Come ride Tsali, again for the first time!

The popular Tsali Recreation Area has long been a top destination for mountain biking in Western North Carolina, and even the entire eastern US. Containing nearly 40 miles of trails in a system with four excellent loops, it has been rated as one of the top 10 places to ride in the USA. The area is located on a hilly peninsula reaching into beautiful Fontana Lake, at the base of the Great Smoky Mountains. The four long main trails at Tsali wind along the lake shore and onto the wooded, steep interior ridges. There are several connector trails, gravel roads and extension trails that give a few more options for rides besides the main loops. Three designated overlooks along the trails provide sweeping views of Fontana Lake with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the other side. The trails are fast, hardpacked singletrack, and they’re extremely well designed and well used. Trails alternate use between mountain bikers and horseback riders on different days; two will always be open to mountain biking. There is a $2.00 trail use fee for one day.

Tsali’s jumping off point is the end of FR 1286, where the trailhead, campground, and boat launch are located. See below for directions to the trailhead.

History
“Tsali” is the name of a Cherokee Indian man who gave his life so that some of his people could stay in the Great Smoky Mountains region. In 1838, during the US government-ordered removal of the Cherokee nation to Oklahoma, Tsali and several others managed to escape the brutality and hide in the mountains. In an agreement to let some of the Cherokee stay, he, his oldest son, and his brother-in-law volunteered themselves as sacrifices for their people. They were executed and buried a community that is now under the waters of Fontana Lake. Tsali was survived by his wife and youngest son. They, and over 1000 others who had hidden in the mountains, returned to their homes and were finally allowed to remain. Generations later, their descendents form the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indian, some of whom live on the Qualla Boundary reservation in the town of Cherokee and in the surrounding region today.

Crowds
Tsali can indeed be quite crowded on summer weekends. In fact, a lot of locals will tell you it’s just too crowded to even ride here. Don’t let this deter you, however, if you can only visit on a weekend. The parking lot will probably be pretty full. But actually finding a place to park is usually not a problem unless there’s an event such as a race going on. While on the trails, you might encounter other riders frequently – so keep that in mind as you pick up speed. Despite this, the trails are hardly ever so crowded that you can’t find seclusion. On a recent Sunday hike on Left Loop, I walked 2.5 miles without seeing a single mountain biker, though the parking lot was nearly full. Even on the most crowded days, you can often ride for miles without seeing anyone else. To avoid the crowds entirely, try to visit during the week.

Heat
Yes, hiking is allowed on all the trails on any day – but bring your bike unless you want to roast in the hot sun like I did in August 2007 without the breeze you get as you cruise down the trail on two wheels. It bears mentioning that the trails at Tsali can be open and sunny. The area is also at a relatively low elevation, and large clearcuts along with open, treeless expanses along the rocky lake shore can make for some truly miserable heat during the summer. Bring plenty of water here and watch for signs of heat exhaustion. If you’re like me, you won’t be able to resist a dip in cold, clear Fontana Lake at some point during or after your ride.

Content borrowed from http://www.mtbwnc.com

A missed ride

Another day passes, and I haven’t been on the bike. Been two weeks, I’d bet. Oh, I’ve ridden a couple of bikes around the parking lot of the shop, but the “weapon” hasn’t been out of its stand.

I’m kinda bumming about it. I hate having a nice bike, and I love the joy of riding. But the weather, my hyper-extended thumb, a couple of broken ribs, and work has gotten in the way. Unlike Scott Baste, I couldn’t muster the strength and frosty footed fortitude to get the bike out for a spin.

I did go to the shop today, and when I came back, I brought some flat BMX pedals and an air pump so I could make it ready. The air pump was necessary since Bern Peters left the air out of the front tire. I figured that if I had the parts, maybe I could find the will. No way.

Oh yeah- there is 6 inches or more snow out there. Would have been fun. Or maybe not. The snow can drive your drivetrain batty.

But, this week we get to see a warm up in the weather. So, later this week we should be done with the snow and maybe it will dry out enough to get out and take a spin. Maybe just up Deep Creek and Indian Creek. The climb will do me good. Maybe I’ll drive out to Tsali and recheck the trail damage done by the weather. Maybe I’ll just ride the bike to the shop instead of driving. I just heard that gas will be $4 a gallon this spring.

Regardless, I really miss being on the bike. Just the flow of zipping along, the numbing of the mind as I spring along trails I know so well. I love to push the threshold to the edge and get that buzz in the head and keep the cranks turning.

Some day soon.

