Hey everyone, I just got back from an awesome weekend of riding and thought I'd put up my little blurb on our adventure.
Saturday April 16th we rode approximately 4.5hrs in Dupont State Forest and on Sunday as a recovery we rode a 2 hour "up and down" route in Pisgah National Forest.
My basic summary is: WOW!
For those in the hankering for pictures, here's a link:
Now to give a short background, I'm an Ontario, Canada rider of intermediate skill (for those that know Hardwood Hills, Dagmar (R.I.P.), Albion Hills, Ravenshoe that type of stuff). I'm working out of Greenville, SC for a few months so I 'had' to make it up to NC to check out the action there.
The ride crew: one of my buds from Canada made the trek down for the weekend. I hooked up with one other person from this forum, mtnbiker66. He, his son and another fella gave us a hearty Western North Carolina welcome and showed us the trails to ensure that we had the time of our lives. One of our other riders was supposed to make it down from PA; but couldn't. After he reads this he will be sorry that he missed out.
Now here are the long details with TechNotes throughout (for the techies in all of us).
We arranged rentals from Sycamorecycles.com and when we arrived found that it was a small; but extremely well equipped shop that had just what any rider for the area would be in need of. Specialized and Santa Cruz are the main flavour and lots of Maxxis Tires. The guys working there were great. They answered all of my emails about reservations and bikes and availability and helped ensure that we had a good setup when we got there. The shop is literally at the front door to Pisgah National Forest so that's a definite plus.
After posting a few times on the forum asking about trail conditions, where to ride and where to rent from I received the most generous offer from mtnbiker66 to join him, his son and another dude on one of their weekend rides. Luckily we decide to hook up at the shop as we were over 45mins late pulling in. It's a long and windy road from Greenville, SC to Brevard. We were very thankful that they waited because I do not think we could have had 1/5 of the fun that we had without them.
I rented a Medium red Santa Cruz Blur with Vanilla RLC fork and Fox Float rear shock. Truvativ Holzfeller cranks, 185mm Avid Mechanical disc front and rear. It had Mavic x223 rims with Deore hubs (more about this later). My friend rode a large Specialized FSR Comp with XT components and Deore Hyrdo's, Mavic x317 rims and specialized hubs. My friends first experience on a Full Suspension bike and I think he fell in love.
The weather forecast was perfect. We had about 15C when we started and it warmed up quickly to over 20C with the sun we had to peel off the layers we started with. The sun was out and since the trees haven't blossomed yet lots of sun got to us. The second day started at 20C and went up a little higher from there.
I hate to say it; but I don't recall any of the trails that we were on. We were following our guides through DuPont State Forest and just trying to keep up was enough. I know we hit certain landmarks like Bridal Veil Falls and the covered wood bridge and the abandoned airstrip.
We followed our guides to the start of a trail in DuPont State Forest. It was supposed to be a little easier than starting in Pisgah. We did a quick loop to warm up and work out any kinks. I was definitely out of shape for the start of the riding season. With the Canadian winter I'll have to admit that I had no outdoor riding time, so my start was rough. The amount of hills is much tougher than in Ontario. The trails conditions are similar; but the lengths of the ups and downs are MUCH longer.
For our guides this is the ride out of their backdoor. They took us on a "moderate" ride that Saturday and to me it was like doing all of the trails at Hardwood hills; but on what felt like a 40 degree angle.
We thought it was going to be a long day; but after 4.5+ hours of riding I was ready to fall off my bike. We couldn't believe that none of our 3 'tour guides' took breaks. My buddy and I scarfed down food whenever we "paused". Our guides seemed tireless. I guess that the conditioning you get when Pisgah is your backyard. We loved every minute of it anyways. I was enjoying being able to get one some nice single-track well before the trails in Ontario dried up.
We did some simply amazing single track, some gravel road and even some pavement. The single track included DuPont State Forest's famous granite slick rock. These are granite rock outcropping where grip was tenacious except when it was wet, that's when it was close to being smooth and slippery. After seeing pictures of Moab, just imagine it with lots more trees and running water all around from the mountains. The single track was a little different than we were used to; but nothing unheard of. There were sandy sections; but more rocky sections than anything. No rock gardens to speak of; but we were on the easier trails.
The length of climbing was bordering on painful. The Blur held up really well and was set up for plushness, I wasn't used to riding with that much sag and the Vanilla RLC fork I was used to from my personal rig. I ran into a mechnical on the last and longest and steepest climb. My rear Deore freehub FROZE. It was like riding a fixed track bike. Ok that doesn't sound bad until you realize 2 things. If you coast, the chain wraps and throws itself and trying to start from a standing stop you have to get the pedals around very quickly or the chain throws/bunches so you don't have any chain tension. So I fought my way up the hills and slick rock. At the end of 3 hours of riding I was not up for this at all and everyone else in our group made it up a lot faster than me. After we reached the top we removed the chain from my bike to get me back to the car because it was basically downhill all the way to the bottom. So I had no way of propelling myself but that didn't stop me from have a little fun on the way down some slick granite rock.
