I was riding a Niner RKT XC before I realized that I was too old for 100mm forks and 80mm shocks. The Niner's climbing was fantastic though - it felt like it was pulling ME uphill. The Ripley was a big move for me. It felt mushy at first, but I learned to really use the wider gearing and that dropper to control the acceleration and traction. This bike has a learning curve because it can do so many things; gobble up rock gardens on twisty descents, hold its line on technical climbs, and blast over miles of singletrack tundra. The 2.6 tires make everything else seem too skinny and puncture prone as these babies fear nothing. I am 5' 10", 190 lbs, and ride the XL. I have yet to bottom out front or rear, and can accelerate almost as fast as I did on the true XC Niner, but not quite. No matter. This bike is perfect if you want to go fast, climb, and descend without have to recover for three days after a big ride. The 942 carbon rims are a must to reduce rolling weight and give it acceleration pop.