I rode some bikes in the desert and now I blog.

The heat of the desert might have fried my Irish skin, but my big straw hat kept my brain cool enough to hopefully come away form Outdoor demo with some semi-coherent thoughts about what I rode. I started Outdoor Demo with three full-suspension bikes, the Scott Genius, Niner JET 9 and the new Rocky Mountain Altitude. Each bike went up a fire road climb  and descended on somewhat technical trail with a good mix of buff single track, bermed and off camber corners and rocks big and small.

dirt_demo_day_1002.jpgFirst up Monday morning was the Scott Genius Carbon 20. Things have come a long way when you can say lightweight and six inch travel about the same bike, particularly one packing a lot of gee-whiz technology.

The fork and rear shock both sport adjustable travel, the proprietary Equalizer shock with 150-100mm and lock out settings and the Fox Talas 15mm QR fork with 120-130-150 mm settings.


Climbing up the hill in 100mm traction mode worked well, enough suspension to keep the rear wheel from spinning in the loose stuff, but not so much that it was wallowing around when my spin got sloppy.

At the top of the hill a quick push at the remote opened up the second chamber in the rear shock to allow full travel. The shock length does not change with travel adjustment, so geometry isn’t affected my the travel setting of the rear shock. I like that.

Overall the bike descended in a controlled predictable manner. Not super slack, not nervous and twitchy, just confidence building stability. The tires seemed a little thin and not meaty for such a capable bike, but I didn’t have any problems piloting it around and over the rocks and small drops on the way down the hill. That long travel fork saved me at one point when my unfamiliarity with the terrain and confidence in the bike lead to a very front heavy landing. I expected a trip over the bars, but the Genius shook it off and held its line. Splendid way to start the day.

I walked  to the Niner both hoping to score a ride on the 6.5″ WFO, but I was told it was not available for test rides, although I did get quite a informative rundown on the big travel bike from Niner’s Chris Sugai. Pictures and more info at a later date. After eyeballing the redesigned RIP 9 I decided a ride on the JET 9 was in order and  I was promptly set up for a test ride by no other than newly crowned National Ultra Endurance Series single speed champion and Niner team rider John “Fuzzy” Myline.

The Niner made quick work of the climb up the hill, with little bob and great traction. There was a platform option on the shock, but I left it switched off and never felt the need to turn it on. I should have more to say about the linkage and suspension action while climbing, but really it works so well I didn’t really think about it, I just rode the bike up the hill.

Descending was a little weird until I dropped about 5 psi from the front tire and the unsettled feeling went away. After that, much like climbing, the bike did as I asked with no fuss. It was easy to stay centered on the bike and pilot it around, no need for dramatic weight shifts, big lean angles on excessive steering input. I could very much see myself pedaling one of these at the Wilderness 101 or Shenandoah 100 next year.

 My next stop was the Rocky Mountain booth, where I was thinking about throwing a leg over a Slayer SXC but instead ended up on the new Altitude.

This bike was completely under my radar for new 2009 products but it looks to be another great entry into the 5-5 1/2″ travel trail bike marketplace. Both carbon and aluminum frames will be available at multiple price points. Two design points stood out for me: a chainstay pivot 1cm above the rear axle and a 76º (yep seventy six degrees) seat tube angle.

The seat tube angle seemed way to steep for me to be happy with it, but I was surprised that once I was on and pedaling up the hill the over the pedals position didn’t bother me. The seat tube angle is designed to keep the rider’s weight a bit more over the front of the bike while climbing and it worked wheel keeping the front ended planed with less rider input than some other longish travel bikes I’ve ridden. The platform switch was needed to tame a bit of bob, but it still left the suspension active enough to keep the rear wheel from spinning in the loose stuff.

Pointed down the hill the Altitude took less time to adjust to the handling than any other 26″ bike I’ve ridden in quite a while. My brain now mentally defaults to 29″ wheels and usually needs a few rides to get used to a new 26″ wheeled ride, but the Rocky was right there from the start. Handling was on the quick end of stable, great for riding all day with comfort and control. On my list to look into for a test in the upcoming year, for sure.

Time to get back out on the convention floor so I’ll save the other bikes for another post.