Saturday came and went in the flash of an eye. Why do good moments in life always pass so fleetingly?
Woke up at around 5am on saturday and left home around 6. Plan was to drop the girls at Canberra DFO (don’t laugh, it is great shopping for girls looking for asian sizes) and Kev and I to go shred some stromlo dirt. I don’t think my car could be anymore loaded. Two bikes on the roof (29er’s no less) and 4 people in the car and a bootful of gear must have looked funny.
The weather on the way there was pretty scary. We saw nothing buy grey skies and even spotted snow on the mountain peeks. We knew it was going to be freaking cold. We arrived at around 10am after dropping the girls off and the other guys were already here. Quickly, we prepped and put on our 10 layers of thermal layers and wind jackets and headed up the mountain.
I was interested to see how the 29er would handle the many switchbacks of Stromlo. I needn’t have worried. It was very similar to riding the yeti asr5 or any slightly slacker bike. It requires conviction and a plan prior to entering the corner and the proper body language to get through that corner (elbow down, look towards corner exit) but it isn’t an issue.
The climb was fairly sedate. I noticed i stood up a fair amount with the niner and that is usually a good sign of quality suspension. Usually shitty suspension just encourages me to sit down and spin. There was quite a few pinches where i would stand up and power through (maybe a little too over enthusiastically) and overall it is good that you have the ability to do that on a full susser.
Stromlo i now realise is a fairly pedally course. Most of the dh’s actually requires a fair amount of pedaling because it is fairly untechnical in terms of pure rockiness/chunkiness so as you go down the mountain you are constantly pedaling and trying to keep up the momentum. The 29er’s was very good at this as you would have expected. It kept the dh momentum very well which allowed me to actually pedal less. Most of the bumps are smaller-medium bumps and the niner ate those up as well. Basically i think it saved me a fair bit of effort of pedaling to keep the speed.
Unfortunately, the effort that was saved from the 29er wheel was ruined by a combo of the formula R1 levers being not optimal for my hands and the fact that my upper body strength isn’t really up to the task of repeated dh runs. The R1 levers ergonomics for my smaller hands caused my hand to near cramp and towards the end of the day i struggled to even hold the handlebars (this problem will be solved by the incoming elixir x0 trail brakes which should remedy this) and upper body strength part just requires me to ride more MTB. Basically i got pretty tired and it was a shame as i could see the track but i just couldn’t go fast anymore as i struggled to hold on. This should have something to do with the rougher front sus too.
Into the berms the front wheel had a lot better grip vs the previous bikes have ridden here but this might be heavily influenced by the fact that the dirt wasn’t loose and coated with rain. Actually, now i think about it, this was probably a major factor but i still think the front wheel has much more grip. I would normally have 1-2 or maybe 3 hairy moments where the front wheel washes out from time to time. I did not experience this at all on Saturday. How much of this was down to the terrain and the bike is something i can’t say for certain.
Anyways, we all know what 29er’s advantage is by now. Confidence, effort saved, technical aptitude. I found two other things of interest to me.
1. I found that riding this bike downhill through the luge/skyline it was definitely slower to react to my inputs. It was like my actions was always constantly delayed by a fraction. Every reaction took longer to carry out and when you are in a constantly turning situation such as a chicane that delay builds up more and more … and if you don’t get it right, you will find that you will start piling that delay on and before you know it you are doing some drastic trying to correct yourself as you head into a corner turning way too late. I know what i just wrote is hard to comprehend but it is the most straight forward way of putting down what i felt. It was a bit like a catch up race. In short, you can feel this bike underneath you. I don’t ride motorbikes but if i did i would say it is like riding an Hayubusa vs R6.
2. Point 2 follows on from point 1. Going through a chicane i flicked the wheel to the left and then quickly flicked the wheel to the right and i was almost caught out as the front wheel almost felt like it was gripping and had that slight feel like it was going to chuck me otb. Must be something to do with the circumference of the wheels that it digs into dirt at a different angle and i am guessing that on a 26er i actually utilised the motion in between switching directions as a little bit of a slide to transition the motion but now, when i do the same, it just grips and threatens to chuck me off. This motion is definitely only reserved for certain tight situations so it won’t really work everywhere or anywhere but it was just another reminder that this bike isn’t as down to be handled around the same as the ASR5 and in some aspects that took away a little bit of the fun. I knew i was probably going quicker effort for effort vs any other bikes i have ridden at Stromlo but i can’t say that it was the most fun i have ever had. The bike simply isn’t as telepathic to me as the ASR5.
The bike seemed a little easier over the many smaller drops littered around Stromlo. I think the bigger wheels also stabilises the bike in the air a little more and i don’t know, i just felt a sense of safeness when i popped of the edge. Definitely easier to do drops on this bike.
Having said this though, i will readily admit that i am willing to scrafice the riding style of the ASR5 to gain the confidence inspiration that comes with this bike. It is just such a machine when it comes to chaos control over rocks. It might be that this bike feels safer and not as always on the edge which makes it feel like it is a little less edgier vs a bike that is always a little bit more sketchier. That probably contributes to my findings.
Plan’s? Elixir x0 is obviously no1 priority but the character of the bike is tempting me to take this niner down a slightly burlier route. I am looking for a set of enve wheelset and for the first time i am tossing up the AM option with the 24mm internal width rim vs the XC which as 18mm option. To me, i feel that it might further emphasis that monster truck feel. I am considering this even though the wheelset is heavier.
We headed home bound around 4pm and could not resist the ritual of a meal at hungry jacks before getting back on the hwy. Kev kindly drove on the way back because i was pretty damn tired. I always seem to be tired driving back home. All in all an awesome day and i wish i could have stayed over on saturday night and then rode Kowen the next day but there is always a next time ;). I will be back Canberra!