Saw this on dirt and it got me thinking.
So I wasted my night and wrote this perhaps I should have been doing something else on February 14th!
Here’s my take on the 29er thing. As I am starting to get a bit fed up with the whole subject
First of all this is what I think to 29ers. I have owed one for quite a few years but only as a XC hardtail. That style of bike has got loads of advantages over a 26” XC hardtail and there are no negatives over a bike like that for its intended use. I don’t think I would ever buy a 26” pure XC bike again and they have got a place in the market.
I ride lots of different bikes from XC to DH, like a lot of other riders out there. So you start to think what would these bigger wheels be like in another discipline.
I go out and have fun on my bikes and you can feel the difference in grip and speed when I am out on my 29er but I also know what is intended use is.
The thing is I own and have paid for my 29er XC bike so I don’t want to trash it down a DH track to see what it would be like. I have got a problem with that video of “Cedric Gracia Blasting on a 29er”. Cedric is a top pro Mountain biker and probably one of the best all round riders so if you put him on a Santa Cruz Tall boy he is going to ride the hell out of it and do things on it that take the bike out of its XC bounders. If that video was of Cedric blasting on a Santa Cruz Blur (the 26” equivalent) the video would have all the same footage of someone riding a XC bike on a DH track but no one would have thought anything much to it apart form someone riding a XC bike on a DH track. But as he was on a Tall Boy people think that he might do a DH race on a 29er this year!
Its more about the rider not the just the bike. Just look at that kid doing some crazy tricks on a old shopper bike. We are not going to go out and buy a Pashley bike thinking it will make us ride like Danny Macaskill are we?
I have ridden a Tall Boy and they are really good bike and make the most out of the big wheels but I felt that the fun factor was lost a bit when riding it. If I could only have one bike I don’t think I would have a 29er as they are just not as versatile as a 26” bike.
I think that 29er’s are here to stay and I have to agree with the article in dirt about them (even if it was a bit one sided to 29er’s) they are really good to ride as a XC bike or a 120mm trail bike. In a few years they will out sell 26” bikes for this style of bike.
The thing is the industry have seen the advantages of the big wheels and are questioning the 26” wheel now. I really don’t think we will see 29er on the DH circuit, you might see the odd manufactures experiment with them but I just don’t think it would work in the long run.
The problem now is that they are questioning the 26” wheel size. They know the advantages of a bigger wheel but I think they with start/if not already realise that 29er wheels are just a bit to big for a bike over 150mm of travel.
I think that’s where we might start to see 650b. Until last year 650b was a very niche wheel size in the world of mountain biking. I am led to believe that it if a 650b tyre had a xc tyre on it , it would be similar in size to that of a 26” wheel with a high volume 2.4 tyre on it. So imagine a 650b wheel with a 2.4 high volume tyre on it. That could be one sweet set up? Also if you look into it there are a lot of manufactures planning on making 650b products in 2013. Especially considering the availability of 650b frames at the moment it is quite shocking.
As someone who likes to buy and build up bikes this worries me. I was looking to build up a “all mountain” hardtail. Its the style of bike that I have always enjoyed the most but stupidly sold mine a few months ago. But do I buy a 26” bike something that I know works and I could have a lot of fun on, but it might be completely out out date within a year. Or buy a 29er something like the Transition Trans am 29, a bike that could work but it might be a bit of a gamble. Or see what comes of 650b? I have decided to do nothing and just enjoy the bikes that I have got.
Unfortunately I feel that the industry will be playing around with different wheel sizes for a good few years before they settle down on a certain size. I think there will be a option of different size wheels and it will just be the case of picking the right one for a given job.
At the moment we are in that test period and we are expected to fund it. I think at this given time manufactures would be better off sticking to what they know and trying to bring down the cost of part and bikes instead of passing on all the R&D costs of new parts onto the consumer.
Stretton Hills Biking will be having a stall at Church Stretton Festival of Sport, which takes place on Saturday 20th October 2012 from 10am to 4pm.
MOUNTAIN BIKING – Including mountain biking. For the ultimate mountain bike experience learn about mountain bike rides guided by experienced riders and qualified leaders over some of the UK`s finest natural trails set in the picturesque Shropshire Hills. For those less energetic – try out electric bikes.
CYCLING (ROAD) – Are you the next Bradley Wiggins. See some of the best road bikes available. Learn more about road cycling and consider becoming a member of a possible Church Stretton Road Cycling club. Take part in studio cycling.
The event will aim to:-
- celebrate the sporting; leisure; and cultural identity of the Church Stretton Area – a chance to show the public what is available
- strengthen community relations – sharing ideas and building a better network and understanding of each other’s sport; leisure; and cultural organization
- celebrate and showcase the wealth of clubs and organizations in the Church Stretton Area – a chance to promote membership of clubs and the Leisure Centre
- provide taster sessions for the public – a programme of events for the public to ‘have a go’.
This event is for all sport; leisure; and cultural clubs and groups in and around Church Stretton, and for the public to take part.
It isl be a free event – free for clubs and organizations and free admission for the public.
Up until last weekend I was guilty of thinking that Shropshire was that county that you pass through when you’re on your way to Wales for a weekend. I’ve passed through Shrewsbury dozens and dozens of times without ever really thinking about what was close by.
