Thursday, July 4, 2013

Rigid 29er smackdown

Regular reader(s) may have noticed a recurring theme in my bike posts: too many bikes. I'm working to downsize my fleet of seven. The Globe is already gone, courtesy of Craigslist. I have the hardworking Soma Doublecross for sale right now. Others may soon join this list: today, I spent the morning at the Alum Creek beginner trail, doing comparison laps between my Blackbuck:

and my Soma Juice:

(My apologies for these poor photos, I thought they would turn out better with my wagon as a backdrop)

Like a total bike nerd, I drug both bikes into the woods, far enough from the road (and it was early enough) that I could semi-confidently leave one leaning against a tree while I lapped the other.

I started off on the Blackbuck. Right away, I liked the low riding position--I have the EBB nearly as low as it will go--and the sharp handling. It also seemed to accelerate a bit better than the Juice, but that may just be my perception. The ride isn't as smooth, so it feels faster.

Jumping to the Juice, it felt tall (seat height) but narrow (Mary bars vs. a normal riser bar). Definitely lazier handling than the Blackbuck, it kind of arced through the corners, where the Blackbuck can square them off if needed. It did have a notably smoother ride than the BB, however. Kind of a Cadillac of rigid mountain bikes, if there could be such a thing.

Between these two bikes, I was looking forward to the Blackbuck laps, and just kind of tolerating the Soma laps. So the Blackbuck is the keeper, right? I just wish I liked the looks better.

This got me wondering: could I get the best of everything? Quick handling and smooth ride? 10 minutes of wrench twiddling in the parking lot gave me this:

Ignoring the clashing color for a moment (if possible), I kind of like the way the curved Blackbuck for goes with the curved tubes on the Soma. The lower fork (by about 30mm), and the lower bar position, did help drop my center of gravity noticeably, but not down as low as I felt on the Blackbuck. Steering was also definitely better for me: quicker, sharper, more responsive to my inputs. It was good, if not quite as good as I felt on the Blackbuck, but much better than my regular Fargo V2 fork.

Today's smackdown is actually kind of a punt: I'm not in love with either of these bikes, and they're both threatened by an upcoming frame that I hope will give me quicker handling, normal looks, and a low bottom bracket. Stay tuned!

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