The Slow Spoke is a place where I put my thoughts to words and hopefully some will read them. Since I'm a major bike geek most entries will be bike related but, not always. I'm also guilty of thinking far too much so you never know what the topic will be. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Sweet Rides: Entry #4

Today I’d like to show how on occasion, a bike is so nice, that when I’m shopping, it helps to focus my attention in a particular direction or, inspire me if you will. Although there is always more than one option, a nice bike will, at the very least, cause me to investigate more closely. Sometimes I jump, sometimes I don’t.

An example would be the blue Surly Karate Monkey I mentioned in Entry #2. I’m currently looking into going back to a steel hardtail (I miss steel and I miss that hardtail feel) so my options are endless. My search has narrowed but that Surly made me check again and make absolutely sure that the Karate Monkey isn’t quite what I am looking for.

Whenever I look into buying a new rig, I build them from the frame up. I shop. I research everything to death. Every decision is based on what I need, and how it will perform. I study geometries and try to get a good idea of what a bike will be like before I even build it up. Experience allows me the ability to do that. I’ve gotten it right on four separate occasions so far so my tactics are proving effective – for me. Before that, it was just a case of walking into a shop, like most folks do, and picking what I liked. That was years ago and before loads of riding and figuring out exactly what I like and don’t like. There’s nothing wrong with doing that either, going to the shop and picking off the shelf that is, I don’t mean that in an offensive way at all. It’s just that once you get to know what is out there and what’s available, and you figure out how to “get it right” – you do what you have to. It’s natural.

I’ve had people ask questions like; “Do you think that would be a good fit for me?”. And honestly, aside from being roughly right in terms of size, how is one supposed to know what someone else likes? It’s impossible. A person with the exact same measurements as me (ie. height, inseam, upper torso length, shoulder width etc.) may get on my bike and think I’m crazy. Really, what works for me, works for me. Some people like to be like Superman and all stretched out on their bikes and others prefer a less aggressive position. It’s very personal so once you get something dialled – stick with it.

Although these entries are based on bikes that “look good” I never buy or even consider a bike if I don’t feel it will function as I need it to. Looks come in last but if you can get a bike that performs well AND looks good, it’s a freaking win – win!

Back in 2007 I was looking into trying the whole full-suspension thing. The bike I had before was so perfect that I had a really hard time letting go. In the end, technology forced my hand and I moved on. For a change, I thought of trying a full-suspension ride and had my search narrow down to a handful of frames. In the end, I’d decided on one – a Salsa El Santo. The El Santo was one of 6 frames in the running and finally made it down to the last 2. A stellar deal on the last medium frame in stock made for the ultimate decision. But, at one point, before that time, there was a bike that inspired me to investigate that frame further.

Here’s the one that had me thinking and looking into geometries and stuff.

So, once down to the last 2 possibilities, my killer deal had me buying and building this.

Note: photo taken the day I finished it and before I trimmed the front brake, line.

Since I’m partial to Chris King hubs I had some laced to some Mavic 717 discs. A mix of XO/XTR bits, Noir cranks, a fox RLC fork and Avid Juicy Ultimates finished it off. I do, however, deeply regret the Avids. In my experience (and many others) they are a very nasty brake system requiring constant attention and bleeding. Of course initially they received rave reviews however a quick search now will show how not-so-nice they really are. Too bad really because when they work – they work great!

The El Santo was a beautiful ride and it did everything Salsa said it would do. I had many good outings on it and I rode it with loads of confidence (as long as those damn Avids didn’t fail me). Despite that, after a couple years of riding it, I’ve decided that the FS thing isn’t for me. It has nothing to do with Salsa or this bike at all. I really think I’d feel the same way no matter what FS rig I’d chosen. I just don’t feel as “connected” when I’m floating on a bunch of pivots. It’s just a personal opinion of course – full susers have their place. There’s no doubt about that. But, for now, I’m looking to get another hardtail.

This time the change will be a jaunt into the world of 29ers. I’m in the market. I’m shopping. I’m driving my wife crazy. I’m telling my 18 month old son all the things I’m considering and he usually points out the window and yells “BIRD!” or some other random thing he’s seen. He doesn’t get it – yet. :-)

For now, I’m down to 2 frames again so the time is coming. I’m looking forward to entering a new world again and I hope it’s as fulfilling as that old bike I refused to give up on for so long years ago. I need that connection.

We’ll see.

I thought I’d throw another bike in the mix for today and it’s one that really, a few years ago, wouldn’t make the cut. I don’t like gimmicks. I do have something to admit tough. I’ve always been one to admit when I’m wrong so I’m going to do it right here and now.

When Cannondale initially came out with that Lefty fork I thought to myself “Oh God, here we go again.” But here we are, years later, and those things have been fine tuned and actually work extremely well. I tried one out not long ago and pushed it quite hard. It was actually very nice! I liked it! My initial thoughts years ago were that because of its (at the time) unorthodox look, people would buy them based strictly on that but they’ve now pretty much become commonplace. So, even though this bike initially would not have made it on my list of appealing bikes, I must say, that I’d love to spend a few hours racing this thing around. It even LOOKS fast! I wouldn’t have any worries about this thing carrying me over the nasty stuff – fast! Mega marks for smartly being set up as a 1X9 too. Great stuff. Really!

This bike scores high as a full-on racer and has just the right bits fitted to make it an “I-want” bike on my list. A real beauty IMO.

So, the apology: To Cannondale – sorry for doubting your Lefty Fork way back in the day. I was wrong: kudos to you for pushing the envelope. Your fork has definitely proven itself worthy.

Remember to comment if you’re reading and have something to add. And don’t forget to submit your ride if you think it belongs! I’d love to check it out. E-mail it to skabikes at hotmail dot com.

Steve A.

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