(Specialized Stumpjumper 29")
Building on the increasing buying power of a category of Poles, and the ability of some of them to easily afford themselves whims, Specialized has launched an original marketing operation in Poland: In the background of any MTB marathon, one can borrow for free a bike of his choice (most 29ers from Spec) against a deposit (about 500zl, 120€). The only condition is to return the bike, at least the frame, in the same state. The goal, of course, is to sell them in the future...
It did not fall into deaf ears, and my neighbour Wojtek, who himself is a great fan of mountain biking marathons, did it a couple of times last year. Despite having bought a brand new carbon KTM this year, he did not resist to the temptation of renting again an aluminium Stumpjumper Comp 29, in order to get his own opinion about 29ers... The event occured on 19/05 in Wałbrzych, but unfortunately on a Saturday which did not enable me to take part. However, bikes are usually lent for the whole week-end, and Wojtek planned to return it on Monday morning only.
Without knowing any of this yet, I had already negociated with my wife a quick bike ride on Sunday morning on my favourite pet mountain Ślęża (pronounce "Shlenja" !), taking advantage of the brilliant weather and totally dry soil, which hadn't happened for ages. Wojtek and me were chatting on Facebook around midnight, discussing his race rankings. When I told him about my Sunday plan, he suddenly answered "Eric, would you like this bike for tomorrow morning ?". In the first seconds, I told myself "Come on, it's midnight...". He seemed to read in my mind and added "I'll be down the building with the steed in a minute, it's not a problem. Just bring it back before twelve, another will ride it in the afternoon !". Then I told myself I won't have often the occasion to try a 29er, what's more such a machine... Looking at me on the balcony, the Tomac, completely fresh, oiled and pumped optimally, seemed sad about this infidelity. "Sorry to have unpacked you for nothing, mate. It's just a one-night stand".
Few minutes later, the glittering black and red Specialized was standing next to him, like a big brother. I look like a child's toy, told me sadly the Tomac, as I unscrewed his pedals to mount them on the Specialized. Come on, I cheered him up. You're fully amortized, not him. As I went to bed, Dorota whispered "What the hell were you up to ? One o'clock and you're going riding at six tomorrow ?". Few hours later, as I was driving in the sunrise, I got an SMS from her : "Eric, you forgot your bike !".
For this ride I had planned to try as well a new route on Ślęża, bagging both summits of Ślęża and Radunia, using an optimized itinerary that compiles the best both has to offer. What's more I brought the helmet-cam I purchased last year to record the best moments. The whole route cumulates 1000m of elevation in 30km, which makes a significant training.
My first impression is that contrary to what is commonly said about 29ers, the wider wheels do not penalize so much the handling, at least on this bike: rims and tubeless tires were of excellent quality, making wheels very light. I don't know if the same can be stated on every 29er. As I rode the first descents and bumpy sections, the evidence that 29 inches wheel perform better came to my eyes; this despite the bike is only half amortized. The increased centrifugal force also makes the bike more stable and helps to go through technical sections at low speed, which I could verify while making it to the steep top of Ślęża. And during descents, we can reach phenomenal speed on rocky sections, for example in places where earlier, with my previous half-amortized 26" bike (a blue Specialized I had some time here), my bones were shaking in every possible direction and the bike felt it would collapse at any moment. None of this with the 29er, despite in some moments I was wishing it would be a full 29" sussie...
Apart the fact this is a 29er, few words about the rest of the bike. The shape of the frame is magnificent, optimized in every single part. We can see that the shape of the alu results from complex computer-aided calculations of material resistance. The ten speeds of the derailleur as well as the two plateaus change perfectly, you just click the button, with no excessive force, and it works immediately, like a computer game... All other details of the bike are of high standard. To summarize, you feel like being on rails, and all you need to worry about is to pedal...
My route on Ślęża had been longer than what I previouly used to do as a training here, plus the photos and films I made, so I cannot compare the time, but I have the slight feeling everything went faster than usually.
I recorded many films of uneven quality, which I assembled into four parts of the ride around Ślęża. Unfortunately, I don't have so much money to invest into a Gopro, and the camera I currently have doesn't have a wide-angle neither a stabilizator, so it doesn't render as faithfully as I would like the feeling of speed in some sections. But believe me, it was going really fast in some moments, especially in the fourth film.