeline to completely re-write a century's worth of ideas on bicycle geometry.

  11. #11
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    When did Keith’s updated Banshee release the Spitfire? 2010? Lots of coverage then about “the downhiller’s trail bike” but I agree that the attention was mostly on the front end. But I had a prototype Prime in 2012 and it took me a while to understand why the reach was longer than my other bike, despite having a shorter ETT. Banshee was also pushing their STAs steeper, but more conservatively and without making a fuss about it.

    After a season on the prototype Prime, I went to Outerbike and rode 21 other bikes and hated all of them. The super slack STA of the Mojo HD really stood out. I was riding with 2 friends and we’d swap bikes on the trail to reduce time in the pits. I remember handing the Mojo HD back to my buddy and saying “you picked this fucking thing; you ride it.”

  12. #12
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    I do like the way geo has progressed but two obs

    - the longer, lower, slacker seems to be reversing a tiny bit. True or just one person's impression?

    - too steep a STA isn't particularly good for trail systems which might not be straight up for a while, then straight down. Eg trails which, while technical, have smaller ups followed by downs. This on the basis that the steep STA places hands vertically over bars. Discuss?

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by LeeLau View Post
    I do like the way geo has progressed but two obs

    - the longer, lower, slacker seems to be reversing a tiny bit. True or just one person's impression?

    - too steep a STA isn't particularly good for trail systems which might not be straight up for a while, then straight down. Eg trails which, while technical, have smaller ups followed by downs. This on the basis that the steep STA places hands vertically over bars. Discuss?
    I agree with your last point. For a more rolling/level trail system I’d prefer a slightly slacker STA for pedaling. With my current bike, I drop the seatpost slightly in those circumstances.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by LeeLau View Post
    I do like the way geo has progressed but two obs

    - the longer, lower, slacker seems to be reversing a tiny bit. True or just one person's impression?

    - too steep a STA isn't particularly good for trail systems which might not be straight up for a while, then straight down. Eg trails which, while technical, have smaller ups followed by downs. This on the basis that the steep STA places hands vertically over bars. Discuss?
    Quote Originally Posted by evasive_MT View Post
    I agree with your last point. For a more rolling/level trail system I’d prefer a slightly slacker STA for pedaling. With my current bike, I drop the seatpost slightly in those circumstances.
    Yep, if I'm on rolling terrain I might drop the seat slightly to be able to move around and pump better. Same with very technical climbing sections. That said, I'm also on a 160mm+ 29er and mostly do up then down riding.
    There's nothing better than sliding down snow, and flying through the air

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by LeeLau View Post
    I do like the way geo has progressed but two obs

    - the longer, lower, slacker seems to be reversing a tiny bit. True or just one person's impression?

    - too steep a STA isn't particularly good for trail systems which might not be straight up for a while, then straight down. Eg trails which, while technical, have smaller ups followed by downs. This on the basis that the steep STA places hands vertically over bars. Discuss?
    Agreed on both points.

    On the first point, I think a lot of companies are trying to claw back some playfulness and maneuverability that has been lost, especially now that 27.5 bikes are mostly a thing of the past. Mullets, slightly steeper, shorter geometry, and more effort put into shorter travel bikes are all in search of the same thing.

    On the second point, I think a lot of companies are building this into their geometries across their range of bikes. Look at Transition: the short travel Spur has a seat tube that's a couple degrees slacker than mid travel Sentinel, and the Sentinel is a degree or two slacker than the long travel bikes like the Patrol and Spire. Which all makes a ton of sense to me - the more the bike is appropriate for rolling terrain, the slacker / more traditional the seat tube is.

  16. #16
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    Haha, yeah I was dumb enough to buy a Mojo HDR 650b. The geo on that was fucking atrocious for what it was supposed to be. It had a 67.1 HTA, 71.1 (!!!) STA, and my size large (I typically ride mediums) had a 409mm reach but a 483mm ST length. I did a double take when I looked at the STA now, but I believe it's correct since the ST was a straight line from the BB, so no difference between effective and actual.

    My first MTB (which preceded the Mojo) was I think a 2009 Stumpjumper FSR that I got off CL in 2014. Looking at the charts now, it actually had a 74.5 effective STA, and apparently a massive 432mm reach for a size medium! The head angle was 68.5 though. Still, that's way better than I would have expected, and I don't think I owned a bike with longer reach for 3+ years after that.

  17. #17
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    Great conversation guys thanks. Too bad we’re not around a campfire drinking beers right now.

