Considering getting a new mountain bike and wanted to collect some thoughts
My mountain bike background:
2007 Trek 4500: hardtail, 26 inch wheels, linear pull brakes, 3x8 gearing, maybe 60 mm of fork travel. Had this for about 6 years. Enjoyed mountain biking despite how ‘bad’ this $400 bike was.
2013 Cannondale F29. Hardtail alloy frame. Lefty 100mm fork. Blew my mind how much of an upgrade this was. Climbing and accelerating out of corners was a blast. However the one time I took it on some ‘rougher trails’ I felt really beaten up. Road it for about 5 years before I stopped mountain biking and sold it.
My only experience riding a FS bike is from a couple demo days about 10 years ago
2013 Specialized Epic: amazingly fun bike to ride. Handled well, climbed and accelerated great. Would have loved to buy this instead of the F29 but I didn’t have the budget at the time
2013 Specialized Stumpjumber FSR carbon. Get sluggish to me. Wasn’t as fun to climb on, slow to accelerate. Just kind felt meh
2013 Santa Cruz Tallboy. Enjoyed this though not quite as much as the Epic (granted I was riding it on different trails)
So what I’m looking for is something that that feels snappy and is fun to climb. But enough suspension that I don’t feel like I’m gonna get bounce off a trail. No immediate plans to race, but perhaps marathon racing at some point. I like XC type trails and not big jumps and drops. Not sure how to best describe the terrain I have access to (I live in the Spokane/CDA area if anyone is familiar.
I know there are a lot of other great options out there, but I’ve kind of focused on the Blur TR ‘R’ and Epic Evo (base model) as ‘down country’ seems to fit what I’m looking for and my preferred LBS’ carry these brands. Though unfortunately neither have my size in stock so I can’t ride both to compare.
Thoughts on these two or what someone who is mtb-tech naive think about when comparing them (ie maintenance, warranty, proprietary parts, limitations, upgrade potential, etc)?
Also, I know this is subjective, but is it worth ~$700 to move up to the next level (Blur TR ‘S’ or Epic Evo Comp)? I’ve got the budget, just not sure if I’d be better of using that money else where later down the line at some point
Fwiw Im making my way reading through this thread:
While I have not pedaled a blur, I’ve owned an Epic Evo for a season, and it is a fantastic bike. It’s surprisingly capable on rowdy terrain (albeit at a lower speed than a bigger bike), and very very fun on more tame terrain. I’m a couple hours west of you, with similar terrain, and it’s perfect for most of my local offerings. It would also be a very fun bike for the vast majority of the riding at Sekani/Beacon Hill
The bike is a very efficient feeling pedaler, but is surprisingly smooth through the bumps. I’d make sure to get the fork and rear shock pulled apart and lubed/oiled, as it makes a big difference.
I’ve used mine as a gravel bike, bikepacking, riding double black loamers, marathon race bike, and XCO race bike.
I think if it’s within the budget, moving up to the Comp may be worthwhile - better brakes, fork (the Sid isn’t the best thing ever really but probably better than the Reba?), and drivetrain.
They are both proven bikes that would serve you well. You really can’t go wrong. Choose based on what speaks to you, or availability.
As far as leveling up - if you can swing it, I think you might be glad you did. My experience is the GX drivetrain is a noticeable step up above NX. The NX is functional, but the GX has a level of refinement that is noticeable. If you go Blur, the extra money seems to have a couple other upgrades as well, hubs and other parts I thought I noticed.
I have both… for me, the Blur is a (slightly) better bike in every way. Clubs amazing, descends above its class (similar to a Tallboy) and is just an over-all great bike. That said the EVO is also amazing. It is more “stiff” but fast & capable on the descents.
You can’t go wrong with either bike. I love them both. But if I had to get rid of one (I don’t want to) I’d keep the Blur for XC racing.
I’ve not ridden the latest rendition of the Epic EVO, but I own a Blur TR. I LOVE that bike. I’m not a big air guy, but I’ll hit some small stuff and I certainly don’t mind a chunky descent. It handles it all very well and still climbs amazingly well. I realize that the EVO does not have the “brain” which is a huge plus. I’m just not a huge fan of Specialized (or any company for that matter) that uses a lot of proprietary sizes or parts. If you have an LBS that supports both brands I don’t think you can really go wrong with either, but I’ll go Santa Cruz every time.
I was in the same position a couple years ago when the latest Epic Evo came out. Ended up going with the it and love it for all the reasons others have said here. I bought the Expert build which was great as is, but I like new stuff and have since upgraded the drivetrain and seatpost to AXS. Makes for a great setup for my purposes.
That said, I spent time on both the EVO and Blur TR before buying and honestly I don’t think you can go wrong with either.
It may not, but after watching friends and the shop I race for digging around to find correct yokes or shocks with the right eye to eye length, etc. it just puts a bad taste in my mouth. I’ve gotten to the point I look at specs for all kinds of things like that when I shop for bikes.
I have an Epic Evo and there’s one positive and negative to be aware of.
Pro: it can hold two water bottles, which many FS bikes cannot. I’m not familiar with the Blur TR, but when looking at the competition that was one plus for the Evo. I don’t like hydration packs, but others won’t care.
