two mountain bikers smile as they ride along a mellow double track trail

The search for a new mountain bike; Jans expert mountain bike reviews

Last fall I had the pleasure of test riding a bunch of mountain bikes; here’s my story, just in time for the start of mountain biking season. . .

I knew I needed to move on, so I sold my Specialized Stumpjumper of many years at the Bike Swap.  The photo above shows my carefree days with the Stumpjumper, the happy times that had now come to an end. . . I was bikeless and feeling sorta lost – but luckily I know a few helpful bike experts.

When I asked White Pine Touring’s hardgoods buyer, Julian Gaseweski what cross country mountain bikes I should try out, he recommended the Epic 29 (which Specialized calls “the lightest, most efficient and fastest performance cross-country bike available”), and the Scalpel 29 (described by Cannondale as “a lightweight, plush and precise all-around trail rocket”).  Julian paused and then added that “if you wanna get rad,” the Cannondale Jekyll should also be on the list (Cannondale claims it’s “the most versatile bike on the mountain”).

Cannondale Scalpel 29

While getting me set up on the Cannondale Scalpel 29, WPT store manager, Eric LaPerle told me that if I was deciding between the Scalpel and the Epic, I could probably just flip a coin and be happy with either outcome.  He said they’re both great bikes and the determining factor may well be the fit.

Eric explained to me that the Scalpel was built for smooth, fast, XC racing, and that it is “hands down” the best value around.  He said that since I haven’t tried a 29er before I would definitely notice a difference.

My first impression: I like the colors.

Off I went for a quick loop around Lost Prospector, down Skid Row, and back along the Rail Trail.  Oooh, indeed it was smooth.  And responsive.  And fast.

I rolled back into the White Pine parking lot smiling.

Specialized Epic 29

Paul Boyle set me up with the Specialized Epic 29, making fun of me for using the term “far-apartness” rather than “reach” as he showed me the adjustments he was making so the bike would fit me well.

In an effort to reduce the number of confounding factors in my assessments, I took the same trails again on the Epic.  But it was all in vain.  I’m pretty sure I rode the loop better the second time because all the trail features that I had been surprised by the first time around, I had fresh in my mind the second time.  Ah well, this is why I’m a writer and not a scientist I guess.

The Epic felt a lot more similar to my old Stumpjumper, I liked it.  It was really solid, stable, smooth.

Maybe I will flip a coin.

Cannondale Jekyll

The next day I tried the Cannondale Jekyll.  Everyone who saw me getting set up on it told me I would love it.

Jen who owns one, told me about a recent bike trip to Moab when everyone else she went with had to take two bikes but she just took her Jekyll.  With its adjustable travel (from 90 mm to 150 mm) the Jekyll can literally be a cross country bike or a downhill bike.

Jesse added, “two bikes in one, best bike of all time.”

I tried it, thought it was. . . okay. The travel adjusting lever is easy to switch while riding and does make for a totally different feel.  I’m sure that if I did more downhill riding then I would appreciate it more.  As it is, I thought it was fine except I found the steering to be somewhat wobbly when I wasn’t going fast, which wasn’t helpful for climbing up rock gardens.

Next, I called up Todd Henneman at Jans for his recommendations.  He listed off the Trek Superfly 100, the Scott 29er Spark, the Santa Cruz Tall Boy 29er, and the Santa Cruz Juliana (one of the few on my list with 26 inch wheels).

Trek Superfly 100

Karl “Jake” Jacobsen, store manager at Jans at Park Ave, helped me get set up on the Trek Superfly 100 and sent me on my way.  The Superfly felt good, solid, light.

I tell you what, I recommend riding the same trail repeatedly in rapid succession.  It gets better / I get more confident every time.

Scott 29er Spark

The following day, I took out the Scott 29er Spark.  It features a super easy hand lever switch to lock out the front and rear shocks all at once, which I found quite nice for the road climb from Jans at Park Ave up to the trail.

Paul Clark who owns this bike really explains it better than I can… “The Spark is a super well balanced, playful yet nimble xc race bike. With 120 mm of travel, it eats up most terrain easily. The geometry is racy without being twitchy. I am shocked at how well the Twinloc system works, locking out the front and rear with an on-the-bar lever. The suspension is predictable and plush, with a smooth ramp up allowing the rider to tune the travel to their liking.”

Santa Cruz bikes

The following week, I did three rides in one day because I just wanted to pick my favorite bike and buy it and be done.

The Santa Cruz Tallboy LT Aluminum was pretty smooth. The steering is responsive without being twitchy; it’s solid, I like it.
The Santa Cruz Tallboy Carbon is similar but lighter, with better componentry.
The Santa Cruz Juliana, Paul Clark describes as fun, playful single pivot.  I agree.  The Juliana is fun, easy to control, and little all over (little 26 inch wheels, a little frame, and a low standover height, made for women).

Trek Lush Carbon

Just when I thought I had gotten to the end of my list of bikes to try, Karl ‘Jake’ Jacobsen tells me I have to try the Lush.

So the next week, I try the Trek Lush Carbon.  And oh Lush is right; lush and plush, this is my favorite bike I’ve tried so far. It’s smooth and easy to control, way fun.  I love the responsive suspension, agility, how easy it is to control, and the women’s specific design (WSD) with a low center of gravity for responsive handing and centered weight distribution nice for balance. It’s confidence inspiring.

Scott Genius 30

As I bring it back to the shop Paul Clark tells me I have to try the Scott Genius 30.  Fine, fine, I will.  Steph Humes sets up the suspension for me as Paul explains the dual rebound adjustable Equalizer2 shock with it’s positive and negative adjustable air chambers, mounted vertically to react more efficiently than angle mounted shocks.  The fancy suspension doesn’t take a genius to set up though; step by step instructions right on the bike make it easy.  The Twinloc lever system gives you simultaneous control of the rear shock travel and the fork lockout so you can switch 150 mm travel, 90 mm travel, and full lockout with the flip of a switch right on the handle bars.  But even so, it felt bumpy after the Lush.

Decisions, decisions

I’m feeling like the Lush Carbon may be the bike for me.  And after looking up the prices, I’m feeling like the Lush Carbon may be the bike for a more financially well off me.  So I’m considering the Aluminum which we don’t have available for demo.  There is around a $2000 price difference, but how will I know if the aluminum version is still as good?  After mentioning my dilemma to Jans general manager, Jack Walzer, he tells me “get the carbon. There’s a reason they make higher and lower end models.”

I chose the Trek Lush Carbon. And I am so pleased.

The experts and Jans and White Pine Touring in Park City can help you get set up on the perfect bike for you too! Visit jans.com to see more expert reviews and to learn about the bike demo program.

– Kendall Fischer, Content Writer

 

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