What!? Me on a Full Suspension bike?

This is a note I wrote to a local friend who asked for a complete ride report. As I typed, more and more perceptions surfaced. In an informal email, I don’t put as much effort into style or proper grammar, etc., which helped me just turn on the spigot, and let it all flow. Granted, yes, I cleaned this up – a little. It’s not my best writing, but you get the idea. Also, I’ve left some background stuff in here, as some folks might not have read the forum post. So, that’s made this post pretty long.

The full-suspension geared bike (a Niner Jet 9) – Wow! First off, I never realized how much of a beating I take on the singlespeed hard-tail. I’m out of the seat on that bike…a LOT! Mind you – I’ve got less than 30 overall mtb rides, EVER (including various demo rides). I’m almost entirely on the intermediate trail out at my favorite site. I’ve still got much to learn, but at the moment, I feel a tad limited.

Side note – the whole reason I’m looking at a geared bike is because I want to do the mtb trails up in the mountains. My hubby has been up that way a lot lately, and unless I grow a Y chromosome and double the size of my thighs, I can never join him on those outings with my SS HT and the gearing it has. (32/18) The FS thing got to be a curiosity after some comments from friends.

So, what differences did I notice? First because I could stay on the saddle more often, I found that cornering and such was much easier. Maneuverability was greatly increased. This was something I did not expect. It was a nice surprise. Will be interesting to see how I do when I go back to my own bike. I suspect that I’ll notice it, again, from the other direction. Because when I’m up/out of the saddle, my center of gravity is higher. Means my balance isn’t as good. That’s one plus of being in the saddle. The other plus is that I can use my legs to grab the frame as I woosh and swoosh through the trees, around corners and such. At the same time, I can keep my upper body quiet while my lower body moves with the bike, which also means I have better vision. Getting wobbled and bonked so much on the hard-tail, my vision isn’t as clear because of all that up/down, side-to-side movement. (Ever watched one of those videos where the rider is taking a beating? You can hardly see a thing. That’s what it is like riding the HT at times.)

Then of course, the FS saved energy, too. Getting beat up fatigues me more than I realized. Also, all those bumps hamper forward momentum. No doubt, I didn’t have to put out as much “umf”. That was nice. Though at my favorite trail? It’s not absolutely essential, but up in the mountains? Very much needed.

The gears were a plus in some ways. Climbing certain parts were definitely better. Others though, it was almost as if the bike was too light in the front because on certain grades, it felt like the front end wanted to lift off the ground and tumble me backwards. I was surprised by that, too. Didn’t expect that, at all. I had expected to roll through all the places where I sometimes have to stop and run them, but I didn’t. Depending on the day and my energy levels, there’s ~4 places where I have to get off and run. Half of those I could roll through [gears helped]. Half I couldn’t. Turns out, being clipped in would have helped, as I’d have better control over pitching my weight forward. One spot – ugh. Yes, I need to refine my abilities, but I also need an upgrade on my Brazen 2.0 software program. (Mumble, grumble…gigantic root…on steep uphill grade, mumble, grumble.)

Surprisingly, I did not set my best overall time. I was close but no cigar. However in the interests of full disclosure, I don’t like riding mid-day on really sunny days. I prefer cloudy or late in the day when the sun isn’t mucking up visibility on the trails b/t the shadows and bright lights. That hampered me. I was trying to ride and get the bike returned to the person from whom I borrowed it (which is why I was out earlier than I’d like). However, I realized I hadn’t had enough of a chance to roll through certain trails to get a full idea of the bike. So, I called them, and they were kind enough to give me till late this morning. (phew!) Except if I had known I could do that, I would have waited to ride till later in the day. Wonder what my times would have been at that point. Oh well!

Speaking of being hampered leads me to…the massively, wide handlebars. I got bark today. On my favorite trail, there’s two sets of super tight trees. On the Sunday direction, only one set is a real problem. Turns out, these handlebars only gave me 1″ clearance on either side. Didn’t catch it on the first two runs but did on the 3rd. Ouch! (Got my biggest bleeders since I was 17, [mumblesomething years ago]. Yes, the mtb bike was perfectly fine. I just kept riding because I wasn’t sore, and the pain of the event passed after a few seconds. But others – mostly friends and some strangers – thought my war wounds were pretty cool. Certainly colorful! LOL, I didn’t have a first aid kit. [I’ll remedy that on future rides.] So, I didn’t bother to clean it. Just let it bleed and clot. Figured that would be cleaner till I was able to get home and properly take care of it.)

My own handlebars on my singlespeed are wide, but these things are 747’s. My next bike won’t have ’em this wide, especially after that. I don’t need one more reason to wince as I roll.

Oh, here’s one more thing. Having the adjustment for the front shock up on the handlebars (as a button you push for hard or soft) was FABULOUS. This Jet 9 bike has these type of shocks, and they were a dream! Definite WANT for the new bike (and my current one).

Lastly, gearing – the bike has a SRAM 2×10. 39/26 in the front and a 10-speed cassette in the back with 36 as the biggest gear – sweeeet. (Even though, I never had to come close to using it. Just nice to know that it is there.) In the interest of simplicity for the demo ride, I stayed in the small chainring. So, I didn’t have brain damage from trying to mess with two sets of shifters. That was a smart move b/c I became very familiar, very quickly with the right/rear shifters. Thus, it did not interfere with my overall experience of riding. (Also, I liked the actual shifters, themselves. They were smooth and easy to operate.)

Although as I sit here and think about, I might go with a triple because I looked at a friend’s cranks. He’s got a triple with a 22 as his smallest crank. That would be mighty, mighty nice for some of those 7 mile climbs up north of here. (Though I’m not sure if SRAM has a triple like that. I will have to do some research.)

Would I buy a bike like this? Oh yeah. I’m hooked, now. Next bike will definitely be a FS geared bike. This Niner Jet 9 was a sweet, sweet, ride. However, I have NO desire to get rid of my SS, either. I rather like how hard I go on that bike as well as the simplicity of being gear-free. I just pedal and roll – it’s an ascetic experience. Do I have room (up in my head and in my garage) for two mountain bikes? Oh, I think I can find a way to make room. ;-)