I testrode two more bikes this week. The Niner Jet 9 and the Pivot Mach 429. Both bikes are way out of my price range but I still wanted to know what the fuss was about. Both these bikes are very competent and very fun rides. Both bikes use 29" wheels. Neither showed the constant rock/waterbar hitting problem that I noticed in the Tallboy, which makes me think it is indeed a geometry issue on the Tallboy. What follows are two sets of impressions.
1. The Jet 9 (pictured above) is a fabulous bike. It is fast, nimble and furious. I rode it up Chimney and in Apex/Enchanted forest. It feels like a very big bike (which it is) but remains very light surprisingly. I motered this thing up everything I threw at it. Even going up the sharktooth, which I haven't been able to do in years. I really liked this bike even though I will not soon be able to afford it. Still was fun riding it.
2. Pivot Mach 429 (pictured above). My favorite of the two. I got this on Friday, which means that because bikeshops are closed on Saturday, I can ride it until Sunday noon. I rode Chimney on Friday and this morning White Ranch on the Longhorn/Shorthorn/Longhorn/Belcher Hill singletrack/Mustang route. Even though the shop gave me pretty bad SPD pedals on this one and it was in a not superb state (one set screw is missing which is terribly annoying and the lever on the front brake is a tad dinky). I reached 40 km/h (25 mph for those used to archaic units) going down Chimney, which if you know the trail is almost death defying. But this thing made me feel quite secure. Riding it in White Ranch was a little different but very enjoyable still. Going down Mustang, which is a fest of deep drops, waterbars, rocky sections and such was fun. White ranch is a very nice park to go riding as long as you avoid going the route that is in the guidebooks. Most people ride it up Belcher Hill trail from the bottom, which is an extremely boring and crappy fireroad for the largest part. At the top it turns into great single track though. I ride this in winter often as it dries out quickly after snow storms. You want to get of the Belcher hill trail as quick as you can (which is the whippletree trail) when the weather and trail conditions are good however. An added bonus is that you will see almost nobody on the trail, while the Belcher hill trail is a highway of bikers and hikers.
This is the altitude and speed profile as recorded by my phone's gps:
As an aside, when I was picking up this bike it struck me that for the price of one of these bikes (~5k$) one can do demo programs at the local bikeshops for several years before you spend as much. This shop for example, gives you 6 day "rentals" for $150 and in a year you would need to sign up for about 10 of those demoprograms to get most of the riding in (I am excluding a large part of winter). So $1500 a year and therefore about 3 1/2 years of riding before you hit the price of a new bike. Extraordinary. Of course neither of these bikes is in my price range anyway. What strikes me still is that the difference in riding experience wrt to my old bike (which got stolen) and my even older bike that I broke the frame on is not very large. Those were far less valuable bikes that I both built from the frame myself.