OK, time for another rambling update, following a few more rides.
I'm going up and down a bit at the moment with my appreciation of this bike. Sometimes, when I'm riding along a rocky section of trail, getting knocked all over the place, for example, I think hardtails are a stupid idea. I just want to enjoy the ride without getting my rear tenderised. Other times; like when I'm thrashing my previous best up a climb, enjoying the efficiency on a smooth bit of trail (or road) or bouncing down a nice bumpy section of trail, I think it's just perfect. It will be interesting to see how that argument plays out long term.
Manoeuvrability is an interesting issue on this bike. Lifting the front wheel certainly takes more effort than on my Trance, but is still possible. Car park tricks would probably be an issue, if they are your thing, but it's still fairly easy to lift the wheel up a step, rock or water bar, for example and to keep it fairly level going off small drops, which are the only drops I do. Plus, the bigger wheel means that you don't need to lift it quite as much to clear the same rock and you tend to hit those drops a bit faster too, which means you need less of a lift to keep things level. So, while it is easier to move the front wheel on a 26" bike, for the riding I'm doing at the moment that doesn't seem to be an issue.
I've heard it said that 29ers are better for wheels on the ground riding, but I'm not sure about that. Yes, it rolls over bumps more easily, but if you want to use those bumps as little launch pads it still seems quite happy to play.
One thing that I hadn't expected is that the lighter rear end seems to make it easier to pick the back wheel up. I've been trying to work on my water bar technique. We'll I say technique, but I've already admitted that my skills are rather limited. Still, by the end of the ride last night I was managing to lift the front wheel over the bar then flick up, or at least unweight, the rear enough that it just grazed the top and skipped over, rather than smashing into it as has been my method so far.
Well that's my thoughts on the FF29 so far. I'm still not sure where I'll go with it long term. I still have an irrational urge for an Orange single pivot and one of the hopes with the FF29 is that it would help me decide which one. I may conclude that the 120mm 29er format is ideal for my riding and doesn't really have any downsides, but I still don't like being bashed up the rear on every bump. In which case I could just swap the FF29 frame for a Gyro. Alternatively I may conclude that the FF29 is actually perfect for some rides, but I still want a more all-mountain bike for rougher rides. In which case it would be a matter of keeping the FF29 (probably selling my winter road bike to make space, as the FF29 could do that job to) and getting a Five in 650B or 29er flavour. But it's too early to make that call. For now, I'm just enjoying the rides on the FF29.