Thursday, February 28, 2008

Tiny wheels.

So, I went for a 4 hour tour the other day. No shipwrecks or desert islands like the SS Minnow (Gilligan's Island, ya know), but I knew the day would be filled with a difficult ride as far as quite a bit of climbing and very rocky terrain. Imagine Moab on a bad hair day and this is the area we would be riding through. Nothing big as far as huge drops or anything, but sustained, broken and rutted sandstone. There is a trail in here somewhere.

Knowing that, I chose to take the Cannondale Prophet with its disc brakes, granny gear, and 5 inches of travel. This bike right here:

It had been months since I spent any time at all on the Prophet, a nearly new bike and a great one too. The 29er had just stolen my heart, as it were. But I figured this day deserved a real trail bike. I may have been wrong.

I felt every crack in the rock like it was a tiny hand robbing me of momentum. Ledges tried to stop me completely. I fought to keep the rear tire from spinning on steep climbs and even though the bennies of the fully equipped sus bike were great, man o man did I wish for 29" wheels again. Simply amazing.

Buddy Steve felt like superman apparently, after summitting the first climb.

I just felt awful, like I had cheated on my best girl to go out with a painted up hussy who promised a lot more than she delivered. My thoughts were on the Karate Monkey back at home, even though I knew the lack of a granny would have me pushing right now. The techy downhill was pretty good on the Prophet. There is a lot to be said about disc brakes, etc, especially when gravity is helping.

By the second long climb, I was tired and really fighting the rocky sections that demanded a good line and balance/power to overcome. My timing was off, I just pretty much sucked. Not the bike, really. Buddy Steve rode right up, pretty much anyway.

It was me mostly. I really had become tuned to the bigger wheels. I cannot believe how much better they feel to me when you are trying to keep moving through difficult terrain. Downhill, the other bike was fine, in it's element. Uphill, yuck. Not impossible, just much harder IMO. And frankly. my opinion is the only one that matters here.

Anyway, as soon as the budget allows, I am buying an FS trailbike with discs and more gears. Then, I am going to go back to that trail and ride it again.

I bet I smile more.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Another love interest?

The last blog spoke of my infatuation with the Sultan, but there is a new potential lover vying for my attention. Ah, the FSR 29er. Rode one. Liked it. A lot.

I have not ridden a Sultan yet, but the Stumpy was pretty sweet. The relaxed head angle was a bit odd in a 29er and it begged for a sus fork with more offset than the Rebas 38mm, but I loved the 69 degree angle on the Cannondale Prophet. I imagine after a few rides, I would adapt very nicely.

It is, in a way, the anti-Sultan. Where the Turner bike is all straight tubes and old school suspension, nothing dramatic, just solid ya-know-what-you-will-get stuff here. Average parts/engineering taken to the next level by the execution of the whole. The FSR is all hydro formed, bent and swayed, swooped and whoooped, and capped with the very excellent Horst link equipped FSR 4 bar rear end and frosted over with a Brain shock glaze. But, what really matters is out on the trail and not only that, a couple of years from now out on the trail. The Turner is so proven to doubt it is to be silly, but it is not any significant step into the future. On the other hand, pioneers often die on the trail and the FSR 29er is largely unproven but backed by a huge and successful company.

The FSR sure pedaled well and the Brain shock rear end was amazingly good. Felt solid too. I have to say it left a better impression than the HiFi did. I would buy just the frameset rather than the complete bike. It is not cheap, but I bet most shops can beat the suggested retail which would put it a bit below the average boutique frame.

Well, it ain't love....yet. But it sure is sending me flowers.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sultan infatuation

No not some fat guy with a beard and a billion or two in the bank...not THAT kind of Sultan.

This kind.

I have been tormenting myself for no good reason on what FS 29er to buy. The 'no good reason' part is cuz I ain't got the sheckels (to stay with the sultan theme) to buy one...yet. But when I do, which one? Oh, I have to admit that a lot of fillys have turned my head but I keep coming back to this little dear right here. Good looking ain't it? Purposeful, simple, basically still looks like a bike, straight tubes and all.

Of course mine would not be exactly like this one which I pirated off the net, but I am thinking bronze color, XL, with a few ano'ed bits and pieces to have a smattering of bling. We shall see. When is the government mailing those rebate checks?

Buddy system...part deux.

Well, Buddy Steve, from an earlier post, is NOT Ohio bound due to the grace of God and the ending of the Writer's Strike in Tinsel Town. Good for me...good for him, and good for a lot of guys/gals out of work.

