what is this thing called 'geometry'?

2manyoranges

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I like it when there is a post asking about a comfortable retro saddle - it means that the person might just be interested in riding....(Avocet o2 ti by the way - available in many many widths and very light).

But there's a surprisingly small amount of discussion of geometry on here. A thread about handlebar width this month is about it I think.

Nowadays, all the talk on the hill and in bike reviews is about geometry - head angle, bb height, STA...and of course the magic 'reach'. But far less so here.

A modern pre-occupation? Not for me. I bought my bikes in the late 1980s and 1990s on geometry and tubing. Grrr….really should have bought that Cinelli all those years ago, in Action Bikes in Brighton, in the late 1980s. I bought a Cannondale instead. An 18 inch frame, and I have a 31 inch inseam. That frame had a flat and very short top tube, and I got it into a comfortable position by putting on a 150 stem. One Hundred and Fifty.....grief. I quickly became interested in geometry, since I knew that something was amiss. Next, a sloping top tube came with a Klein; great standover but awful climbing since the seat tube was too slack - not a properly suspension corrected frame, and the Manitou on the front pitched everything out. I then began to get the hang of it, and the next bikes were (for then) rangy sloping top tubes with suspension compatible angles - 15.5 inch Marin Teams and Team Ti. The virtual top tube length on these bikes were (IIRC) about 3-4cms longer than many contemporary bikes, which meant much shorter stems and the saddle pushed forward on the rails to steeper the virtual seat angle. Both being A Good Thing. These bikes were rock solid downhill and climbed brilliantly.

Gary Fisher of course took this approach with his long tube and short stem models, to a considerable absence of interest by most people. But geometry is so much at the heart of a bike - not the sole thing of course, since you could make a horrible bike with the right geometry but the wrong tubing...

But back to the theme of the thread....why so little discussion on here? Today we have people like Dan Stanton, Cy Turner, Si Bowns all pushing the angles and lengths, and making things which really are sensational going up as well as down - the Switch9er Ti is a very special bike, as much fun on a sketchy climb as a rock garden descent.

For the retro catalogue my money is on the Team Marins (steel and Ti) and the steel Konas. I have a soft spot for Oranges, but Joe M really did seem to know what he was doing....and from a very early date those sloping top tubes and rangy lengths, with properly suspension corrected angles - even in the low end models - have the nascent geometry which is so important to the stunning performance of contemporary bikes.
 

madjh

Yeti Fan
The position of the modern bicycles to climb is bad, they even put negative angle stems in XC bicycles because the front is too high. The modern bicycles are focused in going down well but if you are 1,75m or less, 29ers are too big. The front is to high

About retro geo, why do you think we like some models against others? Because rides better, or in other words: have better geometry.

To go fast in narrow paths and climb I still prefer a Element than any other modern 29er.

For example that Stanton is for enduro. I don´t like for every day use or for long distances. But it will be fine for a Bike park. The head angle of 65.5 is too much (and te reach makes unfitable for me for example), it will be slow in narrow paths. In the other hand it will be stable going down. But it is nothing special, it is like a Meta, it is a funn bicycle but not a race bicycle or a bicycle I will ride in a long distance with climbs etc.

It depend on what you like. I like the 66.5º of the Yeti SB5, for me is the limit for a good all pourpose MTB. But I feel more confortable in a retro bicycle climbing hard mountains. Ofcourse not going down, that is why I would choose the Yeti if the terrain goning down is difficult and have some climbs.
 
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marc two tone

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Yeah, get it. Never have I bought or chased a bike based on its 'innovative xyz angle doo-dah'...
I just know when a bike suits me for all terrains no matter what. The frame will be welded to that geometry but, I'm not. I consciously or sub consciously adjust myself to cope.
 

2manyoranges

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madjh - I think you might be forgetting fork offset. I run a Switch9er with 43 offset forks and I can assure you that it feels like a jump bike in singletrack - I am not exaggerating here. And my short review on the Stanton website emphasises this quality. The 16 inch ti switch9er is extraordinarily nimble. My jaw fell slack when I first rode it in the forest. Far more nimble than most of my other bikes, both 26 and 27.5. No consciousness of the wheels being 29ers. Secondly, there is a 'test climb' which we do...best bike on that for years (nay decades) was a Marin Team Issue - not any more....the Stanton walked all over it. And re height, I am 5-7 or 170cms. The 16 inch Stanton is perfect. Er how tall is Dan Stanton? Oh 5-7. And distance cycling...the test for me is what I reach for automatically. For years this was a C16R. Even when I meant to take something else out - fs or hardtail - I found myself reaching for that...over a 20 year period. Now it's the Stanton...and my times over distance do not lie. They are down. And I ache less. And bikepackers are not prone to selecting bikes which are hard work - quite a lot of migration to 29, high front ends and slack angles with short fork offset - see https://bikepacking.com/index/29-plus-bikes/
 