A ride at Tsali

As I get out of my truck and start to put on my gear, I feel excited. I love to ride my mountain bike, and Tsali is a fantastic place to ride. A grin from ear to ear, a quickening of my pulse, and the early stages of an adrenalin rush fill me. I grab my helmet, hydration pack, gloves, and pull my trusty steed out of the bed of the truck and finish my preparations. The weather today is perfect, which is to say that it isn’t raining.

I jump on my bike and head out on Left Loop, my favorite of the four. Within moments I am on the trail snaking along the terrain. The rush of the breeze as I gain speed fills my ears. Peace overcomes me as I ride. Whatever is troubling me is whisked off my shoulders as I fly along. I forge a quick bond between the bike and the trail; the contact patch of my tire on the earth serving to link my soul with nature. I come over a little rise in the trail and there is the lake, a beautiful but abrupt change in the scenery where water meets dirt. Left Loop traces the water’s edge for quite a long time, never far from view for the first four miles.

Tsali recreation area is a peninsula of land owned by the US Forest Service located along Highway 28 on the border of Graham and Swain Counties. The area juts out into Lake Fontana and as you look north everything you see across the lake is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Tsali (SA lee), the T is silent in the Cherokee tongue, takes its name from a great Cherokee Indian chief who willingly sacrificed his life to spare the lives of many of his people during the 1830s in the great Cherokee roundup that preceded the Trail of Tears march.

As I round a bend, Left Loop offers the first of a handful of creek crossings, none of which are more than an inch or two deep. A brisk splash on the legs can be invigorating. The trail sports roots and ruts and rocks, but none so much as to ruin the ride; just little reminders to choose your line wisely and offer a bit of a challenge. It’s beautiful out here. On the edge of the trail something rustles in the leaves. A squirrel? A grouse? A fox? A bear? Quickly, I speed by and guess that it must be a squirrel, but it could have been anything.

There are four trails at Tsali, which encompass 42 miles of riding bliss. All four trails are intermediate in difficulty. Riders should have bicycle handling skills and a decent level of fitness. The trails have a healthy dose of uphill and downhill sections, nothing too steep, but having a good skill base will help make the day more enjoyable. Right Loop, Left Loop, Mouse Branch, and Thompson Loop are the four trails and they are all fun, flowing single track trails, wide enough for only one rider. The trails accommodate bicycling traffic and horse traffic on different days. Please review the signs posted at the Tsali trailhead so you know which days to ride which trails. All four trails have suggested routes of travel. Please ride the trails in the correct directions and on the correct days. A head on collision with a horse or another rider is no fun.
Around the next bend is a bit of climb. Not short nor steep, but a nice, steady climb that puts the burn to the legs. I’m out of the saddle to get a bit more leverage, watching the lake disappear from view as I climb inland. The trees change here; they’re much taller and the underbrush is thin because of the thick canopy. In winter you can see a long way, but in summer the green glow of leaves is pervasive. As I climb, I slow a bit just taking a moment to look at the drainage of the creek, the result of an ice age long ago that cleaved these mountains. The Appalachians were once the tallest mountain range in the world; time has worn them down to a more manageable size for a bike.

At the top of this pull, I stop to catch my breath. Another amazing view. Trees in every direction. Just a well worn path on the ground, a golden hue to the soil as it guides me along. Since every uphill leads to a downhill, this is where the fun begins. Bombing down the path, swerving in and out of the trees, the scenery takes on a very different visage. My vision becomes tunnel-like, more of a blur as I pick up speed. I allow the bike’s suspension to do its job; I just bend my knees and elbows and allow the bike some freedom, enjoying the rush I have rightly earned by pedaling up that hill. I remember to slide my weight backward to get my weight over the back tire to help with braking. At the bottom, there is a little bridge to cross. A quick right turn and it’s back out of the saddle again, climbing up to another ridge line. The forest opens a little more here, and a deer jumps off the trail and freezes, trying to figure out what the heck I am. The tail goes up, a white mast as she bounds off to safety.

The trails intersect here. Do I go right or left? Just what did Robert Frost say? Had he been here? Left or right? How much more do my legs have? Aw heck, left it is.

Trail Information
Trails are open year-round.

