Continuing on with the last of two bikes I put a good full ride on in Sedona. A summary post of my takeaways and overall roundup of plus size similar bikes that I feel I’ve given a good thorough ride on will follow in the coming weeks. This first one was not an expected demo.
After returning the first bike of the day, you’re kind of at the mercy of what is available from the various tents in your size. In this case, I happen to wander past the Devinci tent and spot a plus bike to fit. On paper, the Marshall just might be the closest comparison to my personal rig, the Santa Cruz Tallboy 3 Carbon C S+ build with 120 mm Pike fork and same as the Tallboy 110 mm of travel in the rear, though in the form of RockShox Monarch RT3 Debonair. Boost spacing and comparable Shimano 1x11 drivetrain kept the theme going. One area of big difference though were the 27.5 x 3.0 Maxxis Chronicle tires.
Now, I’ve been riding 2.8” wide tires for long enough that they do not look big to me anymore, but these 3.0’s looked huge! Fat bike huge, and they felt a bit sluggish a bouncy to boot. That 2.8” plus tires seem to be the best balance in the plus realm, for me, might just be the biggest revelation or take away from my time on the Marshall. Outside of the rubber size, the rest of the bike felt very solid, so much so that it felt borderline a bit sluggish. This certainly seemed to be one of the most stout of the plus builds I rode with the aluminum rear end no nonsense component spec.
Speaking of those components, the Shimano SLX 1x11 group might have been the smoothest shifting 11-speed Shimano group I’ve ridden so far. I’m sure some of the weight factor comes into play with these components, but they did seem to shift better than most XT groups I used, though I know that can be somewhat dependent of how well the demos are maintained.
Overall, I don’t know if it was just the larger tires, but the bike felt very solid but solid in a heavy sense. Generally speaking, I would think the additional weight and aluminum rear end would equate to be what might be a more entry level offering, but at $5129 MSRP, this does not seem to be the case. I guess the bike left me a bit confused; its burly stout feeling that begs to be hucked and pushed hard sort of contradicts the shorter travel limits, and the weight sort of contradicts the price tag. With some 2.8’s installed, I think this would a really good bike, but I do think there are better options in this wheel size and amount of travel out there in the sense that the others feel snappier or pedal better but go downhill just as well.
Not a plus bike, but not really a short travel or mid travel XC bike either, the Following does blur the lines like the marketing states. It’s a 120 mm rear, 120 – 130 mm front travel 29er capable of fitting massive 2.4” tires that combines trail geometry and XC speed and quickness. I’m not going to go on too much about the bike in general since the Evil bikes have been so well received and so widely written about, but The Following made me realize two things: 1) If I no longer wanted to ride 27.5+ wheels anymore, I would go to a beefy 29er. 2) 120 mm on a 29” bike is a great combination.
The Following had the smooth plush ride, great traction, and modern geometry of all of the plus size trail bikes I’ve been loving lately with the speed, and that certain “I can run over anything” confidence that a 29er provides. It pedals well, more like a well-balanced trail bike, a la the Tallboy 3 or Ibis Mojo 3, than the direct snappiness of the Yeti ASR, but that is okay with me considering it is capable of soaking up all that Sedona had to throw at us, unlike the ASR, which was out of its comfort zone a few times.
As much as I loved how quick and snappy the Yeti ASR was, The Following would be the type of bike I would be looking for if I was in the market for a dedicated 29er. It has all of the same characteristics that I like from my Tallboy 3, in the wagon wheel size. The major downside is that it’s no cheap date. The entry level Shimano XT complete bike for $5099 is a lot considering the weight and that there are similar options for less out there. Having spent some time on a Pivot Mach 429 Trail, which is also Boost spaced and has 116 mm in the rear and 130 mm in the front in 29er mode that starts at $4199 complete with XT/SLX, the Following might be a tough sell to the bank account.
For trail driven 29er this is definitely the sweet spot in my opinion, but I would probably want to ride it, the Pivot, maybe a Yeti SB4.5, and some others before justifying the price tag.