Full suspension bikes change fast. New standards, evolving geometry, better suspension, and the one-bike quiver killer (if you are lucky enough to have a bike quiver) seems to be present in every conversation. Sometimes things play out well, sometimes they don’t. We cover it all. Here are some of the best geometry changes we have seen for 2018.
Niner Jet 9 RDO
The Jet 9 has always been Niner’s XC full-suspension rig. Now it isn’t. From 100 millimeters of travel to 120 rear/130 front, one might guess the Jet 9 was getting into the trail business, and taking a look at the new bike’s geometry, your beliefs will be confirmed. Longer, lower and slacker are three now common words of modern geometry we keep hearing, and the new Jet 9 is an exemplary student of this teaching. Growing into its new-found extra squish, the Jet added 10 millimeters of reach, cut 20 millimeters of chainstay length, got 3 degrees slacker in the headtube and bumped the seat tube angle up to 74.5 degrees. Oh, it also got a boosted rear, which I think we can safely say is a standard among all new full-suss bikes. The bike is also now available as a 27.5+, which seems a little odd for a brand called Niner, but I can kick it. So how does the bike ride with its so fresh, so clean upgrades? Well, it still climbs like an XC rig. Maybe not as well as it used to, but Niner’s CVA linkage works well, and the slight hit to climbing prowess is more than made up for on the way down. Here’s what Travis Engel, our gear editor wrote when he got a chance to point the Jet 9 downhill. “The firm-feeling rear travel and capable geometry invited creative lines, stylish airs and last-minute decisions. I could predictably break traction and slide into a pocket without flex or chatter, and easily pump out of it into the next one. When there was no other option but to straight-line through a minefield, the Jet would hold its own. The ultra-capable fork and, of course, 29-inch wheels help it fight above its weight class, and the mild progressivity in the rear helps soften blows that are out of its league.”
He wrote a full review here.
In previous years, the Cannondale Trigger has been a capable yet somewhat fringe bike. It featured Cannondale’s Lefty fork and Fox Dyad RT2 pull shock, allowing users to adjust travel between 140 and 85 millimeters with a handlebar-mounted remote, but the bike wasn’t for everyone. With a head angle of 68 degrees, a seat tube angle of 73.5, chainstay length of 436 millimeters and a reach of 450 for the large, it came in 27.5- and 29-inch wheel sizes. The new Trigger is completely different. For 2018, Cannondale did a complete redesign with a new linkage built around a metric Fox Float shock and a 150-millimeter Fox fork up front. They kept with the remote travel adjust, now switching between 145 and 115 millimeters, but have changed the geometry to make what was a lightweight trail bike into an all-mountain bruiser. Available only as a 27.5-inch build, Cannondale pushed the front wheel farther forward by dropping the head angle to a slack 66 degrees and bumped the seat tube angle up to 74.5 degrees. They also managed to shave off 16 millimeters from the chainstays, making them 420 millimeters long and brought the reach up to 459 millimeters. All these changes combine to make a completely new bike with the same name as years past. This was less of an update and more of a rebuild, and now the Trigger is solidly planted as an all-mountain workhorse.
Giant Anthem 29
Giant saw the industry trend of longer, lower and slacker, and went the opposite direction with the Anthem. Last year Giant made the Anthem with 27.5-inch wheels, 110 millimeters of travel and a 120-millimeter fork—still an XC rig, but moving in the direction of the trail discipline. For 2018, the Anthem has made a 180-degree turn. Giant brought that rear-wheel travel down to 90 millimeters, the front to 100 and popped a pair of 29er wheels on the bike to make it a truly worthy cross-country race machine. The new Anthem is not for everyone. It is for racers. The frame is full carbon, the seat tube is 27.2 millimeters and the head angle is 69 degrees. Admittedly, 69 degrees isn’t all that steep when it comes to XC racing, and Giant did drop the bottom bracket and shorten the chainstays, so there are a few nods toward the changing industry. But it is a bike for racers, and it won’t let the rider forget that.
Read about our first ride here.
The Rallon has made some big changes. Mostly, it has adopted the 29-inch wheels. And when I say that, I don’t mean, 27.5+ ready. I mean 29er only. With 160 millimeters up front and 150 in the back, the Rallon is no joke on the trail, and with those numbers comes a slacker headtube angle and an even lower bottom bracket than the Evil Wreckoning. Rallon didn’t want this to just be known as a straight-line pinner, but also an effective climber, so they outfitted it with a 75.5-degree seat tube angle. With the flip of a chip located behind the shock, the seat tube angle can be bumped up to 76 degrees and the headtube can move from 65.5 to 66 degrees, a slight but noticeable change. The now full carbon bike received changes that stand out from the pack, and it is available in just about any color that strikes your fancy.
Read our first ride impressions here.
The Speedfox gained some interesting geometry changes this year—losing 10 millimeters of travel, the reach is slightly shorter and chainstays are slightly longer—but the most notable innovation is the dropper post, which while not exactly a ‘Geometry Facelift,’ is a significant change nonetheless. Instead of waiting for innovation from others, BMC took things into their own hands, integrating their own dropper post with Fox Float DPS Evol rear shocks. When the post is at full height, the shock is in pedal mode, when the post is down, the shock is fully open. Working with a spoke and a mechanical ‘switch,’ as the post moves up it pulls the spoke against the switch, taming the shock. As the post moves down, the pressure on said switch releases, and the shock opens up again. This seems like common sense. No more reaching between your legs to fiddle with switches or remembering which button in your cockpit to press. BMC does it all for you with one push of a lever.
