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Review: Mountain Bikes

The latest trend in mountain bikes is 29ers: full suspension bikes.

While most triathletes are quite comfortable arguing over the relative benefits of various aerodynamic wheelsets, jumping into the world of Xterra racing and making a good mountain bike choice is both daunting and challenging for most multi-sport athletes. (Have a look at Calvin Zaryski’s story in our training section for some suggestions.) Where the choices were once hardtail or full suspension, the latest trend in mountain bikes is 29ers: full suspension bikes with larger wheels that provide an even smoother ride over rough terrain.

The upside of these bigger wheels is the smooth ride and an ability to roll over so much more terrain. The downside is that you lose a bit of acceleration and snappiness of the smaller, 26 inch wheels.

Dakar 650 B2

For those of us for whom all of that just seems confusing, Jamis has the ultimate sit-on-the-fence answer: the Dakar 650 B2. With wheels that sit in between the 26 inchers you’re used to seeing on mountain bikes and the new 29ers, the 650 B2 provides a ride that does everything Jamis promises: it’s smooth but remarkably snappy and offers great acceleration when it’s time to climb or wind your way through some quick corners. If anything, we felt guilty because it was so hard to stretch this bike to its limits – we’re not sure we did it justice. The frame features a Kinesium alloy main triangle with  weight-optimized 7005 seat and chainstays. Add to that the mp3 linkage design, cartridge bearing pivots and the Rock Shox Ario shock that provides 10 mm of travel and you have a responsive bike that manages to takes lots of and abuse but inevitably seems to keep the rear wheel on the ground moving you forward. The White Brothers Fluid 650B-130 fork is, in a word, unbelievable, absorbing a crazy amount of shock while remaining stiff and responsive when required, especially on climbs. The American Classic wheelset is light and responsive – just like the rest of the bike. Jamis has specced this bike to the max, using Shimano Deore/  XT (front/ back) derailleurs and completing the package with Hayes Stroker Ryde hydraulic disc brakes with V6 rotors that are as beefy and responsive as they sound. Put it all together and you have a bike that works really well over rough terrain and during the constant accelerations you’ll find in any cross country or Xterra race. For any triathlete who is looking for a top-of-the line performing mountain bike for their next Xterra event, the Jamis Dakar 650 B is well worth a look.

Top Fuel 9.9 SSL

With 100 mm of front and rear travel and featuring a precision-made OCLV Carbon frame, the pinnacle of the Top Fuel line up includes the 9.9 SSL that includes SRAM XX components and Bontrager XXX tubeless wheels. The slightly heavier and Shimano SLX specced Top Fuel 8 still rides like a dream and your bank account will appreciate your choice of bike. It shares the same dual-suspension geometry, but is made of Alpha red aluminum. Either choice will net you a fast and responsive bike for cross country, trail and Xterra riding.

Era FSR Comp Carbon

Ridden by Melanie McQuaid to more than a few Xterra titles, the S-Works Era is the top of the line women’s specific mountain bike from Specialized. This full-suspension Era series is fast, light and specifically tuned for women’s cross country performance. Pictured is the Era FSR Comp Carbon with a Fox/Specialized remote Mini-Brain rear suspension, a RockShox Reba RLT fork, custom Avid Elixir RSL brakes and SRAM X7 (front) and x9 (rear) derailleurs. The Era FSR Expert Carbon model has a RockShox SID Race fork, RAM X.O. components and Custom Avid Elixir CR  SL brakes. The base model alloy Era FSR Comp pairs a Fox/SBC rear shock with a Fox F100 RL fork. The rear SRAM X-9 derailleur provides quick shifting while the front M660 LX Shimano derailleur will move you through the front chainrings.