Santa Cruz Demo Day out at McDowell Mountain today, great fun. I tested an aluminum single speed 29er and a carbon hardtail 29er with XTR parts.
The single speed was a blast, but not appropriate for the trails I ride regularly.
The carbon hardtail was excellent, but not appropriate for my budget.
I tested the carbon hardtail back to back against my Stumpjumper and found it to be only 4% faster. Considering the StumpJumper is 17 years older and was less than 20% of the price of the carbon, I say it fared pretty well.
I was not as impressed with 29ers as I thought I might be. The benefits seem to be rather limited, but noticeable.
The two things that really stood out were how badly the XT hydraulic disc brakes on the single speed were set up. Zero modulation, either all on or all off.
The other thing that stood out was how small my Stumpjumper felt after riding the 29ers. It was like riding a BMX bike.