Friday, February 26, 2010

Vacation/Demo Day - Just Don't Look Down

Vacation day today, so a ride to start off the festivities. Old mountain bike pal, Tom Fitzpatrick, 64 years young and still cranking it, joined the festivities. Tom also offered to swap bikes and let me ride his Niner EMD 29er for a bit. Hard to pass up that offer, since I've been considering joining the big wheel crowd. Riding a 29er on real trails would be a first for me. Well, that's not totally true - I did demo a Gary Fisher years ago and all the Trek 69er bikes. This still would be a real world ride on a newer 29er however, and a pretty damn nice one as well.

After some seat height adjusting on both bikes, we're off. Tom's EMD was a bit small for me, but certainly rideable. The big wheels still look weird, but to quote Tom, "Just don't look down." There's a 29er marketing catch phrase if I ever heard one - "Just don't look down."

Tom's bike is set up nice - Chris King hubs with Stan's tubeless rims, Fox fork, XT crank, carbon seat post, etc. It feels lighter then my current Cannondale - hoisting it off the ground and actually riding it. You can feel the larger diameter of the wheels for sure, though it's not sluggish at all. It steers and feels like a nice, light hardtail. Roots and rocks do seem to flow a bit easier under the giant hoops, though it's not some earth shattering experience some 29er converts will have you believe. Don't get me wrong, it's damn nice and does feel good - really good. I think the more you rode the 29" wheels, the more you'd appreciate 'em in various conditions. For the few miles of wet, muddy, semi-technical trails I rode on today, I dug it and could own a 29er. It fits my XC Geek, occasional racer riding style a well.

Tom's Niner EMD. Super nice 29er.

After swapping bikes back to their original owners, complete with a woods seat height readjusting party, I'm back on my 26" wheel Cannondale. Being able to swap bikes back to back on your own familiar trails is the perfect demo. After the Niner, my Cannondale feels like a BMX bike - well, sorta - at least like an old school XC race bike, which it is. Bars low, endo(ish) feeling in technical sections, and a little snappier - what I'm used to. Both bikes have their merits, which makes me think a Carver 69er may be the set up for me. I'd also like to ride another 29er that fits me a bit better, with a set up more like I'm used to - longer stem and lower bars. I dig the 29er concept, I'm just not 100% sold yet. Maybe 90%, which is saying a lot for old school me.

Cannondale, muddy yet once again. The way mountain bikes should look - dirty.

I'm happier then my mud splattered face would indicate. I'm just internally pondering the whole 26" verses 29" debate. Serious stuff for bike geek like me. Well, fun serious stuff any way.

No matter what bike I was on, it was fun to get out today and ride with a fellow mountain biker. Thanks to Tom for providing the Niner demo, very cool to do. It was great to check out a 29er on real trails - my real trails. Further testing may be in order. Testing means riding and that's always good.

Over and out for today......


  1. I wait you wisdom on the 29ers. However with 4 26" Nokian studs, and other tires, and after just buying a $230 26" wheel, I might stay with the 26ers. :-)

  2. Yeah - you have some serious dough tied up into the 26" wheels. I'd bet the 29ers would work well for your area though.

    I can't base everything on one ride - though I may find a 29er in my near future....

  3. I remember there was a time when some pro roadies were riding the 650's on mountain the 29er's on mountain bikes. I don't know, I'm old school like you and I have a mental block about messing with wheels. But, on the other hand, everything else I've messed with, I've liked: carbon, ergo/sti...the list goes on. I'll keep a close eye to get more insight from you on this.

  4. @Frank - yeah, I remember the 650 wheels on some race oriented bikes back in the '90s. Lighter, accelerate faster, etc. That idea didn't fly. 650 wheels are now for smaller riders or people to run fatter tires - which makes sense.

    I originally thought the 29er schtick was mostly marketing hype - another way to sell mountain bikes. Even the 29er tag is kind of a goof - the wheels are actually 700c. "Hey kids, how about running road wheels on your mountain bikes?" See - that doesn't work. "29er" though, sounds montain bikey, no?

    The 29er deal has been around for a few years now and I've read nothing but positive comments about 'em - mostly. Do some Google searching and you'll see what I mean. I'm still not sold on 29er full suspension bikes, but am curious about running a 29er hardtail.

    I also view it as an experiment, since I've ridden mountain bikes for 25 years now (damn, I'm old). Did the full stone age no suspension deal for years, then front suspension, then full suspension, then back to front suspension only.

    May be cool to try the 29er deal next. It also matches my riding style. Mr. Jumper/Freerider I'm not. I'm XC Geek, wannabe racer older dude.

    I may pull the trigger on something soon. Another excuse for more blog posts....