So I have been looking at getting a 29" XC bike. I have been looking over the Norco Fluid 9.3 which seems to have some decent parts at a resonable price.
Does anyone into XC have have recommendations around the $1200-1400 range that I should also consider
Personally, I would aim to have everything at XT spec, but that's not realistic on a $1400 budget. I rode a Merida 96 on full XT to a National Championships win in 2012. I expect when I go back and do National Championships in 2014 and 2015 I'll probably do so on a 650b Hardtail. I really don't see the need for XTR or XX/XX1 - I've been through that learning phase.
The big question is how tall are you?
At 5'10, I'm not convinced on 29ers. At the same time I've been talking to Paul van der Ploeg (3x Under 23 national Champion) recently about the new XTC 29er he's riding now that he's signed with Giant, and he's hating them too. He's 6'4.
I've test-ridden a 29er or two; the Specialized StumpJumper I found the geometry was such that it completely exaggerated my poor technical skills/riding position. I even found one particular uphill corner at Lysterfield where I would completely drift the rear-wheel around the corner while practically pivoting on my front wheel. I don't deny it's not so much a problem with 29ers as with my riding style, but I can't see myself being able to compensate in a short timeframe.
Other riders on the other hand find 29ers great - we put Liam Jeffries on a Specialized Fate (womens geometry 29er) on which he won the U15 National Championships last year; he's now signed to Torq/Cube and he reckons that the Cube 29er is at least a minute faster over some ten minute segments than the current Cube 26er they have him on. Similar, Bec Henderson (National Champion in her age category the last 8 years, 2nd 2012 U23 World Cup series) swears by them; both those riders are quite short. So maybe there's something there.
I can however tell you to stick away from the Apollo Arctec M. While it looks like a nice bike, my Apollo sponsored buddies tell me the geometry isn't good at all for a 29er - they haven't compensated to allow it to be ridden with a short stem and wide bars, as 29ers kinda need. I think the wide bars thing is also what bothers me about 29ers - I've always ridden with 60, 58, 56cm bars. When I went to 66cm, wow, that took ages to get used to, and some 29ers have moustaches as wide as 76cm!
Personally I'm waiting to see what Scott and Merida do with 650b frames next year.
Rec Retail on a Giant XCT 29er 2 is 1499, which is a mix of Deore/XT.
He's like 6'6 or 7
I reckon the whole deore/XT/XTR/XTACLES thing is a scam. I have had bikes with deore all the way up and I swear to god the only thing that matters is how well setup they are because they seem to slip worse the more expensive shimano get.
and I hate how high you feel on 29" the hybrid downhill xc bikes already feel weird to me
There's a couple of important differences between SLX, XT and XTR that do make a huge difference in racing.
Assume SLX has none of the advance features - you get a basic single shift up and down.
With M770 XT they added multi-release, so you can grab two gears; I think you also get two-way release as well. What that means is that you can shift up(? I can't recall) with either your thumb or index finger.
XTR goes even further and allows you to grab or dump up to *five* gears per shift. This isn't so useful for riders like myself who have pretty good gear selectio, as I'm in a good habit of picking the right gear before I get to the exit of a corner, but there are times where you'll hit an unexpected pinch where you need to dump half the cassette immediately or you'll just be crunching gears and putting everything in to the pedals before you wipe off all your speed.
Gripshift lets you do similar, if you're well-practiced enough it's possible to drop through the entire cassette in a single shift. I don't recommend it though, unless you like twisting and breaking chains.
I use a trail bike for my xc affairs, my xc bike collects dust atm :(. Have a mate that rode 29er for a bit, and he wasn't really that convinced, if you've got the legs and can hold your speed they're great for ascending things, especially when theres a bit of ruff stuff. But anything else he said it was pretty turd.
What do you do when you ride, do you got for distance / time, just to muck around on a bike?
I'm 6'3 and I get by on a trail bike with an auto adjust seat post, so when I'm ascending things you can get nice and high, like my xc bike, and as soon as i get to the top, hit the button and lower the seat, and its got geometry similar to my DH bike.
have you looked at GT's. I like gt's and ride a GT zaskar carbon 9r elite to work everyday. They are now owned by cannondale and have been using the same solid frame style for the last 10yrs
My mate at work just bought a karakoram 2.0 for under 1k but for the price you can looking at the karakoram 1.0 or zaskar 9r comp. he likes his gt and is very happy with it.
i love my 29er's bigger rolling diameter so good for a commuter if you aren't looking at a roadie.