But lately I’ve been hearing the words ‘Minton Batch’ far too often to not go exploring.
The Long Mynd (Welsh for Long Mountain) lies just 10 miles south of Shrewsbury with the nearest town being Church Stretton. The area is known more for its glider club than mountain biking but local business ‘Blazing Bikes’ is quickly changing that.
Based in Marshbrook, just a few miles south of Church Stretton, Blazing Bikes have a fully stocked bike shop, bike hire service and well located campsite complete with traditional pitches as well as a few camping pods.
The campsite was our home for the weekend and as tempting as the heated pods were, we opted for traditional camping.
Arriving late on the Friday it was too late to head out to the hills by the time the tent was pitched so there was nothing left to do but light the BBQ and open a beer.
Saturday morning arrived and bacon sandwiches were consumed as the trail map was studied. With two relatively inexperienced riders joining me I headed in to the bike shop to discuss routes, my one stipulation was that the ride must include the ‘Minton Batch’ I had been hearing so much about. The staff were happy to advise me and between us we worked out a route that wouldn’t be too tough on the legs.
Heading out of the bike centre at Marshbrook we followed the road past the campsite and towards the hamlet of Hamperley, here we turned right and were soon on the forest track. At this point the tree line disguised the magnitude of the Long Mynd and the climb ahead.
The majority of the land on the National Trust owned Long Mynd is a heathland plateau, so taking the forest route is the best way to add some diversity to your ride.
The climb started gently but soon began to steepen as the track wound its way up the hillside. The legs were burning already and with dense forest all around us we had no idea of how much distance we had covered, or more importantly, how much of the climb remained. The only indication of the height we had gained came when a backwards glance revealed a gap in the trees and the views in the distance.
The climb had become too much for my fellow riders and they were off their bikes and pushing. I began to feel pangs of guilt about leading them to such a climb as an introduction to mountain biking. I only hoped that the descents would make amends and that I hadn’t put them off for life.
As the landscape changed and we rose above the treeline, the silence was occasionally broken by the sound of the gliders above. In regular intervals they were winched up into the Shropshire sky and soared over our heads with the wind screaming around their wings.
Despite it being August it was decidedly cold once we were away from the protection of the trees and onto the moorland. I hung my head in shame as the experienced mountain biker shivering in just a T shirt while the other put their jackets on.
The glider club was in sight, as was most of the West Midlands and Wales. On a clear day you can see as far as the Malvern hills in one direction and Snowdon in the other. It’s no wonder the Midland Glider Club chose this location for its home, Midland Mountain Bike Mag may well do the same!
We rested for a while and watched the crazy folks taking a running jump off the hill; that is a hobby that I definitely won’t be trying any time soon.
Rested and ready to take on the descent we headed to the top of Minton Batch. This descent is one of the most talked about natural descents in the UK; a simple Google search will bring up countless forum discussions on the area. Some of these threads included pictures of various injuries suffered on the way down; this was playing on my mind as we lowered our seats in preparation for the descent. If the climb hadn’t already put them off for life; the loss of blood would.
Immediately the trail began living up to expectations; singletrack of the highest calibre. A rocky, uneven, twisting trail that demanded your undivided attention right from the get go.
With the exception of a small wooden bridge that crosses some boggy looking ground it is an entirely natural descent. There is undoubtedly evidence of its popularity in the form of ruts that try to pull your front wheel away from your grip. As unfortunate as the damage is to the trail it also adds to the challenge.
In some places the trail narrows to barely the width of your tyre; one misjudged line could see you falling down the embankment and into the brook that the trail runs parallel to. The second you pick your line for the few metres ahead of you, you have to change it again as you notice a jagged looking rock waiting to destroy your tyre. No trail centre I have visited offers the intensity of this descent. The mind works overtime routing and re-routing the path of your front tyre. Like a sat nav analysing a thousand roads in a few seconds, the rider must analyze a thousand rocks to determine the safest way through.
Eventually the trail eased to a gentle gradient and meandered alongside the brook, we had made it down pretty much unscathed and with Cheshire cat grins on our faces. Only one of us had become a victim of gravity’s wrath, and it was only a minor incident.
We didn’t realise how much height we had lost until a look behind us revealed the mountain looming over us and the top where we were just a few short minutes ago now seeming a very long way away.
The rest of the ride was an uneventful journey back to the campsite, although the smiles didn’t fade all afternoon.
There is a sense of freedom to be had in riding in places like this. Most of us are guilty, on some level, of forgetting the origins of mountain biking. Trail centres are not the history of mountain biking and ultimately won’t be the future of mountain biking. They are merely a commercially viable weekend convenience, eventually the tide will turn and we will all return to the hills in search of that sense of exploration and solitude. New ‘batches’ will be found and internet forums will be alive with threads titled ‘I just found the best descent ever’ instead of ‘what’s your best lap time for trail centre X’.
We only saw two other mountain bikers all day on the Long Mynd, I doubt that we were the only parties out there on a sunny Saturday morning in August so that means that the locals in the know were riding some other part of the long mountain. Where? I don’t know. So,there are two ways for us to find out; endless trawling of forums or endless exploration of hills and mountains.
I’ll see you up there!
Article copyright Midland Mountain Bike Magazine – http://mmbmag.co.uk/