Leadville Equipment Dilemmas

Hey Leadville finishers- wanted to get your thoughts on some equipment dilemmas for LT100. (I pulled a golden ticket and got in via lottery after a few attempts. Plan on doing Tahoe Trail for training and corral placement.)

I’ve heard/read varying things about the difficulty of the descents- Powerline and Columbine I think feature most prominently. If not for the level of difficulty of those 2 descents, I think I would go hardtail.

  1. Hardtail vs. full suspension? I am not a super adept bike handler- objectively, I think I am OK, maybe a 4 out of 10. I started riding MTB last year, culminating in La Ruta de Conquistadores. I chose hardtail for that race after similarly agonizing and turned out to be the right choice, esp. since there were so many sections of carrying and pushing. I survived day 3 on my hardtail at La Ruta if that helps anyone. I’ve listened to Nate’s LT100 podcast, and if I recall, Nate would veer hardtail, while Jonathan full?

Here’s my dilemma:
a. Yeti SB100, 120mm front/100mm rear. Just got this, love it. 24 lbs with dropper.
b. Felt Nine FRD, 100mm front. Shade under 19lbs. If hardtail, would you add a dropper?

  1. Gearing. How fast were you going on flats? What gearing did you have? I’d prefer to stay 1x, but if need the top-end speed to stay in groups, I’d consider a 2x, since I don’t want to give up the big cogs and need to spin to save my knees.
    a. 32/10 gearing on Yeti = top speed 27.8MPH (32T; 10-50 Eagle)
    b. 28/11 gearing on Felt hardtail = top speed 22.1MPH (28T; 11-49 WolfTooth)
    c. 34/11 double on Felt hardtail = top speed 26.9MPH (34/24T; 11-49 WolfTooth)

  2. Tires. I tend to baby my wheels, so I’ve never suffered a sidewall cut. And I am a chicken going down so I am not usually mashing through stuff. How true is it that you need heavier duty sidewalls? Nate seem to espouse lighter tires Maxxis Aspens or Schwalbe Ralph/TBurt. Which would you suggest?
    a. Schwalbe Ralph/Burt
    b. S-Works Renegade 2.3
    c. Maxxis Ardent Race
    d. Continental Mountain Kings 2.4/2.2. This is what I used for La Ruta. Heavier, tougher sidewalls, but a significant weight/RR penalty.
    e. Any others?

Thanks and hope to see some of you there.


#1. Full suspension. I rode it on a hardtail and if I do it again, I’ll go FS.
#2. 32t with Eagle should be fine. You won’t get dropped from groups with this setup.
#3. Maxxis Aspen. Checks all the boxes. I ran the Vittoria Mezcals but I think the Aspen is faster rolling and is definitely lighter with only marginally less grip.

You’ll should expect to get off and push towards the top of Columbine and during the bottom section of Powerline. Columbine is technically ridable if traffic is thin enough, but I don’t think the energy tradeoff is worth it for riding the bottom part of Powerline.


Much needed thread!


I’m in for my first time this year as well. I think @stevemz summed up what I’ve researched so far pretty well. I have an Eagle drivetrain with an oval 32 for the front being shipped as we speak. My 1x11 was fine for Tahoe last year, so I may have been good with it at the LT but with the flats and paceline stuff I figured why take the chance. I have been planning to run Specialized fastraks, but I keep hearing people recommend the apsens so that remains to be determined.

P.S. I’m doing Tahoe again this year. Hoping training using TR will enable me to shave 14 minutes off of last years time and move me up to the green corral (last year all of my training was volume based with no real work doing interval stuff). I’m drinking the coolaid!


I don’t think there is a correct answer regarding HT or FS. Both will work and both have pro’s and con’s. I’ve spoken to riders who have ridden both ways and even they often remain undecided. If you listen to the Leadville MTB podcast you will hear them discuss this. A compliant hardtail vs a short travel FS really are not that different. Weight however will matter. If you are 5 lbs different between the two bikes that will be a factor over 103 miles.

I’m planning to ride a Niner Air 9 RDO hardtail, which is pretty compliant, likely with Nates combo of Racing Ralph/Thunderburt on Enve M525’s if conditions predicted to be dry. If rain in the forecast may go with the new Racing Ray Front and new Racing Ralph rear.

I will run Eagle (likely AXS) with 32T front. Will use Stage PM. My main debate right now is whether to put on a dropper or not. Alternative is a compliant Niner carbon seatpost. I have a Thompson Elite 27.2 that works on the Niner. I’m going to pre-ride the course in June with my Air 9 RDO and make a final decision, but leaning towards the dropper.

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I’m shooting for the Green corral as well, but we’ll see how the training goes. Just started SSB II and feeling good so far. Had a B race this past weekend at Rock Cobbler and felt solid.

Sounds like Aspens are highly recommended…

It would be fun to get a TrainerRoad crew together for a pre-ride during June or July depending on people’s schedules.

