I have a confession to make - I'm a terrible mountain biker. No matter how gentle the corner, no matter how smooth the terrain, no matter how slow the pace, I will find a way onto the ground. So in true cyclist fashion I have determined that I have an equipment deficiency that is causing this pain and suffering. It couldn't possibly be me. Could it?
Lately I have been been drooling over 29ers of both hardtail and full squish varieties and dreaming of how I could be smoothly rolling over VW sized obstacles on my wagon wheeled bike. I could be calmly riding along taking in the scenery and enjoying the smells of nature while my new bicycle guides me along the most technical of trails. That's right, no more sore hands and forearms from a deathgrip of fear. No more loss of bladder control on steep Michaux downhills. I'll be ridin' me a 29er!
My first mountain bike ride ever was in 2008 or so on a cheap Raleigh M20 that I had for just tooling around the neighborhood. A road riding friend had been suggesting that I go with his group which I finally did since the idea of riding without cars whooshing by sounded like a nice change of pace. Things were said like "We'll take it slow" and "We'll stick to the easy trails" and "Your bike'll be fine." My notion of riding a path through the woods was instantly shattered as we headed downhill from the Big Flat parking lot on a trail that could only be described as "rocky as a &$@*!^." My companions glided down this rocky hell while I tried to keep up on my M20 with about 1" of fork travel, jarring into every rock and root that came my way. I could go on, but this article is supposed to be about a bicycle buying decision, so instead I invite you to log onto YouTube and search for "epic mountain bike crash." Watch a few of those videos and you'll get the gist of what my first ride was like.
Amazingly, I really enjoyed that first ride and joined these guys on a few more. I decided that I had an equipment deficiency so jumped onto a full suspension Motobecane Fantom that I purchased from an online retailer. This bike definitely made me more comfortable riding technical trails and, while still a horrible rider, I did actually crash a little less! The Fantom is a relatively inexpensive bike that isn't on the cutting edge of technology, but has kept me satisfied for six years now. During these six years most of the riders I've seen on the trails have moved to the 29" wheels which are said to roll over obstacles better, but give up a little in cornering or "flickability" as they would say for a motorcycle. That sounds great but I never felt worthy of a better bike since my skills only improved marginally over the years and mountain biking wasn't my primary mode of riding anyway. And now there's this whole 650b thing that I don't even want to consider or my head might explode.
Any thoughts of a new mountain bike were safely slumbering in the recesses of my mind until I recently came across some excellent deals on some 2014 models through team sponsor Mercury Endurance Cycles. I bought a new Cannondale SuperX last year, so it's only fair to get a new mountain bike this year, right? Right? So I'm hoping to get some comments here to help me with my decision. The only thing I'm almost kinda certain of is that a hardtail Flash is out of the question since I'm old and brittle. Will the 29er provide benefit to a rider like me or am I better off with the trusty 26" wheeled bike? What kind of bike do you ride? Care to give me a review?
Regardless of my bike decision I hope to attend the Michaux Mountain Bike School in March to improve my skills. The trouble is that the school is already full. There is a waiting list and Zach will add another instructor if enough people sign up, so let's get more people on board! Click the link to get to the registration page.