My friend and I were zonked completely. Exhausted could not begin to describe my feeling. We got back to Greenville (1hour 20mins drive) and boy did those showers feel good. We stuffed ourselves silly at an $8 all you can eat sirloin steak buffet. hhmmm protein!!!
Tech Note: The SC Blur with Float Rear and Vanilla up front with Avid Mech brakes. It rode very well on the up hills, I felt a little too much sag on the bike (which I understand is 40% so I wasn't kidding myself) and on level riding you could feel that it was plush, I felt a little movement; probably more than my Turner XCE. But the Turner would move more which was odd (but is in line with what other people say, that the Turner will bob but you really don't feel it). Singletrack and uphill it was great, no problems. Really labelling this as the perfect trail bike. Doing jumps etc felt good and I was in control on the descents because of the vanilla fork. The rear, I felt, was much better on my coil over Vanilla RC. Maybe there wasn't enough air in the shock as I believe they pumped it up to 190lbs for me. But that was my ONLY comment (I wouldn't call this negative), that the rear didn't seem as bottomless and plush on the LONG (compared to Ontario) downhills sections as compared to a coil. That and the fact that the Deore freehub decided to completely seize on me near the end of a great day.
We got to the end of our ride and one of our riders zipped to his house to call the shop to keep them opened so we could return the bike to see what they could do. These guys were that nice.
The next day I got the store owners Specialized Stumpjumper FSR 120 with Manitou Minute 3:00 fork and Fox Propedal float in the rear. Shimano XT cranks. I found them super stiff with no creaking at all. Also I got to try Shimano Deore XT Hydraulic disc brakes and the new dual control pods (brakes and shifting). I actually loved the brakes, the levers were the best and the braking was excellent. I quickly adapted to the shifters; but I wouldn't get them. For the front maybe but for the rear there was too much travel downward to get a shift to a higher gear. I also kept forgetting which way to push the lever (up or down). Probably after a few weeks I would forget about them and it would be much better. My only other dislike was the seatpost height. Because of the interrupted seat tube, that I didn't check before leaving the shop it was about 1" higher than it should be and I could not get the post to go farther than the "safety" weld that kept it from hitting the shock. I have a greater dislike than before with regards to interrupted seat tubes now.
The fork was nice. I didn't notice the SPV while one the long climb; but I didn't feel bob either. It was like it really knew what to do. I could push down on it and there was no "delay" or feedback at all. As for the propedal shock, it was plain invisible to me. I couldn't tell that my rear had suspension on the way up; but after launching a few lips it came alive. I can see the great desire for one of these bikes.
I wish next time that I had my own Turner XCE with me. Just having your own bike makes the ride that much more different.
The second day was a much shorter 2 hour ride. We started just a few miles from the shop in Pisgah National Forest. It is reportedly much rootier. The trails there are typical of Ontario. The trails compare to Ontario in that the rocks, roots, earth and leaves were similar; but then the grades were longer. Where we have steep up and downs they had more long shallow up and shallow downs. Shallow is a relative terms as you can get going on these trails. We did a simple run, a 1 hour+ uphill on gravel switchback type roads. It felt like a 20 degree angle; but was probably much less like 10. But after an hour like this it was tough. Climbing with this tall saddled bike was good; but descending was terrible with the saddle set a little too high. So after that long gravel road climb we were treated with the LONGEST downhill single-track run I've ever encountered in my entire life. It was pure bliss. The gravel road climb was more than worthy of this descent. Without rear suspension you could still enjoy it; but with a 4-5" bike you could just scream.
The trails are very similar to what you would find in Dagmar/Durham forest, lots of roots and sometimes rocky. But the length of the uphills and downhills was far different. Very little level riding like in Ontario; but the trail conditions were remarkably similar. Well we were bombing down and I did happen to look to one side where the drop off was enough to brake a bone or two so that was a little freaky. There were a few creek crossing and a few bridges and stunts. Their bridges are just logs. They don't really cut them flat or put planks on them. I wasn't up for these. The fall would have been 3-4ft as well and into a cold creek.
Technote on the Specialized Stumpjumper FSR 120: Good for the climb with little noticeable bob on the uphills and flats. But boy did I miss that SC Blur on the downhills. The fork and VPP on the Blur would have been a dream. Actually I was missing my own coil over for the ride down. The Specialized BG Saddle is also something I don't care for at all. Also I recall previous notes about the BB height being too low on FSR's. It was, I clipped my pedals on stuff and couldn't clear some logs that I would normally expect to. I think the Blur had a low BB height as well; but not nearly as low as the FSR. The rear brake line rubbed on my calf and when I would bottom out the rear suspension something would rub against the tire. There is a little mud fender to protect the shock (something that I liked) and I think it was the seatpost touching it and pushing it to the tire (a little unnerving). Definitely a fun bike for basic XC work.
So that's about it.
Zeal Optics note: I just received an Rx set from Zeal. This was my first rides using them. I used my brown lenses on the first day because we were in the open a lot and my clears on the second day. I can't say enough about the value of these things. They slipped down a little when they got sweaty. But the brow pad keeps the sweat out of your eyes, they never fogged and were as comfortable if not more comfortable than my normal every day glasses.