The 29er experience

Posted by SuperClydesdale on October 9, 2010 under Commentary, Mountain Bikes | 4 Comments to Read

After a significant delay, I had a great message waiting for me on my answering machine when I got home two weeks ago.  For those of you younger than 25, an answering machine is a device that you plug your phone line into and it records voice messages from people that call your house when you are not at home.  They can leave messages for you, and you can play them when you come home.  Further information:   a phone line is a wire that runs to your house from the phone company.  It actually plugs into a device called a telephone.   A telephone can be thought of as a type of cell phone that can only be used at your house.   I know, it’s kind of weird, and it was designed by people who used to make channel dials on televisions… something else you’ve never heard of.  Check Wikipedia.

Anyway… the message said that my Specialized 29er EVO had arrived at the local bike shop.  Oh happy day!   I dropped the bag of groceries and sprinted to the car.

The bike is gorgeous.  Its flat black paint with black gloss decals.   Looks terrific.

The Stumpjumper 29er EVO. Sweet bike, but worth the wait?

EVO means “evolution” which I think means, “lets try this combination and see if it sells.”

Overall, I have to say that I love this bike.  I went with an aluminum frame, because a carbon mountain bike frame for someone who is (a) a terrible mountain bike rider, (b) the cheapest man alive, and (c) 230 pounds, would be a demonstration of mental fitness.  Anybody who matched the previously mentioned characteristics, yet bought a carbon-frame mountain bike should remanded to an appropriate institution.

The Specialized Stumpjumper 29er EVO is a hard-tail 29er in a 1×10 configuration, so its got no front derailleur, and a 10-speed derailleur/cassette in back.  My mission for the next month or two — before the weather turns nasty and the mud presents itself — it to determine, quite frankly, if I am man enough for this bike.  Can I handle a 10-speed (and with a 1×10, it’s just that — 10 speeds) up the climbs?   Mountain bike climbs are much steeper than most road bike climbs — just usually not as long.  But….   no safety net with only 10 gears.

I know, I know,  you’re thinking I’m an incredible wimp because you ride a single-speed.  Well, that’s great.  I live in the Sierra Nevada foothills, and there’s no level ground here.  The trails can be very steep for a very long time, and I really would prefer not to do the walk of shame.  It’s one thing to be forced to push it up a climb because you crashed in the middle, or were ill-prepared by being in the wrong gear at the wrong time.  It’s quite another to walk your bike because the hill is too steep.   Not going to do it.

A guy at another bike shop told me that should I be in doubt, and will be going on a significantly challenging hilly ride, I can always have a couple of different front chain rings at the house, and swap it out the night before a ride to make sure that I have the best gearing options for the ride.   He said that he does that, and he weighs 150 pounds.  Sounds like a reasonable option, should it come to that.

While I’ve only gone on five rides on this bike so far, and some thoughts:

  • The chain that comes on this thing is terrible.  I broke the chain on my fourth ride out, then again on my fifth ride.  I ended up with the chain so short that I had to ride to the bike shop in the middle of my ride today and get it replaced with a heavier-duty chain.  For heavy riders buying this bike, I wouldn’t even leave the shop with the chain that it comes with.  Have them swap it out before you take possession of the bike.  It’s that bad.  The stock chain is a KMC x10.  Bad product for a 230-pound rider trying to muscle up steep climbs in the wrong gear.  I had the shop put on a SRAM PC 1071, which is stronger chain.  Stock bikes typically come with very low-end chains and cassettes.  I can certainly attest to crappiness of the chain.  I will be writing more about Clydesdale-appropriate chains in subsequent articles.  I got the SRAM PM 1071 because thats what the shop had and because I was in the middle of a ride, not because I felt that this was the best possible chain for me.
  • The SRAM groupset works well, even under my heavy ass, with my moronic shifting patterns.
  • The hardtail makes it so much easier to climb.   It’s worth the change.
  • The 29-inch wheels make for a significantly faster ride.  The ride is smooth, and you can roll over much more than on the smaller 26-inch wheels.  On today’s ride there was a lot of sandy patches, and i was able to power through while my friend on a 26er got bogged down and ended up having to walk through sand.
  • The 1×10 gearing, with a 11-36 cassette on the back with a 33-tooth chain ring up front was fine for what I thrown at it so far.  The nastiest climb I’ve done so far is a sustained 18-20% grade of about a quarter mile.   I was able to stay on top of the low gear and kept moving nicely to the top with plenty still in the tank.   The real challenge will be climb out of  Knickerbocker Creek at Cool’s Olmstead Loop ride — hopefully do that soon.  That ride is a bear with a triple, so the 1×10 may be a challenge.
  • The 29er does not allow you to climb everything. Gravity and other Clydesdale-unfriendly laws of physics still apply.  You will be able to go over stuff so easily on a 29er that you will be lulled into a foolish overconfidence.  I had a rather amusing situation today that ended with me over the handlebars and on the ground.  I just bought a video camera with a chest-mount.  I wish I had that on today – it was one for the blooper reel.

