Sorry for all the bike related posts. I have had very little time to go through my photographs (work is really busy) and my backlog is long.
Ever since my self built bike was stolen recently, I have been pining for a ridin'. And I need to get back in the saddle as they say. So I decided to a demo program at a local bike shop. In this case I selected Golden Bike Shop mostly because they carry brands I carry and because they treated me well when my Ellsworth frame broke last year. Even though it was far out of warranty they offered me quite a bit off a new Ellsworth frame. Of course for those who know the bike world, you know that the cheapest Ellsworth offers is over $2k. That is how I ended up with a Titus frame which I found online at JensonUSA for a very fair price. Of course that's all in the past now and I need to move on. So I need to find me a new bike. I have been debating myself whether I will build myself another bike from the frame, but for some reason I don't really feel like it right now. So I probably will buy a complete bike and upgrade the components over time when they go out. The latter is pretty quick for me as I do ride my bikes quite hard. Doing a demo program is a good deal here as the bike shops will credit you for the entire cost of the demo when you buy a bike from them. The demo programs are pretty comparable in general. The Golden bike shop's deal is pretty nice. For $150 (which will get refunded if you buy from them) you get to ride six different bikes on 6 different days. So basically 6 rentals for fairly little or nothing in the end.
Today I decided to go high end just to get that out of the way. I rode the Santa Cruz Tallboy in the higher end build. This is a twentyniner full suspension frame that they built up with quite high end components. The twentynine signifies that it uses 29" wheels instead of the standard 26" for mountain bikes. The bike runs $4700 or so as it is a carbon fiber frame. That is many times over what I would ever spend on a bike, so this exercise was purely academic. This is a fun bike that powers over more than what you can on a bike with 26" wheels. Since there is a wildfire near Golden that is making it very smoky here I decided to head a little further north for my test ride and got to the White Ranch trailhead, only to discover that they were using the parkinglot to fly the firefighting helicopters from. Looked pretty cool (sorry forgot to take pictures), but it meant I couldn't ride the trail there. So I decided to head South. When I came by Chimney Gulch I noticed that the wind had shifted more North and that that was surprisingly smoke free now, so I decided to ride it. This is a really nice, fairly technical ride with some good climbing on rocky parts and a lot of hairpins and a fast, fun downhill. The bike handled well but the suspension needed some tuning which I did later that night so that the next morning early I could do another test ride. The trail as captured by my phone's GPS chip is below displayed in Google Earth.
The height profile is here (in red):
As you see a nice slightly over 1 hour ride and nicely very close to my workplace. TO test whether tuning the suspension makes a difference, I rode Apex park with the same bike the next morning, including the excellent Enchanted forest trail. The track is displayed below:
The altitude profile is in blue two images above. This is a shorter trail that can be done in under an hour.
Observations about the bike:
When you tune the suspension, it handles really well. This is a general issue with suspension bikes. If you don't get the suspension tuned for your weight and style, you really cannot judge the bike from demoing it. It handled about as good as my old Titus even though the Tallboy is a far more expensive bike. I can indeed ride some more things that on my old bike were not always ridable simply because of the bigger wheels. The geometry was also very good. I rode down several very tight turns with waterbars that I normally have a hard time making. The bike's weight is very surprising. About the same as my old Titus that only had 26" wheels. Carbon fiber really helps there. Hydraulic brakes are great. They do indeed stop you in your tracks. I didn't like how the levers were setup. After the downhill my fingers were cramping due to the large distance to the levers and the brakes being set so aggressive. Probably an easy fix. Now for the negative points. The bottom bracket shell and consequently the pedals are very low on the frame and you almost sit up straight on this thing. The low pedals make it very easy to constantly hit rocks and waterbars with the pedals, which I found disconcerting with such a big bike. On the 26" bikes I have ridden I rarely hit the same rocks and bars. We'll see if this is a general thing with 29" wheeled bikes. I can imagine that being so because the rear wheel might be pushed back in the frame geometry in order for the rider to not be too high up. Perhaps a large frame would be better for me for this reason. I usually straddle the border between medium and large on these frames.
Here is the bike on the enchanted forest trail. I liked the (for me) patriotic color.
As an aside I saw the Indian Gulch fire quite clearly from the windy saddle on the CHimney Gulch trail. This is a point where the trail crosses the road up lookout mountain and lots of people were watching the firefighting efforts. Here is a quick iPhone panorama of the fire and the smoke (bigger in the link).