mbr's Danny and Jamie fight it out

Does lots of suspension mean lots of fun, or is a short-travel bike the ultimate grin-grower? Are Americans right? Is bigger always best?

>>> The best full suspension mountain bike of 2018

Big is beautiful

(Danny Milner, MBR)

No one needs a 2.5-ton behemoth boasting 370hp, a multi-touchscreen infotainment system and the ability to park itself, but that doesn’t stop nearly every school-run mum and dad around my way owning such an obnoxious vehicle.

Why? Because they provide a feeling of safety and security and, against all the odds, modern technology and engineering has also made them pretty damned good at pottering down to Waitrose.

There has been a similar trend in mountain biking. Competition breeds innovation, and it’s no coincidence that the explosion in enduro racing has taken the 160mm-travel bike to staggering new heights. Heights that make these bikes more versatile than ever before, to the point where — unless you live somewhere pan-flat — they are now viable all-rounders.

Danny needed all his travel to keep up with Danny Hart

Thanks to advances in carbon and aluminium frame production, and lightweight, durable components, many of these bikes weigh less than 30lb. Sophisticated dampers have helped make them pedal as efficiently as the average trail bike, and modern geometry means they climb almost as well as they descend.

But probably the most convincing argument for consolidating your fleet into a single enduro bike is that the trails we ride have evolved to keep pace with the equipment. New bike parks are opening across the country every year, and the existing ones are flourishing.

There are challenging new locals-built zones popping up here, there and everywhere (and some of them are even sanctioned!). There’s no lack of terrain on which to test these astonishing bikes.

Anyone want to buy my old short-travel 29er?

Less is more

(Jamie Darlow, MBR)

There are a host of true but tedious reasons why short-travel bikes are more appropriate for the riding most of us do (or, mountain biking, as I like to call it).

Those dreary arguments include, but are not limited to: the cheaper cost of small bikes, their easier suspension set-up, your faster uphill pedalling speed and the more versatile nature of a short-travel set-up — trail centres, natural epics and pub crawls are all appropriate and you can ride the thing all day.

Watch Brendan Fairclough’s reasons for cutting the travel on his training bike

But none of those truisms cut to the heart of why short-travel beats big travel: quite simply, the ride feels better when you’re closer to the edge. We ride mountain bikes to engage with that primitive part of ourselves that demands we take risks and get away with it, with adrenaline and endorphins giving us our natural fix.

And the thing is, that’s actually easier and safer on a short-travel bike where there’s a little less grip on the downhills. On a big-travel bike, you need a lot more confidence and skill to get to the edge of control and you need to be going faster too — which is all the worse if you come off.

It’s the feeling of speed that counts, not the raw numbers… If it was about the mph, we’d all be riding road bikes.

Originally from MBR October 2015.