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XL and XXL bikes in Downhill?

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3/29/2017 12:56 PM
Edited Date/Time: 3/29/2017 12:57 PM

It seems like long bikes are becoming the norm in World Cup racing. The tall guys have been on XXL bikes for a while now, but now average-height riders are getting on long bikes.

A certain someone raced Bootleg on an XL bike instead of the Large he was originally planning on and I did a bike check with Bruce Klein (it will post soon) who's on an XL with a long-reach headset cup...XL and a half. He's not very tall. Bernard Kerr went from a medium to a large.

I understand World Cuppers are going ludicrous speeds on wide-open tracks. Riding style, terrain, body types etc can all factor in, but for the sake of discussion, would you go up a size from your "standard" DH choice? Do you think the same size ideas make sense for the average downhiller?




3/29/2017 1:14 PM

I've recently moved up to a XL and I'm 5ft 10. I made the move after riding several bikes in larger frames ride to see what it was like and seeing many brands move this way. The slack head angles and modern geometry DH bikes have nowadays mean I've never felt 'sized out' of the bike.

I think where people would struggle is if they are new to riding or if they are of the smaller build. Cornering feels a bit different - but to me faster. I feel more in the bike and able to control it, riding through rough terrain and straightening corners more.


3/29/2017 1:43 PM

The bike industry is by and large pushing bikes that are too small, IMHO. I'm a tall guy - 6'4". I'm tall, but no freak. I just bought a new bike, and it was a real struggle. I found that only a handful of manufacturers are making bikes big enough to fit me. The only bikes made by large companies big enough to fit me, had super long seat posts, so I couldn't run a proper dropper post. I ended up going with a smaller British brand because of the fit. (Bird Aeris 145).

There was an interview with Greg Minaar, when he was talking about the new V10. He said that they built up test mules to determine sizing before making the molds. In the interview, he said that the largest/longest bike they built was the best they tested for him, and they put that into production. To me, this really suggests that they should have tried even longer bikes, to test the results. I think we'll continue to see bikes getting longer and longer for the foreseeable future.


3/29/2017 1:44 PM
Edited Date/Time: 3/30/2017 7:53 AM

Its interesting. Probably one of the biggest factors in going fast on a bike, and not played with nearly enough. One more vote for aluminium! (jigs are easier to shift than making new molds)

I know I annoy a lot of Vital's faithful when I cite what skiing has done, being they are very different sports.

Still, in the ski world, you'll see smaller dudes pushing big/long/stiff sticks when the situation warrants. Say, a big mountain competition (which is akin to DH mtn bike racing).

Outside of that super specialized use however, its rare to see a small dude on giant skis. Or even a big dude on a set of giant sticks. They become unpractical outside mach loony or crazy deep snow. You'll still see good riders on slightly longer sticks day to day, but nothing as crazy as a 51" wheelbase for trail riding. What I'm saying is there is a point of diminishing returns.

I know I ride better on longer bikes, to a point, so long as everything is kept in proportion. I've also found there are limits to this, though again, the whole idea of proportion is usually where the equation crumbles for me. Not to make this into a chainstay length thing again, but if you are going to make XXXL bikes, you have to have the rear end grow too.

Fun fact, Blenki went to a smaller bike at the EWS in NZ with a 65 (gasp) stem. He felt faster.

In the end I think we'll have found that uber long bikes do have their place at the top levels of DH racing and for Reggie Miller. Outside of this however, especially with respect to trail bikes, I think we're close to sizing that "makes sense".

The real gripe I've got is "why are we still putting 21" seat tubes on any bike" (you know who you are...) - There are 170mm droppers for a reason.


3/29/2017 1:49 PM

I think it depends on how the bike's other measurements change between sizes. On downhill bikes, seat tube length takes a back seat to low standover, so the stack measurement for a given downhill bike may be the same across all sizes (this is the case with the Trek Session). Between a small and extra large frame, you are really only expanding your reach and not how tall the bike is. A lot of companies are switching to longer reach frames across all models - case in point, my old Trek Remedy (19.5") has the same reach as the new Remedy in a 17.5".
Maybe some riders are just trying to reach beyond their current sponsors thoughts of 'good enough' and are picking the 'best length' bike for them? If it helps the pros, I would assume it would help the average rider, although the magnitude of that difference may change.


