And Now for Something Completely Different

On the way to the Interbike Outdoor Demo today, Kenny and I had a strategy session on how we would determine what kinds of experiences we would seek out. Before long, we narrowed the approaches that interested us to two:

  1. Find and ride the best-of-breed versions of what we already enjoy riding. In both our cases, that meant we could spend the day finding and riding top-notch 29″ hardtails. In fact, we probably could have spent the day doing nothing but riding and comparing fully rigid 29″ singlespeeds. Yes, Interbike is so diverse that that niche could easily have occupied us for the whole day.
  2. Find and ride stuff that we normally don’t ride at all. Since both Kenny and I already ride top-of-the-line fully rigid 29″ singlespeeds, what if we spent the day exploring and riding stuff that was completely different?

Both of these options were good ones, but we agreed that it’d be fun to explore the wild and wacky side of the world of cycling.

I think it was a good call. Here’s some of what we did, in the order we did it.

All-Mountain Touring: The Salsa Fargo
The first booth we stopped at was Salsa. Kenny, in a rare moment of weakness, wanted to immediately abandon the “let’s ride stuff we don’t usually ride” plan, and picked out the Selma — their 29″ scandium / carbon SS bike — I just left it up to the guys in the booth.

“Give me something interesting,” I said. And they gave me the Fargo, a 29″ mountain bike, set up to be fully rigid with drop bars, with eyelets in place for racks and panniers-a-plenty. The idea behind this bike is comfortable multi-day outings, on-road and off.

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I thought it would feel ridiculous and awkward to ride.

I was wrong.

On the short mountain bike course at the expo — mostly singletrack — I comfortably switched between riding in the drops (when climbing or braking) and on the hoods (when on wide, open terrain).

A few minutes on this bike and I found myself wondering what kind of big adventures this bike would be suitable for.

Get Bent
As Kenny and I walked by the Rans booth, Kenny said, “We should try out riding recumbents.”

I laughed and we kept walking.

Then I stopped and said, “Yeah, we should.”

And so we did. Kenny started on a real-life recumbent, which he nearly wrecked when he tried to execute a simple U-turn.

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Apart from the strangeness of whacking his knees against the handlebars, and the disconcerting nature of having the front wheel roughly thirty feet in front of him, Kenny said that his least favorite part of riding this bike was the miles and miles of chain required, and the way it slaps around constantly.

I’m not sure Kenny’s ready to convert.

As for me, I got a low-to-the ground tricycle-style recumbent.

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Unlike the two-wheeled ‘bent, this trike took no time at all to get used to. Steering is intuitive, and balance doesn’t enter into it.

But I had to ask myself: “Why?” Why would I ride this bike? It’s slower than a conventional road bike. It’s heavier. It’s vastly more complicated. The only compelling reason I could think of was if you found a ‘bent more comfortable.

The thing is, though, I’m very comfortable on regular bikes. I can go all day — literally — seated on a Selle Italia SLR. A hammock’s a little overkill.

I’m not saying I’d never buy and ride a ‘bent, but that day is not upon me yet. Nor upon Kenny, I’m pretty sure.

Still, it was fun to try one out and get contemptuous looks from people on regular bikes as I struggled up a gentle climb.

Oh, and I noticed that during my fifteen minutes of riding a ‘bent, I grew a full beard.

Gary Fisher Roscoe
What is the opposite of a fully-rigid 29″ singlespeed? Well, probably a downhiller, but I just couldn’t bring myself to try one of those, because of my snobby belief that nobody should be allowed to ride anything downhill that they didn’t first ride uphill.

So the bike furthest from my personal point in the mountain biking universe may well be the new Gary Fisher Roscoe: a 26″-wheeled, 6″-front-and-back, geartastic bike.

But Travis Ott — Gary Fisher Bike Brand Manager — told me I ought to ride one. He said I’d have fun.

And he was totally right.

The Roscoe encourages you to plow through stuff. To run over stuff. To drop off stuff. To ride your bike as if you have recently attended the Monster Truck School of mountain biking.

And so I did.

Kenny got a nice sequence of me ignoring lines and plowing straight ahead:

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Please feel free to note the goofy grin in that last picture. And also please note that I later turned around and rode up the same pitch. This bike takes big hits, but it’s also light enough that you can climb back up afterward (or beforeward, depending on where you start your ride).

Faster
This last one’s not easy for me to talk about, because I am somewhat conflicted about my reaction to one of the bikes Kenny and I tried out.

You see, we tried out a couple of electric-assist bikes from iZip…and I’m a little bit ashamed to admit that we both had a ball.

Here’s me, laughing out loud, my shirt billowing full of air as I easily hit 35mph, as I blast by road cyclists — as if they were standing still — on my cruiser-looking bike:

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And riding uphill is just as hilarious. La-di-da as you casually pedal 20mph up the steep gradient.

These bikes look horrible and obviously have cheap components to keep people not used to how much a good bike costs from going into sticker shock.

But they’re fun. And I can’t help but think, “Maybe I could get my boys to come biking with me if I got one of these.”

Hot and Tired
That’s just a sampling. There was other wacky stuff we rode, and I’ll be talking about them — and showing photos — soon.

Though it’s quite probable that I will destroy the video of me riding the bike you pedal like a stairstepper. Some things are best left unseen.

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