Mouse Branch: Total Distance 7.2 miles. Direction: Clockwise Bike Use: Tues, Thur, Sat

Thompson Loop: Distance 7.4 miles. Direction: Counter clockwise Bike Use: Tues, Thur, Sat

Right Loop: Distance 11.2 miles. Direction: Counter clockwise Bike Use: Mon, Wed, Fri, Sun

Left Loop: Distance 11.9 miles. Direction: Clockwise Bike Use: Mon, Wed, Fri, Sun

Gotta Get Myself Some New Sunglasses

Forget what ZZ Top said in their song “Cheap Sunglasses” back in the day. A pair of riding glasses is essential to the experience for almost any ride, at almost any time. I have two, three, no, four, maybe five pairs now. Got them for everything. Love sunglasses. Let’s examine what I have, and why.

When Diane and I found the Spokiz (spokiz.com)brand, we were quite intrigued by the prospect of sunglasses that don’t adhere to your head. This sweet setup amounts to weed-wacker nylon cables that are bound together and wrap around your head to secure the glasses on and not hit those little bony protrusions behind your ears. They do not have interchangeable lenses, at least not yet. So, for your money, you get glasses with one color lenses, either clear, ultra bright yellow, black, or amber. I used the black lenses first, since I don’t want people to see my eyes when I ride. They were wonderful for full daylight riding and just generally hanging out. However, they were not at all practical for low light riding, like afternoons or evenings at Tsali. So, I now have the amber lenses, and they seem to do a better job of transmitting light, so they are brighter for low light conditions, yet still dark enough for bright daylight.

I love the cable – not ear piece – design. Perfect for dropping them off your eyes and around your neck when riding or going inside and out. I always used to push my glasses up on my head or hat and then would take off the hat, and presto, the glasses were on the floor, or worse! With this cool invention of wrap technology, we have eliminated the sunglass hat toss. One small drawback. When leaving your favorite coffee shop, you need both hands to tighten the straps around your head. So, you have to have a place to put down the cup of coffee, or whatever you are holding.

Another awesome part of these glasses, especially for Diane and I, are that the amber and black lenses are polarized! Yes, so now your favorite biking glasses also let you see the trout in the water! This is great. So, one pair of glasses for everything.

Or so I thought.

The other day, we got in a pair of Tifosi glasses (www.tifosioptics.com)with the new Backcountry Orange lenses. They look awesome right out of the box. Back to pushing the glasses up on the hat when you aren’t wearing them, but still they look cool. And I need all the help I can get. So, off to Tsali to ride with these new lenses and to see the world through orange tinted glasses. Whoa. The orange color brightens the darks and increases contrast and dims the brights. Seems like a bunch of stuff for one pair of glasses. But, they do. And, they are photochromatic. Which is a big word and not in the word processor’s dictionary. They change the amount of light they let through by changing the darkness of the lens. You knew that already. But these things really worked for Tsali and the semi-dark conditions that the trail brings along. Going from open spaces and bright light to darker, dimmer wooded sections really posed no problems. And, unlike some colored lenses, my head didn’t hurt from the color distortion. I really don’t dig yellow lenses for that reason. Not everyone has this issue, but I don’t like the pallor of yellow lenses.

But, there is no wearing these when riding at night. And, they aren’t polarized, so no seeing the fish.

So, I have another pair of Tifosi’s for riding at night. They have clear lenses, so they don’t do anything but protect my precious vision from unruly sticks and brush. Since I wear contact lenses, I need to wear glasses when I ride so my lenses don’t dry out, as well. Something with a full-ish coverage, so I don’t take a stick to the corner of my eyeball. I hate when that happens.

And, let’s not forget the very cool (too me) pair of Oakley’s I have that are the older, huge, bug looking riding glasses with vents top and bottom. The frame is red, the lenses are that cool changing prismatic red color. No seeing my eyes with these guys on. They are really dark. I look just like Lance when I wear these, Lance circa 2001, about 100 pounds heavier. But, still.

And, let’s not forget my old fishing glasses, my Costa Del Mar’s. Oh my. I love those glasses, even though I haven’t put them on in about a year and a half. And after that, I bet I can root around and find a few more pairs. Oh yeah, the Night Tifosi’s, which have photochromatic lenses that are clear-ish, but still block the UV rays. But, can’t wear them at night. Still too dark.

Cheap sunglasses? No way. Why? Cause I love to be able to see. Cheap sunglasses almost always distort your vision in some way. I like to be able to see what I am looking at. And, I don’t lose stuff. Not much stuff, anyway. I almost never lose sunglasses, so I don’t feel that I am throwing away money on getting good ones. I think of them as an investment. Plus, all these guys that I talk about offer some warranty on lenses or offer replacements for a low price.

These are my ramblings on sunglasses.

