I am in a situation that I have not been in for some time…years, actually. I am without an ‘all-rounder’ 29er FS bike to ride. I have a Fat Bike, a Plus Bike, a SS 29er, a gravel bike, and a road bike. Yeah..I know…poor little Grannygear.
But I still need a bike for general purpose rides; for epic days on trail. Many road trips require a pretty do-all bike, as much as that exists in reality. And the one I had been using for some time just got sold to someone who really liked riding it and actually fit on it better than I. So I have a decision to make. Based on a set of requirements that apply to me, but maybe not you, I am shopping for a new whip.
Here is what I have set as parameters to go by:
- Not too big…not too small. Where is that ‘momma bear’ sweet spot in travel and capability? That depends on you. And in my case, that means long days on open fireroads, typically with a lot of elevation gain, relatively open and fast trails over rocky and semi-rough ground, and the ability to be fun even when things get a bit steep and foolish.
- 29″ wheels. Yep…no brainer here.
- Weight: Well, I draw the line at 30lbs. At that point and beyond, it gets pretty hard to enjoy it on long ascents and longer days, especially if you are trying to make good time. 25lbs is a pretty amazing place to be, weight wise, on a 29er FS, but that takes a lot of cash. I have found that 27-28lbs is a pretty good number to shoot for, and a modern 29er FS with good parts spec can hit that and not break the bank in a big way.
- To carbon or not to carbon? Well, yes, I think carbon is pretty hard to beat for this deal. Now alu CAN be really, really, good and bikes like that Niner RIP9 Hydroformed and the Gen 2 Salsa Spearfish 1 showed that aluminum is hardly relegated to Wal Mart. Just look at what Specialized is doing with the Smartweld Allez road frames. But that is not the trend and with some good reasons. The way you can shape carbon; the weight to stiffness ratio; the toughness…wow. Hard to beat. Yes, it will cost more, but to get that weight target, carbon lets me begin with a 1/2 to 3/4 pound head start.
- It has to pedal well, but in a way I want it to. I am not fond of bikes that are super active when you pedal them as it does not really play well for my style and terrain. If I were riding up stepped, rocky, or rooted trails, then I would want to be able to sit and just have the bike soak all that nonsense up while I pedaled like a crazed hamster. But super active is not the thing for a 2 hour fireroad climb. I also like to get out of the saddle and climb, so too active a bike suspension can be a bit ‘busy’.
- Yet, I do need it to deal with pretty high speeds and reasonably rough trails. Thankfully there are many flavors in FS designs today to choose from and that ability for find something that matches your predilections is not too hard to do.
- Boost or not to Boost? Boost is certain to become the de-facto ‘standard’ for at least the near future, but I have a lot of nice wheels around that do not work with that new sizing.
- Plus capable? Do I want to have a bike that can swap between 27.5+ and 29″? Do I care enough about that to spend the cash for another set of wheels/tires/rotors/cassette, etc? It sounds good, buuuutt….
So that is where I am. I am already shopping and the parts and decisions are being made as you read this. It is a sweet time to be in this predicament, as I have lots of options to choose from. But my goal is to do this without getting too far into the stratosphere cost wise. I have some parts around I want to use and some I do not, so the build will be a bit eclectic. And if I go the direction I am thinking about, the frame choice will likely surprise you.
Stay tuned for the outcome.
But I am curious…if you were in my size 45 So Cal shoes, what would you do? I would like to hear from you.