This post is part of the Leadville 100 MTB FAQ.
The most important thing about a mountain bike for the Leadville 100 and for mountain biking in general is that you’re fit properly on it. It’s not uncommon for racers in Leadville to have back pain. One of the causes is using a bike that doesn’t fit properly. Small changes can make a big change.
Full Suspension or HardTail?
A lot of first time Leadville 100 racers wonder if a full suspension or hardtail bike is best. I think it was still true last year that over half the top 20 finishers were on hardtail bikes. Out of all the racers, It looks like more are using full suspension.
I’ve done Leadville 2 times on a full suspension and 3 on a hardtail. My fastest and slowest finishes were on the same hardtail mountain bike. Personally I don’t see that a full suspension bike is an advantage except at the top of the Columbine Mine climb and descending Sugar Load inbound. However with the advances in full suspension designs the last few years, there isn’t a big penalty in weight and efficiency on the rest of the course.
Riders that don’t have as good of bike handling skills will do better on a full suspension bike. Also your back and arms should be less fatigued when riding full suspension. If you’re unsure, I’d go with a full suspension bike.
29er, 26er or 69er?
29er mountain bikes have larger 29 inch wheels instead of the standard 26 inch mountain bike wheels. The advantage of the larger wheels is that they roll over obstacles better. The Leadville 100 course isn’t that technical so I don’t see them being an advantage but shouldn’t hurt either.
I haven’t found a 29er one that fits me right. This isn’t unusual for shorter riders. That’s where a 69er bike comes in. They have the larger 29 inch wheel on the front and a 26 inch wheel on the back. There are only a few of them on the market.
Any bike that fits you well and is reliable will work well at the Leadville 100. Your fitness and skills will make a much bigger difference. I wouldn’t complain about racing on Lance Armstrong’s 2008 Leadville 100 bike though.