There’s not been a lot of biking going on for me so far this year. Life got crazy busy, the weather got pretty miserable and time for riding just hasn’t been happening.
But today was one of those days when everything comes together. Last week, I’d been in my favourite local bike shop, Bad Ass Bikes, bemoaning the grey sky and icy weather and somehow got talked into booking a ride on a demo Intense Tracer 275! The guys in the shop seemed to think it was exactly what I needed. I’m not sure how I got talked into it, but I’m glad I was. I was even more glad when I got up this morning (on a randomly selected day off work) and saw blue sky appearing from behind the mist. And when I went outside, the day improved even more as the biting wind we’ve been graced with for the last few weeks had vanished too. Today was going to be a good day!
First stop was the bike shop, where the guys set about getting the demo bike ready for me, adding my pedals, handlebars and saddle, to make sure I had a comfortable ride. Then we tucked the bike safely in the back of my car and headed to the Forest of Dean. I chose the location based on the fact that I know the trails there inside out, so it would be a proper testing ground for a different bike.
I’ll admit I felt pretty cynical about the whole thing. I have a lovely full-suspension bike that I enjoy riding and feel quick on. I questioned what this shiny carbon beasty in the back of my car was really going to add. I questioned it still as we made our way up the climbs at the start of the Verderers Trail. The wheels were heavy. Not only were they bigger than my usual 26″ ones, they had heavy rims and tyres that would have been overkill on anything I’ve ever ridden. The result? A bit of a slog uphill! I did really notice an improvement in geometry though, as it would appear that my (heavily customised) Trance has ended up with the pedals further in front of the saddle than they should be, resulting in a strange climbing position. So, whilst the wheels on the Intense were heavy, at least I was using the right muscles to get me up the hills!
At the top of the big climb, I was still not convinced that I was gaining anything by trying this 27.5 bike. But then I pointed the nose downhill. And, oh did it feel good! I felt so stable on the bike and couldn’t believe how responsive the front end was. When I wasn’t entirely happy with a line, I could just hoick the front wheel over to where I wanted to be and zoom off. It felt awesome!
It felt even better when I ventured off onto some of the downhill trails and introduced the bike to some roots. ‘Roots?’ the bike said, ‘what roots??’. It really did feel like the bike just gobbled them up, without thinking twice. It was a good feeling!
So, what next? I wasn’t in the market for a new bike, but I think I might be now! I took the Tracer back to the shop, with a big ol’ smile on my face, but I didn’t put a deposit down there and then. The guys are going to try to get me an Intense Carbine 29er to have a go on too, to be sure that I am picking the right wheel size for me. And I’m trying to get hold of a Saracen Arial at the same time, to compare and contrast with the Tracer. It’ll be interesting to see if either of those bikes can live up to what I rode today. If I do go with the Tracer, the wheels and tyres will need a rethink…but that’s an easy fix!