Ok, so it’s been a really long while since I last posted, I guess that’s what happens when life happens. Fortunately for me, I always have cycling to keep me sane. This time last year, my goal was to eclipse 5K miles on my road bike. At the time I’d been thinking about yet another career reset, but wasn’t all that serious. A variety of events conspired to accelerate these plans and off I went. Since then, my plans have changed more than once and will probably change again. All of this has seriously impacted my ability to get out and ride, especially lately. Between travel and inclement weather when I was home, I managed to get out about every 10 days in the last few months of 2011. I was tired, I was grumpy and honestly, I really didn’t feel like riding. I now know that I get really grumpy when I don’t ride enough, however, I had a hard time motivating myself to get out there again.
Enter a Trek Marlin 29er. I’d been thinking about trying out a 29er ever since John at Lake Travis Cyclery told me I just had to try one because it’s more fun than you should be allowed to have on a bike. With its over-sized wheels you can pretty much roll over anything. I used to ride my mountain bike off road quite a bit, but honestly, I never felt all that comfortable because balance was always awkward on an over-sized frame and 26″ wheels. The 29er totally changes this. It’s like riding a Schwinn Cruiser, except it has gears and better off-road manners.
This year I volunteered for Bikes for Kids and while waiting around at Mellow Johnny’s, a couple of 29ers caught my eye: the Trek Wahoo and Trek Marlin. The frames were pretty much identical, but Marlin had better components. Having replaced and rebuilt the components several times over on my 16+ year old mountain bike, I’ve learned to appreciate the value of decent quality components. It’s no fun when you’re off-road and you’re having trouble finding the right gear while climbing an incline or negotiating a bunch of loose rocks. Being a big guy, I tend to be a little hard on the components anyway. The Marlin had SRAM X4 rear derailleur, Shimano Altus front derailleur and SRAM shifters. The rear cassette has plenty of range which is important for a bike as heavy as this. This bike isn’t the lightest bike, but this isn’t as much of a problem on a 29er as you might think, especially when you’re riding trails. Momentum seems to carry this bike quite a ways up the next hill before you even have to pedal. The larger wheels allow you to coast downhill at higher speeds with more stability than a regular mountain bike. All this translates into a blast on some pretty technical trails. Stumps, no problem. Loose rocks, again no problem. The 29er is pretty much the Honey Badger of off-road bikes.
But the fun doesn’t stop when the trail ends. This bike is very versatile. Having commuted on my mountain bike quite a bit, this bike takes commuting to a whole new level. It’s locking front shocks, frame geometry, quick adjustable seat post and handlebars give it surprisingly good around-town manners. I opted for Shimano PD-M324 pedals that allow me to ride it both with or without bike shoes. After riding off-road a couple of times, I really appreciate these pedals because I don’t have to clip in to restart on technical sections, something that was always a bit of a challenge with the Shimano 540s I had on my other mountain bike. The bottom line is that if I just want to go, it’s not a production because I can just grab the bike and go.
My family will tell you I’m a difficult person to buy gifts for. I make matters worse because I hate shopping so much that when I actually get out shopping, I buy things just to get it over with. This year, my wife and I helped out with the final preparations for the Bikes for Kids giveaway at Mellow Johnny’s so I showed her the bike I had been looking at (hint, hint). Surprise, surprise, that’s what I got for Christmas. I still had my 16+ year old mountain bike that I used to use for commuting to work and off-road riding, but when I tried to get it ready to ride the last time, I discovered I would need to rebuild the shifters yet again. I finally gave up. I sent a message to my friend Tim to see if the Yellow Bike Project took bike donations. He said absolutely and told me they’d even provide me with the IRS form for a charitable contribution. When I dropped off my bike, the coordinator was thrilled even after I told him what work would need to be done on the bike. It was in pretty good shape with solid components so I’m sure they’ll find a good home for it. If you have an old bike you don’t know what to do with, why not donate it to the Yellow Bike Project. They’ll make sure it ends up on the road somewhere with someone who could use it.
As for my new 29er, it’s given me the motivation to get out and ride more often. Tomorrow I’m riding with a group from the Austin Mountain Biker’s Meetup Group. Just the start I needed for the new year.