So, as I prepare to turn the page into another chapter of bikes and leave behind the 29er HT and 1x9 setup in exchange for a FS 29er with a grannygear, I have a few thoughts.
What began as a struggle to deal with no small chainring and no rear squish (save for the Thudbuster seat post) has ended with an enlightened and much stronger rider.
Case in point. There is a local trail that is very popular and is quite steep in the front half, all singletrack and switchbacks. I had last ridden it when I was getting back into riding late last year and I was on my triple ringed Cannondale FS (recently eBayed). It was a grind, just like I remembered it and I suffered quite a bit.
So just this week an invite went out for that same ride and I only had the 1x9 Monkey to ride. Well, I can always get off and walk the steep sections and so off I went. Not only did I ride nearly 90% of the trail, I made every switchback except the one I never make anyway and I cleaned the 'top of the trail' challenge climb. I was blown away. A lot of this is increased fitness, but some of it is simply getting used to dealing with the gears you have to use.
You push harder on the pedals. You stand a lot. I suck at standing climbing, or I should say, I used to. I am getting better at it cuz I had to. I really look at hill climbs differently now. I always preferred pushing a bigger gear, but now that has really opened up.
Then there is the hardtail thing. I could not stand a 26" HT bike. No way. I have one and I do not care to ride it off road, but the 29er HT? I sure am spoiled by the solid response and the way they go up hill and scoot forward when prodded. And it is soooo close to being all the bike I need.
But not quite. When it gets rough and fast, the HT has its limits and begins to beat me up a bit. We have rocks and ruts here in this hardpack clay and rocky creekbeds of So Cal and I am not a spring chicken any more. And, I learned my lesson on the Julian race that a grannygear is real nice just before you die.
So the Lev marks a return to FS and lower gears, but it is in moderation. 3" of rear travel, a light frame, 2x9 gearing to keep things tight in the drivetrain department.....well, we shall see. I do fear that I will miss the HT 1x9 and fall into the trap of spinning that hamster gear.
So, to help keep me honest, I think it is only right to revive the Monkey as the latest incarnation of the versatile beast and make it a single speed. I am actually looking forward to stepping it up and seeing what I can get away with on that thing. I have no illusions of making an SS my 'only' bike....no red 'S' on my underwear, but I bet it will keep me out of the saddle and increase my leg size a bit more. I can always use that.
I am looking forward to the Lev, but for now, I will say that in 20+ years of owning lots of bikes, I have never enjoyed one more than the Karate Monkey and it cost me less to build up than any bike except the first cheapy I ever bought.
That amuses me and is strangely satisfying. Truly, less can be more.