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yakboy

Manitou Fan
It always surprises my biking buddies when I turn up on one of my Retro's for a summer ride. Usually get a bit of a ribbing, " You're not seriously going to f...in ride that are you?" , until the first climb that is, when I am usually 100m up the trail, particularly on my E-Stays. Their climbing ability is astounding. Of course I stick to the back on the downhills😁
Geometry is always a compromise if you want a bike to go uphill and downhill well. My modern bike is a 2016 Canyon Strive with the shapeshifter system, which for me is the best compromise for the uppy/ downy trails here in the UK. The ability to steepen the head angle by 1.5 degrees instantly, firm up the front fork and reduce the rear suspension travel was a game changer for me. Others haven't got on with the bike or thought it was a gimmick but I love having 2 different Geometry set ups in one bike.
 

Woz

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Personally find this of interest too, along with bike fit since you can't have one without the other. Subject gets more complicated when
suspension comes into the picture and fiddling with things for specific purposes.

Unlike you, I found a Marin Eldridge Grade sleepy as hell and couldn't stand it (same geometry as a Team Marin?). 1994 Kona
(albeit a little oversized) was brilliant. Later Voodoos good too but they were not a dramatic change over Konas except a
shorter and higher head-tube to account for longer forks. 10th Anniversary Orange Clockwork was OK. The best for my liking was a
Parkpre Pro Elite; something just magic about the 72 degree parallel mated with a 400 a-c fork. A very close 2nd best
DBR Axis TT mated with a 410 a-c fork. For the riding I do, 2000s Airbornes are as good as custom I could find, classic
71 / 73 but with a relatively slightly shorter seat-tube and longer top-tube than Konas.

When choosing a frame I tend to do the number research before buying. I will build it up with well known parts, dial in my position
and try it. Usually within about 15mins I'll get an idea of what it's about and then try it more for it's strengths and weaknesses.

I can't comment on modern geometry, never really tried, but the closed up more upright position does not look appealing.
 

2manyoranges

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Agree entirely Woz re the Eldridge Grade and lower Marin frames - the nickel Team Issues and the Ti were much more stretched - I seem to remember just over 23 inches on the 15.5 - or 59cms. I think I compared it to the Palisades Trail, which was nearly 2 in shorter in the TT. The Teams also were a much more lively tube set, which lacked the dead feel of the lower end Chromoly Marins.
 

mk one

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Seem to be comparing retro bikes to more modern designs where there is more emphasis on a single discipline.

There will always be a compromise, and as others have said above you have to learn to adapt yourself instead of the bike adapting. I think older '90's bikes were/are ideal for climbing and fast singletrack, also with a lowered seat they are fine for downhill. Of course a more modern focused park type bike will feel more inspiring on a downhill but heavier and slower, more cumbersome, on up and flat riding.

I feel older bikes had more of an all-round capability than modern design's, though it is back to the rider as usual with those, change position and mind set and you can ride a dh/bikepark bike on anything, i have in the past.

But that is part of the idea is it not, to continually reinvent the wheel so to speak, make the consumer feel they are missing out and to keep spending.

Like i find myself saying to others out on rides quite a bit, my bikes didn't suddenly stop being very good at what they do because there are new and different bikes to buy.
 

Tootyred

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The virtual top tube length on these bikes were (IIRC) about 3-4cms longer than many contemporary bikes, which meant much shorter stems and the saddle pushed forward on the rails to steeper the virtual seat angle. Both being A Good Thing. These bikes were rock solid downhill and climbed brilliantly.
Agree totally, why marin ever put 1" layback posts on these bikes as standard i have no idea. They feel like your hanging over the back whilst trying to pedal at a completly unnatural angle! With a straight post the bikes change dramatically into a fast all day ride, that you can get the power down on and that climbs well too.

Your also right, modern bikes are not for xc peddling....they are for throwing down a hill, so im not surprised that the geometry is completely arse about face to a early 90s mtb.

As for other brands, to add my 2 old pence worth (pre decimal of course), Orange i never got, doris has a 91 prestige and ive had 3 various clockworks ( really bought to break up from mates)....imo uncomfortable, unresponsive, tiring, just odd, but then im 6'5 ish! Which does put me outside the normal design parameters.

As for marin and kona, ive only had one kona and found it fine....just like the marin....but then they were designed by the same bloke....Joe Murry, so im not surprised they were very similar feeling.
 

mk one

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I also had issues with the Marin tt length, great bikes though and very underrated. Frames with sloping top tubes are my favourite, so Kona's Brodies etc, which lends itself to various disciplines quite well, dh, dirt jumping as well as normal type riding. Though the '93 Kona's also had a very long stretched out riding position, not sure if marins changed through the years also.
 
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