This post was almost called "Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy" And/or "Big Wheels" But the first one is a fairly obscure Who reference and the second one just seems sort of obvious. The Gateway Drug really sums up so much about my life right now. Those 3 handsome gentlemen pictured above are 3 of the 5 people responsible for my current two wheeled bliss. The two not pictured would be Mike Zanconato and Sailor Jerry. The picture above is from Ice Weasels. And those three are giving me the "look" Well Matt and Matt are. The look is "whatyoutalkingaboutWillis? You better be racing singlespeed! I helped put on a singlespeed cx series with Mike, Matt, Jerry and a bunch of other fun loving criminals. My dark secret was I didn't race it. I was "working" so how could I race. But there was no hiding out at Ice Weasels. I had just come off getting crushed by a 16 year old in a vicious sprint for 32nd or something. All I wanted to do was drink beer and eat grilled meat. And in large quantities. But I sucked it up and raced. And had a blast. Singlespeeding is NOT an equipment choice. When people say this it just shows they don't get it. At. All. And while singlespeed cx is a blast it is hard to not notice how many badass singlespeed mountain bikers reside in New England.
When I first started down this dark path of going from hating East Coast mtn biking to giving it a chance and learning to do it my mentor Sara Bresnick rode a singlespeed. And she crushed it. Everything. And it blew my mind. Then Mikey and Leah raced 24 hours of Great Glen on ss. Again my mind was blown. Their laps were as fast or really close to my geared laps. For the whole 24 hours. The other thing I noticed was singlespeeders are just better riders. They were way more technically savvy than most of the geared riders I knew. And they were fun. You could hang out with them literally all day. So I was hooked. When Mike told me he wanted to build me a 29er ss so we could shred this summer how could I say no? I was nervous. I won't lie. I am short. Tyrion Lannister short. Ok maybe Willow Koebler short. But when you think 29ers you don't think short. But Mike has been working on 29ers for at least since I have known him. He rides a lot. His team rides a ton. They know mountain bikes. A lot of prototypes went into the design of the bikes. And its Mike. My god his bikes are gorgeous. I have always wanted to have one. So when he asked me I was all in.
The bike is made of steel. Not 100% sure but I believe it is Columbus Life. The seat and chainstay cluster is beyond sexy. It has such a nice curve to it. Sort of like the rear end of a Porshe Boxster. Wide and swoopy and all business. The first time I hopped on it it felt perfect. I have been riding a 26 inch wheeled Seven Sola for some time. And its a great bike. But compared to this it feels like a clown bike. I say that lovingly I swear. 26 just feels so slow in comparison. Even just rolling on pavement. I hate to drive to a ride. So I have a couple of loops that connect a bunch of parks to ride the trails. The ride on the pavement on my 26 inch wheels at 20 psi is painful. Doing it singlespeed is even more painful. But on 29er wheels? Not painful. Yeah you spin out a bit here and there but the big wheels roll. And keep their momentum. On the trails it translates into pure bliss. I have about 4-5 rides on the bike. On very different terrain. I have one loop through Cutler etc that is what you would describe swoopy and maybe rooted. Nothing technical. Some nice rollers and berms. The biggest difference I noticed here was number 1 speed. It just accelerates so fast and holds that speed through corners. You can go wayyy deeper into a turn. Like a cx bike. On the little wheels the same tire would break away once you leaned it over. Not the 29er wheel
I also did a couple of rides in Needham Town Forest. NTF has been the bane of my existence for about 3-4 years. That may seem dramatic but its true. I FEAR that place. And I hated it. Its like Teahupu. Some may not get that reference. Its a sick wave in French Polynesia. It is an insanely heavy wave that crashes over about a foot of water that covers a sharp coral reef. Thom Parson's said to me once that NTF is the mother of all axe head rocks in NE. I believe him. There are rocks and then there are axe head rocks. In NTF all the rocks want to rip your flesh off your body. It was the bane of my existence because it is literally 5 minutes from my house. And locals who know I "mountain bike" text me constantly to meet up for rides. I make excuses, hide out. They are so good in there. I am not. It shatters my already fragile view of myself. But when I first converted my Seven to a singlespeed I started riding NTF better. Like night and day. So much for a ss being an equipment choice. It is an equipment ADVANTAGE in these conditions. You stop thinking. All that energy you wasted on shifting now goes into thinking about how you will attack the terrain. Shifting does not encourage attacking. You can't spin up some horrible crag of a boulder. You have to attack it with momentum and use body english. I learned more in the month I rode that singlespeed in there than the entire 5 years I have been riding mountain bikes in New England.
Now when you go 29er singlespeed you bring a whole other weapon to the table. The big wheels roll over the axe heads. Even climbing its an advantage. Oddly my biggest challenge is climbing stuff. Dropping off stuff is more a mental game climbing up is all technique and brute force. With a dab of ninja/ballet finesse thrown in for good measure. The first time I took the Zank into NTF I started laughing. I wasn't afraid anymore. I went from fear to oh interesting that line looks good. I stopped taking the 'b' line. I rode stuff I have never ridden before. Then I got a text from Artie. Ok awesome. I am in. I met him and got a big dose of humble pie. You think you have seen good bike riders. Come to NTF and watch Artie ride. I have no idea how he does what he does. And he is not a young kid. He is just a touch younger than I am. And he is the nicest guy you will ever meet. Literally. We rode for 2 hours in there. I bailed on some stuff as the mental part just wasn't there. Still I rode wayyy more than I ever have. He knows stuff in there that would blow minds.
So to say I am stoked about the bike is an understatement. The picture above is not my bike. That is my good friend and wingman David Deitch's bike. He had an umm mechanical. Dave, Jeff B and I went out to Landlocked last night. We were a funny crew to say the least. I was on a 29er ss, David was on a long travel DH bike and Jeff was on a sweet Seven. At one point we were climbing a fireroad and then David was GONE. Like gone, gone. Like the Bermuda triangle or some Zombie swiped him from our midst. We looked everywhere for him. Couldn't find him. We rode some gnar. In Landlocked the 29er ss was beyond the perfect bike. Sara used to ride in here all the time on her ss and I never understood how she could stay ahead of me on my geared bike. On a 29er you go sooo fast. Faster than I have ever gone before. When you point it downhill those big wheels just go so fast. But it doesn't feel out of control like the little wheels. I rode all the bridges. Never in my life has that happened. And the weird thing is my back doesn't hurt. It used to kill me. Not sure if its the position, the steel or just that Zank mojo but it sure is nice to not have your back screaming in pain at you.
Ok life is not all sunshine and rainbows. What doesn't it do well? You can not flick it around like a 26er. I have gotten used to it so its more nimble than ride #1 for sure but you have to set up turns like a cx bike. And exit with speed. That is really the only area I can think of that it does not out perform a small wheel and frankly its a trade off I have no problem with. So stoked with the bike. Thanks Mikey you rock my friend!