2011 bikes on the way

Check out the newest bikes from Kona, Marin, and Eastern on the Bike Shop page of our website. These are the bikes that we will be stocking for the new season. Some will be available before Christmas, some not until afterwards. We have been listening to our faithful customer base and find one thing that is clear: More entry level, price conscious bikes, and more big dawg full suspension and 29er offerings. With that, we have ordered bikes to have on the floor. We will try to provide most of the sizes of each type of bike, so you can find the one that fits you best, and take it home with you while you are at the shop.

We also heard the folks who are pining for road bikes. We will have a fleet of Marin Argentas available for rentals. We will bring these in during the Spring months, so we can offer you a thrilling road ride right out of our shop along the Road to No Where. We are also looking to bring aboard a new manufacturer so we can hit a nice niche market with road bikes. We won’t tip our hand before we sign the paperwork, but look for a new marquee for BCB.

We’d like to carry other cool bikes, too. We tried with the Kona Ute, some nice comfort and cruiser bikes, and a range of $750 to $1500 bikes. But, we see that these things don’t sell well here. So, we are going to thin our broad offering and stick with the meat and potatoes approach and have great Mountain Bikes, Road Bikes, and the Comfort Bikes that work best. We can still special order any bike in any line from our suppliers, but will change what we have in the store.

We still have a few 2009 and 2010 bikes here at the shop, and are willing to make some deals to move them out. We will also bring in new helmet lines, increase our Fox and Shebeest riding apparel, and maybe add some new skateboards.

We believe that you, our loyal fans and customers will continue to show and tell us what you want, and we will strive to provide it with the same hand working, friendly, fun atmosphere we have shown you for the last 16 months. (yeah, today is 16 months!)

Scott Baste reviews his new purchase, the Marin Nail Trail 29er

Scott Baste is a local rider from Franklin, NC. He and I have ridden a couple of times, and he was in the market for a new 29er geared bike. He researched the Marin Nail Trail along with a few others, like the Gary Fisher, and decided to buy from us. Here is his review:

well i got to take the nail tail 29er out for it’s first trail ride today. now i’m not a writer or professional bike reviewer but i have owned 15 or so mountain bikes going all the way back to 1982 fully rigid models. after having a few dual suspension bikes, i decided to go back to hard tail for the light weight and more responsive feel.

today we took the bikes out for a good shake down run. the ride started with a steep grunt uphill and at first i was getting used to the bike and it felt a little light in the front end. since it was a wall from the start i didn’t worry too much. the bike did feel a bit twitchy at first. that i think is due to the much steeper head angle than my other 29er (a single speed from a different company one that rhymes with wisher). after cresting the first hill, we started on a rough ridge ride with lots of ups and downs as well as a lot of eroded areas as this is not a true trail but some dirt roads that 4 wheelers use. the bike was starting to feel better at that point. it likes to go fast. down hills were very good too. it feels like it tracks really well and despite anything the trail served up, the bike felt like part of me. then we got to the single track. this is a trail that i have been riding since the early 80’s with all types of configurations. the set up on the bike was just right. i was able to climb the big logs and drop the big drops. in the air the bike handled predictably. not too many switchbacks on the trail we were riding today but the 2 or 3 we encountered were fine with the bike very capable of handling the sharp turns. as a tall rider, my bikes always tend to have long wheelbases and that contributes to tougher time making switchbacks. it seemed like i was able to ride a tighter line than usual on these tight places. after the first 3 hours, i had the bike dialed in and it didn’t feel twitchy any more. i dialed down the fork one notch and that seemed to help the front end stay where i wanted it better. the climbing got better too. since i have been riding single speed so much, i am used to standing and pedaling which worked fine but it took a couple of big climbs to reaquaint myself with seated pedaling. by the end of the ride it was working great.

the only nit i had with the bike which isn’t the fault of anyone was that the stock tires are not what i would have chosen and i will be replacing them soon. where i ride we tend to have a lot of leaf matter on the trails which never seems to clear off. mud is usually not a problem but i think that is what the tires i have would be great for (mud and maybe hard pack). personally, i prefer a more agressive lug pattern like on the bontrager jones tires.

other than that the bike worked great. no bolts came loose and no on trail adjustments needed. something i can’t say for the last few bikes i have bought from other dealers.

once again i would like to thank BCB for the great service and support you have shown thus far. feel free to share this review if you think that it will be helpful to anyone.

