MTB Race/Every Day bike help

I’m a long time podcast listener and a 4 week long TR user. I raced my first XC MTB Race last fall and really enjoyed it. It’s definitely given me a carrot to chase this off season in Michigan. Now, I’m starting to get that new bike itch and having a hard time deciding what I want. My current bike is a 2015 Trek X Caliber 7 that it turns out is sized too small for me, so not very nice. It’s having some shifting issues lately as well which are contributing to the new bike itch.

My original plan was to wait till around the model year turnover time period and buy something on sale. That would allow to see how serious I continue to be about racing and get a better sense of the kind of riding style I’m looking for. That said, I started to scratch the itch and looking at available bikes out there. Overall, given the trails around here I don’t see a ton of need for a full suspension and I think I’d rather put that money towards better specs.

Yesterday I demoed a 2016 Procaliber 9.8 SL that’s on closeout and boy was it light and zippy. It’s priced phenomenally at around 2 grand. It’s got some light cosmetic scratches, given its age, but it’s brand new with warranty. But I just couldn’t pull the trigger. Some aspects of it, like it’s 100mm stem seemed pretty dated and I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d be happier with something more modern. Even a more modern XC race bike like the 2020 Procaliber 9.6.

My other concern is that I want a bike I can race on, but also have a good time on for casual rides given most of my training will be on the actual trainer. Prepping for the XC race season has essentially been my obsession this winter, but I’m still very much a beginner. Am I better off front something more aggressive and trail oriented and racing that? I’m thinking maybe a Chameleon, but I’d have to give that a demo.

Thanks for your wisdom!

The 2016 and 2020 procaliber have the same geo. I’d pull the trigger on the 16 and use the extra money to upgrade it as you see fit.

2020 9.6 has lower drive train (but Shimano, which I think I like more) and a heavier frame but carbon wheels, wider bar and shorter stem.

Also really unsure if I want to go with a true XC build. It’s all I’ve ever known, but I’m curious how much fun I’d have on something slacker with potentially beefier tires and a stock dropper. That said I don’t want it to hold me back too much in races. I’m sure I’d have fun zipping around on a race rig.

Personally I’d recommend a modern XC full suspension bike with 100mm f/r. It will be better geometry and will allow you to ride just about everything short of a true downhill trail, which is hard to find anyways in MI. I’ve taken my Scott Spark RC 900 everywhere in MI, all over CO and UT and a MTB vacation all over Scotland. The bike handled everything and I was with guys on enduro bikes. The bike will not hold you back. If you want a race bike that can serve as an all mountain bike then I’d look into a short travel full suspension, nothing over 120mm. A hardtail is fine, but a full suspension is more capable and a hell of a lot more comfortable, especially as you age.


I personally enjoy zipping around on a race bike all the time just because it’s so much faster, but I understand also why someone would want a more “burly” rig. Chameleon will be pretty slow compared to the competition come race day.

I think adding a dropper, or depending on your budget, a 120mm fork would make a big difference on making the procaliber more fun for everyday trail rides.

100 or 120 front, and 100 rear full suspension is also a good option, depending on your budget.

If you have nice wheels and drivetrain (albeit one needing a good overhaul) why not get a new frame and transplant bits from the old?

Can then get a very nice frame and upgrade a few bits that you fancy.

I’d look at a xc/marathon orientation full sus. If you go all in racing then you can get a pure race bike but until then I’d think having the ability to ride, race and play would be the better option.

all depends on what kind of trails you ride for fun and what kind of trails you will race on. a modern XC (which are beefier and more aggressive than ever) could be jsut right or it could be more than you need.

What are the trails like? What do you ride right now, and does it work for you? Can you post us a strava ride here that’s “representative” of what you’d be riding and racing?

and even then, there’s a lot of personal preference, but we can at least offer up what WE would want in that situation. I happen to be a “shortest-distance-bewteen-two-points-is-a-straight-line” kinda guy so I I’ll trade off extra weight for some burliness, and that’s how i go fastest. But if you like to finesse your lines, you might do better on something lighter.

An SC Chameleon is a bit of a tank. The carbon frame alone is just under 2000 grams. I think the benchmark for XC race frames is just over half that.

You could have two sets of wheels, 29" for XC and 27.5+ for trail riding.

1 Like

I’m in Michigan and settled on the SC blur. The most technical trail around Southwest MI would be something like Merril or Maple Hill trail and the blur will do those just fine. The bike can be over forked and they make a TR version with one already. I think I would stay in the 100mm FS style range for here. I have an older Kona Honzo for something burlier but I don’t expect to ride it much this year. For reference, I’m looking at doing a few CPS races, Mohican 100k, TK lawless 50, Iceman, peak2peak, etc

Seems that most people are pointing in the FS direction. I’m definitely starting to see the light but my budget is pretty limited at $2000-$3000. For a while now I’ve leaned towards better specs on a hardtail. At 26, I think I can handle a hardtail on most of the terrain around here, but years from now I may take a stab at longer races. I am definitely looking into the FS direction, especially given I want this to be a race and play bike.

Any solid XC oriented FS bikes in that price range that you all would recommend?

Check out this thread:

1 Like

In that price range you’re going to get a 5000x nicer used full sus than a new one.

1 Like