Thursday, May 19, 2005

Crossing to the darkside

I have succumbed to the darkside. I am ordering a Salsa Caballero Full suspension frame.

The good news for my wife is that I'm selling my cross bike so we won't have to move the kids out of their bedrooms to make room for another bike and the cost of the new frame is covered by the sale of the crosser. All the parts from my current hardtail will cross over, and I've got spare parts to turn the hardtail into a rigid 1x8. So my bicycle stable will remain at 3: Roadbike, race bike, commuter-bike pather and I'm not spending the college money.

It isn't a hard choice to sell the cross bike. I've been trying for a while but I just can't get the mojo right for this bike. Just doesn't feel right. On the road I want my road bike. Off road I want my mtb. The only place where the crosser shines to me is on fire roads. Smooth fire roads. My mtb and my road bike click. They feel right. Mojo. Good. Just can't say the same thing about this one. It's a sweet bike and a cross bike is the ultimate compromise between road/mountain. But sometimes things just don't click. And the reality is that I'm probably not going to be racing cross anytime soon. And I'd rather someone uses this cross bike for it's intended design. The cross purists will certainly scoff at my assesment of the bike. But the drop bar thing off road just doesn't work with me and I don't have the time or desire to learn to work with it.

Cycling as a bike geek is dynamic. When I got my first custom mountain bike the manager at the bike shop was saying something about this not being the only bike I'd get in my lifetime. And I was saying, Oh yeah it is. After this why would I need another bike? But he knew better. Since then bikes have been sold, new bikes have been bought. Each time with the feeling that this is the last. Yeah right. One cannot explain it to someone who isn't into it. It's like saying why do you need to redecorate, or why do you need new golf clubs. Practicality and true need are not really factors as much as we try to justify them as factors.

A little history. I've owned 8 bikes in my adult life
-steel hardtail (Spec. hardrock)
-steel hardtail (KHS Montana XT)
-steel hardtail (KHS replacement)
-steel hardtail (Custom Brew hardtail)
-aluminum Cannondale road bike that was killer lite but beat me up more than a mountain bike. SOLD
-steel lugged road (Custom Richard Moon)
Old pic

-steel lugged/fillet brazed Crosser
-steel hardtail (Custom Brew)

Friends got full suspension and I poopooed it. I was pure. Steel is real, hardtail is real. I love the custom steel builders. I want to be a frame builder. The thought of an aluminum frame, and a full suspension frame should be poison to my blood. I didn't even want to ride someone elses FS frame. Because I didn't want to be in a position to even think about wanting one.

But alas, I've been thinking about the darkside for a little while. There are NO buff trails out here. More than one hour on Brush mtn is rough. When I am on it. My bike feels great. I feel great. But every rock, root, bump starts to take it's toll. Fatigue sets in, then every rock, root, bump takes an even greater toll. Getting off the saddle just that few cm to take the edge off hits gets harder, lifting up the rear wheel to clear things gets harder. And it isn't the downhills so much that get me. Well they do, but it's really the climbs. With a hardtail, and good skills you can unweight and lunge to get the rear wheel to clear a root, ledge, but when you get tired it gets harder and harder to do this. You hit the obstacles more and more.

Obviously it is the skill of the rider and not the bike. And doctor dollaring (ie throwing money at a problem to solve it) is rarely an end all solution. riding style is in the saddle pedaling. Rarely is it out of the saddle honking. I love to sit and spin/pound. My recovery from hard off road rides takes longer and longer. And the riding around here and the races that I do: Dragon's Back, Carvin's Cove, Douthat, Massanutten, etc...these are not buffed trails. They are technical, rough, rooty, rocky riding. And yes a hardtail can rail out there, and I have railed out there in the past. But..again with the but, I'm just getting beat up. All the signs have been pointing towards a short travel XC rig.

The full suspension technology has improved vastly over the last few years. And I wanted to try it out as much as it goes against my past soapboxing for the steel hardtail. I will definitely eat some crow with my friends.

But I wasn't about to go for a cheap FS rig. That would be a mistake. And I wasn't going to drop coin on a Racer X, Titus, Turner, Trek, Ventana or the other well respected names in XC racers. And finding the right geometry was going to be tricky. I've got long legs/short torso. Used on ebay was probably the only choice. But a used mtn bike could be potentail for problems.

I'm not prone to rash descisions. If I need a pencil I'll research it on the net first. You should have seen the research done for our last vacuum cleaner purchase. This was not a descision made lightly. There were several signs that made this good karma.

1) Salsa
-My wife has a Salsa road bike. The cutest thing around. I like Salsa as a brand. They have been around a long time, and though they looked to be in trouble several years ago, they now are looking strong being part of the Quality bike group, and their new scandium frames I believe are being manufactured by a reputable builder.

2) the geometry of the frame is virtually identical to my current hardtail. That is saying a lot because I require a short top tube in relation to the seat tube, and one of the only complaints for this frame was the short top tube which for me is a huge advantage not a negative.

3)Seat post size, stem length, front der, pretty much everything etc. will cross over. Rarely does that happen with a new bike purchase

4)The price was within what I'll get for my cross bike. And the Salsa frame at retail was already half the price of the other boutique full susp frames. This closeout price was just unreal for a full scandium FS frame with glowing reviews. Really this is what the kicker was. One of the main reasons to NOT go full suspension until now was the cost. I was not about to spend the farm on a new FS bike with what the good ones go for. But the sad fact is that I am a sucker for a good deal.

There is a story about a knick knack shop that had two wooden deers outside the entrance. One had a sign on it for $75 the other had a sign on it for $100. A woman walked by and was curious why one was $25 cheaper than the other. She looked at the $75 dollar one, then looked at the $100 dollar one. Virtually identical, she could not tell any difference between them. The $75 one had no blemishes on it and looked as good if not slightly better. She decides that there must have been a pricing mistake and cannot pass up on this deal to get a deer that is $25 cheaper but just as good as one that is full price. So she buys it and leaves with that satisfied feeling of a customer that one upped the man. After she leaves, the shop keeper comes out with another deer, puts the $75 dollar tag on the deer that was originally $100 and puts the $100 tag on the new deer. "Works every time" he says.

5) Everything I read about this bike was good. Obviously no bike is going to be designed for every situation, but for XC riding/racing this frame was highly praised. And think it will suit my riding style and type of riding out here. It has an aggressive geometry compared to some FS XC frames so it is suited for the single track.

6) It is new so comes with full warranty

Besides, it's my birthday next month. I was going to wait till I was 40 to do this. But now I'll get a convertible dorky Miata when that happens (Just kidding, I hate miatas). Besides, this will be the last bike I'll ever need... Yup, and we are not going to be painting our family room again in a few years.!!


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