Sunday, March 3, 2013

More races, more gear — Part three

As mentioned in part one and part two, I have spent weeks searching for the perfect full-suspension 29er mountain bike for my upcoming races — Red River Riot (just-for-fun 120 miles of gravel grinding) and 24 Hours in the Canyon (test of endurance and my first fundraiser to kick cancer's ass).

What really made the following bikes the frontrunners was seeing them during a recent trip to Austin with TPG. ATX is the cycling hotspot in the state — bike lanes for commuters, trails aplenty for MTB riders and badass hills for roadies. And there are so many shops in the city. Some cater more to students and commuters, others serve elite riders and triathletes, and then there are those that are one-stop shops for all manner of cyclists.

Er'body knows about Mellow Johnny's bike shop in downtown Austin. It's a great shop. I don't want to take anything away from it. But my favorite shop in Austin is Bicycle Sport Shop. The headquarters location on South Lamar is huge and carries a gaggle of legit brands (Trek, Specialized, Santa Cruz, Salsa, Independent Fabrication, Cervélo, Co-Motion, Surly, Niner).

BSS staffer Steele Taylor had all the answers I needed. I told him my cycling goals, and he dished out expert knowledge of the bikes BSS sells. He steered me toward (see what I did there?) a couple of bikes I was considering and steered me away from (I did it. Again!) a couple of others. If I lived in Austin, I would have test ridden and potentially bought a bike right then and there. But I don't, so I didn't; I didn't want to waste (any more of) the shop's time on a no-sale. Armed with excellent information, I knew there were two excellent full-suspension 29ers I needed to seek back home.

Trek Superfly 100 AL
This was the last bike I checked out at Bicycles Plus. I've ridden a few Trek models over the years. In fact, all of my mountain bikes have been Trek. I am brand loyal. I was pleased to hear from Steele and then the fellas at BP that Trek had improved its rear suspension and that Bontrager had stepped up its components in recent years (they used to be very cheap, low quality and the first items replaced on stock Treks). The Superfly is a nice machine. It bears MTB grandfather Gary Fisher's name and his former company's proprietary G2 Geometry. As is expected from the mega-huge brands (volume, it's all about volume), the part spec is dynamite (XT rear derailleur, SLX brakes, Fox suspension), and you can easily find them in stock. The color (because, yes, color does matter) is much sharper in person (great gray with hook-em burnt orange touches). Ultimately, I decided this just wasn't what I was looking for; it's a great ride, but it didn't feel like my bike. To make a comparison, the bike, to me, felt like a Chevy or Ford sedan — perfectly fine cars that get the job done. But I am looking for perfect, high-performance excellence that feels right to me.

Salsa Spearfish 2
This was the odds-on favorite when I first started my search. If the company's marketing means anything to you, this rig's made for endurance rides. And many a forum post backs up Salsa's claims. One thing to note about the Spearfish: It is elusive. A handful of shops carry them, but very few have them in stock because they sell so well. That's a good problem for them and a not-so-good problem for someone trying to track down a test ride. Fortunately, after calling several shops, I located a Spearfish at Oak Cliff Bicycle Company. Don't let the website fool you. This is a serious bike shop in the seriously hipster section of Dallas. You will find boutique bikes, retro rides, a shit-ton of single speeds and more fixies than you can shake a stick at in Oak Cliff. And most of their owners bought them at O.C.B.C. The bike I rode was owner Jeremy Ordaz's. I'll say it a gain: When a shop's owner will let you pedal his or her ride, you are dealing with a great shop.

How great is this bike for endurance rides? Ordaz rode it 350 miles across and 56,000 feet up Georgia (Trans North Georgia Bike Adventure, consider yourself on my list of to-do rides). My test ride was considerably shorter and less challenging. The Spearfish felt fine — comfy and capable, and it handled well, but it didn't seem as fast as the other bikes I had tested. I was sorta bummed because it was my favorite pre-test ride bike. That, and I liked O.C.B.C. — good people who love what they do, support cycling and have fun events (vegan options aways on their barbecue BarBikeQue grill). I am loyal to supportive shops that offer good gear and quality, knowledgable service — even if they don't have the best hours or aren't right down the street; I have written off shops that are snooty and offer crap customer service/repairs. But I couldn't buy a bike I didn't love. Sorta sadly, I didn't love the Spearfish.

So ... the search is over. And I bought a bike that I love. But it's on back order. My wait is about halfway over. I should have my new ride late this week or early next week. Check back then to see what I bought (if you've read all three posts, it shouldn't be a surprise) and to read some of my first-ride opinions.

1 comment:

That Pink Girl said...

Hmm. Which one...
The suspense, you're killin me, Smalls!

Bike shopping is frustrating and fun, all at the same time. At some point you wanna yell, "I just want a new bicyle! Take my money and give me a bike - no more decisions!"

But you did it right. You weighed all your options and chose the bike that is perfect for you and your goals. Gold star!

Can't wait to see the look on your face when that bike is rolled out for you!