I lost count how many rides on dirt I have done. It should be around 8 or 9 by now. This one was the Wicked Ride of the East, a Nemba sponsored event. Never had ventured out there and was looking forward to some new trails. It's about an hour and 1/2 drive North of Boston to Harold State Park. Why I had never heard of this place when I lived in Boston was beyond me since I would have been there a lot!
Pulling into the park showed the venue to be well attended as there were riders everywhere and it took a while to find a parking spot. I was supposed to meet some fellow RI riders at 9 am but had that usual late thing going. Met up w/ some other great riders and we decided to do the long loop of 20 miles, which seemed not that long at all. Some in our group of 10+ knew the area well and described it as fairly flat but "bony". I figured the 20 miles should take about 2 hours... yeah right.
Bony was quite the understatement. The trails were twisty and rocky. Lots of rocks, big ones, small ones, and many many sharp one, like shark fins. The trail was littered w/ people pulled over fixing flats. Thankfully, I had the night before found the freaking leak that had been plaguing me for a while. It was a little whole in the side of the tire that was so close to the rim, I had been thinking all along that it was the rim that was leaking air from not making a secure contact w/ the tire. I made sure plenty of stans went into the hole and let it sit before I pumped the tire back up. Before the ride I let air back out and rode w/ 28 psi in the front (still had a tube there), and 26 in back.
Within the first mile we had dropped more than half the group. Of the five of us remaining, I was the only one on a 29er and a hardtail. One person was on a Ibis Mojo HD, there were two Pivots, a Spech Stumpy, and a Rocky Mountain. All of those guys were big drop/ downhill guys & who could also really lay it down on XC. The kind who put you to shame going up, but then really stick it to you going down. The J. Tomac kind! Very soon I found myself holding on with all I had.
I have been enjoying riding the bike w/ the front susp locked out and started out this way. Yet I soon found out that trying to climb the short punchy rocky rooty hills like that would rob me too much of my momentum. I needed to have the front end absorb those hits instead of bouncing off of them, to be able to make it up the technical climbs. Once I gave up on the full rigid idea, I surprised myself a couple of times by making it up some steep technical stuff I would have never cleared on the 26er!
Throughout the ride I noticed that I was getting much more comfortable with the bike. Even though I did have two incidents where some rather delicate parts made some rather painful contact w/ the stem. In one of these, my pedal got caught a small tree on the side of the trail. It made the bike come to an instant stop. My body of course, continued with it's forward momentum to only be stopped by the stem. W/ that forward motion I started to tip over while still being blocked by the stem. My legs up up from the back rising above, while my face made contact w/ my front tire. Somehow I remained in "balance" like that for a couple of seconds with the balance point still being the stem & my delicate area. However, I was able to get myself up right w/out falling. I got a hoot and an applause from the guy who was behind me for it! Overall though I noticed I rolled over stuff with much greater ease and noticed some of the momentum benefits of the larger wheels over the really choppy terrain. I was especially getting comfortable on the downhills (though I was not taking the +-4 ft drop line my fellow riders were taking), and as long as I kept my weight off the handle bars, the bike would just roll over all the chop. I was really impressed by how much the chainstays were actually absorbing the trail chatter. I pulled over once to make sure I was not loosing air in the tire because I thought I should feel much more beaten up. All the air was still there! We did catch the 9 am group I had missed as they were changing their 7th flat (in a group of 5).
As the ride crossed the 2 + hour mark, I was getting more tired and started to make more mistakes. I was reverting back to my 26er old habits. This cause me to wipe out in corner after attempting to lean the bike through the turn w/out turning the bars. As I was getting more in tune w/ bike as a "bike" and getting away from my obsession w/ how it was not riding like my 26er, I was starting to actually enjoy the bike though I did notice that the Scott has a tendency to be a little front heavy. It is actually oddly paradoxical because it is very stable at speeds but at the same time steers very quickly (when you turn the bars - not when you lean it).
So overall I was quite impressed w/ the bike, and can feel myself coming around. The ride ended up being 2 h 45 min long (actual moving time). Though I felt tired, I did not feel beat up, which was a real surprise being on a hartail. I was really surprised by how comfortable I became when the trail pointed downwards and letting the bike just roll over all those rocks. Often all I needed to do to clear a drop or a rock garden, was to just unweight the front and let the bike roll over it. I really wonder how much different and even better the bike would be w/ a nice lightweight wheel set. I guess I know what I am asking Santa...