While the Specialized Stumpjumper 29er EVO is a great bike, I don’t know that its worth the wait.  I had a multi-month wait to get mine, and my friend who ordered his before I did was informed last week that his will not be available until December.  There are great options out there in a 29er that your shop can easily convert to a 1x by simply replacing the front dérailleur with a chain guide.  I saw a Giant today that would be a terrific choice, and it’s in stock now.    The same is true for many other manufacturers.

But, a 29er (whether hardtail or full-suspension, Specialized, Giant, what have you) is the way to go.  I am going to sell my 26er.  I probably shouldn’t have said anything until I sold the 26er, but it you buy a 26er as your only mountain bike, then I think you’re making a mistake.

  • ehidalgo01 said,

    The 33T single chain ring on your 29er is equivalent to a 37T on a 26 inch wheel bicycle. Check here for more info. http://www.sheldonbrown.com/gears/

  • ehidalgo01 said,

    The 33T single chain ring on your 29er is equivalent to a 37T on a 26 inch wheel bicycle. Check here for more info. http://www.sheldonbrown.com/gears/

  • Clydesdale not Fat Pony said,

    I’m not sure that any modern 9/10/11 speed chains and components (cogs, rings) make sense for Clydesdales. I’m 6’6″ and I use a 205mm crank on my road bike, and a 185mm on my mountain bike (out of respect for clearance).

    When you go to 9/10/11 speeds the chains get very thin, as do the cogs and rings. You have to replace chains for 9/10/11 after a couple of thousand miles on a road bike. You can go for thousands on a 6/7/8 speed chain, and the cogs and rings last so much longer.

    A trick is that you can still use the cogs and rings from 9/10/11, but you can space them using 8 speed cassette spacers and use vintage shifters. This allows you to use a much stronger (wider) Wipperman 8-speed chain. You can keep your 36 tooth, but by customizing your cassette you can just broaden it, without having any big jumps. You will need to buy multiple cassettes to do this.

    As for me, I’ll just stick with good ol’ bombproof 8 speed on every bike touring, road, and mountain. Though I do want a 29er. My 26″ wheels look like clown wheels.

  • Clydesdale not Fat Pony said,

    I’m not sure that any modern 9/10/11 speed chains and components (cogs, rings) make sense for Clydesdales. I’m 6’6″ and I use a 205mm crank on my road bike, and a 185mm on my mountain bike (out of respect for clearance).

    When you go to 9/10/11 speeds the chains get very thin, as do the cogs and rings. You have to replace chains for 9/10/11 after a couple of thousand miles on a road bike. You can go for thousands on a 6/7/8 speed chain, and the cogs and rings last so much longer.

    A trick is that you can still use the cogs and rings from 9/10/11, but you can space them using 8 speed cassette spacers and use vintage shifters. This allows you to use a much stronger (wider) Wipperman 8-speed chain. You can keep your 36 tooth, but by customizing your cassette you can just broaden it, without having any big jumps. You will need to buy multiple cassettes to do this.

    As for me, I’ll just stick with good ol’ bombproof 8 speed on every bike touring, road, and mountain. Though I do want a 29er. My 26″ wheels look like clown wheels.

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