Welcome to The Wheel Racing....

Accept the challenges so that you can feel the exhilaration of victory.
George S. Patton

Monday, October 7, 2013

2014 Giant DEMOS aka NEW TOYS!!!!

  One of the great things about being sponsored by a shop and having a great relationship with that shop is getting to play with the coolest newest toys before they are even available to the public. The Wheel has had a long-standing relationship with Giant, and when their demo truck set a date to come to town, Heather was able to convince them to drop the trailer off early and unload a few choice whips for the team to play with for the next couple weeks! And lets be clear. The demo truck is not full of entry-level hybrids and mountain bikes. Folks, this is top of the line, cutting edge, race-ready equipment.
Very eager to ride the new whips!

       Among this stable of thoroughbreds, Giant gave us some of their new 27.5 full-suspension bikes, an all-new wheel size set atop Giant's award winning Maestro suspension platform. Heather picked out a couple of LIV-Giant bikes for us girls to demo. The LIV-Giant bike are 100% all-new for 2014, completely re-designed from the ground up, by women and for women. Flashy colors, great fit, and awesome equipment is the best way to sum up this new line.
      I got a 27.5 Lust 1, with Sram 2x10 drivetrain, hydraulic disc brakes, and SL grade aluminum frame. At just 25.4 lbs with pedals, this bike embodies the phrase "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee."
       Heather picked an all-trail Intrigue 1, similarly equipped but with longer, all-trail travel, weighing in at 27.6 lbs. The Intrigue has over 5 inches of travel--inspiring loads of confidence on the roughest trails we could throw at it. To say we were eager to get these bikes dirty was an understatement!

       Our first stop was Wyandotte County lake, to preride the course for the Wyco's Revenge. The trail network out at Wyco is fantastic; the Trail Masons have done a great job with these sustainably built trails. They are flowy and swoopy, with a few good climbs and descents and some rock gardens. I rode out there just last week so I was eager to compare the handling of the bigger tires back to back with my personal bike (a 26inch fully suspended Dean). Heather's bike is an ultra light XTC carbon hardtail with 26 inch wheels, so riding a plush bike with full suspension would be a pretty new animal to her. We both ride bikes with full XTR drivetrain, so we are used to and expect very high shift quality.
       We started out down the gravel road to give a us a few minutes to get the hang of the new rig Sram X0 grip shift shifters. Personally, the first thing I noticed that even under hard pedaling I couldn't feel any pedal bob. My bike normally acts like an inchworm, so to feel that positive and stable response to pedaling was VERY welcome! Once we hit the woods the bike was fun and snappy. Many of the mountain bikes that have been coming out lately tend to feel a little light in the front end (thanks to the trend toward tall headtubes, short toptubes, riser stems and bars), but this seemed pinned to trail--no wandering or washing. So far, the 27.5's were proving to not have the slow-handling characteristics of many of their big-wheeled brothers. Where the Lust really shined was in the rock garden though. The Lust rolled through my arch nemesis obstacle so easily that I almost didn't notice it. I thought surely we had missed it. I cleared things I've never cleared before!!!! I felt confident and stable even on the off-camber rocky crap that always makes me "pucker up."
Feeling pretty pleased!
       The final test for the Lust would be the long rocky climbs. This is always my strength on a mountain bike course, and when you find your strength you want to use it to your advantage. I like to put the bike in a relatively easy gear, sit down with my chin fairly close to the bar (to keep the front end from lifting) and just spin up and through whatever is in my way. I can usually climb as fast as I can descend (thank goodness because I'm a total chicken on descents and I've got to make up ground somewhere!) so believe me when I say, a bike's ability to climb is incredibly important to me. Wyco is a great place to test this. There are two decent climbs, one of them with a few technical aspects. I have to say I was really impressed with the Lust. The larger contact patch of the 27.5 tires kept the back wheel from spinning out on roots or other obstacles. The roll-over of the taller tire was an obvious advantage. The bike was geared great, and even shifted under pressure pretty well. But there was something else that seemed to give me a leg up that I can't quite put my finger on... Maybe the lack of pedal bob? Either way, I was very very happy. This is definitely a bike I could get used to.

Heather threading the needle!
       Next stop was Stocksdale Park in Liberty. We wanted to really test the bikes' cornering abilities on the tighter, more twisty trails that this park has to offer. Honeslty I was a little worried about the wide bars spec'd on today's bikes. These women's models were a little more slim, but Heather and I are both a little old school so they still seemed wide to us! Once we got in the woods I could quickly see that while my handling skills were a little rusty the bike was really doing great. I bumped a hip, and ducked a shoulder a couple times, but the bike slipped right through any opening I was fast enough to point it towards. It helped that the big contact patch allowed me to scrub speed off if I felt like I was about to get myself in to trouble (did I mention I'm a chicken?) We were able to rail the wooden elevated trails and the slalom type stuff just fine. I would probably still trim about an inch off of each end of the bars just for the extra clearance, but that is me.

Relaxed and ready to  go!

 After having such a great experience with the Lust for the past week, I decided to race the Lust at the Wyco's Revenge Mountain Bike Race Saturday night. It's always a little nervewracking to ride a bike other than your own in a race. Espescially when the shifters are so different (still getting the hang of gripshift) but the ride on the Lusthad been so solid, familiar, yet improved, that I felt confident. And very excited and appreciative that Heather and Giant were being so generous with their very nice equipment. I signed up for the Sprint course- 8 miles of fun. We had 7 girls in our class so I was really hoping to finish in the top half, but mostly I wanted to ride hard and have fun.

         Once I got a couple miles in to the trail, I noticed something I hadn't noticed before. The harder I rode this bike, but the better it rode! As we got further down the trail I was feeling more and more confident in how the bike was handling, and kept picking up the pace bit by bit. Every time we'd hit a climb or technical area the Lust really showed her stuff, and we started passing people. With about three miles to go I passed Paige Crain, who had been setting the pace and holding first place for much of the race. As Heather always says, you can ride a lot harder, and suffer a lot more in first place than you can in second, and she is right! Once I passed Paige I opened up the throttle a tid bit more, let it go in the corners and just really let the bike do its thing. It was a blast!
       The Schwalbe Racing Ralphs held great on the corners and held tight to the rocks, even on the off-camber rock garden where I always get nervous. My one quibble with the bike is that I had a hard time down shifting and slamming on the brakes at the same time with the gripshift. I'm sure it can be done... but it seemed like there was a lot going on in my hand to be able to execute dumping 3 gears while panic-braking. Maybe I should try not panic brake, you think?

     I've had a great time getting the VIP treatment, but now it's your turn. All of the bikes Heather and I rode this week and then some will be available for the public to ride this weekend at the Ride Life Ride Giant Demo Event. From 10-3 this Saturday, Oct 12 you can  try hardtails, cross-country full suspension, plush full suspension, road bikes, and more. We'll have food and drinks, and we'll do a couple of led mountain and road rides too. We have a trail route that will be marked, as well as an 8 mile road route. So come out and get the VIP treatment and ride top-of-the-line bikes for free at Shelter 9 at Wyandotte County Lake. Get more info @ www.thewheelcyclery.com