The Mountain Bike Life

Anyone who knows me will tell you I am not a fan of climbing. Of course to be a good climber you have to be fit, which unfortunately right now I am not. It doesn’t help that my trail bike weighs 38lbs either. Now I am not lazy, I prefer the term efficient. Why do extra work if you don’t have to? So I am always looking for something that would help me be more efficient. I think I may have found the answer…

Niner bikes demo at Tech Valley Cycles in Malta, NY


For a while now I’ve been looking into bikes with bigger wheels but just could never commit. I mean all I’ve ever ridden are bikes with 26” wheels. Going to a new size would change everything. New tires, new wheels, different geometry and handling characteristics. It’s a major change from status quo and way out of my comfort zone. Good bikes aren’t cheap so I did the next best thing, demo them. This is the best way to know if you like something, try it out.

But Where?

The bike companies know this so they have demo fleets that go around the country so you, the consumer, can ride the latest and greatest and hopefully buy one. One of the best places I have found to demo bikes is a mountain biking festival like NEMBAfest. Each year the organizers bring together tons of vendors just for your enjoyment. The best part about this is that you can go ride the bike and when you get back from your ride, talk directly to a company rep if you have any questions.

Rocky Mountain Element 930 demoed at NEMBAfest. Nice bike but too XC oriented for me.

Another place to check is with your local mountain bike club. Every year clubs like the Saratoga Mountain Bike Association put on events and bring vendors out, again for your benefit, to allow you to try out what they got. SMBA’s annual Mix up the Dirt event, dubbed MUD because many times it has rained the day before or the day of, usually brings not only bike companies like Trek and Specialized to your local trail but also some of the local bike shops.

SMBA’s MUD event at “The Stables” in Saratoga Springs, NY

Which brings me to my next location, bike shops. Some, but not all bike shops have demo fleets. Even if they can’t let you demo the bike on the trail, you could take it for a ride around the parking lot or even the block. Yes, this won’t give you a great idea of how it handles on the trail but it will give you a good idea of how you fit on the bike and how comfortable it feels. Another benefit to talking to a bike shop is  the amount of experience they have in fitting riders to their bikes. I know not all bikes shops are great but where I live there are several very reputable bike shops that are honest, helpful, and a pleasure to deal with.

Niner Jet 9 RDO I demoed at Tech Valley Cycles. Amazingly light, super fast and very nimble.

 You could also ask one of your buddies that already has a big wheeled bike to try it out. Just take into account that the bike was set up for them not you, it may not be the best measure of whether or not you like the bike. As for me I demoed enough big wheeled bikes to know there is something about the larger diameter and bigger contact patch that cannot be dismissed as a fad. While riding a Yeti SB95 at NEMBAfest last year, I was killing all the rough stuff downhill and still able to climb comfortably. I know the bike is lighter than what I currently ride but it’s not just that. While we were riding today we were talking about 29er’s. In fact one of the guys we were riding with had one, and he was crushing everything. He happened to be a Pro mountain biker but still, it shows what the bike can do.

Giant Trance X. 29er’s can be formidable trail weapons in the right hands.

I bit the bullet and bought a Titus Racer X 29er frame with a Fox F29 fork used. I built it up with some parts I had lying around but the drivetrain and the wheelset are new. Haven’t really ridden it hard yet. Going to hit the Holyoke Range Trails tomorrow. I’ll keep you all up to speed on how it changes my riding, hopefully for the better.

My new-to-me Titus Racer X on it’s first ride at Schenectady Central Park in Schenectady, NY

So if you’re curious like me, get out there and try one out. You never know what might happen. Maybe you’ll even get to meet the founding father of mountain biking.

Got to meet Gary Fisher at NEMBAfest last year

What shoes should you be wearing with flat pedals?
Paul's Dirty Enduro

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