26 versus 29 – The Coach’s Perspective
A lot of my friends are going to be shocked when they read this blog but none more than my aspiring young athletes! Time and again I have harped on about a 29’er being no good for their development, masking deficiencies in their skill levels and I often say to them that they need to learn how to ride their bikes properly (on a 26 inch hard tail) before they even consider anything else.
Last night (on a bit of a whim) I purchased my first 29er and today was the maiden voyage on the ‘beast’. Her name is ‘beast’ because she looks big but I can say that there is nothing big about her! I now own a 17 inch women’s specific Specialized Fate Expert Carbon 29er hard tail decked out with the SID Brain. The reason for buying a new bike was not out of necessity, as my current bike, a 2010 Cannondale Factory Scalpel is awesome!
Part curiosity and part social experiment, I decided to take the plunge. Bronwyn Victor, co-owner of Planet Cycles located at Woolloongabba in Brisbane, has hooked me up with my new bike! The team at Planet being ever so helpful gave me a few pointers of how to handle the new beast. Tips included, run slightly wider bars, run slightly lower tyre pressure and trust the Brain in the SID to do its thing.
Having heard most of the complaints about 29ers, I was determined to keep an open mind. People would say the wheels are heavy, that they steer slow and don't accelerate as quick. Perhaps the first few incarnations of the 29er bikes those complaints could be said but now they are not a problem with well-known 29er manufactures fixing most of these issues up to be at least on par with a 26" bike.
So how did I find it? Rolls like it had an engine! A little slow to get going from a complete standstill on rocky or uneven terrain but it was so slight that I am assuming that next time it will be even less noticeable. Once rolling, I was keeping up with my 29er friends and gapping my 26” comrades, thinking “OMG - that used to be me!” Cornering was nimble which I was not expecting and didn’t find that I needed to “man-handle” the bike around corners like others had mentioned I would.
My only complaint for the maiden voyage was that I felt I was getting a little bounced around in the rear end but I guess that’s normal when you are a “lazy rider” and have ridden nothing but full suspension bikes for the last 7 years. I let some air out of the tyres, and hey presto, I was back in business!
Having ridden the bike for only one hour, I feel like I wanted to keep riding to see what else she could do e.g. logs, drop offs, tight switchbacks and large climbs but had to leave that for another day (and another blog). Unfortunately this morning the rain had come over and my crew wanted nothing more than a chat and a hot brew. This weekend will be quite the test racing at Round #2 of the South East Queensland MTB Series at Karingal. There are also some marathon’s coming up so I will be interested to compare the bike over different courses and terrain to see if the term “horses for courses” is true.