April 28, 2005

Coiler: First Mud

Follow-up to New Toy from Secret Plans and Clever Tricks

So, I finally got the chance to test out my new toy yesterday. Patrick and I drove down to Cwm Carn for a post-work spin.

The trail itself is a cracker. The first half takes you along a series of wooded singletrack climbs, with some fairly technical rooty sections. After 40 minutes or so of climbing, you emerge on the top of the hill, with fanstic views out past Cardiff and into the Bristol Channel. The second half of the trail is then almost all downhill, with a series of twisty singletrack descents through the trees, then a final jumpy bermed trail down to the carpark. It took us just over an hour to get round, though we were slowed down slightly by lashing rain on the second half of the course.

The bike was pretty amazing. The first thing I noticed was how effective it was at climbing steep rough stuff. The sag in the rear suspension makes it possible to keep traction on much rougher surfaces than is possible on my hardtail, and the plush forks mean that you can just blast through roots, rocks and so on without fear of being flicked off – on the hardtail I'd have to steer round them, which is pretty hard when you're struggling to keep the pedals turning at all! The high front-end does mean that you have to adopt a bit of a nose-to-stem posture to stop the front wheel wandering on very steep stuff, though.
On the flat, the propedal shock makes it pretty easy to keep the thing spinning along – there's hardly any noticeable bob from the back end. The slack head angle and SSV-damped foks also mean that you can put in a reasonable amount of power without the front end bobbing too much either.
It really comes into it's own, though, on the downhills – this thing is an absolute hooligan. No matter how rough, rocky, or rooty the trail, you can just point it where you want to go and blast down. Rock gardens that would have had me off the hardtail were sailed though without a twitch from the front end, and when I went nose-first off a drop on the final descent, the forks just ate up the impact without even slowing me down. The big tyres grip pretty much everything, and the massive front disk makes for effortless braking. It's definitely true to say that long-travel bikes are skill-compensators :-)

Of course, all this coolness isn't entirely free; On the uphills it's easy to spin up in a low gear, but try and race it and you really start to feel the bike's weight. Acceleration is noticeably slower than the hardtail, and it's harder to 'pop' the bike off the lip of little jumps and drops – partly because of the heavier weight, and partly because lifting it by a couple of inches just takes the sag out of the suspension, whereas on the hardtail it would get me airborne. There's also a bit of a 'sanitising' effect – on some of the gentler sections of the trail I found myself thinking 'this would be a good challenge on the hardtail, but it's just a smooth path on this thing'. Nevertheless, for big rocky trails like Afan, Glentress/Innerleithen, and even stuff like Jacob's Ladder in the peaks, I can tell this bike is going to be a blast :-)

- 3 comments by 2 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Steven Carpenter

    Sounds like you enjoyed it – are you retiring the hardtail and getting a completely new bike-wardrobe then? I'm sorely tempted now, but may have to wait for a little while before taking the (6") plunge… :-(

    28 Apr 2005, 11:01

  2. Chris May

    No, I won't retire the HT just yet. For long days out where big rocky stuff is not too prevalent, it's still the weapon of choice. But I may have to invest in some armour, some flatter shoes, and perhaps a full-face helmet before too long. And maybe a baggier t-shirt :-)

    28 Apr 2005, 11:23

  3. Steven Carpenter

    I forgot about that aspect; a shiny Troy Lee full-face lid would rate as uber-cool (not on the the way to work though).

    28 Apr 2005, 20:40

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