Bike love

It's rare that I get a chance to test ride a bike. Out of the five mountain bikes I've gotten in the last few years, I've only gotten on one before we bought it - and that was just for a ride around the parking lot. The rest have been leaps of faith - it looks like it will fit based on geometry, so... I've been lucky with the bikes and only one hasn't fit well. I've been adding bikes to my geometry charts as we've gotten them, so we have a pretty good handle on what will and won't fit, and what we will need to do to get it fit. But with the exception of my Fate, it's all been 26ers. Both Nick and I were hesitant about the sizing of the 29ers and full suspension. They all looked like Tonka trucks with the monster wheels smushed into tiny frames. Even my Fate, a HT looks kinda silly. I could see the future though - few bike companies were making 26er every year, especially in the trail categories. I was also stuck because I wanted a full suspension I could race and something fun for trail riding. A bike that could do both and actually be light enough to race without a huge penalty would break our budget, assuming I could fit on the men's 29ers. The women's bikes were good, but very very heavy and not (yet) race worthy. But having small bikes at demos was rare and I wasn't sure I'd ever get to test ride any of the fun trail or race bikes out there.

Then last week, Nick comes home from ProCycling with a huge surprise. A small Specialized Stumpjumper FSR 29er that I could ride for a week. "Don't get any ideas," he warned me "this is just to make sure you fit and can ride the smalls." He then spent two hours in the garage, getting the bike as close to my Era as we could. Once everything was done, I hopped on. And it fit. Wow. I'd always assumed the men's small would be a little too big and we wouldn't be able to make it fit. And now I was sitting on a 29 Stumpy, ready to ride. And ride I did. Four days in a row, on familiar trails, on new trails and on challenging trails. The bike handled like dream, climbed efficiently and soaked up bumps like a pillow. A live suspension with 30mm more travel made such a difference on the rocky trails. Even without a dropper post, I found myself riding stuff I wouldn't have ridden before. I can't say it was all the bike - I've gotten a lot better over the last few years. Instead of the pause from the brain, the bike simply took the drops. Talk about giggling while riding! I'd never had so much fun riding before. Every ride made me want the bike more, despite Nick's stern warning to not get any ideas. It was a bike I could ride uphill comfortably and then have even more fun going downhill.

Then it came time - Nick took the pedals off, swapped back the saddle and we brought the bike back as promised. My week was up and I had to return the bike. Apparently when we rolled the bike up to the service counter, I looked utterly pathetic and disappointed. We weren't planning on buying a bike. It was just a test ride. But after a hour of discussion and me looking longingly at the bike leaning against the counter, it was decided. Maybe not the smartest of choices, but definitely the one that made me the happiest. A brand new Stumpjumper FSR 29er in my hands. A bike for trail riding and fun days with friends. My Tonka truck machine, with enough travel to make me happy (and dangerous on single track.) The maiden ride (as my own bike) was yesterday and I came home with a huge smile. I just need to get the first crash out of the way now...


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