I was thinking the other day how I came to be riding a 29" wheeled bike. You know, there aren't a lot of test rides available for these things! Espescially back in 2002. I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the process that brought me to the point that now, I wouldn't ever consider buying a 26" wheeled bike again.
I had just gotten hired to be a bike mechanic again in the fall of 2002 when everything kind of gelled together and the desire for a 29"er was born. The beginning of all of it actually goes back a bit further than that. I had found the wonderful time wasting attributes of a little web site called mtbr.com. It was then, while surfing through all the different forums, that I came across the 29"er Forum. In it, I learned about this odd mountain bike wheel standard and why it was supposed to be an improvement over what I was riding at the time. Of course, the whole idea wasn't totally alien to me, as I remember seeing bikes like the DiamondBack Overdrive, and the Bianchi Project 7 bikes. I remember that they didn't take off then, but that they didn't get bad reviews from the press, or from the few riders that knew about them. Then, after I started commuting to the bike shop on my "cyclo-cross" bike, something happened!
That was when I realized that bigger wheels actually do roll better over trail obstacles than smaller wheels do. I could tell that there was a difference when I would go back to commuting on my old Bontrager Race. So, then I see at the 2002 InterBike, that Surly had introduced a 29"er frame and fork. They called it a Karate Monkey! Wow! How cool a name was that! Game over! I put the Bontrager up for sale, and used the money to buy a Karate Monkey frame and fork in March of 2003 and I haven't looked back.
How could I do such a thing? How could I go for a bike sight unseen, and un-ridden? Well, I'd done such a thing before when in 1992 I ordered up a Klien Attitude when I'd never even seen one before! That one didn't work out for me as well as the Karate Monkey did. Expensive lesson there. But the Surly was love at first ride! I'd had all those things I'd been reading about 29"ers come to life for me as I rode it. That and the feeling of a bike that actually seemed to fit right to me. The wheels didn't seem so odd, but I immediately felt they were the right size for me. I know that it's a subjective thing, and others may or may not understand, but for me, everything was spot on. I was hooked!
So, if you ever wondered how in the world a guy from the middle of Iowa got so impassioned for 29"ers, well....................now you know!
And knowing is half the battle!
(This article was written especially for my friend "The_Smackdown" in hopes that the company he works for "gets their head out", and makes a 29"er! Love ya, man! Let's do lunch!)
Bike-sploring the Brooks Range Part 2
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