Part 1: Favorite Bike Shop
I have never been in a bike shop that I didn't like. But some are better than others. My favorite bike shop is in Golden, Colorado. The people that work there remember your name. They only stock bikes that they like ride.
Here is their logo.
It actually took me a while to realize that the outside circle of the logo is a mountain bike tire. The Golden Bike Shop stocks a few road bikes and cross bikes. However, most of their inventory are mountain bikes.
The Golden Bike Shop is not really very large. They have racks stacked floor to ceiling with bikes. They also have 50+ demo mountain bikes.
When I bought my fatbike from Golden Bike Shop, I bought a 5-pack of demo rides for $200. They put the $200 toward the purchase of my 9:Zero:7.
This demo program works well if you want to buy a bike. However, a single one day rental cost $60 to $80. I wanted to find out what all the buzz was about regarding 27.5" mountain bike wheels.
I didn't want to throw $80 to rent a 27.5" mountain bike. I have four good mountain bikes already. Then I saw the advertisement for the Bike Junkies Fest.
Part 2: Bike Junkies Fest - Ride Demo Bikes For Free
Golden Bike Shop is only one of three bike shops in Golden, Colorado. The other two shops are Peak Cycles and Pedal Pusher Cyclery. Golden is not that big of town. However, Golden is in the shadow of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. All three shops sell a fair number of mountain bikes. I like all three shops. But like a moth to a flame, I am drawn back to the Golden Bike Shop.
The first 5 hours of the Bike Junkie Fest was reserved for free demo rides. I decided this was too good of an opportunity to pass up. Here is a few shots of the demo setup.
This was not a little event. There were hundreds of riders looking to demo bikes. Representatives from mountain bike manufactures from the all over the United States and Canada had brought their top-of-the-line machines.
Parking was insane.
After signing a pile of waivers. Every rider had to leave a credit card at the registration desk. Each rider got a personalized ticket that allowed you to demo the bike of your choosing. The bike reps kept your ticket until you brought back the bike.
Why were they so fussy about letting you ride off into the sunset with a bike? Well, these bikes cost from $6,000 to $10,000 and are handcrafted masterpieces.
I was a little worried. I own four great mountain bikes. How would my bikes stack-up against these world-class mega-dollar trail killers?
I was also a bit worried about my barely healed right ankle, torn right shoulder rotator cuff and ripped neck ligaments.
Part 3: You've Got to be Tough if you're Going to be Stupid
An advantage of having the Bike Fest in Golden is the there are some very nice trails within short pedaling distance from the bike shop. There is a nice rolling dirt path that follows Clear Creek. This route also has some challenging off-shoot trails. But the mother of Golden bike trails is Chimney Gulch.
Chimney Gulch is steep and rough. The trail is rated as "advanced" and is marked as a black diamond on trail maps.
Chimney Gulch is indicated by a blue line on this photo. Chimney Gulch winds up Mt. Zion for 9.7 miles and gains is 3,000 feet in elevation.
There are sections on this trail that I swear are nearly vertical! I think the name "Chimney" is fitting.
There are quite a few rocks on the trail. Well after all, they don't call this place the Rocky Mountains for nothin'.
More than half the trail is pasted on the side of a mountain. What a great place to ride an unfamiliar bike! One ill-timed touch of the brakes on the descent and it is sayonara!
Part 4: Riding and Riding - Then Ride Some More
The first bike I decided to ride was a Santa Cruz 5010c. This bike was outfitted with the components that I prefer.
This bike came with solid Shimano XT components, tubeless Maxxis High Roller tires and Fox Factory suspension components. The Geometry was ideal with a 68 degree head tube angle and a 73 degree seat angle. My full suspension bikes, Little Cam and Ultra Stumpy, have nearly identical geometries. If there was a 27.5" bike that I would like, it would be the Santa Cruz 5010c. This bike weighs 27.14 pounds and carries a $7,500 price tag.
