By Eric McKeegan
Covering the Sea Otter classic can be a lot of work, but sometimes we’re able to slip away and get some riding… I mean, "product testing", done. I rode this setup in the Gran Fondo mountian bike ride.
Spot Brand Rocker Ti
I haven’t ridden a hardtail in a long time, so I was a little trepidatious to head out on the Gran Fondo. But the bike fit well and I have never spent anything longer than a parking lot test ride on a titanium bike so I got over it and got ready to ride.
The fondo course was fast and had a lot of loose gravel fire roads and a few beaches worth of sand, but nothing too rough, which made it pretty ideally suited to a hardtail. Other than the test spin down to the start I hit the trail with no ride time on the Spot. I didn’t know the head angle, the bottom bracket height, or the chainstay length, which was pretty awesome, with no preconceieved notions about how it would ride. The first real impression was one of speed, as this bike feels fast in the way only a bike without a bunch of shocks and linkages can feel.
(For the record, the Rocker Ti has a 71-degree headtube, 64mm of bottom bracket drop, and 439-464mm chainstays. – Ed.)
The first few sections of singletrack took some attention as I recalibrated my slack trail bike brain to work with XC bike quickness. After that I was only slowed down my lack of experience with sandy corners, the rest of the time I was crushing it, the Spot seemed to like being pushed hard. The oversize Ti tubes made for a stiff ride, but there was enough compliance to keep from getting beat up by the trail. The stiffness came in handy; I couldn’t shift to the granny ring on the crank, so I mashed my way up some pretty steep stuff in the middle ring. I felt strong during the ride, so I spent a good bit of time in the big ring, hammering away at the flats and riding the momentum up some of the rolling fire roads.
I made a few bad line choices on some descents, but there seemed to be just enough handling in reserve to keep me upright if I was willing to commit and hang on, but steering from the hips was the way to go, too much steering input made it easy to induce understeer.
If I had a big bank account and did lots of rides like the one I did today I could see getting along very well with the this Spot.
- Made in USA (Denver)
- 44mm headtubes and PF30 bottom bracket shells
- Designed around 100mm of travel
- $3,899 for the frame, $6,499 complete.
Mavic Crossmax ST 29
Let’s get this out of the way first, I hate flexy wheels. When I push a bike into corners I want tires and suspension absorb the terrain, not the wheels (or bars, or frame). The Mavic CrossMax ST seemed to be just up my alley, lightweight, but strong and stiff.
The terrain at Sea Otter isn’t super challenging, so it is hard to really talk about things like engagement points or durability, but I came away impressed and would hope for some more time on them on a longer travel bike on more challenging terrain. The 26” version we tested has been a solid performer and I would expect the 29” version to work in much the same way.