Trail bike for a big guy

A robust reader is breaking his trail frame, and he’s looking for an upgrade. I think he should step up to an “all-mountain” bike.

Hi Lee,

I’m in the market for a new bike. I’ve been riding an Enduro for the past 5 seasons, and I really really like the way it rides. I started off on an 00, then an 01 then an 03 … You see, I have a recurring problem with the Enduro: the seat mast. I keep breaking them where the seat post inserts into the frame. I weigh on average 205. The riding I do is mostly x-c, but pretty rough. Lots of rocks, roots, ups, downs, small drops (never more than 2 feet). I tend to prefer the sit and spin approach to riding, though I’ve had to learn to be lighter on the bike over the years. The seat mast cracked last year again, and Specialized would only provide me with a frame — at cost — and a Stumpjumper at that (even lighter weight than the one I’ve broken 3 times). No worries, I understand their position, they’ve already given me 2 replacement frames. So I had a reinforcement gusset welded on that wraps around the seat mast. It lasted the season, so I’Ë™m happy.

So. I’ve tried a Heckler which was ok but didn’t impress while pedaling over bumps, and I’m curious about the VPP and Maestro designs, but from my reading, I think they still don’t perform as well as Horst link bikes that I enjoy so much when climbing in rough, rooty, rocky climbs (which tends to make up about 60-70% of my time on any given ride). Price isn’t the biggest concern: I want to buy something that will last. I’ve narrowed it down to (in order): Turner 5-spot, the new (06) Norco Fluid, and then maybe the Giant Reign or Santa Cruz Blur LT. I’d like to keep the bike to around 30lbs with good solid wheels.

Any thoughts? I’m concerned the new 5 spot isn’t a Horst link, and wonder if the Norco is strong enough … it sure is a better value.

Thanks for any advice you might have, a keep up the good work on this most excellent site


Ottawa, Canada

Hi Sylvestre.

First, if you’re breaking seat masts, that tells me you’re riding too heavily in the saddle. From now on, try to drive as much weight as you can into your pedals. The less weight you put on your bars and seat, the better your bike will handle, and the longer your frame will last.

OK, now to bikes.

VPP and Maestro bikes are great, but if you’re sensitive to pedal feedback VPP will drive you crazy — especially in longer travel models.

It looks like you’re looking at trail suspension bikes; 4-5 inches, pretty light, much like your Stumpy. That’s a fun category, but you seem like a good candidate for the next step up in travel and burliness. These bikes have about 6 inches of travel and they’re made for “aggressive” trail riding. That or a big brute like yourself. Some 6-inch bikes are super burly and made for freeriding. You want the lighter, trail-riding models — sometimes called all-mountain. Some great examples:

  • Specialized Enduro (2005+ – the 6″ one)
  • Turner 6-Pack
  • Santa Cruz Nomad
  • Maverick ML-8
  • Intense 6.6
  • All of these bikes will come in under 30 pounds. They’ll be awesome trail bikes for you, and they’ll withstand even more aggressive riding.

    My opinion: If you’re going to throw down on a high end bike ($3,000+), get one with a modern suspension design. A lot of people love VPP. Try that. If you go for a four-bar, make sure it has a Horst (aka FSR) Link. Without the FSR link, you’re getting a single pivot. That’s fine at the low end, but it’s inexcusable when you pay thousands of dollars. My opinion!

    Also see: Good XC/Super D bikes

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