I’m in bed at 12:30AM on Saturday night and my cell phone starts ringing (it’s the rocky theme song… the ringtone I’ve set for all my MTB friends). It’s Joseph the TROG. Turns out he got hooked up to demo some bikes with Francois from MTBR. They had the latest crop of 29″ full suspension bikes direct from the makers and wanted some folks to come down and demo them for a review. Did I want to go? Well… shoot, what a choice. I’d planned to fly and was still a bit sore from the previous days ride, plus that meant short sleep. But how often do you get the chance to go and play on a bunch of brand new high end bikes? Sure I’m game.
So 6 hours later I found myself on the Altemont Pass looking at the stars while waiting for Joseph. We met up with Francois from MTBR and he explained what we were doing and made certain everyone had all the gear they needed to evaluate the bikes. Then we piled in to the cars and headed for a the top secret MTBR bike testing laboratory located in an undisclosed location in Santa Cruz (the locals know), I’ve ridden there before but only about 1/3 of the trails I rode on this ride were familiar to me.
There were 7 riders and the plan was to get each of us to ride as many different bikes as we could. We also started and ended the day with a photo shoot to try and capture the bikes for the review.
Personally this was my first experience riding 29″ bikes for an extended ride. Now that I’ve had a chance to play on them for an extended period of time I can definitely understand the appeal of these beasts. 29″ wheels really do make obstacles on the trail shrink. The bikes felt more stable to me when going over technical terrain and even jumps. I know some people claim they are slower but if they were I didn’t really notice. Some of that might have had to do with the fact that all of the equipment we were riding was very high end and light, I think I rode $25,000 worth of bikes in 5 hours. The only time I really thought the 26″ bike was superior was on a super windy switchbacked trail early in the day. The 29″ wheels are just a bit slower to get around those tight corners.
The guys I rode with were all awesome and made me feel pokey all over again. We covered about 20 miles of trails and I’m not sure how much climbing but there was a ton of super sweet windy singletrack. By the end of the day I was completely wiped out, 2 days of hard riding plus getting by on 5 hours of sleep. We stopped for dinner then Joseph drove me back to my car. I fell asleep before Joseph even finished merging onto the freeway and didn’t wake up until we were near the top of the Altamont Pass. When the review gets posted on MTBR I’ll post a link to it and maybe some more.