3/29/2017 2:13 PM

Masjo wrote:

I think it depends on how the bike's other measurements change between sizes. On downhill bikes, seat tube length takes a back ...more

I have to disagree with the "if it helps the pros, average guys benefit too" logic. I see this as akin to the clamoring for overdamped suspension setups by average riders - pros hit things so much faster than average riders, and at those speeds, they have different needs than the average rider.

The advent of ultra-long bikes is beneficial at high speeds, but requires a lot more work to get through a tight corner. When you think about the sorts of tracks that are commonplace on the World Cup circuit now, riders don't have to deal with repeatedly tight, awkward corners. It's all about hitting gnarly lines at warp speed, and a bike with a longer wheelbase will provide better stability. It's not as comfortable, won't jump as well and certainly won't corner as well (at slower speeds, at least), but a bike that long will maintain composure at high speed limits. However, a XXL V10 is truly a massive bike - it has a 50.4" wheelbase in the low setting, for reference. The regular sizes (M, L, XL) have grown longer and longer over time already, so the XXL is not just a longer version of an XL from a few years ago.

I do believe that a lot of this does have to do with personal preference, and also what's suitable to a given location. Pros will switch frame sizes depending on the track, a luxury that mere mortals don't have. When you consider that bike parks are increasingly becoming the domain of burly "enduro" bikes, where downhill bikes once were considered the only real option, it shows just how radical modern DH bike geometry has become, and how other, shorter travel rigs are become more capable and filling that gap.


3/29/2017 2:28 PM

Interesting that one of the complaints of the WC last year was straight, wide-open, high-speed sections (I'm remembering this correctly, right?) and one of the most known "long bike" hold-outs was Bryceland, who bowed out of full-time racing.

I'm personally all for longer bikes. IMO they're just more fun to ride being that you can open it up a bit more.


I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.

3/29/2017 2:36 PM

Being 6'4" I've never had the option to size up on bikes. I know that if an XXXL DH bike (yes, three X) was an option I would definitely be looking to buy. I agree with fast_bastard, Minnaar is clearly on a bike that is too short if he needs to run the buzzworks headset and a chainstay lengthening link over the already extended XXL stays. I am currently looking to buy a Nicolai Geometron through Mojo Suspension, which appears to address all my issues with current trail bike design (longer CS, slacker HT, more Reach, steeper STA). Obviously there is a limit to the whole longer and slacker trend, but for tallish folks like me, the industry is nowhere near it. How can an XL Demo 8 only be 65mm longer than the Small? What are the intended rider heights for each of those, 5'5" and 6'1"? A 2.5in change in bike size for 8in or more in rider height difference seems a bit daft, especially figuring the chainstays and stack stay the exact same. I think a lot of average height folks riding a medium would be pleasantly surprised by the added inch or more reach of an XL DH bike if they gave it a week of getting used to.


3/29/2017 2:50 PM

Masjo wrote:

I think it depends on how the bike's other measurements change between sizes. On downhill bikes, seat tube length takes a back ...more

zhendo1990 wrote:

I have to disagree with the "if it helps the pros, average guys benefit too" logic. I see this as akin to the clamoring for ...more

I think it's the concept the applies, but not to the same effect. A 5% longer wheelbase on an average Joe's DH bike may cut 2% off their time, but adding 5% to a pro's bike would cut off 5%. At the same time, maybe the inflection point is different, eg a pro can benefit from a 10% longer wheelbase but Joe does not.
Either way, I feel more comfortable descending on a 460mm reach bike versus a similar bike with a reach of 430.


3/29/2017 4:20 PM

A balanced bike is a happy bike. Huge frames with wonky geo are going to be no better than a smaller more reasonably designed bike. That is why I am such a fan of Reach and Stack.
From there, the head angle and bb height need to be in sync.
Once those four numbers are established, the merit of bumping up a size can be discussed.

If the sizing e.g. S, M, L, XL are all too small or too large (Example Santa Cruz v.s. Commencal in 2016), then it is going to make sense to size up or down to achieve the desired fit. At which point it should be noted that riding style and terrain of choice ought to be the top considerations. For consumers, the "go bigger" trend is often to their detriment, as it gives them large, unwieldy bikes which they can't control. But, too small a bike, and it will be too easy to override.

