MTB Geometry & Suspension Discussion

Honestly, I’d go to Pinkbike and read (or watch on YT) the XC/downcountry field test from a couple of years ago, they go into the differences (typically 100mm vs 120mm travel) quite a bit. And then work your way up the travel range with their field tests from there.


Saw you kinda beat me to it, I didn’t get to the end of the thread before I posted. FWIW I went from a Cannondale Scalpel to a new Top Fuel last year and I’m never going back to an XC bike.


I think the basic 110-130mm travel range with associated geo is likely a safe bet for many riders. Light and snappy feeling but still has some solid capabilities to deliver when it gets rough. You have to ride them a bit more actively than a more cushy trail bike when it gets nasty, but I take that tradeoff vs a trail bike that feels a bit over-biked for the greater majority of a ride.

I had the 2016 Fuel EX and then 2017 Top Fuel (1st gen of the remake) and they both ripped. The 2nd gen Top Fuel is my preference over the 3rd gen now available. Took the 1st gen and added just the right amount of beef to it.

They are what I consider proper trail bikes compare to what seem to be the evolution to mini-duro bikes that many trail bikes are these days. Probably all part of starting on super steep angle bikes with little to no suspension in 1993, so I know my take is not universal.

Just seems that quite a few people buy bikes for that 10% of really tough stuff and then end up slagging around the pig in stuff that a HT would be plenty to ride. Totally varies with region though, so I know those trail and enduro bikes have real use cases as well. Some people value the extra level of safety and “point and shoot” attitude where you just plow through whatever is in front of you.


This is totally in line with my take. I think a lot of people are/would be well-served by the current crop of “downcountry” bikes, even if they may not think so. Most of them are light enough that you can build them up to be in the mid- to low 20lb range with some thought about parts spec (my Spur is between 25-26 lbs, and I could definitely get it lighter), and the geometry is rather forgiving and allows riders to hit a fair amount of tougher terrain (and the bike is still light enough to not feel like an anchor on mellow terrain). I think they offer enough flexibility that if you’re at the more XC end of the spectrum (versus DH/enduro), they make a great 1 bike option. I think they’re a lot more capable than some people want to give them credit for.


100%. Most people I see are overbiked and don’t realize it. Lots of people start biking on a 160/160 because it’s so “capable” but don’t even come close to reaching those capabilities.

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I’ve had such a fun time on my hardtail that I’ve stopped even looking at full suspension bikes online and in shops. Really, just having a blast seeing what I can do on it.

Additionally, I’d say 75% of the folks at the local XC races are riding fulls, but I can only think of a single race last year that would have been faster with full squish.

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What years were the Gen 2 Top Fuel made? What did they change with the latest generation that you don’t find as appealing? Sorry if that is taking us off-topic a little, but the Top Fuel is one of my top choices if I move to full-suspension at some point, so curious on your take. I’d likely look at secondhand, so the Gen 2 might be a great option.

About to head to a meeting, but I will get back to you with as much as I know around my lunch break (couple hours).

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Are we not using “All Mountain” anymore?

:crazy_face: :crazy_face: :crazy_face: :crazy_face:

Free Ride became All-Mountain, AM became Enduro :stuck_out_tongue:

Downcountry is “extreme” XC for those that h8 Spandex :wink:

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I think I mentioned before that I jokingly wanted to spec a Ruby fork on a CX frame, slap on a suspension seatpost and call it “Free Road”.

I was gravel before gravel was a thing. :crazy_face: :crazy_face:


Time to insert the ancient TdF pics of those blokes on terrible “gravel” roads with spare tires around their shoulders :stuck_out_tongue:


Any excuse to post a pic of Gino Bartali…the baddest of all the bad asses.


The latest Top Fuel has become a mini-enduro bike.

Slacker, heavier, but more capable than previous iterations

Does that mean I can still call the bike park on long travel bikes XC training as long as I’m in my Lycra :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

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Jolanda Neff rode it at Lenzerheide a couple weeks ago.

She placed in the top 20 on it, so it’s definitely capable, if maybe a tad “overbiked” for modern XC. Though I think her teammate rode her Supercaliber into a top-10 position.

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Top Fuel, Gen 1 = 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019

  • My thoughts: I had the 2017 above and it shredded well above the numbers of a pure XC bike. It had the Re:aktiv shock that was amazing for pedal platform even without the lockout (which I rarely used) and still ate up everything I threw at it. I had manuals and success on this bike that I have not matched even on my 2019 Fuel EX… that still baffles me today. It was an amazing bike and I still miss it. Was just hard to justify keeping when I have that Fuel EX for real trail use, and my Procaliber HT for racing and play riding.

Top Fuel, Gen 2 = 2020, 2021

  • My thoughts: The 2nd gen added the beef to back up that Gen 1 essence, but did so with minimal weight gain. Slacked just enough to remove any twitchiness, and make it more broadly accessible with less “finesse” needed when things got hairy. This was one of the first DC style bikes I could pick with no hesitation or desire to swap parts for a more well rounded bike vs XC purity.

  • Changes mostly from memory:

    • Bumped rear travel from 100mm to 115mm, front from 100mm to 120mm
    • Forks with larger stanchions (like 32mm to 34mm)
    • Longer frame reach, 1-2* slacker head tube, 1* steeper seat tube, longer wheelbase
    • Added dropper posts stock (part of the weight gain, but well worth it)
    • Trail appropriate tires vs the pure XC.
    • Slight bump in weight from bigger components
    • Added Knock Block in tandem with straight shot down tube

Top Fuel, Gen 3 = 2022, 2023, 2024

  • My thoughts: This took the Gen 2 a step further on the geometry front. It also gained weight that I really don’t understand, which is one reason I dislike it vs the Gen 2. I suspect this would still be a great “trail” bike and one I would like to rally full force. Just always find myself wishing I had snagged the short run Gen 2 since it hits all the points I care about at least, without the apparent weight penalty of the Gen 3.

I mostly agree, but see the current Gen 3 TF as full-on TRAIL bike where the Gen 2 TF is true Downcountry.

The mini-duro in the Trek line are the current and prior gen Fuel EX. Those are serious hitter bikes and departed from TRAIL, IMO.


I don’t think hers can be considered stock though. You can’t buy it in that spec as far as I’m aware?