Honest Bike Shopping Dilema

So here I am launching into what my bride calls my mid-life crisis… fitness. I have relaunched a pastime of running and biking, competing in Spartan and Warrior Dashes, to gauge and increase my fitness level. I mean truthfully, part of me is ashamed of how I let myself go while unhappy at a past employment position.

Fast forward to my newest distraction. I had a 26″ Cannondale hardtail that I began riding with guys from the office. The bike was purchased through a friend and was cheap, so no harm no foul. I upgraded to a Carbon Framed Cyclocross bike which is pretty well documented in these posts in Manana No Mas!. I love the Cyclocross ergonomics and blended purpose of the bike. I ride it on road events like the San Diego Century and fire roads like Skyline Trail. My obstacle though is that my co-workers that got me back on the trail in the first place (remember the hardtail) have lifted their game as well. They are climbing more technical and most importantly… descending more technical than ever.

I need a dual suspension mountain bike to keep riding with them.

This is the painful – transparent – and bluntly honest truth. I am having a hard time justifying the needs, the expense or even the benefit of different bikes as I shop and dream build this adventure. As a happily (and hoping to stay that way) married guy with two kids, spending thousands of dollars on a bicycle can be a hard sell. Now imagine going through this hard sell, and being unhappy with the final decision.

I feel that I am in a decent position to launch a new project within these pages. The blog has been going for years. There is a decent mix of content here – travel, fitness, food, and leadership. I have a history of being published in multiple venues and have a history of telling it the way I see it… even if I have to admit a change of heart later. Finally, I am fit enough and have the biking chops to perform well on the task. So here is a new goal.

Beautiful Grassy Knolls – but really bumpy!

I intend to sample as many mid-range to higher shelf mountain bikes and weight the benefit to expense for a guy in my position. This means taking a club-rider perspective, being honest about the terrain and the “ask” put on the equipment and telling the story in a way that I believe hits home for many of us, bicyclists. Sure that downhill bike with 200mm of front end travel looks awesome, and Jimmy says its the best thing ever — but does the bike outweigh anything I’d put to it challenge wise, and does the bike get from point A in the park to point B efficiently? Few of us have lifts in our backyards and have to pedal to the downhill reward, so pedaling is definitely part of the review. I enjoy a good climb, so hardtails seem like a reasonable ask until my crew heads down a rocky path on a killer descent. Then I pray for a shock. (You ought to see me now in the Cyclocross!!)

My goal is to give any brand an equal shot at playing. I’m in SoCal with a diversified set of trails to run and a great group of guys to lean on for feedback. I will leverage my interactions with local dealers for demos and beg brands to share product to bring you the best range of bikes to report on, that I can muster. If you have the ability to help with the project and supply a bike to ride… it would be super appreciated. I also intend to post up attached video of some of the high points of these evaluations.

See you on the trail.