Again, it's a balance. I decided to size up in '15 to a Large trail bike and DH bike because I was developing back issues from being too cramped. The trade-off at the time was the seat tube was too long/tall on the trail bike, which was difficult to work with in the steeps. But, in the case of both bikes, I had more room to move around, and my riding improved, some of it likely from general confidence. Now, I'm only 5'10" on a good day, but my reach is more like 6'+, a little extra Ape factor, and my inseam is maybe I'm all torso. Moving to a larger bike was beneficial for this reason.

Depending on the brand of DH bike, I'd even consider an XL - particularly if I was riding big, fast terrain.

So where does this leave me in this conversation? I'd say: look at the numbers, and consider where you ride most. Don't just buy into what the Pros are doing and go for it, because you're not one of them - their circumstances are considerably different than anything even a local Pro tends to encounter.


3/29/2017 6:32 PM

I'm 6'3'' and i ride a size large nomad, which i just bought, knowing that it was slightly to small. I believe that it is all about rider preference. So, whether or not you are 6'0 and ride an XXL v10 is up to you and whether or not you can slam it into berms. A long bike is innately more stable over the rough and straight, but as mentioned above it takes more skill and more commitment to do it. I don't believe that it is worth it to buy a replacement for your current bike(that you like) just because a larger size is more stable. I won't be upgrading from my large nomad until I break it, and especially not for a few mm. That said, some people like long bikes and good for them. As I said above, its about personal preference, not industry trends.


3/29/2017 8:05 PM
Edited Date/Time: 3/29/2017 11:07 PM

I think something to note is that L, XL, XXL is that the reach if each bike is different regardless of sizing label. An XL YT is equivalent on paper to an XXL V10. So really the only numbers we're looking at are Reach and Wheelbase. Reach being the only actual measurement on bike that relates to fit. At 6'3 I'm quite happy on my XXL v10, but could see riding a reach of 480/485mm well within the realm of possibilities.

Something something else is that a company like Kona will messure their XL trail bikes at 485mm reach yet fit similar to an SCB XL (470mm reach). So what measurments are accurate I can't really say. It's all a bit silly.


3/29/2017 8:08 PM


3/30/2017 1:55 AM

Very interesting topic, in my circle of riding buddies I have been spearheading the longer bike for dh for a good 5 years now. I got the first gen carbon V10 in XL while being 6ft and everyone thought I was half mad. When everyone sat on it they just couldnt belive how long it felt, felt was the right word indeed. The V10 has a very slack seat angle streching you out very far if you sit on the saddle but the reach on that bike was within a a couple of mm's to a L Demo. Which nobody thought was overly stretched.

Got a current gen V10 in XXL and it fits pretty bang on. I wouldnt like any longer. On both bikes I have been running a Race Face stem that can be flipped between 30/50mm which has served its use fairly well, some tracks the shorther and higher bar position helps and on some others the longer lower is better.

On trail bikes I usually opt for a slightly shorter bike and until last summer always been on a 50 stem but went 30 now. Having a shorter setup feels alot more practical and fun on the trail bike since it never sees the same speeds and I actually have to pedal the bike.

Overall I think for dh people have been on slightly to short bikes in the past and now the industry as a whole is getting to a more perfect spot with sizings across the board. But the main point is looking at the actual numbers not the label.


3/30/2017 4:54 AM
Edited Date/Time: 3/30/2017 4:56 AM

I think it's worth mentioning how riding styles have changed over the years as the sport and equipment have evolved.

Back in the 90's when everyone was on short bikes with 3" rise bars, the dominant style was an elbows down, crouched style. Tracks got steep and gnarly so this evolved into a more elbows out, aggresssive moto style. Allowing the rider to be on the front wheel with his weight in the center of the bike became an important factor so bikes got longer.

I would say that the super long bikes are a result of the current world cup track selections. The faster more open style courses of recent years are shaping the sport and equipment, with riders and companies going more extreme to gain an advantage. The long front, short chainstay thing is becoming obsolete too, as carrying speed and predicatabilty on the very limit become the most important characteristics of a WC bike.

I touched on this in the 29er in DH thread, but there will come a point when the equipment is so specialised that it is irrelevant to the average privateer and recreational rider.


3/30/2017 8:05 AM

Two things I think worth mentioning: A lot of brands didn't change their sizing, or didn't change it significantly, when we all moved from 70-90mm stems to 50mm or shorter. So at some level, the more moderate upsizing is just catching up with that. The brands that are going "extreme" with reach measurements are really the only brands actually lengthening their bikes.

Second, Minnaar actually isn't a fan of ultra short stems: his rule of thumb is that they should always be right at the fork offset number.

