Sunday, 2 June 2013

Trek X-Caliber 29er test run

After missing yet another race due to this persistent cough I decided to take my newly acquired Trek 29er for a shake down on the Woburn circuit.
There wasn't any need to wake early, best lay in and wait for the midday sun! and take the pressure off my chest. So at just about 12 noon I set off, of course far too fast. Wheezing slightly I slipped off the road and onto the first trail, a nice uphill mud and cuttings slog. The first thing anyone jumping on a 29er notices is the ability to ride off cambers and wet slippery roots without consequence.
Another short road section calls for some lock-out action, then release it to climb the second section and another uphill one at that. Over the top and I have an arrow straight downhill. Usually you need to be cautious about the rock hard 4X4 ruts under the deep grass, but not with this baby, though I do feel the back end start to get harsh.
Road plus lock-out and I'm onto the Rushmere park trails and into the granny for the first time. Climbing this bike isn't like climbing on my old lightweight XC bike, there seems to be no reward for hooning out of the saddle. It's best to sit back and push, the stays feel short on this big bike which I like.
I'm now in Woburn Woods and the bike is faultless, so I have plenty of time to think about the pros and cons.
The acceleration IS slower, BUT the ride overall is quicker and smoother and the big wheels give you more line options.
Climbing took a while to get used to. I'd just hammer a climb out of the saddle on the old bike, but with this one it's best to sit and climb, unless the fork can be kept active then you can get over the front.
And apart from clipping a tree...wide bars you see, all seems to be better. Even the extra 4lbs didn't make itself felt. A good bike for a solo 24 hour if I ever do another.
The only hiccup was when descending in deep sand. If you don't do sand you won't believe how hard it becomes like soft cobbles? when riding it fast. I was just thinking how smooth the bike was making things on the yellow stuff, and was upping the speed. Sadly the tight deep soft bend wasn't having any of it and down I went. I stood there brushing off the sand and inspecting the damage to my that's what a power sander would do to your skin! And of course only then did any other MTBers appear, looking at me covered in sand and casting an eye over the 'snow angel' I'd made in the sand.
After the usual quick hop and hobble I set off for home.
I got back from this ride far fresher and quicker than any other time I've done it, so overall I'm happy and sold on the 29er idea.
The back of Ivinghoe Beacon on the Ridgeway LD path

 I've had the bike a few months now, so I thought I'd give a few more words ( I know a few folk have looked here for info). Well since it's purchase I've had a good few fast XC blasts, some long four hour plus rides and a 3 hour evening XC race.
Quite simply it's performed superbly. During the longer rides I felt I could just go on and knock out a steady 24 solo. It's the first mountain bike I've had that actually makes me want to ride more. One one supposedly hour long local blast I actually came back five hours later, on a single bottle and one banana!
In my 3 hour XC race I got 3rd Grand Vet. So plenty of reasons to be happy.
Downsides, or downside. It gets pretty harsh at the back end. The factory fitted hardpack tyres require fairly high pressures, or so they say. However better handling and greater comfort come with reduced pressures, but so do flats. Here in the UK we share most trails with horses, and the constant changes in the weather turn the trails into a clay version of the Belgian cobbles. So I think tubeless is the way to go, and luckily the X-Caliber comes tubeless ready, not UST so get some jollop in there.
The high end and ultra wide bars caused a few issues. In my race I had to dismount and man handle the bike through one part of the course as the bars wouldn't go through. removing 20mm off each end sorted that. I also lowered the stem and flipped it at the same time - sorted.
Ditch the grips, okay they're race grips, but I've been racing near on forty years and these are too hard.
That's it really. A quick fettle, convert to tubeless and stick on some ESI grips and you're good to go.
Recently back from a 66 mile sportive on the X-Caliber. Not an off road one, but pure road. It's a credit to this bikes ability as I did it without any changes, that includes keeping the knobblies on. In fact I've still not made any changes. I still haven't converted the 'Tubeless ready' wheelset and those hard grips still remain, even if they are wearing rapidly. Soon I expect the British winter will dictate the first change of tyres.
For the record it got me round the 66 miles in the top ten percent.
Edit; Cow bell from my trip to the Pyrenees fitted.
It's still going strong and still no changes a year later despite riding it day in day out, commuting, racing, sportives, night time training rides, mid week blasts with the mates. Next I plan to ride some winter Audax events, though I might concede to road going tyres for those.
Hell Of The North Cotswolds, stock guise

1 comment:

nomadpat said...

Appreciate your blog. I just bought this bike yesterday at the local store - sale prices on last year's models. Very happy with it - has everything you need unless you want to get into carbon ;) Happy trails!