The Strip Teaser vs. the Fu Manchu. Flavor Saver vs. Teenage Fuzz. We're talking a Moustache face off here...Twenty Six vs. Twenty Nine.
You'll spy the competitors on the ground next to one another....Shrek on the left, the 26" monster, Odin on the right, 29" of viking war god, and in the background along for the fun is tried and true number two. The two bikes facing off feature the exact same tube set with only minor differences in configuration to achieve what I felt was the best possible ride for their given platforms (Long-ish travel front ends and big tires=maximum shredability) and intended use (The viking rides trials, I ride trails...but we have a fair degree of overlap in what we ride).
The tubes are a mix of True Temper Supertherm, Pacenti Heavy Mettle, and good ol' 4130 straight gauge and feature a Paragon Machine Works 44 mm head tube. The Effective top tube on both bikes measures 607 mm. The minimum chain stay length on both is about 415 mm with horizontal dropouts handling tensioning duties for single speed use and positioning the rear axle a little more forward on Odin. Both bikes are running tapered head tube, 20 mm thru axle forks with 140 mm travel, though the 29er was designed for 120 everything is rotated back a bit (slacker head and seat angles, higher BB, weight a little more over the rear axle).
I traded bikes with the VIKING in the parking lot and after riding the last week on my new green monster, I quickly noticed the slight changes in position and setup as well as the energy needed to push the larger wheels. As I was noticing the subtleties of the ride the VIKING instantly started his hops and spins and nose wheelies. His comment..."this is more stable." And I noted equally that his front end was a bit easier to lift...sounds a bit backward but Odin is no ordinary 29. A few millimeters over your rear axle makes a huge difference. We climbed a rolling climb and by the end I felt completely at home on the VIKING's steed. I could have dealt with a few minor tweaks, but in the end it was hard to give it back. My only complaint with a big wheel beast such as this is minor...I get tired of turning over the big wheel up climbs. The end. Its an awesome bike and a great platform for many riders when done "right". This one is the VIKING's and I'd say its done right for him...though his beefed out war god is certainly not for everybody. Did I mention he rides TRIALS?
Right - handles playfully to the degree the rider is willing, carves turns precisely, climbs and descends confidently, responsive to body english in handling, front wheel lifts without being a major production, and is all around fun to ride....usually this does not exist off the shelf.
Hopping back on my green monster, I found the transition a little odd in the same ways concerning setup, but quickly nestled back into the bike I've been feeling increasingly confident riding everyday. We cruised down the twists of slim shady wheel to wheel, but I kept wondering how the other bike would ride this. No disrespect to my own, I think I've just settled into it feeling familiar (certainly not a bad thing), and this Odin bike was unfamiliar in such a curious way that I wanted more. At one point I told the VIKING that it might just be best if I didn't ride your bike.
We pedaled around the rock features of Sedona for hours stopping to hit the play lines on the rock slabs but we stuck to our own as far as the bikes go. I settled back into my groove and finished the day loving my bike at least as much as I had the day before. It does what it does so well...going down hill, catching air, letting me get away with the sloppiest lines I've ever ridden, letting me ride the biggest lines I've ridden on any hard tail with endless confidence....I'm even learning to get it up the tight climbs without pushing. Its a super fun bike and at the end of a long ride I still feel like turning that wheel over.
Cheers to options and indecision....now how about one of those 650b bikes!