Which Long Travel 29er is Best for You?


29er mountain bikes had a stuttering start when initially introduced. Critics knocked the bikes for their slow handling, long wheelbases, and lack of peppiness when trails were at their fastest. More than anything, this was related to needing to dial in the geometry than the actual wheel size. Thankfully, we now live in much more enlightened times. The big wheeled revolution continues to progress thanks to the modern long travel 29er mountain bike, which promises pedaling efficiency and high speed stability that smaller wheels simply can’t promise. We at Contender Bicycles carry three of the most talked-about bikes in this suddenly-hot genre: the Scott Genius 900 Tuned, the Santa Cruz Hightower LT, and the Orbea Rallon M-Team. Let’s talk a bit about what makes each bike unique.

Scott Genius 900 Tuned – Coming in at 2249g for the frame + hardware, the top end Genius frame is the lightest in class. It features the longest reach out of the three and couples it with a very slack 65 degree head tube. Low weight means the bike feels poppy and agile, but it happens to ride a bit more stiffly than the others. It’s available as both a 29er or 27.5″+ bike; choose the 29er for a more nimble feel on the trail, or the 27.5″+ bike if you prefer additional grip and a smoother ride over rough terrain. The Genius comes with the Scott-exclusive TwinLoc suspension remote. With three suspension settings, it  allows riders to set in a lot of sag into the suspension without losing climbing prowess, which is among the best in class. TwinLoc “traction” setting also effectively changes head/seat angle as shock sits higher in stroke. It might be more of a trail bike that moonlights as a long travel 29er mountain bike, but riders are sure to be impressed with its outright performance.

Santa Cruz Hightower LT – Santa Cruz Bicycles is very open about how the Hightower LT came to fruition; for as much as everyone loved the 135mm travel of the standard Hightower, the Santa Cruz-SRAM Enduro Team wanted more travel. As such, the LT (for long travel) takes the bike up to 150mm via a new rear swingarm and longer fork. Because it shares its frame with the standard Hightower, the LT has the shortest reach of the bunch, but Santa Cruz offers five sizes to really dial in sizing. It’s 29er only, and both C carbon and CC hi-mod carbon are pretty darn light (but not Genius light). Thanks to the Santa Cruz-specific VPP suspension design, it climbs nearly as well as the mountain goat Scott Genius, but it feels a little more stable on descents compared to its counterparts. Really it just does everything well, and isn’t limited to just one style of riding.

Orbea Rallon M-Team – Like the other models in this comparison, the Orbea Rallon is very light for what it is: a long travel 29er beast that absolutely tears up descents. In general, the Rallon is on the long and slack side of long and slack of bikes. It uses Orbea’s top level OMR Asymmetrical Monocoque Carbon Construction, which gives it not only the unique build around the shock, but impressive stiffness out of the saddle. Three sizes (S/M, L, XL) might cover both taller and shorter riders, but the size range isn’t particularly comprehensive. There is a coil shock option for gravity-type riding and for those wanting a more supple feel over rough terrain. Insane customizability via MyO, which gives riders choices in wheels, cockpit components, and even color options. It feels the most planted on descents out of the three bikes, and most confidence inspiring on gnarly high speed descents out of the three.

Which bike is right for you?

Scott Genius 900 Tuned – Perfect for those with a road or cross-country background, who love to climb but not be beaten up through technical trails, and go faster than their Cannondale Scalpel Si or Scott Spark RC allow on descents.

Santa Cruz Hightower LT – This is a serious all-rounder choice. Pedals nearly as well as the Genius, and the Scott VPP suspension makes it feel more capable over rough terrain. It feels naturally balanced and happy riding both fast or slow.

Orbea Rallon M-Team – Riders with a mountain biking background will love the coil shock option. The Rallon is the best of the three in the steep/fast/rowdy scene. As Chris said in our Rallon Deeper Look video, it’s more or less a “mini downhill bike” that surprisingly climbs really well.

At Contender Bicycles, we’re committed to getting you the best bike for your preferred style of riding. If you have questions regarding long travel 29er mountain bikes please give us a call at the shop or email info@contenderbicycles.com.

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