So, the riding continues.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Cow Trailing

Today, we celebrated the first nice day in Jan/Feb with shirtsleeve weather and green hills that look like Ireland (with power towers on them....this is So Cal after all).

It was a great day. We were looking to tie together some cow trails and ranch roads we could see from the other side of the valley on a higher ridge line, but we never could quite get it done...too fragmented. Still, we were riding on a carpet of new grass and future wildflowers unless the cows eat 'em first. For you folks in the frozen North/East/West, I humbly apologize and offer this as hope for warm days and spring.

Cows are great trail buildings IMO. Being basically low energy animals by nature(lazy), they have a keen sense of grade and seldom go straight uphill, they are wide bodied by design and pushed the flora back a bit, and they tend to eat grasses and such that tend to encroach on the trail. The hoof prints and pooping part is not so great (I offer pic as proof), but ya take the good with the bad. 29ers were made for this kind of riding IMO. They drop less into the hoof prints and trek across the 'tundra' with aplomb.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Eatin' tacos with Gary Fisher.

So, there I was, snackin' on tacos, feet as close to a propane heater as I can manage without flamin' my wool socks, and listening to Gary Fisher talk about the first time he flew into Crested Butte in a plane just barely big enough to fit himself, his bike, and the pilot. Now how cool is that?

A couple of months ago we had gotten wind of the Trek/Fisher demo truck coming to a local riding area on Superbowl Sunday. Now I eschew football, so I planned on test riding the new HiFi 29er. Later, a Poker Run was planned by several local shops for the same day and with the heavy rains of late wreaking havoc on the original destination of the demo, the two events were combined: Trek/Fisher demo and Poker Run. Cool.

Then it rained. Saturday was beautiful, Sunday it rained...and got cold...and windy. So, a few hardcore guys and one gal showed up anyway, the Poker Run was shelved, and since we were there anyway, we rode. No pics of that cuz if I got my wife's camera wet, I would have been toast.

At the top of the semi paved and sandy climb, we broke out onto the ridgeline trail that, with all the wet ground, made for a bit of pushing. Oh, did I mention the 50 mph wind? I cannot remember a time when the wind was so strong I could not PUSH my bike without getting blown off the trail. Being a tall guy on a 29er, riding the downhills in the wind was an excercise in staying low and trying very hard to color between the muddy lines. Cold too. Wind chill of OMG degrees at least.

But back at the bunkhouse, we rode up to find the Demo truck all ready to do business and I signed on the dotted line for a LG HiFi Pro.

I did not want to pedal back up the trail in the wet and the cold, so I just did some laps around the encampment.

A few thoughts:

Pedals well. Definately not uber plush in nature. Coming off a hard tail, it still felt pretty good.

Flex? Well, in the big ring, fork locked out and hammering, I could look back and see some tail whip, some of it from the wheel/tire, but mostly in the rear triangle. Still, I was really torquing it, and that is not a typical scenario unless I end up in mtn bike crits this year.

Steering? It felt very nice, but I really noticed how, at slow speeds, it felt very easy to turn the front end, yet it did not feel uber quick or darty. Nice.

Fit? The LG was too small for me and this came as a bit of a surprise since the 24.25 TT is right where the KM is. More back sweep in the bars, a seat somewhat more forward than I ride???? I guess I am a XL on this bike at 6'2".

Buzz killer? 18" chainstays. Criminy, trying to manual this thing is a hernia getter where the 17" CS length on my KM is totally easy. Climbing, schliming. This needs to change IMO. I guess I will have to deal with it cuz with one exception (and I don't want that exception), this is the state of the art.

So back to the tacos.

As I handed the HiFi back, I looked over and saw a familiar face. There was the man himself. I introduced myself and mentioned we had met before at a Fisher dealer demo days waaaay back in the day before Trek. Before long we were all hanging out, trying to find shelter from the wind and eating Carne Asada mini tacos. We talked about bikes, 29ers, old times, new times, weird times. Mostly everyone just asked a question and then had enough sense to shut up and listen to how it was from a very cool legend.

One thing came through very clearly. Gary likes bikes. The stoke is still there. He never seemed to be bored as he explained trail and the G2 development process, bike fit, wheel design, and a dozen other questions from the gallery. I told him I always wanted, and still do, a handmade Mt Tam and his eyes lit up and he launched into a talk on brazing frames together.

Finally the tacos were gone and the day was done. I found it so cool to see a guy still excited about the simple act of riding a bike who really just could have collected a check and stayed home or hid in the van instead of talking to us for hours.

Thanks Gary.

Now, about those 18" chainstays?