Vacation day today, so a ride to start off the festivities. Old mountain bike pal, Tom Fitzpatrick, 64 years young and still cranking it, joined the festivities. Tom also offered to swap bikes and let me ride his Niner EMD 29er for a bit. Hard to pass up that offer, since I've been considering joining the big wheel crowd. Riding a 29er on real trails would be a first for me. Well, that's not totally true - I did demo a Gary Fisher years ago and all the Trek 69er bikes. This still would be a real world ride on a newer 29er however, and a pretty damn nice one as well.
After some seat height adjusting on both bikes, we're off. Tom's EMD was a bit small for me, but certainly rideable. The big wheels still look weird, but to quote Tom, "Just don't look down." There's a 29er marketing catch phrase if I ever heard one - "Just don't look down."
Tom's bike is set up nice - Chris King hubs with Stan's tubeless rims, Fox fork, XT crank, carbon seat post, etc. It feels lighter then my current Cannondale - hoisting it off the ground and actually riding it. You can feel the larger diameter of the wheels for sure, though it's not sluggish at all. It steers and feels like a nice, light hardtail. Roots and rocks do seem to flow a bit easier under the giant hoops, though it's not some earth shattering experience some 29er converts will have you believe. Don't get me wrong, it's damn nice and does feel good - really good. I think the more you rode the 29" wheels, the more you'd appreciate 'em in various conditions. For the few miles of wet, muddy, semi-technical trails I rode on today, I dug it and could own a 29er. It fits my XC Geek, occasional racer riding style a well.
After swapping bikes back to their original owners, complete with a woods seat height readjusting party, I'm back on my 26" wheel Cannondale. Being able to swap bikes back to back on your own familiar trails is the perfect demo. After the Niner, my Cannondale feels like a BMX bike - well, sorta - at least like an old school XC race bike, which it is. Bars low, endo(ish) feeling in technical sections, and a little snappier - what I'm used to. Both bikes have their merits, which makes me think a Carver 69er may be the set up for me. I'd also like to ride another 29er that fits me a bit better, with a set up more like I'm used to - longer stem and lower bars. I dig the 29er concept, I'm just not 100% sold yet. Maybe 90%, which is saying a lot for old school me.
I'm happier then my mud splattered face would indicate. I'm just internally pondering the whole 26" verses 29" debate. Serious stuff for bike geek like me. Well, fun serious stuff any way.
No matter what bike I was on, it was fun to get out today and ride with a fellow mountain biker. Thanks to Tom for providing the Niner demo, very cool to do. It was great to check out a 29er on real trails - my real trails. Further testing may be in order. Testing means riding and that's always good.
Over and out for today......