I got on the bike and pedaled down the road to Chimney Gulch trail. Strangely, the bike felt big. The bike was smooth and easy to pedal. When I got on the trail, the bike felt okay. For $7,500 this bike should feel like a rocket!
The first climb on Chimney Gulch is short but brutal. The trail climbs sharply over a boulder field and anti-erosion timbers. You have to pedal like crazy, stay balanced on the bottom bracket and weave through the obstacles. The darn bike didn't respond well. I tried to hop a timber and the bike's front wheel barely cleared. But the back wheel got stuck . The bike popped a violent wheelie! I had to push a very expensive bike up the hill.
On some of the more mild terrain the bike did well. Overall, I was not impressed. After I returned the 5010c I grabbed Ultra Stumpy off my bike rack and headed up Chimney Gulch. Ultra Stumpy flew up Chimney Gulch trail.
Ultra Stumpy is a great bike with a light carbon frame and 29" wheels. This bike is fast, stable and light. The Santa Cruz 5010c and the Specialized Stumpjumper Carbon Expert are in the same class.
The next bike I decided to ride was a Pivot Mach 5.7 Carbon.
This bike was a reasonable $6,500 and was really pretty. All the 27.5" versions of the bike were out being demoed by other riders. However, they had the soon-to-be-history 26er Mach 5.7 Carbon. The techs adjusted the bike for me and I took off.
I thought I died and went to Heaven! The bike was quick! I just had to think about turning and the bike flicked through curves like it was on rails! The 26" Pivot Mach 5.7 was one of the most fun bikes I have ever been on! The bike weaved through rocks and hopped like a bunny rabbit on steroids! The little obsolete 26er climbed like a homesick angel! The descent was glorious! I just let the bike go! What a rush!
Little Cam is very close to the Pivot in performance. However, the carbon frame on the Pivot is stiffer and a bit more responsive. The Pivot has 150mm of travel. Little Cam has 120mm. The Pivot was just a bit smoother.
After I took the Pivot 26er back, I grabbed Little Cam and gave him a go. Little Cam is a good trail bike and sailed along Chimney Gulch. I have to remember that Little Cam costs less than half as much as the Pivot. I think Little Cam needs better tires. Little Cam is still really fun.
After I got back from my ride on Little Cam, a Pivot Mach 5.7 with 27.5" tires was available. With much anticipation, I took off on the Mach 5.7 with the wave-of-the future 27.5" wheels. What a disappointment! Where was the snap? The Pivot 26er has snap. Little Cam has snap. The 27.5" Pivot felt dead!
I didn't even try Chimney Gulch with this dog! I rode along the smooth gravel path along Clear Creek and took a few short off-shoot trails. As a gravel grinder the Pivot 27.5" bike was fine. The thing is - $6,500 is way too much to pay for a gravel bike!
I decided not to ride the $9000 Pivot Mach 6. I was pretty wiped-out and hurting very badly.
The Pivot Mach 6 is a monster. This bike is slacked-out, all-mountain, terrain blaster with 160mm full suspension that is a high-tech nightmare. This might be a fun bike. But my right leg was dead. My neck and shoulder throbbed.
I called it a day. I decided to go home and have a beer or two.
Part 5: Getting Old and Crotchety
I was not kindly disposed to 27.5" bikes in the first place. I am an engineer by temperament and education; and superstitious by experience!
I believe a few things that run counter to popular notions.
The easiest and most apparent answer to any problem is, without exception, the wrong answer. Yet most people are inclined to believe there must be simple answers to complex problems.
If you talk on a cell phone while driving, the only reason you have not been killed is that other drivers that are not talking on cell phones avoided clobbering you when you made some bonehead maneuver.
I believe in luck, both good and bad. People that are successful and happy credit their success to hard work. However, lots of people work hard but many still die poor and alone.
Any wheel size where each digit is prime number, such as 2, 7 and 5 cannot be good. I hope the bike industry realizes that 27.5" mountain bikes are a compromise that crotchety old riders that can afford to buy bikes don't like! I talked to a lot of experienced riders that did not like the 27.5" bikes.