KRob’s Outerbike 2013 Bike Demo Reviews – Part 1

26er 27.5 29er All Mountain Trail Enduro Outerbike Test Sessions

Giant Trance 27.5

I rode the Anthem 27.5 at Interbike a few weeks ago and took some heat for marking it down for not feeling “trail” enough for me. So I wanted to try the Trance which is Giant’s 140 travel trail/am 27.5” offering for 2014 and should be more like what I was expecting from the Anthem. This was the top shelf advance version with carbon front and top bling parts which pushes $8K msrp (insert low incredulous whistle).

The Trance felt light and efficient and the fit and geometry still felt a bit too “XC” for this application with a longish top tube and narrowish bars, but overall the large fit pretty well and the bike felt the part. Like the Anthem it felt very light and efficient and I definitely felt more comfortable on it in rougher, more technical terrain. It also stretched back into the XC territory better than the Anthem stretched into the trail category feeling playful and flickable in the tighter, twisty, smoother stuff. This one was much more my style of bike than the Anthem and it worked really well, but there were three or four others in this same category that I liked better. I would love to try the SX version (160 fork, wider bars, bigger tires). I bet it would be more up my alley.

A note on XX1: This particular bike was the best shifting bike of the day but only one out of every three or so bikes set up with 1×11 drivetrains shifted really well. If I’d only ridden the ones that didn’t I would’ve said it was crap and would’ve not recommended it. But there were a couple, like this one and the Norco that I got from the SRAM booth, that shifted really well and totally won me over to 1×11. Not sure what the difference is, but I’m assuming it has to be adjusted just right to shift just right. With professional mechanics setting up all these bikes, I have to assume it’s not easy to get it just right?

I liked these Nobby Nicks and the Giant branded carbon wheels seem to work well.

KRob’s Outerbike 2013 Bike Demo Reviews – Part 2 Coming Soon!

Photo Thumbnails (click to enlarge)

About the author: Kent Robertson

Kent Robertson (better known to Mtbr forum users as KRob) is just a guy who likes to ride. A lot. Kent’s 52 and has been riding mountain bikes for almost two decades, though he says his love of two-wheeled conveyances began when he was 5. His favorite trail type is any, be it fast and flowy, steep and chunky, or jumpy and droppy. Even a mellow bike path cruise with his wife makes him happy. “If I’m on two wheels it’s a good day.” Kent calls Ely, Nevada, home, but he’s ridden all over the western U.S. from Moab and Fruita, to Tahoe and Oregon, to a bunch of places in between. And while Kent focuses on the ride more than the bike, he’s ridden and tested a ton of bikes and knows what makes for a good ride — and a good bike. You can read more from Kent on his personal website,

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  • Mark says:

    Thanks for the wide-ranging comparisons. You may want to pay more attention to the effect of tire choice especially in the 27.5 category. The HDR has limited rear tire clearance (by modern 27.5 standards) so they set it up w/ a very small diameter tire. I’ve ridden quite a few 27.5ers now and have noticed that when I use a truly large front tire (28+ inches) the rollover feeling comes close to an XC 29er, but when running something small diameter like the Neomoto it feels, frankly, not much different than the large volume 26er tires I tend to run.

    • Bikethrasher says:

      Mark, I have a HDR and easily fits a Hans Damp 2.25 which measures 27&5/8 on Enve wheels. I have just over a 1/4 inch clearance. But I wouldn’t go much bigger than that. Because not only will the clearance be limited, but the tire will most likely contact the seat tube as well. The 2.35 Hans damp measures 28″ even. If only Specialized would Release their 27.5 bikes so I could put some Purgatories on the HDR. Come on guys I know you are making them.
      As for feel. I can feel the bigger wheel on the climbs. Not as bad as a 9er but its there. I also notice they carry speed better and I can easily keep up with my friends on 9ers on the straights or in the rough. But just like on 26 bike you run over them in the corners.
      But I have to say I really miss my TRc with out a question the Best Trail bike I have ever ridden.
      My Ibis HDR XL in black with less than 5 rides on it is For sale if anyone is interested.

      • Andrej says:

        Are you going back to TRc? Or Solo?

        • Bikethrasher says:

          Haven’t completely decided yet. But I’m leaning towards the Solo. Mainly because I just spent a ton of cash on wheels and drivetrain for 27.5 wheels. Not that I couldn’t sell the wheels and chain rings. I tried to get a Solo before I ordered the HDR but It was looking like I wouldn’t be able to get one until August or later. I was supposed to get the HDR late June early July but as it turned out I didn’t get it until a couple weeks ago. I should have just ordered the Solo. But after riding the HDR the last two weeks I really need to demo a Solo before I make a decision. To me the bigger wheels are just kinda ok and I still don’t think the few benefits a 9er offers out weigh its negatives. If your over six feet tall I get it. If your not work on your skills and quit worrying about wheel size. There wasn’t and still isn’t anything wrong with 26″ wheels. I have a friend that rides an old 26″ hardtail and he makes all of us tech junkies look like fools up down and across. It’s the rider, not the wheels.

  • Andry says:

    Thanks for the report.
    You did not mention the winner, I know it is hard, and very subjective.
    they are all good bike. But I am surprised about the GT Force, you said sluggish. Is it harder for climbing? Not nimble enough on twisty? How bad it is? Seems like GT Firce is least fun bike on your report. I am interested in GT Force, because of the new look, really new and sexy. While HDR is also sexy, not new look anymore.

