As mentioned last year, I have taken up mountain biking. Most of my riding has been from home in Coventry, but I have managed a few visits to trail centres at Sherwood Pines and Cannock Chase, where the terrain is trickier and the hills steeper – perfect for mountain biking. My last visit was for the Leisure Lakes bike shop’s demo day, where rather than riding my own bike, I was able to try out some of the latest bikes.
The first bike I rode was an Orange 5 (the orange one in the photo above) a full suspension bike, possibly worth more than my car! Immediately I could tell how fast the bike was, through the “Snow White” section of trail the rough braking bumps were flattened. The quality of the components really shone through, gears shifted exactly when I needed them to and the dropper seatpost allowed me position myself on the bike perfectly for riding both down and up the hills. However, all the amazing technology in the suspension and seatpost means that the bike is quite heavy and I struggled on the climbs. Overall I’m glad I’d ridden a 5, as they are legendary bikes, but as well as being over budget it would be complete overkill for the type of riding I do most of the time.
Next I tried the Cube Reaction GTC SL 29, not a bike that was on my radar, but one of the few bikes with out a queue to ride it! The first thing I noticed was that I was almost being shaken off the bike on the braking bumps which the 5 flattened, it was only when I stopped for a breather and picked up the bike that I realised just how light it is – I later learned that is weighs 10.5kg, I’m used to a 14+kg bike! Like the 5, the gears were great, shifting perfectly, so combined with the lack of weight I found the climbs much easier. This sealed the deal, my next bike will be another hardtail. The only downsides I noticed was that with the bigger wheels I struggled on some of the tighter hairpin sections, but it wasn’t as bad as I had been expecting for my first time riding a bike with 29″ wheels. Whilst I really enjoyed riding this bike I’m not convinced it is for me, even the smaller wheeled version – it just didn’t feel sturdy enough for a heavy/clumsy rider like me. On this ride I also tried a pair of Oakley Prism Trail Racing Jacket sunglasses, which I was really impressed with, the trail seemed clearer than with my old Oakleys, which had that morning suffered in the “glovebox of death” in my MR2, and are now unwearable. Perfect excuse for a new pair of sunglasses!
The last bike I rode was the Orange Crush AM, the green one. This is the bike I had really wanted to ride all day, it is between the Cube and 5 in terms of weight and terrain it can cope with and is pretty much my perfect bike. So to say I was disappointed when I got to the front of the queue at the Orange stand to see them dismantling it for parts to keep a 5 going, is an understatement. The guys were really helpful though, and on hearing that I was waiting for that bike managed to get it back working again, albeit without the front mech connected. The first section of trail, called “Son of chain slapper” is my favourite and I completely gelled with the Crush on this section, I felt way faster than I’d ever ridden down there and other than the rough “Snow White” section, this continued for the rest of the ride. After the other bikes with top of the range components, the Crush felt more like my bike – a bit clunky and slow to shift, but I could tell the basics of a good bike was there. I even handled the climbs OK, without the small cog at the front. What I’d felt whilst riding was validated when I checked my Strava times and I’d set a number of Personal Bests!
I left Cannock Chase thinking that as great as the Crush was, my bike is still pretty good – the difference certainly isn’t worth the £1000 difference, but riding the Cube made me realise that my bike does need to shed some weight (as does the rider). Most of all it was a great day in the sunshine, and I got to meet Andrew Woodall, whose mountain bike photos on Twitter pretty much convinced me to buy a bike.
A quick note on the photo, it was created using an iPhone app called Diptic, I’m slightly annoyed as I didn’t think about making a triptych when I took the photos, and I framed the shots too tightly. One of the golden rules of photography is to consider how you will process/display the photo as you are taking it – I won’t be forgetting that again!