Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Picking the "One"

No, I'm not talking about what comes out of your nose. Get you mind out of the gutter.  What I'm talking about (surprise! surprise!) is bikes.

Recntly, I've been contemplating my bikes-it's the only thing that I can do while I wait for my foot to finish healing.  I've been thinking a lot about the types of bikes I ride, the style of riding I do, and what my strengths and weaknesses are.  I've come to various conclusions, and I'll get to those at the end, but let me begin with breaking it down for you.

Types of bikes I have:
I've been fortunate to ride a lot of bikes in my time.  I've had triathlon bikes, road bikes, xc mountain bikes, trail bikes, and all mountain bikes.  Being that I presently have only mountain bikes, I'll zero in on those for now.
I've got two bikes in my stable right now, an all time low.  They're both Specialized, an Enduro EVO and a Stumpjumper FSR EVO.  The Stumpy is a 2012 model and the Enduro is a 2011 model.  Both feature Specialized FSR suspension (full coil setup on the Enduro), Sram components, Avid breaks, and Mavic wheels (well I swap the same set of Crossmax SX's between the two bikes-I ain't made of money!).  Both bikes share a decently laid back geometry, with the Enduro being more of the downhill beast than the Stumpy.  The legs on the Enduro are also a bit longer, featuring 170mm up front and 160mm in the rear, while the Stumpy has 150mm of travel front and rear.
Both bikes are very well balanced and climb very well for what they are.  The Stumpy, of course, with it's more aggressive geo and less beefy frame gets to the top first, but the Enduro is not far behind.   I've ridden both bikes on the same trails and they have both performed well.

Style of Riding I do:
Simply put, All Mountain.  Though I feel that's a very vague description of what many people do, it does describe what I like.  I ride anything and everything I can.  For me, the most enjoyment comes from actually riding things, though I do spend a little time in the air, and don't mind the occasional drop every now and then.
Rocks, roots, and steep trails make me smile, and the more gnarly things are, the better.  I enjoy the skill it takes to tackily rollers, bridges, skinnies, and the like, though I try to keep things reasonable-I'd like to go home at the end of the day.
Most importantly, my style is all about having fun.  I'm decently graceful, though I do like to just hammer down any line I wish some of the time, and the bike I ride must compliment this.

Strengths and Weaknesses:
Being that I come from a Road and Triathlon background, my greatest strength is strength.  I have a lot of power in my legs and that allows me to get up stuff with bigger bikes that might not be possible for others.  With that, I've also got a lot of upper body strength from the sports I played through college, and like to use that to my advantage when I can.
While I'm a very good rider, I do tend to be less than graceful, and not entirely smooth all the time.  I ride hard, and expect my bikes to take some of the punishment I bestow upon them.  I don't dog my equipment, but I feel that it's a bike and it should get dirty, dinged, and beaten on every so often.  For the money I've spent on these things, I feel I deserve at least this much!

After looking at the above, I've come to two conclusions.  One, I have the perfect bikes for the riding I do. When things are pretty mellow, and I'm riding the local trails,  all of which are smooth, with some flow, I reach for the Stumpy.  And, on the other hand, when I travel a bit, and ride the more technical, grind, rocky, rooty stuff, I reach for the Enduro.

"Ok, but wait," you're saying.  Wasn't the point of this post to narrow things down to "one" bike?  Yes, you're right.  I think the biggest factors in my choosing a clear 'winner' has to be my strength and my occasional lack of smoothness. While the Stumpjumer, with it's lighter weight and more aggressive geometry is a great grab for the smoother trails that don't require smooth skills over rough rocks, the Enduro handles my rugged riding without compromising too much on the climbing side of things.  It's tough, burly, and climbs technical sections almost as good as the Stumpy, but still allows me to conquer just about everything, and shred the downhills that I really enjoy the most.

The Enduro is the "one" for me.  Though it's weight might be an issue for some, I'm not afraid.  It's coil suspension, being plush and long, allows me to go over and almost through things that would stop the Stumpy in it's tracks.  And, being that I care more for the downs than the ups, I don't put a high priority on getting to the top first-it gets up there eventually and that's all that matters.

So, while this might have been a simple decision to some, I'm a bit more picky.  Fact is, I LOVE both my bikes and wouldn't trade them for any others I've ridden.  Through the long process of owning and selling so many bikes, I've finally narrowed it down, and in the process learned about myself as a rider.  If you're looking to do the same, I suggest you take a long hard look at yourself.  It's not always about what the guy you met at the trail that can shred is riding, it's more about who you are, and what kind of rider you are.  After all, you're going to be throwing a leg over you're bike, not his.

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