Wednesday, February 27, 2013

More races, more gear — Part two

Heck, it's only been a couple of days since my last post. You remember. The one where I detailed how I have signed up for even more races and have sought choice gear. In the short period of time between then and now, I managed to sign up for another race — El Scorcho, my first 50K. For those not familiar with the Fort Worth race, it is held at midnight in July. So that means the temperature will be a chilly 80 to 90 degrees at that ungodly hour. Why do this race? For the challenge. And because I know I can. Remind me I typed those words on July 21, please.

I didn't, however, get any new gear since my last post; although, I am guilty of eyeing those new Adidas Energy Boost shoes that are plastered over magazines and the Internet.

But enough about shoes. Let's get back to MTB Search 2013.

I am a loyal customer of Bicycles Plus. The good folks at the Snider Plaza location have treated me well. I received exceptional customer service when I bought my Cannondale CAAD10 4 Rival there in 2011. The staff is helpful and they do kick-ass ish when they're not selling or wrenching (ex. A: Kevin Campagna is prepping for Tour Divide — the self-supported race from Banff, Canada, to Antelope Wells, N.M.; follow his training and progress on Facebook). Oh, and Bicycles Plus also offers lifetime service on bikes purchased at the shop — something all LBSes should do. And all the locations I've visited (three of four, sorry, Allen) are pretty solid. During a lunch break last week, I stopped by the Coppell location to check out some more full-suspension 29ers.

BMC Fourstroke FS03 29 XC SLX (store had top-of-the-line model)
First, just let me say the name alone is a turn off — the tail end of it looks like a launch code or something CAPTCHA would spit out. That's not enough to turn me off, but the suspension is. My ideal fork in my price range is a RockShox Reba or Fox CTD 100. The RockShox Recon Gold is just not cutting it for me. That, and the rear suspension is suspect. I think the shock — Scor SHP200 — is made by BMC because I have never heard of it or seen it on other bikes. What's worse, the suspension system is too similar to the Trek Fuel 95 I had backinnaday. I was not a fan of its bobbing on even the smallest least technical climbs. These points and the fact that it was pushing the top end of my budget shot holes in this otherwise sweet-looking Swiss machine.

Cannondale Scalpel 29er 3
I never considered Cannondale bikes before I bought my road bike. But I've been impressed with it, so I figured its MTB offerings were worth considering. The obvious difference with this bike compared to the others is the Lefty fork, which is Cannondale's specialty (note: Fox, RockShox and others have helped with the internal mechanism of the fork). Lefty is certainly different. It's lighter, it's responsive and the location of the lockout is ideal (the dual crown inverted design places it right at the headset). This bike normally would have been out of my price range, but the price at Bicycles Plus was $500 off MSRP. Of course, when it comes to bikes, not all MSRPs are intended to be followed; so I can't say it's a true discount (other stores online are selling them below MSRP, too). Anyway, the Scalpel 29er 3 has a pretty sweet part spec and is a nice looking bike. But ultimately I am not a fan of the Lefty fork at any price point.

Scott Spark 950
Seeing TPG's sick Scott Plasma and witnessing how fast she can pedal that stealthy ride made me interested in seeking out the brand's MTB options. I was very interested in the Spark 950 as soon as I saw it online. Much like the BMC, the only potential problem is the Scott-brand rear shock. Otherwise, it looks like its geometry is similar to the aggressive stance of the Orbea Occam 29 H30 I really liked. Alas, no one has these bikes. Bicycles Plus and other local shops no longer stock the brand. The only place I can find that sells them is REI; one problem though: they don't have them in stock. Gotta place an order without riding, which is not something I am willing to do. Word from a couple of shops that used to carry them is that in recent years Scott has oversold its models and customers had to wait months to get their backordered bikes. That's too bad, because I thought this bike would be a serious contender.

To be continued ... 

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