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29er Ride Review Part II

Posted in Uncategorized on October 26, 2011 by melonp

Ok so I thought I was anti-full suspension.  Too many moving pivots and shocks requiring air before every ride.  Especially for Oak Mountain, our home course, which isn’t really highly technical.  The truth is, Oak Mountain had quite a bit less exposed roots and rocks in 1995 when I started riding there on a steel rigid 26 in Rockhopper.  In the late 90s I ended up with an Aluminum Stumpjumper 26 in HT with 2.5 inches of front suspension.  This was all I needed and one of the best bikes of all time.  Now, with mountain biking becoming more popular and many Alabamians discovering just how fantastic our trails are, trail erosion has made the original Oak Mtn Red Loop much rougher.  So I had been telling my good riding buddies I loved my Niner Sir 9 so much even with a rigid fork that I would never need FS.  And, well it was a medium which is a tad large for me and maybe I should have a small frame and if I need a different size frame then maybe I should consider a new one.  Ha ha!  So after riding several years on a steel niner (first as a single speed, then 1×9), I came across a hard to pass up deal on a new Salsa Spearfish frame.  The best mechanic ever, my friend Grant Thomason helped me swap my components to the Salsa green machine.  I kept it as a 1×9, with only a rear XO derailleur and shifter.  I have a 34 tooth chainring and 11×34 XTR cassette.  With my richey carbon bar, thomson stem/post and stans crest wheels with continental race tires setup tubeless, all in weight with pedals and bottle cage is 24.4 lbs!  This is fantastic for a FS 29er and yes I suppose I am a weight weenie.  To achieve this weight, I also have a super light KMC 10sl chain, my trusty speedplay frog titanium pedals and an old selle slr 135 gram saddle.  Front suspension is a reba race 29er that I have at 80mm travel and rear is the stock Rock Shox Monarch R shock.  It is my understanding that this a high volume shock with more of a firm feeling than other shocks.  There is no 3-way setting on the shock like the popular fox rp23.  This is fine with me, as I wanted minimal settings to deal with and minimal “plushness” that many FS bikes feel like when you are pedaling hard cross country.  So….as a hard tail fan and someone who is always trying to get around the trail fast….the Salsa Spearfish is everything I thought it would be.  The climbing is fantastic, I never feel bobbing when going uphill and the travel is just enough.  Just enough to take the edge off the rough stuff, but not nullifying what Mountain biking is all about.  There are a few superbikes out there that you can ride efficiently without feeling much of the trail.  That’s not what I wanted.  I still want to feel the trail but not be jarred by it.  The aluminum frame is definitely more harsh than my steel Niner, but the suspension and lower pressure from the tubeless setup is enough to offset this.  The geometryof the Salsa is dead on.  As a 5’8″ rider with a long inseam, I can get away riding medium 29ers.  The small salsa is similar to the medium niner but with a shorter top tube for shorter torsos.  Although I rode the Niner rigid in 65 mile mtb race (Big Frog), I didn’t really get beat up (other than the fact you are riding 65 miles!).  However, you certainly want to feel very comfortable for that length of time.  The salsa spearfish would have been perfect for this race.  And I probably could have broken 6 hours, which I missed by two minutes primarily due to hanging around the last rest stop an eating lunch for 10 minutes! 

So to make this a noteworthy post and get analytical  for Mr. O’Kelley, I’ll compare some of the sections of Oak Mtn Red trail and the ride on the Salsa SF vs Niner Sir 9.  Note I am not going to comment on a 26 inch Hardtail, because for cross country riding in the southeast I think they are obsolete (IMHO), a full suspension 26 er, which would be fun but not as fast or stable for me as 29er on these trails, or other 29er hardtails.  I have ridden aluminum 29er frames and they are very comparable to the Sir 9, with the exception of the suttle feeling you get from steel.   So here goes:

Red Road 2.5 mile climb – Both climb this well but an extra nod to the Spearfish.  The Hardtail is a little more efficient, but this is part of the trail that has suffered from erosion over the last 10 years.  The rear shock keeps the rear wheel on the ground during the climb and it is worth the extra time.

Red Road top of ridge – Spearfish wins hands down.  This is rideable on the SF at high speeds with no braking required ever!

Boulder Ridge and West Ridge – this is a tough one, I’d say it is a tie.  The pace is slower in general due to the technical aspects of this route.  A Hardtail on this section is not that bad.

BUMP trail – Spearfish wins hands down.  This is the roughest part of Oak Mtn and any and all travel is welcome.  Having not ridden Blood rock on a full suspension in many years, I was surprised at how much easier it was than on a hardtail.  With the Spearfish, I have even found myself picking alternate lines down blood rock.

Johnson’s Mountain – whatever the direction, there will be a climb on one side and a fast descent on the other.  Spearfish wins hands down.

Foreplay/Mr. Toads – with the newer and more challenging trails being completed at OM, I find these to be kind of boring on either bike.  But Mr. Toads is great to combine with the family trail/lake trail to teach your kids mountain biking BTW!

Rattlesnake Ridge/Lake Trail – ummm, well the Ridge is monotonous on either bike and a hardtail is plenty on this section

Seven Bridges/Garrett’s Gulch – these slower parts of the trail vary in terrain quality.  The spearfish wins, although the twisty sections before and after the rock garden I find to be much quicker on a hardtail. 

So there you have it.  For Oak Mtn extended rides the 29er FS cross country steeds are hard to beat, and the Salsa Spearfish is one of the best bargains in bikes.  I will say that our good buddies David Brush and “Tbird” Travis Grappo are riding Niner Jet 9s, and they seem to be getting harder and harder to keep up with on those things………..just sayin……

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29er ride reviews……..coming soon………..!

Posted in Uncategorized on July 28, 2011 by melonp

The Salsa Spearfish ride report………………exciting stuff………..and…..super-geeky comparisons to other bikes!  Wow!  VS Niner sir 9, 26er FS rides and 26er HTs…..