The right way to start 2010

Come join the Subaru/IMBA Trail Care Crew, the members of the SORBA Board of Directors and the IMBA Regional Advisory Council for a weekend of learning, riding, sharing, and fun at the Nantahala Outdoor Center.
The weekend offers participants the opportunity to learn about maintaining trail in the classroom and on the Tsali Trail. Share your experiences in mountain bike advocacy and learn about exciting mountain bike projects in the Southeast. Then ride and enjoy the spectacular trails of western North Carolina.

Registration fees include cover admission to IMBA Trail Care Crew events, lunch and dinner on Saturday, group rides, on-site transportation, and the Saturday night social.

For further information about the event schedule, contact Tom Sauret at tom@sorba.org

Click here to register at the IMBA site.

Christmas came and went, here is 2010!

We can’t say thank you enough for helping make Bryson City Bicycles a success in its first year. If this year- in a bad economy, in a down year, with all the rain- can be this good, let’s hurry up and get out of the damp recession so we can see what a good year looks like!

Hasn’t been above 32 degrees for 5 days now. While we are getting used to the cold, I’m ready for spring. People have been renting bikes and going out on the trails. I am still busy getting rid of this chest cold, but I’ll be out riding in a few days. Training for the Icycle race at Fontana Dam Village.

I’m sure that by now everyone has heard about my encounter with the bear that tumbled down the hill and landed on the trail near me, right? Awesome encounter.

Looking forward to the creation of the Tsali Area Mountain Biking Association. Mark it on your calender, the weekend of March 19th through the 21st. That weekend we’ll have the IMBA trail crew here, and the rest of the fun festivities that got postponed last year. More to come on this really great way to protect and improve Tsali trails.

Getting ready to order the new rental bikes for the fleet. 29ers, here we come!

12/22/2009: Headed towards Christmas

Beautiful day here in BC. The sun finally burned through the clouds around noon. Should hit 52 degrees, and be good for a ride.

Gonna start to train for the Icycle race at Fontana Dam Village at the end of January. I’m looking forward to doing more winter riding. I really liked riding with my new tights on the other day. Warm and dry rocks!

I’ve only been out on the new frame once, but it was really nice. Duro tires sent up some tires for me to try out. Since I have been looking for a new rear tire, this is a huge help. Can’t wait to put it to the test.

Weather report looks good for the next bunch of days, should be good riding between now and the end of the year.

Turning 39 next Monday. Not sure how that’s gonna go…

Product review: Marin Nail Trail 29er

I have been riding the Nail Trail 29er for the last 5 months, and want to offer my opinion of the bike. I know that for some, the allure of riding the big wheeled bike has been amazing. There are many, however, that have not taken the plunge. I would like to remedy that by offering what I hope is an interesting review of Marin’s flagship 29 inch wheeled bike.

After riding a 26 inch wheeled bike for so many years, the 29er seems strange. How can bigger wheels really make a difference? Why does the bike ride so very differently? And lastly, can I get a tube that size?

We all know the reasons for NOT riding a 29er, but let’s list them anyway. 1. Big wheels must be slower. 2. Must handle slowly, or turn sluggishly. 3. Gotta be a fad, no one’s gonna ride these in two years, then I’ll be stuck with this thing, like the betamax or a palm pilot.

At first, I am sure that 29ers were just regular 26 inch bikes with extra clearance, so people stuck the 29 inch wheels in the drops and, viola, there was a 29er. Then, manufacturers just enlarged a frame so that they could fit 29 inch wheels into any bike. Now, 29ers are built and engineered from the ground up to take advantage of the benefits of the big wheels. Today, there are many companies that have a fleet of 29ers and many companies just built around the big bikes. Marin offers four different 29 variations, with more to come. I ride the Nail Trail 29er, which is their best spec’ed offering.

Looking at the bike, you can see the differences, but you have to look closely. If I put the Nail Trail in a stand near the window, with no other bikes around it, you can’t tell visually that the bike is different from a 26. It all looks proportional, even though I ride a 20.5″ model. The wheels don’t look like they are on a jacked up 76 Chevy truck, or 20’s on a Camaro. The bike has a visual distinction, but it isn’t out of place. The bike flows very well, and the top tube curves gracefully away from the handlebars and joins the seat tube for a comfortable stand over height. The seat stays and chain stays are attractive as well, they are built of tubing, but squared up, something that Marin calls E4 antiflex chain and seat stays. The downtube is huge where it butts up against the head tube and amazingly wide at the bottom bracket junction. Read more about this here: frame technology

One great thing about the bike is that you feel like you are in the bike, not on it. You really have the ride one to understand this. The axles are higher than the bottom bracket, so your center of gravity is lower on the bike, but you still have incredible ground clearance. You kind of sit down in the bike, not on top of it. Next, the wheels are taller, so you increase you angle of attack. Liken it to this, which would have more momentum? Rolling a tennis ball over a speed bump, or rolling a basketball over the same speed bump? The basketball hits the bump higher up, so it continues to roll, keeping the momentum as it goes over the bump. No longer do you have to pick and choose your line as you rip down the trail, you can just go over things more easily. Stutter bumps and roots no longer stop you in your tracks, you just flow over them.