    You very lucky to be ableito demo those bikes.
    thank you so much.

  • Liberty555 says:

    Just loving these reviews. Could read them all day!

  • says:

    Hi Kent,
    sounds like a fun trip! sorry I missed it this year.

    we’ve liked many of the same bikes, and I think have similiar riding styles based on our past discussions, so I as interested to see your ripley impression..

    this was intersting…

    “It sounds odd to say, but it felt like it was a 29er just for the sake of being a 29er. In fact if I’d been blind folded I don’t think I would’ve guessed it was a 29er. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it was just a different feel than what I’ve come to expect from a 29er. Make of that what you want.”

    I think this was one of the main goals of ibis, and why I love it.

    you may not “feel” those things, but it is 29 inches, so it does have all those benefits, just doesn’t feel like a truck. put it on the clock and you start to see how those gains are stacking up.

    I do run mine w/ a fox 34, 140 always at 140 and feel it’s perfect for this bike, still super nimble and climbs better then any bike I’ve owned (and I’m an old XC racer that has owned more then my share of bikes over the last 20 years).

    sounds like you are going 650 based on your reviews, I may pick up a good one just do do some extensive back to back testing and sell it if the ripley wins, but none of the 650′s did it for me last year at outerbike. my impression was similiar to your statement after gettting back on one after the 3 9ers, it feels like a 26, no big wheel benefits. over 140mm, makes great sense, under 140, i believe 29 is still the target if you can get the sensations to work for you and find one that has that elusive nimble playful feel.

    • Elliott Jones says:

      I’ve been riding a motion oh HDR 650 B for over a month. I have two other Niner’s that I enjoy very much. I’ve been very pleased with this bike. It has to be the best handling mountain bike I’ve ever ridden and is extremely stable and surefooted in all conditions. Although I am not sure I complete any of my familiar rides at a faster rate then my 29er, this bike certainly makes the rides more fun. It also climbs surprisingly well despite it being heavier than my other bikes. The overall stiffness of the frame really demonstrates a sense of stability under all conditions. I do notice in some rockgardens at lower speed that the 29er, clearly rolls over small to medium-size rocks better. However the Ibis can do this very well if you hit them at higher speed and use the shocks to compensate. Although I still prefer my Niners for longer endurance rides with less twisty singletrack, I would say this bike is by far the best all-around mountain bike I have riden. I would be surprised if it didn’t put a smile on anyone’s face.

    • KRob says:

      Thanks for the additional insight on the Ripley Wade.I did like it and think I would’ve liked it even better with a 140 fork. I agree, I think that’s exactly what Ibis was shooting for.with the Ripley. I guess I just kind of wonder why Ibis spent all that time and development money just to make a 29er feel like a 27.5. Not being a 29er guy it didn’t need to be a 29er for me… but maybe for folks who are all in on the bigger wheels it makes more sense.

      • TED says:

        Hey KRob, I have a Ripley with a 140 fork and the X Fusion shock, total with Lev. dropper post it comes in at 26.4 lbs. ,I have 2 other 26″ bikes, one all mnt. and one downhill . First 29er I bought, did a lot of looking reviewing etc. and chose the Ibis. In short I love it, can positively tell I am ridding a big tire bike. Been riding the 26″ for 10 + years and will stick to the Ibis for all mnt., cross country stuff. TED

  • Andrej says:

    KRob: Is the winner here still the Pivot Mach6?

    • KRob says:

      Ummmm…. yes, I think so. But I gotta say I’m very impressed with the Troy, the Sight, and the HDR. I’d say its a pretty tight grouping between those four. And for smaller Chilcotin complement bikes I’d have to throw in the Solo, Thunderbolt, Flux, and Ripley. Tough time to pick a bike. So many good ones.

  • Ron says:

    Trivial question but – what saddle is on this bike?

  • Mike says:

    Can you give me any comparisons you like between the ibis ripley and the santa cruz tallboyi rode a ibis ripley but have not rode a carbon tallboy. I loved the ripley but want to make sure before I pull the trigger. Which bike would work better for fast tight areas your help would be much appreciated.

  • Elliott Jones says:

    I have a medium Mojo HDR and am extremely happy with it. If I had to own one mountain bike I would have no issue with this being the one. For contrast I also have a hard tail and soft tail Niner which I also like very much. The aspect that is amazing about this bike is the handling, it just tracks through corners with security and ease like no other bike I’ve ever ridden. It is extremely nimble and fast in any twisty singletrack. The suspension also works very well allowing for aggressive tactics in downhill situations. This bike has definitely allowed me to ride better than I have before. If you do most of your mountain biking in the coastal west where singletrack is often less linear, this is a perfect bike. It also climbs extremely well which is surprising given that it is not as light as my two Niners. Maybe not as good, but not far off. The only situation that I found the HDR to be less-than-perfect is traction climbing out of the saddle. If you ride more linear singletrack or fireroad I would definitely think a 29 or would be more efficient. But if you love to ride in Oregon, Nor Cal, Downeville or like this is a great bike. I’m not sure that it would necessarily be the fastest for racing, but it’s definitely the most fun bike I’ve ever ridden in most conditions. There is certainly no shortage of great mountain bikes these days, but it’s really special to find one that’s so much fun. It also holds up really well to had use with the supper stiff and sturdy frame.

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