Ask MBAction


Q: I’ve been a long-time reader of MBA—since high school, which was many moons ago (all your throwback content from the ’90s is nostalgic).

I’ve been riding and racing the Specialized Epic (since it was released as the FSR in ’98). I’ve recently stopped racing, and I’m looking to get a new ride that is more trail-worthy, as I’m also living in Quebec, which is a bit more vertical than Ontario. I’m looking for a great all-rounder that has better XC handling and climbing prowess but has more travel to take some bigger bumps on the downhills. Essentially, I’m in search of the do-it-all unicorn.

From the reviews in MBA, I’ve narrowed it to the Trek Fuel Ex 9.9 or Specialized Camber S-Works (due to my

long history with Specialized). But, given all the bikes you test, I was wondering if you had others I should consider (Santa Cruz, Pivot, etc)? Ultimately, I’ll make the choice through a demo, but figured I’d ask the experts for some further advice.

Thanks for your time and for decades of great reading.


A: Sounds like you have two competitive finalists. We tested the Fuel EX 29 9.9 (with Thru-Shaft), and we were very impressed with its capabilities. It was one of our go-to bikes for about seven months. The geometry, component spec and suspension design are really good.

Pivot offers the 429 Trail, which is a crossover XC/trail bike. It’s a fun bike to descend on and climbs exceptionally well. We would say it climbs better than the Trek but might not be quite as capable on the descents. The Trek has 15mm more rear travel. We would recommend trying one of these before making a purchase. If you want something even more “XC,” Intense released its new Sniper in 100mm and 120mm versions. We rode that bike recently at the True Grit Epic and had a lot fun on it. This bike is more XC than the Pivot and Trek, but with the right pilot can handle some technical terrain confidently.


Q: Hey, I have a few questions for you. We are getting three daughters into the high school mountain biking team right now, and I’m wondering how you feel about mouthguards or mouthguard helmets? The girls have perfect teeth, and one has had five concussions. I know mouthguards can help prevent them, or at least diminish the severity. What do you think? None of the coaches seemed to cover this topic.


A: Angelina, there have been a lot of advancements in helmet safety the last couple of years. 6D Helmets probably offers the best impact technology on the market, with Leatt a close second. You can get a full-face helmet, but they’re heavier and aren’t designed for the type of riding that high school MTB teams generally do. Check out 6D and its technology and see what you think.


Q: Hey, first off, cool mag! I’ve been subscribing for about a year now and really look forward to reading your reviews. Even though I don’t buy new bikes all the time, I still like to see what’s new and cool. Anyways, what’s the deal with suspension sag? I’ve noticed recently that some companies are listing “millimeters” instead of a percentage? Thanks for reading this.

Jason Dennis

A: This relates to a shock’s stroke. A lot of people don’t realize that many suspension designs aren’t meant to use the full length of the shock’s body. The percentage is based off the actual stroke of the shock, but you’d have to have the exact stroke to get the setting precise. Listing it in millimeters is a little more user-friendly and more accurate. Check out our Suspension Pro Tips here.

Have a question for the MBA crew? You can send your brain busters to [email protected].


Mountain Bike Action is a monthly magazine devoted to all things mountain biking (yes, that’s 12 times a year because we never take a month off of mountain biking). It has been around since 1986 and we’re still having fun. Start a subscription by clicking here or calling (800) 767-0345.

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