Saturday, March 5, 2011

So... what are you riding?

This may be an appropriate place to start... our bikes!

My first experience mountain biking was back in high school - riding a rigid.  It was a Univega, with this sweet blue paint job speckled with black... it was the 90s and I guess the splattered paint look was in.  I don't have a picture of it, but it's still at my parents house, so maybe I can add one later.

Got away from the sport until the winter of 2009 when my wife got me a Trek 4300 Disc for Christmas... and that is where it all began, I was hooked!!

2009 Trek 4300 Disc
For me, the 4300 has been a perfect starter bike.  It has pretty much let me handle anything on the trail I have wanted to (or felt confident enough to) and has held up well and got me tearing up trails all over the place.  Just last week I was riding down in Florida on it, enjoying beautiful mid 70s to low 80s weather and perfect trail conditions.  

Getting my bike to Florida was my first experience shipping a bike, and it was interesting to say the least.  My initial plan was to ship my new ride so I could actually get some dirt on the tires, but for a number of reasons I wasn't able to box her up and ship her down.  So I shipped my 4300 and I had a lot of fun!!

I've been thinking about my "next bike" for a while now.  I got hooked on mountain biking with the 4300 and probably within 6 months of riding I was "ready" for a new bike.  My skills were growing by leaps and bounds and I felt it was time to handle a new bike.  But what to get?

I first set my targets on a Fuel Ex8, looking to get a full suspension ride, but something I could not only have fun on but I could take to the races as well.

I have a buddy in West Virginia who rides competitively and I've been down to ride with him on a couple of occasions.  Not too long after getting back into riding I was down on a visit and borrowed 29er hardtail from one of his friends.  To be honest, I wasn't really feeling the big wheels.  Getting on the bike I felt too tall, a little unstable.  Although they did eat up smaller elements on the trail they felt slow to me and a bit awkward in tight technical stuff.  My mind was still on the Ex8.

About a year after that visit I went down again, but this time the borrowed bike was a full suspension 29er.  This was my first experience on a full suspension rig so I was curious to see the difference (how different is the climbing, how big is the difference on the downhills, how will this change my confidence as a rider).  At this point my skills and confidence as a rider were certainly much improved since my first visit.  This time a 29er felt amazing!  I felt like the bike just fit better.  And the full suspension... heaven!  The bike was tuned nicely and I didn't feel much peddle bob on the climbs at all.  On the way down???  WOW.  I was able to bomb down stuff that on a hardtail I had to be a bit more careful on line selection.  That's not to say I was just pointing down and going (line selection is still part of the game here) but there was certainly more forgiveness when taking a tougher line.

Now the dilemma... do I stay with the bike I'd been drooling over for so long or do I start playing with the idea of a 29er?  Could I afford a full suspension 29er that would be compare to the performance and components of the Ex8?  I was looking for a bike I could be sure I'd be happy to ride for years to come.  Something where the components would last and I wouldn't feel like I'd need to be making upgrades constantly.  So after much internal wrestling and testing out some bikes at the LBS I knew what I was going to be riding.

This winter I stepped things up and not only got myself a full suspension rig, but I also joined the 29er world as well with the HiFi Deluxe.

2011 Trek HiFi Deluxe (Gary Fisher Collection)

When I was testing out and comparing the HiFi with the Ex8 it was an easy decision.  The handling of the HiFi is so crisp, it's as if you just have to think of where you want to go and the bike will take you there.  And it just seemed to fit me so well - after spinning around on the HiFi the Ex8 almost felt like I was on a kids bike size wise.  So the decision was made.  We've been hit with one heck of a winter up here around Boston, so I've only been able to take her out on the snow, and forced onto some roads... dying to start ripping it up when the weather turns around for us. 

And now it's Annie's turn!  I had asked her previously to join me in this crazy new addiction I had found, but she was hesitant.  She was worried that she would hold me back and I wouldn't have as much fun riding if she tagged along.  I kept reassuring her that wouldn't be the case.  That I would love to be able to take her out, and that we'd ride trails together that she could handle.  Over time the idea kept growing in her head and while I was in the LBS trying out bikes she decided it was time to see what riding was all about.  

I was psyched and returned the favor by getting her a bike.  She decided to hold off on actually getting the bike at Christmas knowing she wouldn't want to brave the freezing cold to ride in the winter.  Now that I got to ride my butt off in Florida Annie is getting excited to get her bike, so we plan on heading back down to the LBS and pick up her sweet ride this weekend.  She's stayed in the family and is going with this sweet ride...

2011 Trek Wahoo WSD (Gary Fisher Collection)

So there we have them.  These are the vehicles to our adventures.  Now it's up to mother nature to give us rideable conditions sooner than later!!

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