New XC MTB for 2020 - What to Get?

I have a 2019 S-works epic I got in December. finally got to use it around march, and did the Austin rattler with it, and qualified for Leadville at the race (finished 23rd overall, 3rd in 30-39 with a 3:25. I didn’t know the race was called until I was starting my 3rd lap. even though it rained hard, the course was still very ridable. I got a red corral spot for Leadville, and finished leadville in 8:33. the race went trouble free for me. I took it relatively easy up Columbine and got passed by a bunch of people, but made a lot of ground back on the return. the bike worked fantastic… only wish I had a power meter for it. and currently its getting the front shock rebuilt under warranty (beat the piss out of the bike, has around 1300 miles, Leadville, Austin, a 6 hour endurance race, and 5 short track MTB races).

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Why do you say the epic isn’t a great XC race bike?

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+1 for the Spark RC 900 WC, I absolutely love mine and have no complaints. I have used it for the past 2 years and race XC and MTB 100s. I only have 1 bike, so I use my Spark in races and bike vacations to Colorado, Utah and Scotland. Not only is great to race with, but it hasn’t held me back following guys on full trail/all mountain bikes.

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The Spark is spec’ed very well for the price. I’m looking at the 900 series (120mm fork) and the only bikes I have found with the same price/spec are the Orbea’s (other than direct to consumer brands). Spec, Trek, Pivot, Yeti, Santa Cruz, etc. all are priced higher for lower specs. In my area the dealers for those brands are better and more established - that is worth something but I"m not sure it’s worth this much.

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My buddy raced for years on an old TREK Superfly full suspension. He was going to get the new TREK Top Fuel but opted for a Specialized Epic due to being cheaper and wanting to try something different.

Surprised nobody mentioned the Top Fuel

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It’s actually discussed in a few of the threads I linked above. Here are links to the search results that mention it directly.

At least one forum member has the new 2020 9.8 and loves the bike. That was shared as OT in another thread, but I might be able to find it if it’s helpful.

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I don’t think it’s a good XCO race bike but it’s a fine marathon XC bike. I’ve raced mine extensively (both XC0 and Leadville) and honestly the brain just isn’t a value add to that platform.

In theory it sounds amazing. In practice, the bike is just too bouncy to lay down max power in XCO races. When you watch the UCI XCO World Cup races when they are climbing those forks are locked out and not bouncing at all. That stiffness and rigidity allows the rider to put all of their energy into that rear wheel. The brain isn’t smart enough to completely lock out the front fork so it always bounces. How much depends on how much weight goes overt the front fork but the bounce will be there whether it’s a little or a lot. I’ve talked to the Specialized and SRAM reps at big races, had them take a look, ride it, set up the sag, play with the brain settings etc. They say that’s just how the brain operates.

I have the same Quarq XX1 PM that I can move between bikes. If I just look at max power numbers the Lux is on average about 20% higher than the Epic.

The best way I’ve seen to fix this is to leave the Brain in the rear but put a lockout on the front fork. This seems to address the bounce but defeats the purpose of the brain.

Great bike for riding trails and long rides, just not my favorite for all out XCO races.

That’s my $.02 so YMMV.

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The new Top Fuel is on my list but I haven’t been able to demo. I stopped by a dealer yesterday that will have a rental fleet of 9.7s in soon if I want to pay $100 for a day to demo (they will apply to purchase).

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Keep in mind that the new top fuel is longer travel now, 120 front, 115 rear. It’s more of a dedicated marathon/trail bike now. For a hardcore XC race bike, the Supercaliber is what you want if you are a dedicated trek guy.

I’ll toss in another vote for the Pivot Mach 4 SL, I think that’s going to be the bike of my future, as the DW link is just simply better than most other bikes.

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It’s going to be interesting to hear how @Nate_Pearson finds Fox’s Live Valve in comparison to his experience with the Brain on his Epic.

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I’m coming to a similar conclusion. Have you tried a Santa Cruz Blur?

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I have, but it was a few months ago at a standalone event, so I never got to ride anything right after. I rode the TR version, so a 110mm travel fork, 100mm travel rear because that’s all they had. My opinion was that it was a very competent bike in all aspects, and there is no doubt it’s a dedicated XC bike. I personally would have preferred a slightly compliant tune on the shock so it wasn’t so harsh during technical climbing. However keep in mind that this is my opinion, and I only rode the bike for an hour. Personally I preferred the Pivot to the the Blur.

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+1 for the Spark RC 900 WC, I absolutely love mine and have no complaints. I have used it for the past 2 years and race XC and MTB 100s. I only have 1 bike, so I use my Spark in races and bike vacations to Colorado, Utah and Scotland. Not only is great to race with, but it hasn’t held me back following guys on full trail/all mountain bikes.

This for me also.

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So I actually have a Blur now. I built it from the ground up, kind of in between the trail and XC versions (120 fork and a KS Lev dropper, but everything else toward XC). When I built it up my thought was to have one bike to rule them all. And it has largely served that purpose…I can ride mostly whatever I want (that I want to, at least). I think the new Top Fuel leans this way as well given the travel, but I have not ridden it.

For me though, the Blur is not as snappy as I would like if I am going to have a dedicated XC bike. Obviously take that with a grain of salt but that has been my experience. Getting on the Scott Spark felt like a rocketship. Granted, some of that is the fork spec but not all of it. YMMV.

And if any one is looking for a sick Blur, let me know! Hahaha.

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Ooh tell me more! What wheels and drivetrain?

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I like the idea of lockout button on the Blur even if most reviews say it isn’t necessary. I also like the geometry. Similar to my HTs. Never tried the Scott, but I hear nothing but rave reviews.
Santa Cruz is having a demo day soon here, little bit of a drive but I’m going to try to go to it.

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I overdid it on this one (as usual):

Fox Float Factory Stepcast 34 (which I re-logo’d with blacked out custom Fox logos)
ENVE M525s
ENVE bar
SRAM Eagle XX1 mechanical
Quarq
Shimano XT brakes (personal preference over SRAM brakes)
KS LEV Ci dropper

It is exactly what I built. But now that I live in the mountains full time, I can justify having two different MTBs for different purposes.

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Sounds perfect! Little bit more travel up front, sweet wheels (the best all-around wheels available today, IMHO) - - bet it’s light too. 10kgs?

In the mountains you need AT LEAST two MTBs. Probably 3-4 just to cover the bases. Trust.

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I have been debating the Spark RC 900 Team Issue AXS vs. the Spark RC900 World Cup AXS. From my research, it looks like the weight is the same across the XX1 and X01 groupsets beyond the crank, and I’ll be changing the crank any way. The other big weight change will be the wheels, but I’m probably going to swap those out any way. The Team Issue AXS is $5k, which seems like an amazing “deal”. Yes, I’ll put money into wheels and crank but it would end up being a pretty sick build. Open question on whether or not I put a Frasier on it.

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Tried a non-Live Pivot Mach 4 SL at their demo day and the ride settled the matter in about 15 minutes. Ordering a Live version after the winter (rainy) months have passed. Eager to hear what you make of it @Nate_Pearson!

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