No problems deciding what I was going to ride today. We have a Scott Scale 29er Pro demo that has to be ridden. I’ve already swapped my 26″ commuter for a 700c and love the smooth ride so maybe the offroad change would be the same.
The ride started in the dark, a miserable winter Sunday. The ride to our meet point was so quick with such big wheels that I soon forgot how rough I felt. However, this is a mountain bike so the off road was where I’d find out what it was like. The first climb up through Hill Barn was eye opening. The bike just seemed to go faster than my buddies without any effort. When the climb steepened the high gearing caught me out but there was a granny gear, something that I rarely, if ever, use on a 26″ wheel bike. Straight away my view that this should be a 2 x 10 was dismissed. Next up was the downhill on the east side of Cissbury. Two comments: I thought that I was severely out of control – the front end felt too quick and sketchy, second comment, I reckon I rode it quicker than ever before. That probably explained the first impression.
As the ride went on the bike just seemed to be going faster especially on the open rolling trails, it carried speed through all the dips and I blasted passed any rider infront without any effort. The big (they look huge) 29 inch wheels were certainly doing a good job.
The next test (and this is what 29ers are supposed to be so good at) would be the rooty trail around the Steyning Horse Shoe. I sprinted past my mates to be first in and immediately got a pinch puncture. I had let a load of air out earlier – big mistake. It says in the spec “tubeless ready”. We have to get some Stan’s fluid in before anyone else rides it. Once riding again I could see just how fast the bike was through the roots. Awesome!
By now I was used to the bike and was having to take it easy just to stay with the group. A check of the tyres and the the most impressive bit so far. Cardiac Arrest, downhill with 29″ wheels was mind bending. I never thought that a bike with only 100mm of travel could be so safe at speed. I was flying and those dreaded, chalky ruts seemed to disappear under those big wheels. It was even good in the air.
So what was my conclusion? I did not expect to like it, front end way too high and the head angle felt too steep. It looked a bit wierd. Riding it changed my mind. First it is way quicker than a 26″. I wish I’d worn an HRM as it felt so easy on the climbs. I’d like to have known just how easy. Down hill was a revelation. I’d read that the bigger wheels smoothed out the trails but it really came into its own on fast descents. As for the position, despite the long top tube the large felt, if anything, a bit small. The specification? I liked it all, tyres included (I rate the Rocket Rons for a ride like this and with such big wheels you could kill the handling with a heavier tyre – the trails were good today). What would I change? No question, go tubeless (why would anyone ride with tubes these days? I got a thorn puncture later on). I reckon for fast riding I’d add a set of Easton carbon bar ends. Everything elase was perfect. X7 has improved beyond recognition.
As the ride went on the sun came out and you could even feel its warmth. I was in mountain bike heaven. There was no clogging mud even near The Dover. What a great way to start the new yea?