This weekend saw the continuation of the chicken ranch sunday am ride. This time it was the supposedly infamous urban assualt ride.
We met in the San Roque area (i biked there in the early morning fog.. nice) and went up through Rocky Nook, up/down the powerline climb, up Jesusita and down to Steven’s park then out foothill to descend down tuckers grove. A lot of pavement but also a good deal of nice technical riding. 3 1/2 hours of solid riding with a fun crowd.
Did I mention how much I dig the 29er on technical stuff? At first I promised myself I wouldn’t evangelize the 29 inch wheels no matter how awesome they were .. but now I can’t deny other people this knowledge. Unequivocally, without a shred of doubt, if your riding involves any terrain that is remotely rough or technical, 29 inch wheels will make you a better rider. Period. The Jesusita climb, with numerous rock gardens were a piece of cake; they typically toss your front wheel off course and rob your momentum. I didn’t clean the whole thing but I made it up with about 5 or 6 dabs.
The descents, stream crossings, drop offs, etc. were insanely smooth. It was uncanny how much easier the technical sections feel. I found myself focusing on the “bigger picture” – picking good lines up ahead, keeping maximum speed, flowing with my bike, body and trail as one – rather than focusing on each rock that could bump me off course. 29 inch wheels are that good. It will drastically change your riding for the better. You don’t even need suspension (except maybe for comfort reasons).
The Mamasita is different in so many ways from my previous ride (a Specialized FSR XC Pro) that its hard to say exactly what is responsible for the difference in ride quality. But I can honestly say that the Mamasita is the sweetest bike I’ve ridden in almost every way.
First lets look at the old vs the new:
- The FSR is a 30.5 lb, 100mm/4″ travel full suspension with mid-level components, heavy 26″ wheels and tubed tires.
- The Mamasita is a 24 lb, 80mm front travel, scandium/carbon hardtail with lightweight 29″ wheels (Stans rims, white bros/ american classic hubs) and tubeless tires (Bontranger).
Between the 29″ wheels, the tubeless tires @ 30 psi, the carbon seatstays and the ti seatpost, there was a surprisingly cushy feel over light to moderatly bumpy/rocky/rutted sections. Many mildly rough sections of trail would normaly bounce me around, slow down my FSR and suck my momentum. But the Mamasita rolls right over it like it was pavement. But make no mistake – this is a hardtail and any big hits will remind you of that in a big way. Finesse, attention to lines and top notch handling skills will help if you’re piloting this down technical downhills.
The traditional 29er complaints were not noticable to me. First I was able to handle switchbacks with the same ease as my 26ers. It requires a slight change in technique but I see no reason why a 29er wouldn’t be able to make a tight turn as well as a smaller wheel. The steep headtube angle on the Mamasita helps out alot with this – turning is snappy and responsive and a few winding corkscrew sections of the course felt a lot quicker on this rig.
Second 29er complaint, slower acceleration, was not an issue at all. Probably because I’m on a lighter hardtail with lighter wheels but acceleration felt just as snappy as other 26ers to me. Starting from a dead start does require a little bit more push but if you’re stopping that often, you’re doing it wrong.
On pavement and hardpack I noticed much less rolling resistance with the 29er tubeless tires. Not quite road-bike smooth but a heck of a lot smoother than other tubed tires I’ve tried on other 26ers. And the tires dug into the dirt spectacularly. I could lean harder into hardpack and sandy corners and hold a line. Again, I’m not sure if all this nice wheel feel is due to the tires, the tubeless thing, or the 29er thing but whatever it is, it works.
What can I say – The frame is awesome. The Mamasita’s geometry, as I mentioned before, is pretty steep which is great if you are an aggressive rider who is actively engaged in handling the bike. The frame is so laterally stiff and the advantages of its geometry and hardtail-ness are readily apparent when you stand up to stomp on the pedals. It is mega stiff and transmits power to the wheel like its a track bike. It can easily do the steady sit-n-spin type effort but the Mamasita begs to be riden aggressively. It responds to every bit of effort you put forth and the 29″ wheels make sure you keep that momentum.
In short the Mamasita seems like the ulitmate race frame. We’ll have to see how comfy she is for epic rides. I experienced none of the supposed shortcomings of the 29er format while experiencing all the benefits. One of these days I may want a little more cush and will return to the full-suspension madness but for now the Mamasita (and 29ers in general) seem to match my style perfectly.
So the Salsa Mamasita arrived yesterday! I unpacked it and set it up pretty quickly- The packing job was excellent which made life easier. The Bontranger tubeless tires were well seated so a hand pump was all I needed to inflate (as opposed to my previous tubeless experiences with Stans which pretty much required an air compressor). Threw on the egg beaters and we have lift off. Just about 24 lbs according to my bathroom scale.
The only thing I’m not thrilled about is the carbon bar – I’d like to have locking grips and bar ends, both of which have sketchy compatibility with Monkeylites. Anyways, it’s off to Elings Park for a test ride.