Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A 29er

So, today I saw something… I saw pigs flying and people wearing jackets and skating in hell. I know I swore I would never do it, but today my curiosity got the better of me and (insert collective gasp *here*) RODE A 29er!!! And what’s more, I actually liked it. Trust me, that takes a lot of pride-swallowing to say. The shop got in a Stumpjumper Comp 29er hardtail, and of course, everyone wants to ride it (and when I say everyone, I mean the 3 of us who ride that size and are mildly curious about it). Anyway, I was the first one to ride it, and I went into it with as open a mind as possible.

First, let me explain some of my biases and factors affecting my perceptions about the bike. Normally, I ride a Specialized carbon Epic, which weighs just under 23#s with my race kit on it. That race kit (and what I’ve been riding for about 2 months straight now) involves some really light and stiff wheels which obviously is what I am used to. This bike is about 2 pounds heavier than mine, and the wheels are decidedly not race level wheels. I’m also pretty happy riding a full suspension bike, and I struggle a lot going downhill when I’m on a 26er hardtail. In addition, I raced this past weekend, so my legs are still pretty tired. Just keep that in mind when I talk about how the bike rode.

OK, so, what did I think of the bike? Well, rolling out of the parking lot, I noticed a good bit slower acceleration. Not a huge deal, but noticeable. I dropped into lower Sycamore, and liked the bike pretty much from the first hundred yards. Not only does it roll over stuff like everyone says it does, it also has loads more traction than a 26er when climbing on rooty terrain. That made me pretty happy right there, as I was able to clean stuff even after messing up some lines that would have stopped my Epic in its tracks. So, climbing on technical stuff? Check.

Going up Black Mountain, I did notice a lot of sluggishness. Trying to stand up pedaling was a bit harder, and I felt like I was wrestling the bike the whole time. I was able to sit down a good bit more than I would have been able to riding a 26er, but was definitely still on a hardtail. Again, what I am seeing as sluggishness is likely largely the responsibility of tired legs and a difference in equipment quality levels, but it was still there. I also noticed that the front wheel seemed to wander a good bit on the slower parts of Black. However, I felt like the bike really shone once I got it up to speed on the flatter parts. It definitely felt like there was some momentum behind me.

How about going downhill? Well, all of the stuff that I rode was fairly straight, without any of the tight turns that are usually found on a race course in the area. Going down Thrift, I noticed that I had more traction on the looser turns, and I didn’t really have a problem switching sides on an s-berm section. On Sycamore, the big wheels didn’t really shine as much on the really rooty sections. It was definitely better than a 26er hardtail, but not anywhere near as smooth as a fully. This made me realize something though… I had been comparing the bike to a full suspension, when I really needed to be comparing it to a 26in hardtail. This realization changed a lot. Instead of expecting plush, I began expecting fast. And the bike actually was.

All of that looks pretty positive, doesn’t it? It is. So will I be getting one for next year? No. In spite of all of the good things that I have mentioned here, I still don’t think it is a good race bike. It rolls over Pisgah stuff really well, and if you are looking for the simplicity of a hardtail without the punishment, a 29er could be a good option. However, as much as I think they would be OK for a fun riding bike, I really don’t see it as a race bike, particularly not around here. It is just too sluggish accelerating and climbing. Maybe out west where you have courses without a lot of turns, but on the east coast, there is just too much turning and changing directions to have the bigger wheels make sense. I am going to ride it a few more times to see if I get a different feel for it, but for now, I will be sticking with 26 inch wheels…

Also, as an aside, Julia is awesome.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Needed: Dry Weather.

I’m not sure what the deal with Brevard College Cycling is (or actually the SECCC in general), but we always seem to end up racing in the rain. The past two weekends have been mudfests of the highest degree, destroying many a bike in a very short period of time. I’m actually over it.

Since I’ve not written in a very long time, I’ll give you a really brief recap of my races and life. Two weeks ago, the team traveled to Lees McRae for the second weekend in a row, and after a dry and very successful weekend (for me personally and for the team) the week before, we hit some really gnarly conditions. The races were still fairly successful, but the gnarly factor made everyone feel a little less excited about the racing. I had a terrible day in the XC, and then didn’t race DH because of the weather. Short track went just as badly, as I got dropped out of the gate and then spent the rest of the race trying to see and stay on my bike.

