Friday, October 12, 2007

The 29er Experiment: Part one

After the SS conversion, I was poking around on, from whence the SS inspiration came, and I started reading about this 29er stuff. Big wheels for bigger riders made a lot of sense to me. I had been aware of 29ers for a while but they were so fringe. At the time no one in my circle of friends rode one. No shop sold them. No one extolled the virtues of big wheels. So it just passed into memory.

But later, the more I read, the more I was intrigued by the concept. So, now that I had a taste of SS riding, I borrowed the one 29er a bike shop owner had, his personal ride, a Jamis Exile 29er. When I first saw it, it looked so odd what with the big hoops and all. It was a 19", kinda small for me by one size, but close enough. I took it home and just sat and looked at it for a while. Man those wheels looked big.

OK...go riding, quit looking.

Man those wheels feel big.

It rolled fine down the road, felt a little slow to spin up, etc, but when it hit the loose, gravelly, sandy road up a local canyon, the big wheels began to come into their own. It was like it rolled through the chaff with no ill effects at all. Cool. The first rise in the road felt kinda sluggish to stand and pedal but the twisty singletrack and the fireroad out was eye opening. It felt really stable and calm. Hmmm. May be something here, but I needed gears to see if it worked well on more of a typical ride for me.

So, I rented a Ventana El Rey from The Path Bike Shop. 21", orange, gears. Ok, then. Much the same feelings as the Exile, except the gears and 4" of travel more closely matched my typical trail bike. On the first half of the ride I was thinking, "I wonder if they would sell me this bike". By the end I had decided I did not want it. I just did not click with the bike as a whole, but I still was amazed how the big wheels did some amazing things like turn flowing singletrack into bobsled runs with no feeling of slipping and skittering. The bumps really did get smaller. Very cool.

So now what? I did not want to spend $5K on a continuation of this experiment and yet I was pretty sure that the right set up combined with more time on the bike is what I needed. A plan came into form. If I built up a budget bike that represented a good version of 29ers and spent some winter time on it as I re-hab'd the knee, that would be acceptable. if I was not sold, I could : A) sell it B) SS it and keep it around If I liked it, I could: A) keep it in some form or another...SS, geared, etc B) Part it out and put that money into a full suspension bike with confidence

Either way it seemed like a reasonable plan.

Then, as I was returning the El Rey at The Path Bike Shop, I got into a conversation on what I liked and did not like. I mentioned my thoughts about an inexpensive 'toe-in-the-water' bike and we started walking around. I came home with this.

I got a Surly Karate Monkey on mark down for $275.00 with no fork. It was last year's model without the clearance for a Reba, but that was ok. Not the first choice in forks for me anyway. Black, steely, kinda heavy, but cool and very versatile. SS, Geared, Disc-no disc, etc. Steel is real. I like steel. I knew it was not the latest and sexiest, but it was proven and predictable.

Plan 29 had begun.

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