Yesterday was cold today, but not cold. Windy, but not Wicked Witch of the West windy, maybe 15-20 mph…and the sun was a shinin’. Oh, and Mrs. Bgddy needed hamburger buns for dinner, but more importantly my brand new Specialized Hardrock Sport 29’er had exactly zero miles on it and I’ve had it for a full week. This is entirely unacceptable. And if that wasn’t bad enough, I’ve been cooped up for way too long.
In other words, it was time to see what a new 29’er with hydraulic disc brakes rides like compared to my trusty 26″ 3700. Normally, I’d want to take a bunch of photos of a new bike before I get it dirty but with spring several weeks away, I simply can’t stand just looking at that beautiful steed anymore. I’m not one of those museum curator bike owners. A cool bike is meant to be ridden hard, not looked at.
So I geared up and headed out the door for a short adventure to the market.
The first thing I noticed was what a smooth, wonderful ride it produced. Second, was how heavy it is compared to the Venge (chuckle, it’s almost twice the weight). The 29″ wheels take a lot more effort to spin up but once they’re up to speed, they roll excellently. The Specialized Fast Track tires (with Flak Jacket puncture protection) roll well, have a medium aggressive knobby pattern and are great on pavement.
The neatest change is in going from standard cable pull rim brakes to hydraulic discs… I don’t have them broken in entirely but they still grab a lot better and there’s no squish to them. They’re also a lot less complex even if the technology can seem harder to grasp initially.
The front fork suspension is a huge upgrade – beefier, smoother, softer, easier to adjust and has a lockout.
Another difference, though not as great as I initially assumed would be, is the shifters. The old over-under thumb and forefinger shifting is much less accessible. The new system doesn’t require the rider to remove a finger from the grip to shift. I was quite used to the old shifting mechanics and while it did cause a minor bobble from time to time, it was generally quite solid. The new shifters are quite a bit more ergonomically sound but that’s about it.
As I’ve unplugged the cycling, I didn’t even bother taking my phone with me so I have no stats whatsoever to share though I “felt” quicker.
Now, the important point here is cost to value as it pertains to gains on the single track. The Hardrock 29’er Sport Disc is almost double the cost of a normal entry-level high-end mountain bike. The biggest gain is in the quality of the suspension and brakes. If you’re just planning on cruising around town then a $700 (before tax) mountain bike is probably a bit of overkill (and an unnecessarily nice target for thieves). On the other hand, if you’re using it almost exclusively for the single track trails, the longer wheel base, much improved shocks and brakes are worth the investment – almost anyone who has spent time on the trail will cop to this reality. Will the differences make me faster? The hydraulic disc brakes and the 29″ wheelbase will (the larger wheel base will roll over obstacles better and have a bit more clearance). The lockout in the shock will be nice for paved and dirt road cruising but the beefier shock will simply last longer and take more abuse.
Now, if you’ve got a spouse who is awesome enough to drop some serious coin on a play-bike, then by all means… The Hardrock Sport 29’er is a fine mountain bike.