This weekend was the Brevard home race, which, once again, was totally awesome. The team cleaned up (as usual) and in spite of the torrential rains on Saturday, kept it together to sweep all but one of the day’s events. I had some really bad luck during the short track, but eventually made my way back up from the very back of the field to finish 10th. XC on Sunday was amazingly dry considering how wet it was the day before. I managed a season best 7th on a course that really didn’t suit me at all. I think that was mostly due to the insane cheering section on the most technical section of the course. The local Brevard people are awesome.

Other than racing, I’ve been trying to keep up with school. And unlike Julia, I haven’t really had much to stay ahead of. It got a little crazy for a couple of days last week when I had two tests that needed doing, but other than that, it’s been a really easy semester. Hopefully after racing gets done it will remain easy so I have lots of time to go out and just ride. I really want to get out on my mountain bike and hit up some seasonal trails… I’ve been looking forward to that all year.

Stay dry Brevard!

Monday, September 14, 2009

My Line of Thought...

I really enjoyed this weekend... it was fun. I love that course. I think I do well on it. Most of the time anyway. Except when I think about it a lot and need to do well and don't. Then it kinda sucks. I did have fun this weekend though. I was killing it on the climbs. And although I have descended better in my life, I definitely was going pretty good. I do need some new brakes though… mine weren’t hooking up so well. I should probably get those before next weekend on the same course.Yeah. I got 7th using non-functioning brakes though, so that’s pretty good. 9th in the short track too, which is good, but not really dependent on brakes. Definitely a good weekend.

Except for the slalom thing. Just for future reference, if you are in the start gate of a ghetto dual slalom race where the race official is talking to the incompetent timer through a radio about when to start the clock, don’t stop his countdown at the end. The timer at the bottom may start the timer anyway and then forget that you aren’t going yet and just give you the time from when he started the first time. That sucks. Cause I really wanted to qualify. Oh well. Same course next weekend.

I will say though that the massive talent vacuum I left when my time got messed up was covered nicely by the rest of our gravity team holding it down all weekend. There are some major players wearing the Brevard kit this season. And that Tristan Cowie? The boy is a beast. 6th qualifier in slalom?Winning the XC after breaking his chain? I think he turns into a monster when he has a mechanical and goes even faster than he usually would (and that’s pretty fast to begin with). Way to go Brevard.Awesomeness.

Hmm, I want some food… I should go get some. I got some awesome stuff this morning thanks to Baker Bill… those special edition apple thingies were off the hook. I was so happy.

Julia’s birthday is tomorrow… I can’t wait for the madness that is sure to ensue. Bike riding?Pescado’s? Bike meetings? Bar hopping? I hope she’s satisfied… I think that she has more planned for her birthday than anyone else in the history of the world. Get ready Brevard. It is going to be straight insane tomorrow night… Julia turns 21.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Good, The Bad, and uhh...

Well, it's been a while since I've blogged, but there really hasn't been much going on to speak of. I started school back up, which is cool, although I still haven't really gotten back into the swing of things. It usually takes me a good while to get back up to speed, but after two weeks, I'm still just waiting to figure out what's going on.

As a result of my confusion in school, I haven't been riding very much at all. Even in the two weeks that I had not racing, I haven't ridden more than like 7 hours. It's freaking weak. And the worst part is, I don't know where all of my time is going. I'm really not in class all that much, and I'm not working hardly at all, and that's about it. There aren't all that many demands on my time, I just don't know where it is all going.

And I'll also go ahead and say, people really don't want to buy stuff right now... I've been trying hard to sell a hardtail (haha), but haven't had any success. Ebay isn't working out so well, and all of the classified ads sites are pretty much just full of scammers. No one wants to buy anything. I was really hoping to have something a little more trail/gravity worthy than a hardtail race bike, but no dice. Oh well.

And now for the good news... I just got a new phone. Again. And it's way better than my old one that kept messing up every week or so. Sweet. Also, I get to race again this weekend, and hopefully I will have a little bit better time than I did last weekend.

Now I have to go look for something for Julia Goolia's birthday. It's her 21st, and while I'm pretty sure that one is overrated, she is pretty excited. I think I have some ideas, but I guess I'd better come through with something good.