Part 1: Bikes, Bikes and More Bikes
I just have to face facts. I am a mountain biker. I like the smell of a pine forest. I love the feeling of dropping like a rock down steep trail. I enjoy the challenge of switchbacks and the wonderful feeling of a flowing along winding single track.
Here is a photo of some fast easy single track:
This trail is at Elk Meadows in Evergreen, Colorado. This is a nice trail that is a favorite of hikers, bikers and trail runners.
Colorado has some very well-developed and nicely maintained trails.
This trail is at Meyer Ranch in Conifer, Colorado. At the start of this trail there is a long and steep climb. After the climb, the trail runs pretty flat and is quite scenic.
On these nice smooth trails any good mountain bike will do just fine. My ancient 2007 Specialized 26" Stumpjumper Pro Disc hardtail , called "Little Stumpy" flies along nice single track.
I love Little Stumpy but he has limitations. Little Stumpy gets downright skittish on rough and rocky trails.
I also have a blazing fast bike, which is a Specialized 29" Stumpjumper Carbon Expert . I call this bike "Ultra Stumpy". Ultra Stumpy is an endurance racing bike and is scary fast.
Ultra Stumpy's long wheelbase and slack steering makes the bike stable at high speed. Low speed handling is good but not great. High speed handling is superb.
I have a 2012 Specialized 26" Camber Comp named "Little Cam". Little Cam is a pure trail bike and is lightning quick but not fast. I completely updated Little Cam with a Fox Factory suspension, Shimano XT group, carbon handlebars and carbon seatpost.
Little Cam is really sensitive to tires. I have experimented a lot to find tires that work. I am still looking. Little Cam can turn so quickly that the tires tend to slide or skip sideways, which is not a good feeling.
Part 2: They Don't Call This Place the Rocky Mountains for Nothing
Fortunately, in Colorado there are mountain trails that are rocky, rough and steep!
This nasty trail is at Elk Meadows and is not too far from the nice single track shown in the first picture posted above.
This is a shot of a bad chunk of real estate called Bergen Peak,
This is actually more difficult than it looks. A trail bike with 120mm (4.7 inches) of suspension travel, such as Little Cam, will bottom-out on this rocky terrain, which results in a rough and jerky ride.
Ultra Stumpy has larger 29" wheels and 130mm (5.1") of suspension travel and rides better over rocky terrain than Little Cam. However, Ultra Stumpy wants to accelerate on a descent.
Using the brakes causes the bike to be slow in responding to steering input. Ultra Stumpy is a white-knuckle ride on steep and very rough terrain. The bike is just too fast.
Part 3: Enduro - The All Mountain Bike
A recent development in extreme mountain biking combines the long-travel of gravity racing bikes with the utility of a trail bike. The result is a bike that is designed to take on any and all terrain. An Enduro bike can take on smooth single track and nasty near-vertical trails strewn with rocks roots, loose gravel and fallen trees. Here is video on Enduro/All-Mountain riding:
I tried a few Enduro bikes at the Golden Bike Junkie Fest Demo Day. I was extremely impressed with the 26" Pivot Mach 5.7. This bike just flew over any and all obstacles. I tried the all-mountain Pivot Mach 6 with 27.5" wheels. The Mach 6 was great on the descent. But seemed to take a lot of effort during climbing.
A few weeks ago I went to Wheatridge Cyclery to pick up yet another set of tires for Little Cam. I wandered over to look at the new Santa Cruz and Yeti bikes. Both Santa Cruz and Yeti make high-end mountain bikes for serious riders with more money than good sense.
Santa Cruz and Yeti only build mountain bikes. I found out that the shop had a demo Santa Cruz Bronson available in my size. I plunked down $90 for a three day demo ride. I walked out the door with a sadly beat-up 2014 Black and Orange Santa Cruz Bronson Carbon XO.
Here is the demo Bronson in the bed of my truck. You may be able to see the new SRAM 1x11 XO drivetrain in the photo. This bike has Shimano XT brakes, Maxxis Tires and FOX suspension, which are my favorite components. The Bronson Carbon tips the scales at a bit over 26 pounds.
Here is the Demo Bronson propped against a bench at Elk Meadows.
This shows the 1x11 drivetrain.
There was a nice family riding on this trail. The mom was riding a 1980's Diamondback rigid "iron dog" that likely cost less than the tires on the high tech wonder I was riding. They passed me while I stopped to take in the view.
Many times I am so intent on riding that I don't do a lot of sight-seeing. Elk Meadows is designated open space and cannot be used for anything other than recreation.
I had a great time. The Santa Cruz Bronson handled beautifully and was fast. I took the bike into some very rocky and steep terrain. The long-travel 150mm+ suspension worked beautifully. The bike was stable through rock fields but still maneuverable. I really liked this bike.
I want one.
Part 4: Sticker Shock
I took the demo Bronson back to Wheatridge Cyclery. I talked to a salesman to see if they had a Bronson in my size for sale. The 2015 models had come out and they lacked some of the features of 2014 that I had demoed. I got sticker shock when I saw that they wanted $8,600 for the 2015 Bronson Carbon-C XO AM, which is the newer version of the bike I demoed.
I knew the Bronson was an expensive bike. But they had really cranked the price up for the 2015 bikes. I decided I would check out the bikes at my favorite bike shop. A few days later I went to the Golden Bike Shop. But that is a subject for another blog and this one is too long already.
Thanks for reading my blog.