2011 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Comp 29 Test Bike.
Only recently have I exposed myself to the beauty of the 29'er bicycle. This post title says Two Timer because I'm feeling like I've been cheating on my regular old 26 inch wheeled bikes on the last Two Rides and because I have now done Two Rides on our 29'er test bike. Everything I'd heard and read about before actually trying the Big Wheels was all summed up quite nicely once aboard. Just Riding Along (JRA) in the parking lot of the shop on a few different bikes, was an instant attention grabber. They all felt incredibly stable and rolled nicely along.
Here at Papa Wheelies, we have two 29'er Test Bikes from Specialized, an EPIC Comp 29 in a large frame, and a Stumpjumper FSR Comp 29, medium frame size. I personally have a 2007 Stumpy FSR (26 inch wheel/ 5 inch travel bike) so I have been gravitating toward the Stumpy Test Bike, because it's in my size, but also because I like a little more travel than the EPIC has. I took sometime last week on a day off to ride some of my favorite trails at Mount Agamenticus, these are trails I know quite well and that I have been riding for a long time. I thought that would be the best way for me to compare the 29'er bike. Instantly, I was hooked as I climbed up Ring trail with ease, rolling over rocks and roots quickly and smoothly. What I noticed as I climbed up the switchback Horse trail was how less twitchy it was compared to my regular MTB. It seemed as if I could roll around the switchbacks more smoothly, where if I was riding my 26" bike, I might have had to do a bit more negotiating with my front wheel at every turn, using more energy in the process. The wheels and bike went directly to the position I pointed it, when and where I needed it, all my effort in pedaling making the bike propel forward.
As I summited the Big A, I looked forward to the descent toward Second Hill. I love to climb, but who doesn't love to go down hill too? As I started down Chestnut Oak I was absolutely amazed at the handling of the bike through big rocks & roots, into corners, flying with a smooth flow down the trail. Again as compared to my 26'er, I would have had to pre-jump and compress the suspension through a couple of sections to make it through smoothly at my acceptable rate of speed. Railing into some of the tighter corners, I could counter my body weight into the rear suspension, much like my 26, but even faster! There's a rock drop/ roll off as you start the traverse over toward Second Hill that I've never felt totally positive about rolling over on my 26 inch Stumpy, I've always felt like I had to get way back off the saddle or even in some cases, I've walked down through it if the conditions were super slick or if it was really dark on some of my night rides. The 29'er just made me feel super confident going in that it was no big deal rolling down the rock and I did it with great skill, thinking to myself how much fun it was on this bike.
Every question I asked in my head about the bike, I was given the answer in the handling and responsiveness of the bike. For example, as many riders who frequent Mount Aggie know, often times you'll be riding at a fairly quick clip and come into left a corner, through a stream and there's a rutted root section as you exit the water and corner. See pic below.
You can see at the far end of the stream the roots. On my 26 Stumpy, I would hit the first root and have to pull up hard on the front end to get my wheels to clear the roots better. With the 29 Stumpy, I was able to pop my front tire on top of the first root, along with my momentum I only had to apply a quick and easy pedal stroke and the wheel just rolled over the second root with minimal effort and less energy used. The rest of this first ride was pretty tame and I ended, feeling less "worked".
My second ride on this bike was just the other night after a mostly rainy day. I was unsure how the bike would handle through slick rocks and roots and with other riders to influence the speed of the ride. As I reached the top of the first real technical climb on the Lime trail, I just knew the 29'er was/is for me. The whole ride I nailed the real technical climbs and rock/root sections. At the rides end, I felt great, not nearly as tired as I would have felt if I had been on my 26. Now one of the regular old 26 inch wheel bikes I own sits quietly up for sale to fund my next big bike purchase, some 29'er, bike model yet to be determined.
Thanks for reading,