Another thing about these big wheels– with some simple math, a 26 inch wheel has a circumference of about 81 inches. The circumference of a 29 inch wheel is 91 inches. Wow. That means for every pedal stroke, you gain 10 inches of travel on your smaller buddies. (You get the idea, you go further using the same energy.) So, now you get to go further and keep your momentum, which means you will be faster.

Let’s now talk about turning the big beast. The bigger wheel will indeed cause you to turn more slowly, since the larger tire will increase your turning radius. The Nail Trail 29er has a very fast 71.5 degree head tube angle. Now the rocket science. The steeper the head tube angle, the faster you can turn the bike. So, the bigger the number, the faster your bike turns. (Ceteris peribus. I love Latin.) It feels snappy in the turns. Out at Tsali, on the fast, banked turns, the bike carves! It really amazes me and other people at how quickly the bike changes direction. It doesn’t plow into the corners, you just point it, and it flows along. Like water in a chute. It just goes in the right direction. It never feels like you’ll slide out or go through the turn. That might also have something to do with the center of gravity thing, but mostly, the bike actually goes where you point it, and quickly.

Last wacky notion we have to dispel- That this is just a fad. I liked my palm pilot. Thought it was a cool idea. Just never liked having to put that much information into it so that I could use it to remind me of all the things I just put into it. I like my 29er. I like that it is different, and I like that it makes me a better rider. Could it be a fad? Well, my friend Mac Brown tells me that when he was adventure racing back in the late 70s and 80s, he and his buddies were cutting up road bike wheels and making them into 29er wheels, cause they knew they were faster. That nattily attired Gary Fisher has been making 29 inch bikes for how long? 20 years? Maybe more. Fad? I think NOT!

I suspect there are many places where the 29er won’t work so well. First, on steep climbs. The gearing isn’t right. If you use a gear calculator, you will find out that when you ride a 29 inch wheel with a 34 tooth cog, you are the same as riding a 26 inch wheel with a 32 tooth cog. You turn the extra circumference at the same speed. So, to fix this, you either need to get stronger, or you have to find Shimano’s newest invention, the 12-36 29er cassette. This will give you the same gearing speed as you had on your 26 inch bike. The second place there might be a problem is on tight switchbacks. Sorry, can’t help you there. Get better balance, or something. But, with the new cassette, you can accelerate out of the turns just as quickly.

The bike has been great to date. Marin has a lifetime warranty on the frame; if you break it, just send it back and they replace it. Which is good, since my first frame failed. No worries, Marin said I was the first to break one. I ride pretty tame, no more racing down boulder strewn mountains or 6 foot gaps. Just mostly cross country riding, a little of the all mountain up and down, but nothing too taxing. The components are worthly of a high priced steed. The cranks are Shimano Hollowtech II, the brakes are SLX, the rear derailleur is an XT. The front fork is a Fox R. Let me tell you, a Fox fork is worth every penny. Soaks up the bumps so well, it’s like they aren’t even there. The wheelset leaves me scratching my head, though. A rather unflattering set of WTB laserdisc 29s on Shimano hubs. I blew out the back wheels within 2 months. I actually downgraded to a lower priced WTB wheel while trying to decide on new wheels, and it works better. No truing, no floppy spokes. Maybe a bit heavier, but really, not much.

Marin added something pretty cool to the new 2010 version- an integrated headset. I like the thought of this, since it spreads the stress of all things turning related out over a larger area in the head tube. Should make the beast more sturdy. I don’t know about it, since I am still riding my 2009. I would love to ride this bike with a 20mm through axle or a Maxle, something else to reduce the wiggle in the front forks. But, I am a big dude, so I guess it might not bother a lighter weight rider.

I love my bike. It does make me a better rider. It handles great, it feels great, and it looks good doing it. It’s fast, it gets over bumps with less effort, and I feel very secure on it. Try one out at our shop. In the spring we’ll have a whole fleet of them for you to ride, or just trust me and buy one. You won’t regret it.