Friday, February 27, 2009

Being Spotted on Picture Rock Trail - Bike Review

After much debate about what I was going to do to help keep the country from delving further into recession, I decided that it was my civic duty to prop up the businesses of Longmont and Golden by picking up a new Spot Longboard. My thoughts were that if each and every American went out and bought one from Blue Sky, not only would our economic engine be jump started instantly, but probably Blue Sky would be able to greatly increase their role as sponsor of the club and team (free beer at every ride?).

When I was in the shop, people working there said that there had been a lot of interest in the Spot belt-driven bikes, but that through a combination of trepidation and freak storms that had washed away all suitors, they had not had a banner year of sales. So, I thought that it might be a good idea to give a short review for anyone out there who ever thought of going for a bike with really big wheels, none of those gear shifty thingys or even a chain.

Style/Coolness/Attraction to Members of Opposite Sex: 3.5
While I must say that there is much to consider about a bike, lets face it, what really matters it that the rider of said vehicle look cooler than all others around. The two-toned (mint green and tan) paint choice would seem a bit peculiar in a superbad hardcore racing bike, it actually seems to work well. The 29er wheels and the overall large size of the bike will intimidate many around you. I personally, scared off two angry momma bears and cubs on my first ride simply by riding past and flashing a smile. For this, I give the bike high marks. The belt drive has a certain geek bling that makes even other SS riders around think that something must either be very wrong or very very right with your bike. On the other hand, impressing the neophyte with a silly multicolored bike with really big wheels while you are standing up grunting your way up a hill making noises something between pre-vomit and asthma don't do much for coolness. Hence, I give it a 3.5 out of 5.

Stuff is Not Going to Fall Off the Bike/Break in Half Cleaving My Skull in Two Factor: 4
Singlespeed bikes just don't have much crap to break on them. That's part of the coolness. Not having a chain at all is even cooler (well, assuming your bike wasn't supposed to have one - if your bike had a chain and is now curiously sans that item, you are probably really not doing well). The bike is pretty darn solid. Steel was invented not long after the Bible, and most would argue that it's far more reliable as a means to get to an end. For a frame that big to be both supple (love that word) and not flexy is pretty sweet. I weighed the bike with pedals and it's just a skosh under 26lbs, so you are paying a bit for that suppleness, but really, my butt is far too hard and knobbly to be on a super stiff hard tail. The Manitou Minute fork was surprisingly good. I'm used to Fox shox from my other bike (Ibis Mojo) and other previous bikes, so I was a bit dubious about another brand. But, the shock is actually really nice. I'm still dialing it in (after calling Manitou because it came with no manual) to get the best ride, but overall it's a pretty plush 100mm fork.

The belt drive itself is a bit eerie. It's really really quiet and super responsive. I gotta say that I think this might be the wave of the future when it comes to mountain bikes. It's pretty flawless. The bottom bracket system - that's another matter. I used to ride on a Kona Unit 26 SS a long time ago. That had a great bottom bracket system that slid back and forth. When it was in the right place you simply tightened a couple of hex bolts and you were golden. This thing has a funky system with a quick release (that actually won't quick release anything by design), 4 hex bolts that are supposed to keep the bottom bracket from sliding until you lock the quick release and some nuts on those same bolts that like to spin around for no apparent reason (man this is hard to describe in writing). I think that understanding this system (after talking to the folks at Spot) is still a bit challenging. But, when in place properly, the thing is solid and not to worry about. Woah to he/she who doesn't "get it" and then has a flat on a trail though. The brakes are bomber and the wheels seem pretty bullet proof. The only real complaint I have is that when they build up the bikes to sell, they come with really long stems (mine is a 120!). I thought that this idea went out with BioPace! Especially on a bike this big and with this much weight up front, you'd think that they'd put on a 100 or something like that to give you the leverage and balance to help float the front wheel. Oh well, cheap enough fix.

Overall Swoopiness/Rideability on Downhills: 4
It's a BIG BIG BIKE! I've been on a 140mm bike for the last year and this bike seems way big compared to that. 100mm up front made the front end go over stuff pretty easy, but just because the wheels are big, it doesn't mean they absorb the hits from drops. It's a strange sensation. You'll roll over the rocks that Boulder County throws at you like there was nothing there (rocks that I really notice on the Mojo), but then going off of stuff you remember that you are on a hardtail. Riding down the upper section of Picture Rock was a bit bombastic. It took a while to get the groove of the new bike on the rocks and tight tight turns. After I started to groove on it though, it was a great ride. The staccato of rapidly pounding rocks that normally challenge me downhill was really sort of "point and shoot" game of dozing right over them on the Longboard. The lower sections of the trail (with all of the pumpable turns) was amazing! Wow! I forgot how much a hardtail allows you to accelerate if you pump it!

Grunt Factor for Climbing: 5
Well, this is what I bought the bike for. I was not let down. If you have never ridden a SS mountain bike, think of it like going to the gym and doing one-legged presses for about 45 min straight! As I said before, I used to have a 26 inch SS a long time ago. Riding it in Boulder was a beating on me. 29er wheels made all of the difference! It was amazing to keep my momentum over much of what used to really cause me to struggle. The nice thing is that you can really just get into an uphill groove, stand up out of the saddle and chug up the hill.

Hope this review spurs on many more purchases of Spots so we can have a sub-group of the club for us!

Happy Trails,



Joel White said...

No pics? Cmon man!

29er SS is its own special blend of bliss for sure.

bizalich said...

nice write-up! i'm glad to see you are lovin' the new rig.