Con: It has no feature to keep your handlebar from smashing the top tube in a fall and the stock setup will hit it. I was nervous about that and fixed that by swapping to a riser handlebar.
These aren’t major things, just something to be aware of.
As far as upgrades, it’s a far better value to spend the extra money for the higher spec model than to upgrade later, at least at the lower end (S Works is stupid money). The biggest reason is suspension. It’s very expensive to upgrade that later and finding the right rear shock is difficult, plus the stock shock is almost always custom valved for the frame (it is for the Evo, not sure about the Blur).
Thanks for all the comments. I imagine either one will feel like night and day compared to my previous bikes. The last time I was in a mtn bike was ~3 years ago when visiting my parents who had my old trek in their garage. Multiple flats, was bounced all over the place, and slowed rather than stopped when grabbing the brakes. Looking forward to tubeless tires, better suspension, and disc brakes
I’m really curious to know if/how XC MTB trim levels equate to road bike trim levels. It’s probably next year before I buy a MTB again but I’ve been watching this and similar threads with interest and keeping an eye on what’s available secondhand as I’m likely to end up in a very similar position regarding choice when the time comes.
My last MTB was a bit newer than OP but still a 10yo alloy hardtail. Since then I’ve been through half a dozen road and gravel bikes, finally settling on essentially whatever is the brand-specific version of what Specialized calls ‘Expert’ plus some upgrades. Both gravel bikes in current service are GRX810 with mid-range carbon wheelsets and carbon finishing kit. My tarmac is basically the Expert model with Rapide bars and wheels, etc. So I’m kind of in the world of competitive race spec but with second tier groupsets. If I was to build something destined more for play and abuse than performance then I might drop to 105 level, but probably only if it came with significant cost savings. In my world it seems like Ultegra/Force are the default for serious amateurs and age-groupers.
If I’m looking for the XC/DC MTB equivalent spec level is that still going to be ‘Expert/Pro’ or ‘X01 RSV’ or are lower tiers more common in amateur competition in MTB than on road? It seems like the groupset tiers make less of a difference on MTB (and are fairly easily interchangeable in terms of parts), but do suspension components follow a similar heirarchy to road groupsets? (ie is second tier basically all of the performance of top tier with a small weight penalty and a massive cost savings, third tier performs almost the same but is only a little bit cheaper and adds a decent bit of heft?)
I guess the TL:DR version of the question is: what’s the XC MTB entry point for someone who rides second tier road bikes and doesn’t want to feel comparatively disadvantaged if they try their hand at entering some XC races?
Yes, that’s great advice, the suspension makes a huge difference. When I got my new-to-me/used hardtail, it came with a world cup-tier fork. It is leagues beyond my mid-level fork that I had before. If you have a decent groupset (Deore SLX/equivalent and up), the only difference will be in weight, not functionality. Great advice about the damper, too.
Your priorities will be very different when it comes to equipment. Road bikes are simpler machines as almost all of them lack suspension. With a road bike, I’d say aluminum until getting a 105/equivalent groupset, then upgrade to a carbon frame with 105/equivalent, and then look at wheels.
For a mountain bike you have lots more variables. E. g. brakes are independent of the groupset, so you can combine a SRAM drivetrain with Shimano brakes. E. g. brake preference is a huge thing among mountain bikers. Having carbon wheels is not as important. I have a good set of aluminum wheels mated to XTR hubs, and my hardtail weighs 9.8 kg (with a mid-grade carbon frame).
To make things simple, for a decent entry-level bike, I’d first start with an aluminum frame and go up the spec list until I’d get a mid-level fork and a Deore SLX/equivalent drivetrain. I’d also get a dropper post. Those usually don’t come as standard, and are definitely worth the money. If you are not familiar with the nomenclature, model numbers, brands, etc. feel free to ask here. We love spending other people’s money!
I think you’re really close to on the money. It’s about the suspension parts that up-spec between models rather than groupset that are the big motivation.
For example, between GX and XO1, and similarly from XT to XTR, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference in a blind test. There are differences, but by and large they are lighter and a bit more exotic, but I think the performance is very high in either depending on your brand preference.
Suspension models though it is much easier to feel the difference between a low level fork and a mid level fork, or shock.
I was pleasantly surprised/pleased that the Blur also holds 2 bottles. Not sure how they compare cost wise with what spec youre shooting for, but when I bought my Blur, it was about 1000 less than a comperable evo, that said this was on sale and before the big specialized sale, so not sure how that compares today.
Ive been absolutely thrilled on the blur. Kinda dumb, but Ive always wanted a SC but could never afford one. Times have changed, and it was on a pretty steep sale, so I went for it! Ive never heard anyone complain about a blur or epic, if that matters? Find the one that fits you, priced how you want, and pull the trigger knowing youre gonna be happy!
I agree with what was posted above, get the highest spec suspension youre willing to pay for, the rest is disposable-ish and easily upgradable later. Just be aware that the lower end sram stuff uses a HG freewheel, so if youre planning on sram, keep in mind that youll need a XD driver for any upgrade from there, if you get a lower spec (NX) drivetrain.
Bike specific shock tunings are extremely annoying for sure! I went through that when I upgraded the shock on my enduro, but I’m very fortunate that i live 15 min from a fox suspension centre. Unfortunately that’s going to be an issue with any modern mid-high end full suspension these days as most have custom tunes.