    Going into this I assumed most gear nerds reading this would understand that ‘modern geo’ encompasses the entire set of inter related geo decisions. It goes without saying (for example) that a steeper STA requires other changes to feel ‘right’. Toast, I was trying to avoid this becoming an education thread on the relationship between stem, fork offset, bar width, front vs rear center, etc. Etc. There are huge discussions elsewhere that cover that for anyone interested. Rightly or wrongly, I aimed this thread at the grizzled veterans who don’t need that education.

    Lee (I think it was Lee), yup many knowledgeable people would agree that the industry has finally probed geo enough that we generally understand the right ‘range’ now & it becomes a matter of personal preference and your typical trails and riding style. To use one example (in isolation but we all know other variables impact this), on a 150 29er I like 440-445 CS and a 63-63.5 HA. Are the 460 CS bikes rideable? Are 61 deg HA rideable? Hell yeah. Maybe even preferable for many folks. But there’s a strong sense that the industry generally now knows where the useful limits lie. And in some cases is pulling back a tad. Awesome. The industry is maturing.

    There’s a saying that ‘geometry is free’ which is generally true at least for welded metal frames or mules that precede a carbon mold. But look back here or on ridemonkey etc…for years and years we as riders were using angle sets and eccentric shock bushings or different i2i shocks or whatever to try and correct what the industry was handing us.

    For me in 2018 when I finally got on a modern geo 150/160 bike, there was zero adjustment period.
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  18. #18
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    I always thought that appreciable STA steepening was waiting for 1x and wide adoption of dropper posts.

    Gotta give a nod to the Blur 4X, which was slack for the time. One of the guides at the Zion Freeride Festival hit everything on one, and I wanted one bad for years after. Also the second gen DW 5 Spot had a 67 degree HTA way back in 2010-11, which at the time was pretty aggressive for an XC/Trail bike.
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by frorider View Post

    For me in 2018 when I finally got on a modern geo 150/160 bike, there was zero adjustment period.
    "This bike shrinks mountains" - me to Sutter/dblatto at the bridge on the downieville DH during our maiden voyages on v1 sentinels in July 2018.
    Last edited by mildbill.; 12-06-2023 at 12:29 PM. Reason: grammar

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by bagtagley View Post
    Gotta give a nod to the Blur 4X, which was slack for the time. One of the guides at the Zion Freeride Festival hit everything on one, and I wanted one bad for years after. Also the second gen DW 5 Spot had a 67 degree HTA way back in 2010-11, which at the time was pretty aggressive for an XC/Trail bike.
    Yes on the Blur 4x! Also on the Pivot Mach 5.7 which had a 67deg HTA which was shockingly slack for a "all-mountain" bike at the time.

    Re the "demise" of the all 650b bike, Here's some more food for thought. Might they make a comeback? Pivot has the Shadowcat and people love it. Yeti has many buyers for the SB165

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by bagtagley View Post
    I always thought that appreciable STA steepening was waiting for 1x and wide adoption of dropper posts.

    Gotta give a nod to the Blur 4X, which was slack for the time. One of the guides at the Zion Freeride Festival hit everything on one, and I wanted one bad for years after. Also the second gen DW 5 Spot had a 67 degree HTA way back in 2010-11, which at the time was pretty aggressive for an XC/Trail bike.
    Yes on the Blur 4x! Also on the Pivot Mach 5.7 which had a 67deg HTA which was shockingly slack for a "all-mountain" bike at the time.

    Re the "demise" of the all 650b bike, Here's some more food for thought. Might they make a comeback? Pivot has the Shadowcat and people love it. Yeti has many buyers for the SB165

  22. #22
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    LOL, I would totally rent or demo a 28.25” bike. (Or whatever the actual split difference between 27.5” and 29” is ).
    Which was a played out joke in 2014, but….shit, it would absolutely work just fine.


    But Mullet is great for the moment.
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  23. #23
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    A buddy had a blur 4x - those things were cool. Iirc, they were built with the tube set from the VP-free, which meant the 4x was kind of hilariously overbuilt.

  24. #24
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    Modern bike geo design and current trends have definitely changed the way we look at trail construction.
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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by raisingarizona13 View Post
    Modern bike geo design and current trends have definitely changed the way we look at trail construction.
    As an amateur trailbuilder with a lot of opinions about trails, this is something that I think about and discuss with my friends a lot. We have a lot of new trail getting built around here, and some trailbuilders are better at building "modern trails" than others.

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