Monday, May 20, 2013

Mountain Bike Demo: 2013 Specialized Epic Comp 29"

This weekend I hit up the awesome and tough Camp Tamarancho BSA mountain biking trail up in Fairfax, CA. My buddy Ollie loves that ride and I hadn't done it before. The weather was great, so I organized a Demo bike rental from a local bike shop here in SF and tried out this crazy singletrack trail.

Me and Ollie
The way up was TOUGH on the first time, it was certainly a challenge for me at my current skill level. The switchbacks are very tight and uphill, so if you don't have enough momentum you need to catch yourself and walk before you fall off :) So there was a bit of walking on the way up, but I started to get the hang of it after a little bit, and also start to get more comfortable with the bike itself.

This was the first time I'd tried a 29" wheel bike, and also the first time I'd ever ridden a bike with rear suspension. Both of these features were very new and exciting to try out on a tough trail. The 29" wheels made for a lot of stability - I felt very comfortable and stable rolling over big rocks that would have freaked me out on my usual Gary Fisher hardtail bike. The wheels are mostly to thank for that. The other major win was the hydraulic disc brakes... the same kind as I used on the Kona Blast I rode on in Seattle last month. The extremely sharp brake sensitivity (and very new and clean tires, I should add) also really added to my comfort and stability on a really tough and sometimes steep and kinda gnarly terrain. I REALLY loved the brakes.

Oh, you sexy beast
The gears were different than what I am used to - 2x10... only 2 options on the front!!! Very weird. I guess this is a new thing and it actually makes a lot of sense, as it's generally faster to switch the back gears instead of the front ones. When you're trying to get up a crazy hill or the terrain is changing so quickly, it's nice to be able to rely on the gears switching fast and reliably. So that was also great.

The rear suspension was also a brand new experience for me. At first I didn't really notice it, which I think is intended. The Specialized has a very interesting piece of technology called a "Brain" which measures the amount of bump you are getting on the bike and engages the rear suspension only when required - this was pretty cool. So it stayed almost like a hardtail until I hit any sort of bumps at all, and then the rear shock would engage itself and respond to the terrain. I found myself "lifting" off my bike seat still a bit on very rocky/bumpy downhill as you would expect to do. But on lighter stuff or terrain that I would have had to lift off on my hardtail, I just zoomed right over it without concern. That was pretty sweet.

Singletrack epicness
This is the most Northern California photo of all time

So that was my big ride at Tamarancho, and also my first day out on this sweet rental. I got my phone to GPS the whole thing, check out the results here on Strava:

Today I waited for the crowds from the Bay To Breakers race in San Francisco to disperse a bit so I wasn't going to need to weave through a bazillion people, and in the afternoon I took the bike out again for another hour to Golden Gate Park for a couple of the usual random runs here and there and random little side trails that can be fun and are less strenuous than Tamarancho. (My legs needed a bit of a rest, but I really wanted to make good use out of this 2 day rental). It was a great test of the bike today too, and I didn't notice the rear shocks as much today (though they did seem to be engaging a lot when I looked at them), but what I really noticed today was the speed that you get with 29" wheels. Man that thing goes fast. On the Polo Field at Golden Gate Park, I was spinning around the track at lightning pace compared to my usual run on my hardtail bike... and this is all in Gear #4 or 5 on the back, 1 on the front! Pretty crazy stuff.

It looks like the MSRP is around $3300 for this puppy, but local shops seem to be selling it for $2999. So it's a HUGE step up from what I've got now in terms of price and features, but it was definitely a fun ride and an awesome experience. If I ever do decide to get a full suspension, I am really gonna need to ride a lot more of these demo bikes from different manufacturers first before I'd be able to decide. There are a lot of features and things that I don't know about and it would be hard to know if you liked and if they "felt right" before actually trying it. So I might do some more of these demos in the future - it's pretty fun and gives you a cool opportunity to try new things and decide what kind of features really make a difference to you, before jumping into the deep end. I am not sure if it'll make sense for me to upgrade to one of these full suspension bikes someday or not, but I am definitely gonna try a bunch more and see if there is one that really suits my skill and biking style. If I keep doing this kind of biking, it might make sense to upgrade at some point. For now, I'm gonna keep trying out new and exciting stuff!

I didn't take a GoPro this time, but this guy posted a cool video of him testing out this bike on some trails in Colorado that look quite a bit like the kinds of terrain we did at Tamarancho.

1 comment:

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