Saturday, 12 March 2011

29er Virgin

There's been a new fad in mountain biking over the last couple years (actually, 29ers have been around for about a decade thanks to Gary Fisher, but we'll gloss over that for the moment). Let's say, some of the more mainstream brands have picked up on the idea just recently.

Being 5'7" the minute I get out of bed means I've never even considered the possibility that a mountain bike with oversize wheels might be the thing for me. I've just never seen the point. I've seen plenty of people riding them, but they've all be towering 6-footers and 29" wheels don't look out of place on a 20" frame, so I never really took much notice.

That was until a few weeks ago when I ran another round of The Demo Series, showcasing the latest mountain bikes the big brands - Giant, Specialized and Trek - have to offer. All of them are pushing the 29er big stylie this year so I thought I'd see what all the fuss was about.

Considering I've been riding for almost 20 years, it also suddenly struck me that I've never bothered with any of these mainstream brands. I spent a season racing on a Giant XTC, I borrowed a women's Trek out in the USA for a week once and kept falling off the back of the seat because it was too short, and I've never even parked my backside on a Specialized! Another first was afoot.

Now, remember for one second that two of the bikes I own (Olive the DeKerf and Hyacinth the Maverick) are my two favourite bikes in the whole wide world and I have loved every minute I have ever spent riding them, that's why I own them. I'd also ridden a storming lap of the demo course on Saturday morning on Hyacinth - it doesn't get much better!

But it does.

First off, the Specialized Epic 29er - wow! Cruising down the final Skyline Trail descent at Afan, skipping over the rock slabs as if they were carpet and popping over the drop-offs. The ride was unbelievable, on a bike I'd never ridden before and hadn't even been set up properly. I just couldn't stop grinning! And then giggling. There was lots of giggling! I wanted to go again, again again again!

Next up, the Trek Superfly - O.M.G! Still brimming with confidence from the Epic ride, I'm pretty sure I rode the descent even faster, smoother and possibly with a tad more 'air'. This was frickin awesome! What had I been missing out on - these bikes just move, seriously move! More grinning and giggling and I was desperate to go out one more time, despite the huge climb that started the route. Sense and self-preservation got the better of me, one more run may have been the tipping point I'd been teetering on the edge of.

A cup of tea and time to chat about this amazing, grin-inducing new invention. Fortunately, this resulted in the offer of being lent a Giant Anthem X 29er for a couple of weeks until the next demo and with a big ride in the Brecon Beacons planned for Sunday, the offer was far too good to refuse.

My enthusiasm for riding hasn't been this high for a long time, there really could be something in these big-wheeled grin machines.