Forgot My Camera, This Morning...
but, in between dodging Bigfoot and all of the UFO Aliens (they always show up when I have no camera, dang it!), I got a really good mountain bike ride in.
I took the 69er up to Apex, to get a little technical climbing and descending in before the snow hits, next week. I had flipped the stem, before leaving the house, because I felt like the front end was a little light on the climbs, last week. Of course, now I risk the wrath of Bike Snob NYC, since he has a pet peeve about flipped stems in combination with riser bars.
In a related note, Bike Snob NYC can kiss my butt.
As you can see, even upside down the rise on this stem isn't enough to cancel out the head tube angle. The stem ends up at almost a zero degree rise. Whatever the degree of rise, it was a big improvement for climbing, and didn't seem to have any negative affect on descending.
I climbed to the upper entrance to the Enchanted Forest Loop, where I stopped and put on my wind vest for the descent. The trail was in perfect shape; moist and loamy without being muddy. The traction was phenomenal, allowing me to climb even the root-infested uphills that usually have me spinning out and then walking.
I took the rough line through a lot of the rocky/rooty drop-offs (the so-called "suspension line"), just to see how the rigid fork would handle it. No problem (more on that, later).
Once back on the main trail, I descended to the upper end of the Sluicebox trail, and then started the climb up that trail. The climb has a lot of very tight switchbacks and ledgy little bumps. The bigger wheel and slacker head tube angle didn't seem to be any drawback on the way up.
On the way down from the top of the hill, the trail is very rocky, rough and technical for a good portion of the way. I know that the rigid fork didn't slow me down on this section, either, because my total ride time for the whole shebang was just over one hour and ten minutes (with an additional ten minutes spent waiting for hikers to pass, and stopping to talk to other mountain bikers along the way). This is about the same time I logged on the pink bike with a 4-inch travel fork on it, generally, last year. I'm certainly not climbing any faster, so I don't figure I lost any time on the downhills.
The big wheel, with the tire inflated to around 35 psi, feels very similar to the first suspension fork I ever owned, the Manitou 2. Those familiar with the 1993 variety of suspension will remember that the Mani2 had a whopping 2.75 inches of suspension travel, out of the box. That was reduced to about 1.75inches once you dialed in some preload (or about 3/4" on cold days when the Mike n Ikes that Answer installed in place of steel springs would stiffen up from the temperature).
Combine that with the soft tail frame, and there is plenty of give for a rider as slow as I am (imagine molasses at the South Pole, a snail on Qualudes, etc.).
I think I have found the ultimate expression of a Front Range trail bike for my style of riding and (lack of ) speed. I'm really eying the STP frame, now, thinking about whether it needs a suspension fork or a big wheel (or both). I'm kinda thinking a titanium rigid 29er fork might be in my future.