Monday, November 21, 2011
It's probably best I start by giving you my background in regards to riding a rigid mountain bike before I state my point. This is also just my experience, and you can take it how you will...
My first 29er was a Jamis Exile steel singlespeed. It replaced the first bike I raced on, a Specialized Hardrock. The Hardrock had seen a hard year of riding and racing, and I was intrigued by the big wheel movement. This was in 07 I believe. I bought the Jamis because it was fairly inexpensive, it had big hoops, and it was sweet looking. Little did I know it was a piece of shit. No offense, but Jamis did not have their stuff together when they launched their first 29ers, the Exile and Dakota. The Exile was steel like I mentioned, and the rigid fork wasn't even that bad. The problem was their welds sucked, and I snapped the downtube off the headtube not once, but twice on seperate bikes. That wasn't as bad as the Dakota though. The headtube snapped clean off the top and downtube, which convienently happend as I was coming down from manualing a creek crossing. The result was my face eating my front wheel, and an otherwise nasty crash that left me licking my wounds for almost a month after. Needless to say I was done with Jamis. (*Note- Jamis seems to have their crap together better now days, and I'm sure they're very nice bikes that hopefully didn't inherit their predessors problems.)
After the Dakota accident, I sold my replacement frame they sent me, and purchased a Surly Karate Monkey. That bike was a blast... minus the fork. Anyone who has ridden the old generation Karate Monkey fork will tell you it was rough. I believe they've redesigned the forks as of late, and I've heard they are worlds better. It was a rough ride, but it rode like a dream. I rode and raced it rigid for awhile, before slapping a White Brothers Magic fork on it. I really liked that fork.
I stayed suspended up front for awhile, then purchased a Specialized Stumpjumper in Fall of 08. I raced the Stumpy for the first half of 09, but in early Fall of 09 I blew out the gears and fork, and decided to keep it simple and ride it single speed and rigid. I bought a Origin 8 carbon fork, and from Fall of 09 all through 2010 I rode the hell out of it. This was also my first real year racing Expert, and I did fairly well given my lack of gears and suspension.
In February of this year, I snapped the chainstay on the Stumpy in the first hour of a three day training block down in Arkansas. I was bummed. Luckily this was about the same time my Epic came in, so I wasn't too worried. Specialized came through with a new 2011 Stumpy frame for my replacement, and it too went single speed and rigid. It, however, only got rode twice due to the Epic. I couldn't not ride the piss out of the Epic. It was a drug I couldn't get enough of. So the Stumpy sat unridden all through this year.
So there's my history. My history with rigid came to a head this last weekend. In a flux without the Epic, or a suspension fork, I decided to take out the Stumpy rigid in all it's glory. I rode Binder Lake in Jeff, which to me always seemed like a good course for a singlespeed and even rigid. I rode a hard sprint interval ride Friday night, and a 3 hour ride on Saturday...
What resulted was my final conclusion on riding a rigid mountain bike...
I'm sorry, but in now way was it enjoyable. I understand the persona behind it. It makes you look tough, and hell you almost have to be to ride one. But bottom line is I ride to enjoy the ride, not to get the hell beat out of me and my wrists snapped. Maybe I'm just a pussy... or maybe I'm now spoiled. I'm so used to being glued to the ground. So used to blasting through rock gardens with high speed and big smiles. Used to riding for hours with no back pain or hand numbness. Sure, the hardtail has it's pluses, with it's flickablity, direct power transfer, and bit lighter overall weight. That being said, the Epic is damn near on even playing feild on the stiffness, weight, and power transfer, but it blows the doors off everything else. It makes riding so much more enjoyable, and overall makes me way faster.
So what's the point of this post? I'm not sure... I guess to say I'm done with rigid forever. With the newest technology in full suspension 29ers, I can't see myself ever going back. I'll keep the hardtail for awhile, but I'll likely buy a Camber for my "other" mountain bike. I just enjoy riding so much more when I'm not trying to fight my bike. We live in a place that's never short on rocks and other bone jarring obstacles. I don't need a bike that makes me feel every one of them.
Maybe I'm just getting old... Maybe I'm just getting smarter. Who knows.