A couple of weeks ago Lisa came across a really nice bike on eBay that she thought I should bid on. I debated about it until the auction was almost closed becuase, quite frankly, I wasn't sure if I wanted to invest any serious money into a sport that I am so obviously bad at. Eventually the deal proved too tempting to pass up and I made an offer and won the auction. However, it seemed I was not going to get the bike becuase my offer was less than the sellers "reserve" price. Undeterred I emailed the seller directly and asked him to inform me if the bike was relisted as I would consider re-bidding. He responded and told me I could buy it for what my max bid was (well, that + $14 to round the numbers out). I accepted and within a week the bike was delivered to my office by our UPS driver.
The bike features an '08 Santa Cruz Superlight frame, an '08 Rock Shox Reba front fork, all sorts of Shimano XTR parts including hubs, shifters, Hyrdaulic disk brakes, and derailleurs, a Chris King headset, a Fox Float RP 23 rear shock, a Thomson seat post, Kenda navagel rear tire (running tubeless) and Mavic DT Swiss rims. Honestly, I barely know what all of that means so if, at this point, you are lost don't worry you aren't alone. The basics are this is all pretty high end stuff that passed the muster of my more knowledgeable and skilled friends.
The bike arrived last Wednesday but we weren't going for our normal mid-week ride due to the bad weather so I had to wait until Saturday. Over the course of the next couple of days I managed to transfer my crappy nylon pedal's onto my highly tuned racing machine. It's was sort of like putting a Yugo Emblem on a Ferarr and I caught some nice crap from my friends for it - but I just don't have the necessary confidence for clip in peddals (more on those later).
On Saturday we hit up our normal trail but we went about it a little backwards and climbed the hill we normally ride down. Almost immediately I noticed some differences in the overall ride of the bike. The front shock, during the first 400 yards of the ride, saved me from going over my handle bars and the efficient shifters and gears that actually stay in gear made the climbs much, much, much easier. I also noticed I was able to make a turn I usually have trouble with thanks to the improved stopping power of my vastly superior brakes. I was feeling great. In fact I felt so great I was riding a bit more aggressively than I normally do which, when looking back with hindsight, may not have been the best idea.
One area I always walk through is a tricky rock garden and the surrounding trail that occurs about half way up to the top of the mountain. This time I decided I would try to ride through the surrounding trail and that I would just walk the garden. Unfortunately when going over a decently sized rock (about 12-18" tall) I steered poorly between the second two rocks and my front tire lodged into one of the neighboring large rocks. If you've ever ridden a bike or a skateboard before you can imagine what this did to me - I flew right over the handlebars. Fortunately I'm actually pretty adept at landing after that particular dismount so I didn't really get banged up at all and I was quickly back in the saddle and riding.
Later we approached a section of the trail that has been dubbed "Bills new Nemisis" becuase I typically won't even try to ride down it. I have ridden down it successfully once but most of the time I don't even bother. However, it was the first real bit of downhill for the day and I wanted to see what this full suspension bike was made of so I just dropped in and rode. Intially I did ok but I started to build up some speed which made me nervous so I used my rear brake to slow down. Then my back tire started to skid and I was hitting some big rocks kind of hard so I released the brake because, in my limited experience, it is easier to go over most of these things with a bit of speed. Unfortunately it can also be hard to steer when you're going over rocks and ruts while picking up speed and you don't have much confidence. One larger rock kicked my front tire to the left and started to point me off the trail towards a tree so I applied my back brake again so I could correct. Almost immediately the loose soil and my rear tire started to slide so I released and then tried to steer back to the right. However, the slipping I was already doing proved to be too much and my bike just slipped out from under me and I slid down the hill while still sitting in a normal riding position (just lying down).
My legs both hurt a little from the fall and slide but overall I felt OK considering I had avoided hitting the tree and I wasn't really hurt so I hopped back on the bike and finished the trail out to the road where we found Ed fixing a flat. When I passed up Ed to stop and help he noticed that my back tire looked a little funny so we investigated and quickly discovered that my rear rim was pretty badly bent. My ride for the day was officially over after 1.5 miles. It was pretty disheartening that I had just bought this expensive bike and immediately had to take it to the shop for repairs - I had never had to get my much cheaper bike fixed. My bike was still ride-able down the street to our car but not safe for trail riding so we headed to the car and then I went to the local bike shop to drop mine off for repairs. At this point I had been in possession of the bike for less than 3 days - that was on Saturday afternoon.
I just got the bike back from the shop (today is Friday). So, at this point, the repair shop has had nearly twice as much possession of my bike as I have. I can't afford to keep that trend alive so hopefully I don't break it again.
The only thing left to upgrade on the bike are the pedals. They really do suck. Even though they are textured because they are nylon they get pretty slick when they are muddy and I have a lot of trouble keeping my feet on the bike. Most mountain bikers use clip in pedals (STB, Egg-Beaters, or Time ATAC's) becuase they give you a better base on the bike, improve pedaling efficiency, and help you when you need to hop up the hill a bit. However, I'm a little nervous about the idea because you are locking your foot into the bike just like you do with your boots and ski bindings (practically the exact same mechanism really except it locks in at the ball of your foot instead of the heel and toe). I know that I need to overcome my fear on this issue so I have bought a pair of shoes and some Time ATAC Alium pedals that I will be installing on my old bike for a week so that I can practice getting started and locked in and, just as importantly, releasing when i need to. I figure after about a week I can transfer them to my new bike and I'll go out and try just the river trail and some other easy bits of up and down so that I can get comfortable enough with them that I can ride without being worried about my knee being destroyed when I crash.
I'll let you know how that goes.