Doubling Down on the Dirt(y): The Rocky Mountain / Fairdale Demo
If you forgot about the Rocky Mountain (and Fairdale Bike) Demo, hosted by Sunset Cycles, on Sunday at Bonelli Park, or if you chose to ignore various notifications about the event, well, you missed out. While well known and highly regarded, it is not often we are presented with the opportunity, around here anyway, to test out the Rocky Mountain line. Of course the MWBA Pancake Breakfast a way over in the mountains above Altadena, didn't leave a lot of time to check out their line. I did, however, get a good longish ride on one.
Anyway, rushing over to Bonelli with the Mrs., I was only somewhat surprised to discover we were not the only ones who had the idea to double up our day on the dirt - a brother and sister, who also had pancakes in the morning, showed up at the same time. Both David, of Sunset, and the RM Demo Tour mechanic (whose name I have now forgotten) got the four of us set up, and we hit the trails, and fire roads, together. I sat an Element, while the Mrs. was given a Thunderbolt.
Both bikes were equiped with comparable builds, though my Element, slightly more tuned as an XC rig, was not equiped with a dropper seat post like the Mrs' Thunderbolt was. That was alright - with my descending skills, or lack of, those type of things are usually lost on me anyway. Riding a hardtail as frequently as I do, I often tend to forget just how much extra control that rear suspension adds. Add to that the big 29s that the Element rolls out on, and I quickly found myself less concerned with following those smoother lines that I normally take. Instead, on this afternoon, "the rockier, the better" was the mantra just to see how the bike (and I) responded.
While it may have been a given that the bike would perform well on the descents, I was also more than satisfied with how it rode while climbing. One moment of concern came while climbing out of the saddle, as I seemed to detect some side-to-side shimmy; an examination didn't reveal anything and so I attributed the perceived problem to being overly familiar with the feel, and response, of a hardtail. This was born out over the hour or so of riding, as the shimmy became less noticeable over time.
The ability to open or close the Fox suspension to the rear triangle, with the press of a thumb, was an added bonus - it worked flawlessly, allowing me to open up for descending, then go into lock down for climbing. Beside that, the shifting was smooth and precise, as was the braking. The demo guy was a little incredulous when I told him how high I run my tire pressure, and so he compromised a little by bumping it all the way up to 30psi, well below what I normally ride (some roadie habits take a long, hard time to die), but I can't say as that I missed the extra psi.
As for the Thunderbolt, well, I wish the Mrs would write up her impressions, but she is rather print shy. I did notice she rode more confidently, quicker, and with a smile on her face, over sections of trail that normally terrify her.
Eventually, the four of us split into pairs - I knew the Mrs would be getting tired, a full day and not much riding following some surgery a couple months ago, wearing her down. So the youngsters took off in search of more challenge, while the oldsters took the easier lakeside route. Back at camp Fairdale had, mostly, packed up and was in hangout mode, while RM was getting ready to do the same. The Sunset guys notice there were a bunch of hungry people standing around so, while some tucked into delicious brownies, Sean jumped up to his pickup bed kitchen to grill up some cheddar cheese burgers and hot dogs. They were a perfect, and much appreciated, cap to the day. Thanks to Sunset Cycles for hosting, and to Rocky Mountain Bicycles and Fairdale Bikes for providing the rides.