One thing I've found with modern bikes, is that I have to think much more about keeping weight over the front wheel than I did on old school, steeper HA bikes. Certainly some of that is trying to counteract old habits from the days of needing to hang off the back of the bike to keep the COG between the wheels on the steeps, but I find myself trying out slightly longer stems & a lower stack height in order try make the front wheel feel less like it's floating out in front of me.

3/30/2017 8:18 AM

I feel like geometry is much more important over frame size. I'd prefer a slightly slacker ht then a longer reach any day. I'm 5'10 so I'm usually right between medium and large. I'd probably size up to a large for racing but I don't feel a need for an xl, especially with how big frames are getting these days. My freeride bike is a medium YT Tues, which in all honesty is more than roomy enough for me when I do occasionally race. In fact, because YT tends to have a tad longer sizing than other bikes, I've found that the size small Tues is completely comfortable as a park bike. I think at the end of the day everyone need to find what actually works for them rather than just blindly upsizing cause the pros are doing it.


3/30/2017 8:58 AM

I've had this issue for years being 6'6". But I've been lucky enough to work in the industry and have had a great relationship with NICOLAI over the years. A company that was years ahead of the game in this realm, even before the geometron. I'm stoked to see this changing and growing literally. I love my XL ION 20



3/30/2017 9:48 AM

I think a lot has to do with your body type. For instance, I am 6'2" with a long torso, short legs, and short arms given my height. I have been flopping between XL and L bikes and have settled in on the shorter length.

The issue for me is that when the riding gets steep and I need to move weight back on longer bikes I have to bend so much at the hips. This leads to me not having as much range of motion for available in my arms (they are too extended) to push/weight the front tire and my legs feel more cramped and make it hard for me to pump with them. I've found the shorter bike (or i should say being at the upper range of the size for my height) allows me to have a more neutral and what feels to be a more athletic stance on the bike which allows me to work the bike more.

The sizing thing is interesting, but I am shocked that bike companies, especially the internet ones, haven't opted better sizing tech to help people fit a bike. If you look at business wear sites (proper cloth, knot standard) they employ some really cool tech to help you get a tailored fit via your computer. Why doesn't a bike company do that? You could look at body dimensions and then discuss riding styles to really help people get the feel they want.


3/30/2017 11:24 AM

It just varies brand to brand. Brand X may have a large that is often similiar the medium of brand Y.


3/30/2017 8:08 PM
Edited Date/Time: 3/30/2017 9:44 PM

I'm just waiting for that Triple X. Yeah, I'm a freak. Perhaps I just need to make a front triangle with a 30" Down tube. That's how I measure. Screw reach and whatever. Feet to Hands. Done. Mine is currently 27" Go measure yours.

Retraction! I was tripping. Up to 27". Perhaps 28"?


3/30/2017 10:42 PM

MPH24 wrote:

I think a lot has to do with your body type. For instance, I am 6'2" with a long torso, short legs, and short arms given my ...more

Whereas I'm also 6'2", but long legged. I'm happiest on a bike marked XXL, with a reach in the 475mm range.
It's a long bike 452mm chainstays, and running a longer fork I think the wheelbase is pushing 49"... But the added length out back keeps it balanced.

The strange part is that this is the most reactive and playful feeling full suspension bike I've owned. I had to go into XC bike travel and demo the Gucci builds to get a livelier feel, so the size alone isn't the limitation that - I finally have a bike that fits me. On just the shakedown ride, I was setting personal bests, and even a random KOM on a downhill segment.


3/31/2017 3:02 PM

sspomer wrote:

It seems like long bikes are becoming the norm in World Cup racing. The tall guys have been on XXL bikes for a while now, but ...more

As far as we know Gwin actually did not ride an XL in bootleg. His frames come through our office, and there have been no XL TUES frames shipped to us yet.


3/31/2017 8:41 PM

I am just currently doing a similiar dance with my new hardtail im looking to build up.

I am about 5'9", and while many bikes ive owned and ridden were around a 425mm reach, both bikes ive been looking at have recommended around 450mm reach for my size.

What does everybody think of sizing up for this kind of application?

Either a med/long chromag surface at 453mm reach, or a medium kona honzo at 450mm reaxh?

For what its worth, I did size up for my dh bike, getting a large trek session, which is just around 425mm. I think it was definitely a good choice in the end... which is partially why i am sweating about the trail bike size haha.