The New Standard In Full Suspension 29"ers

THe Big Mama is one of the new standard bearers of 29"er FS design

Used to be that if you liked full suspension and big wheels you were going to have to compromise on stiffness. Noodly front triangles or swing arms were just something you were going to have to accept. Well, not anymore!

The idea that a full suspension 29″er could be rigid, precise, and predictable was thought to be not attainable by the critics, but that idea is not only attainable, it is here. Check out the Salsa Cycles Big Mama shown above. It is representative of the new standard of 29″er chassis stiffness and handling. It wasn’t the first 29″er to have these attributes, and it isn’t the only one, but what I’m saying is this: If you are going to design and build a full suspension 29″er, it better be at least as good as the Big mama is!

Going back a few years, the LenzSport bikes were really the first full suspension designs with big wheels to address the issues with frame stiffness. That was a good thing, but it takes more than that to get the job done. Unfortunately, at that time the forks and wheels hadn’t caught up to the frame design.

Now with the advent of Salsa Cycles Gordo, Halo’s Freedom Disc rims, and the like, the wheel situation is much better. Added to this is the proliferation of longer travel through axle forks, and now one can have all that is necessary to get 26″er-like stiffness in a 29″er package.

Companies like Niner, Pivot, and Salsa have also stepped up to the plate with far more rigid and stiff frames for full suspension than we have ever had before, which now raise the bar for companies following in their footsteps.

So, at what cost has all this rigidity come? Well, you can’t get strong and rigid in a 29″er full suspension bike without a little weight gain. That said, it hasn’t been much of a weight gain. Full suspension 29″ers with four inches of travel that meet the higher standards are still being built up in the sub-28lb category. Some even lower than that. Bigger travel bikes like the LenzSport Behemoth five inch bikes are routinely built up at sub-30lb weights.

Some say that a full suspension design in big wheels has “too many compromises”. I’m 6’1″ and I have a hard time seeing where these compromises are when I ride Lenz, Salsa, Niner, or Pivot’s latest FS 29″er designs. Heck, Lenz is even putting much shorter folks on their designs, and are getting rave reviews.

The pundits can point and laugh all they want to. I’m going out for a ride on a full suspension 29″er and havin a ball doing it. These newer designs are the reason why.


No Responses to “The New Standard In Full Suspension 29"ers”

  1. Upsidedownbiker Says:

    Last year I rode a Pivot 429 and was amazed at not only how stiff the suspension was in design, but also how solid the front end felt. The entire frame is made so that you do not give up anything to twisting or bad pivots which is even more important on a 29’er in my opinion. The coolest thing was that it was like riding a five inch travel bike with better roll over at speed and traction.

  2. MMcG Says:

    It would be cool to see a new FS 29er showdown. It has been a few years since the showdown occurred.

    Would be great to see a few of these frames go head to head to see what’s marketing hype and what’s the truth once the tires hit the dirt.

    Is this something this site could pull off?

  3. Dirt McGirt Says:

    This is good. Maybe some of the other manufacturers will take notice and start building FS 29ers like FS 26ers. Have you ridden the Specialized Stumpy FSR 29er? It rides like a danged HYBRID! DISGRACEFUL!

  4. MG Says:

    Amen Brother!! You and I have been discussing this quite a bit offline, and I appreciate you bringing it to the blog. It’s time for 29-inch riders to start expecting more from their bikes — more stiffness, more handling and quite simply, more performance on the trail. A few bikes currently deliver — the Big Mama is one notable example, no doubt. I’m very happy with the strength and stiffness of mine, that’s for sure!! Noodly is one word that I’d never use to describe its performance!

  5. Lewis Says:

    Have been looking at the Salsa since it came out. As a big guy I look for a solid tough ride over saving a few kilos. The Salsa seemed like a solid bike with very little flex. Unfortunately they are like hens teeth in Australia. Impossible to find. Cheers.

  6. t0m Says:

    Rigidity in a FS frame? Think V-e-n-t-a-n-a.

    Please, do a high-end FS 29er shootout. Salsa, Ventana, Niner, Turner, Pivot, Titus. All dream frames, all boutique 4″ travel 29ers.

    I guess a shootout would be a little beyond the means, but how about a series?

  7. MG Says:

    You know, I totally forgot to mention Ventana, but they do deserve mention in this conversation too… Sherwood’s bikes are tough as nails!!

  8. Shop Mechanic Says:

    Dirt McGirt,

    I haven’t ridden a Stumpy 29er yet, what don’t you like about them specifically?

  9. mjbrox Says:

    I remember when my 08 Niner RIP 9 was the coolest bike on the block………

  10. tbone Says:

    Now if we could have some affordable 29er FSers with shorter chainstays (Giant???). Trying to motor over obstacles is a bear on these >18″ CS bikes. I’ve ridden/owned a few including ventana, turner, GF, Titus, specy. Albeit very nice, they feel like riding a bus.

    I second the shootout idea – GT can you get those bikes together?? Would be great. MTBR’s shootout is outdated.

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