Confused? See a full explanation, along with ride impressions, here.
Intense has a big name to live up to. The Tracer, with its new updates to the frame, does just that. It is anything but bland. The head angle has dropped to 65.5 degrees, the seat tube angle is up to 75 and the wheelbase has lengthened a full inch while adding a half inch of reach. To keep in line with these numbers, the Tracer is now coming with 165 millimeters in the back and stock with a 160-millimeter fork sitting below the bars. Pair all of that with a carbon frame and Intense’s own take on VPP suspension, coined JS Tuned. In addition to offering less aggressive anti-squat values, JS Tuned offers a subtle ramp at the beginning of travel and a progressive ramp through the middle and end. Now the new Tracer can get as rowdy as you want it to.
See our full review here.
Transition drastically changed the geometry of almost all their bikes for 2018, so choosing just one to focus on was tough. At first I thought the Sentinel—Transition’s new longer-travel 29er—an easy choice, but since it’s all-new, there was no previous model to compare it against. So I chose the Patrol, a much loved 27.5-inch bike since its original release in 2015. The 2018 release is a large step in a direction. Which direction? Whether or not it is the right direction remains to be seen, but based on how the Sentinel rides, we have high hopes that this direction is the right direction. First and foremost, Transition debuted its new Speed Balanced Geometry (SBG) on its full-suspension bikes, which shortens the offset found on the fork. Basically, this allowed Transition to lengthen the bike, shorten the stem, slacken the headtube angle and steepen the seat tube angle, all while maintaining confident handling. Okay, so that sounds like the same thing everybody else has been doing. But Transition took it a little further. With the new Patrol, the reach was lengthened to a massive 475 millimeters for a size large, up from 457 on the 2017 model. The seat tube angle has been steepened to 76.6 degrees for size large, almost a full 2 degrees steeper than the 2017 model, and the headtube angle has been slackened to—drumroll please—64 degrees. That is a full degree slacker than the 2017 Patrol, already one of the slackest all-mountain bikes on the market. To put it in perspective, the downhill bike that Aaron Gwin won the World Cup on this year features a headtube angle of 63.5 degrees. To complement the new numbers, the 2018 Patrol is now a 160-millimeter rear travel/170-front machine. If you haven’t figured it out already, we are pretty excited about the changes Transition is making.
Scott Spark 900
The Spark has traditionally been Scott’s short-travel cross-country race bike. And they still offer that bike as the Spark RC with 100 millimeters front and rear, but the rest of the Spark line offers an extra 20 millimeters of travel to both ends. As you are probably guessing, with that boost in travel the Spark received the same changes the rest of the industry did: a slacker headtube, steeper seat tube, longer reach and shorter chainstays. Available in 27.5- and 29-inch wheels, deep down the Spark is still an XC machine, but if you’re into judging books by their covers or bikes by their geometry (which is exactly what we are doing) this bike puts on an awfully appealing trail face. The 67.2-degree head angle is slack for XC bikes, and the seat tube angle at 73.8 is approaching trail status. On top of that, the bike has received a new rocker link, allowing for a new leverage curve and a stiffer front triangle. All these changes make for a compelling argument to take this bike down some rowdy lines, but when needed, this bike will run just as efficiently as you want it to.
See our full review here.
The Specialized Enduro was updated almost exactly a year before this most recent update. So it was surprising they had a new one out so soon. But the industry takes no prisoners, and with its fast-changing standards, it seems Specialized wanted to push the numbers on the Enduro a little further. The reach was pushed from 450 millimeters to 462 for a size large with 29-inch wheels, or up to 466 millimeters for 27.5-inch wheels. In addition to the lengthening of the bike, Specialized worked in a small chip at the base of the shock allowing users to adjust geometry to their liking. The chip in high mode keeps the headtube angle at 66 degrees. Flip the chip and that angle drops to 65.5, with the bottom bracket lowering from 354 millimeters to 346 for the 29er or from 350 to 342 for the 27.5. On top of these geometry updates, a new seatpost adds a final touch to the Enduro. When dropped, not only does the seat go down, but it also tilts back to imitate a slammed seat on a downhill or slopestyle bike. Aside from the extra style points, a sloped seat offers better contact in a low position when sitting.
See the full updates and what we thought of the ride here.
Rocky Mountain Altitude
By now these updates are likely seeming redundant. Take out the small details, and almost all of these bikes have gotten longer, lower and slacker. But we are here to talk about updates, comparing the models to their previous iterations, so here is one more bike that received the requisite changes. Rocky Mountain has now updated almost its entire line, but one of the most drastic changes was to the Altitude, receiving changes to pushing it closer to their aggressive Slayer territory. Keeping the Ride-9 technology, the new Altitude can be set up in nine different ways. Studying the large size for this case study, between those nine different geometries on the bike, the reach changes from 452 millimeters to 464, up from the previous reach of 427 to 444. On the front, the headtube angle has also been slackened enough so that in its steepest setting, the new Altitude is still slacker than the angle of the old Altitude at its slackest, now ranging from 65 to 66.1 degrees, compared to the previous 66.6 to 68.3 degrees. All of this adds up to make for an extra 42 millimeters on the wheelbase. Fully embracing its enduro roots, the new Altitude has a lot to offer.
Read our first impressions here.