Recently, Chris and I decided to trade bikes for a few days - he wanted to try out singlespeeding, and I wanted to play around on his fancy-shmancy 5" travel 29er (some of you may remember this picture from springtime). And for the first time ever, I managed a bike trade without getting hurt or breaking some part of the bike.
That's probably because we didn't swap bikes mid-ride (or try to race each other). Last time I did that, I ended up on the side of the trail with the bike bouncing merrily along without me, with a taco'd front wheel to boot.
So it went well, for everyone. A few thoughts about long-travel 29ers:
-I can't imagine wanting much more than the 120mm of travel that Chris' bike has. I weigh about 20-30 pounds less than he does, but I didn't want to mess up his finely tuned (by the Push boys, no less) suspension, so I just left it alone. I think I was using 75-80% of the travel, at most, on even the biggest hits. And I was riding like an idiot.
-It's ridiculously nice to have a through-axle fork. I could pretty much just plow through even really rocky turns and not worry about losing my line. Crazy. The Rockshox 20mm axle system is great - no tools needed, and super secure.
-That thing is fast. I rode Picture Rock (very rocky and moderately techie for several miles) with my good friend Mike, who is no slouch - he was 2nd at marathon nationals last year behind Jeremiah Bishop, and got 19th at XC nats this year racing with a heart condition that limits him to 85% effort or so. Back in the day, neither of us could ever drop the other one on the downhills - but I finally managed it on Chris' bike that day. Of course, Mike was riding a hardtail with some pretty mediocre tires, but I'll take whatever I can get.
-A 12mm axle option on the Ventanas would be nice. They're wicked stiff as it is, but I certainly wouldn't be opposed to a beefier rear end (150mm, maybe, Sherwood?).
-This bike makes riding my own FS 29er (a bike I inherited after DHL ran it over and ruined it) feel like crap. Mine fits ok, but it was designed for the midwest (steep angles, high BB) and it's got a standard QR fork and cheapo parts. Chris' bike makes me want to spend the time to build myself something better...