Interbike '07: Outdoor Demo: The Rides

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Here’s the pictures I promised you all and a bonus. A snapshot of what I thought of each ride. Please keep in mind that these are not definitive reviews or anything. Just giving you an idea of what you might expect if you ever were to be able to ride one of these rigs.

Of course, that’s the Haro full suspension bike set up with the 650B wheels that I referred to in my previous post. Once again, I can’t say a whole lot about the “B” wheel concept from riding this rig. I will admit to not being real familiar with all mountain type bikes. (Although after the last two days, I’ve gained a lot more experience with this caliber of bike). I did feel that the wheels were more 26″er-ish than 29, so that impression I will pass on to you. I will use the ride on this bike as a comparison later on with some of the other all mountain rigs I rode.

Next up is one of the new crop of budget 29″ers that are going to be hitting shop floors soon. This Marin Alpine Trail 29″er is a good representative example of this new genre. Coming in with a highly shaped and butted tube set in aluminum, the Alpine Trail 29 has a Rock Shox Dart 29er front fork and a smattering of Shimano entry level off road bits. Actually I was quite impressed with the performance of this bike. It felt pretty snappy, probably owing to it’s shorter than average wheelbase. That can be traced to it’s shorter than average top tube, so if you are liking a really stretched out sled, this little number may not be your cup of tea. I rather liked the resulting handling and relaxed riding position. The Dart fork performed quite well for a budget priced shock. I didn’t feel any untoward flex, although it had an audible top out clunk on sharper rebounds.

This is the next full suspension bike that I rode after the Haro/”B” wheeled rig. The Hi Fi 29″er is a new platform featuring the much talked about G2 geometry including the longer off set Fox fork up front. This bike is sooo much fun that it was a good thing I wasn’t in Vegas or I couldn’t tell you about it. (Ha ha!) Actually, I think it’s a hoot to ride. The front end is so easy to maneuver and the rear end does it’s job almost transparently. The big thing here is momentum when comparing to a “B” wheeled bike. I was rolling through smaller hills and whoops that the “B” wheels needed an extra pedal stroke or two to clear. Maybe that doesn’t mean anything to some folks, but for me, it means more coasting over stuff I don’t have to expend energy on. I’ll take that benefit all day, any day. More on the G2 in the next paragraph.

Here’s the Hi Fi’s blue sister, the Paragon. This is a bike that I’ve ridden before, so it was like meeting an old friend for me. I can not stress enough that the G2 geometry is the real deal. It handles none too fast, or none too slow. I can see this bike being a fast XC bike, or a great bike forthose who just appreciate a great hard tail platform. One of the things I was reminded of while riding the Paragon again was just how nicely it feels for being an aluminum framed hard tail. Strange sensation, but welcomed none the less. If you don’t get anything else out of this, just remember that the introduction of the G2 29″er bikes is a bench mark in the young 29″ers history.

The news that GT Bicycles was going to release a 29″er version of it’s Marathon platform was a bit of a surprise. The traditional “I-Drive” platform that GT has used for several years was employed as the design for the rear suspension. I was rather hopeful that this would prove to be a nice package, as I had heard a lot of good things about the 26 inch versions of this bike. Lots of stand over here and plenty of room to maneuver about the bike looked appealing. Too bad the package proved to be a major disappointment for me. First of all, the shock leverage ratio must be pretty high, because I couldn’t keep the bike from blowing through all of it’s travel and I could never achieve a nice solid rear end feeling, even with the Rock Shox rear damper at near maximum pressure. Then the front end was feeling rather sluggish. It must have a really high trail figure which in turn causes the handling to be slow and makes the front tire want to push in loose corners. If you are a lighter weight rider, say sub 180lbs, need a lot of stand over, and don’t mind swapping out the Reba for a longer off set fork, this could be a great bike. Unfortunately for me, this was a real buzz kill ride.

Okay, that’s all for the first day of Outdoor Demo. Look for Part II coming right up!

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No Responses to “Interbike '07: Outdoor Demo: The Rides”

  1. Vandal Says:

    I’m still in a fog about this 650B thing. Is the idea to enable the owner of a 26″ wheel mtb to put a pair of 27.5″ wheels on his bike to get some of the benefits of 29″ wheels without losing the quick acceleration and wheel strength of a 26″ wheel? What about mud clearance?
    People already slag 29″ wheels with comments that they’re too heavy, cumbersome and slow-handling compared to 26″ wheels. Won’t they say the same things about 27.5″ wheels? Besides, how many different wheel sizes can the bike market reasonably tolerate? Why not have 26.75″ wheels, 27.5″, 28.25″ and 29″? For the same reason we don’t have five different steerer tube diameters or handlebar diameters and a dozen different freehub dimensions or bb shell diameters. Every design variation would have a mix of advantages and disadvantages compared to every other design, but the relative costs of producing all those different standards and parts to match would be huge and interchangability would be nonexistent. Fewer standards means lower costs and higher quality.

    My feeling is that in an alternate reality, in which the mountain bike wheel size standard had been 24″ rather than 26″ from the beginning, if Willits and Fisher had come out with a 26″-wheel bike, the same people that, in this reality, love their 26″-wheel bikes and hate 29ers would completely slag 26″ wheels. They’d complain about how slow they handle and accelerate and how heavy and weak they are compared to 24″ wheels.

  2. Guitar Ted Says:

    Vandal: An interesting take there. I think the “B” wheels offer some benefits to folks where smaller sized bikes are a concern, and in longer travel rear end applications, I can agree with some of the points raised. Will folks be trying to see if a “B” wheel will fit their current 26″er? Absolutely! I think a purpose built race hardtail design with just that in mind might be feasible. Think bigger diameter tires for dry events and swap out to 26″ers for muddy ones. Might be an idea there.

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