Saturday, March 7, 2009

Dog Day

I did the Passion Trail Bikes demo today.... a 2008 Santa Cruz Blur XC (not the 2009 carbon fiber version), with the lower-end component spec (for example, the Fox rear shock had no lockout).

Santa Cruz Blur XC
2008 Blur XC

The bike was fine, although I preferred the ride of the Specialized Epic Carbon I rode there last fall. The Specialized had more of a hardtail feel on the climbs, while the Blur XC had a softer feel. But the problem today had nothing to do with subtle differences between VPP and Horst-link rear suspensions. Nor was the problem really the engine. The problem was with the control systems.

When riding up a steep mountain trail in Belmont's Waterdog Park, on numerous occasions I'd face a sharp, rutted switchback turn.... and bail. Or a steep drop-off on a descent.... and bail. Or a tight downhill switchback with a steep slope immediately beyond the edge of the trail.... and bail. Then face clipping back into my Speedplay Frog pedals, which aren't the easiest pedal to securely get into.

Even when I was riding, I'd be spinning slowly up steep muddy singletrack, watching guys significantly heavier float up the trail ahead. And on the subsequent descent I was on the brakes way more than these guys. I wish I could tell you about their descending form, but they were too quickly beyond sight for me to observe it.

Mountain bike tech is fun. It's cool when a company releases a frame which shaves this many grams off the previous year's model. But in the end, a few grams here or there, a few subtle differences in sag, rebound, or actuation, none of it matters if you look the trail in the eye, and blink. I might as well have been on my ten-year-old heavy Gary Fisher hardtail, which is to its credit a very fine bike. Far finer than its rider.

For now, I'll stick to the Marin Headlands, China Camp, Russian Ridge, and similarly less technical venues... Today the Dog took me down.

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