I am planning to do Silver Rush and hope to earn a slot there.


If the only thing holding you back is the Descents then there’s no reason to be worried AT ALL.

I got drawn for Leadville through lottery and only rode a mountain bike 2 time before racing and I was fine. If you have any experience at all the decents will not be a problem


@Kuttermax. I had a compliant seatpost, the S-Works COBLGOBL and thought it really helped during rough stretches at La Ruta, esp. riding the railroad tracks. But like you, I am also leaning dropper on HT though to better manage the descents.

I’ve ridden LT100 the past 2 years, first on my Santa Cruz Highball hairdtail and second on a Santa Cruz Blur. You’ll find the “roughest” part of the course descending the top portion of Columbine, but it’s really not that big a deal, you just have to hold a line in loose terrain with oncoming traffic until you’re back on the FS maintained fire road - that’s harder than the navigating the terrain.

#1 - I don’t have plans for a 3rd LT100, but if I did I’d just ride my hairdtail again. Really, there’s nothing so demanding that it warrants FS so I’d always lean towards less weight 'cause less is less :slight_smile:; if you have back issues or some other reason a FS benefits you, then by all means go that way. It’s nice to have choices!
#2 - I ran a SRAM 1x with 32T each time with standard XX1 (Highball) and Eagle (Blur) cassettes. I’m slow (10+hrs) and a lightweight rider, I easily could have enjoyed a 28 or 30T, but SRAM 11 and 12 sp both have plenty of bailout with the 32T up front even at mile 80 when you want it so badly. No regrets either time.
#3 - IKONs fr/rr the first time, Aspens fr/rr the second time. Between those two (or similar tires) I’d suggest IKONs, at least on the rear, because unless there is rain the hardest part of Columbine that’s rideable (for me) is very loose, an IKON has enough bite but still light and a fast roller.

Have fun & best of luck!


When I did it in 2012 I ran a Maxxis Ikon on the rear and a Racing Ralph up front. I likely will do that again as I thought it worked well…unless of course I’m persuaded otherwise :wink:

I ran a 100/100 FS Cannondale Scalpel Team. I think the bike was around 23-24 pounds. Coming down some of the chattery sections I promised myself I would never do it on a hardtail. I passed GOBS of people on descents and was always catching people and waiting to pass them. Using the Summit plugin for Strava, I can see that I was much faster on descents than on climbs, based on where my time ranks and relatively speaking of course.

Dropper post? I don’t claim to be an expert there so I’m curious as to what the benefit would be to riding a dropper on a course like the LT100? Like I’m a 5 year old, what would the advantage be?

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The primary benefit of the dropper would be to get your center of gravity lower on the descents to give you better control of the bike. The secondary benefit would be the ability to quickly tweak you saddle height during the long day. This could be help if back pain, cramps, etc are developing.

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That makes some sense, might have to try it out there this summer. Thank you

I rode it on a full suspension Trek Fuel, 32 tooth chain ring with Eagle, continental race king protection tires.

This year, I’ll ride the same, except maybe swap my 32 tooth for 30.

I need a FS due to an old neck injury. But if you are comfortable on a hard tail for 9-10hrs, the weight savings are probably worth it.

With a 32, I found I did not spin out - except where it was a steep downhill, so I just coasted - which all-in, probably does not lose much time.

With your 28/11, there might be a few spots where you’d want a bigger gear. If you swapped the 28 for a 30 or 32, that would probably work better.

I pre rode the course with Bontrager XR3 tires and pinch flatted a side wall cause I was being an idiot bombing down sugarloaf not paying attention.

On race day, I swapped for continental race king pros due to their lower rolling resistance, and had no issues. They are lower volume that the XR3s so had them pumped up to 25-27 psi.

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My bike has a dropper, but it quit working properly a few weeks before Leadville at the Laramie Enduro - which was a major pain having to deal with.

For Leadville, I took off the dropper, and put on a rigid carbon post. I noticed no downsides of not having my dropper for Leadville.

This year, I’ll may just leave the dropper on… not that I’ll need it, more I might be a too bit lazy to take it off :grin:. TBD.

I’m planning to lose the dropper. I kept it on for the Tahoe 100k last summer and didn’t really feel like I needed it. So it’ll come off for that race in July and stay off until Leadville is over. I figure it’ll save a good amount of weight, and one less thing to worry about for the race. To each their own!


@veloMC are you local to Northern Cal. by any chance? Looking for people to share some long outdoor training rides with this spring.

You definitely don’t need the dropper for any of the descents on either Tahoe or Leadville.

Main reason I’d run a dropper is just to be able to shift body positions on such a long day. Plus my dropper is internally routed and it’s a pain to remove.

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I left the routing in place. I just tucked the cable up inside the carbon post.


That’s clever. I’ll have to remember that :+1:t4: