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Well...it had not rained for almost a full month in central Scotland by the time we got to Wed the 10th of April, so imagine my disdain & resulting language as my wipers (for the first time in ages) wiped away the oily film on a windscreen that had only seen dry weather for long enough that I couldn't actually recall.
Anyway, a bit of "wet" on a dry trail does it no harm, so I dried my eyes and pushed on to Cathkin Braes. When I got there, Dave Ward from Giant was already pitching up and our very own Stephen, Jim & John were well on the way to unloading our big van. We marked out the plots for the EZ-UP's and had a joke about the aforementioned weather when ironically the heavens opened in an crazy mix of unwanted rain, hail & sleet.
It's easy to mix comments with metaphors about the Scottish weather as we get such a lot of it, but this is the last you'll hear of it in any detail during this blog entry, as after 2-3 minutes, the clouds cleared & the breeze picked up to reveal a beautiful grey sky, which stayed with us for most of the day. But hey, we had cracks of sunshine and it stayed dry, so somewhere along the line, we "won a watch"
So who and what did we have on show? Firstly we had the product & Training Manager from Giant UK; Dave Ward. He brought us the very latest Anthem & Trance models in both 26" & 29" wheel options, as both of these bikes are ideally suited to the terrain, folk could try both models in both wheel sizes, making an informed choice instead of blindly jumping on the (ever decreasing) 29er hate wagon.
We also had top tech guy Raul from Yeti UK (Silverfish UK) who in typical Yeti fashion, went full on and brought every model they make along in a few different specifications so as to give a real flavour of this iconic brand. With enviable brand loyalty & a super dynamic range of bikes, Yeti are not famous for doing things by half & Silverfish did not disappoint in sending Raul with the very best of bikes for our day on the hill.
Our own guys took care of the Specialized & Scott bikes, with Pete Robson from Specialized UK calling by to cast an eye over the day and offer advice on two most popular models we had at the demo day; The 130mm Stumpjumper FSR Carbon & the 110mm Camber FSR Carbon, again these were bikes specifically brought to Cathkin after taking the terrain into consideration. Scott sent along some tasty morsels also well suited to the Cathkin track; The new Genius platform in both 650b & 29" wheel size went down a storm, with the new Spark XC bike breaking personal best lap times as it went round the course.
There's little point in going over every riders impression of every bike only to say that demo days are a far better way of explaining high technology & set-up adjustments to people, as they can actually go out and try these small tweaks for themselves. Now obviously we're in business to sell bikes, but the notion of having an atmosphere where there is no "hard sell" appeals to both us & to the customer alike. We're aiming to tempt them obviously, but in the informality of the day, it's all about the rider getting the best possible impression of whatever they choose to ride & being able to weigh the pros & con's of it.
All the bikes that we brought along reflected the terrain & the most popular bikes seemed to reflect the choice. The Stumpjumper Comp Carbon 29 seemed to be the favourite of the bunch as far as the first time full suspension rider was concerned. Very light, very flighty & very manageable handling that lent itself well to those of less experience. It was enjoyed by experienced riders too, but most of these guys seemed to want to push a little harder & the Stumpjumper (whilst being very capable) was just a little light & a little flighty with the handling for the harder riders on the day.
The first time full suspension riders favorite was theGiant Trance X 29 by a country mile. It really does have everything that the first foray into FS riding requires. Middle of the road trail geometry, a great spec & crucially a bang on weight for the price point. Not particularly light, but a confidence inspiring weight that keeps the contact with the trail in just about every circumstance. Giants own well proven "Maestro" suspension system really feels bottomless & really inspires you to take everything head on, with less of a need to "Pick a line" on the trickier sections. It also has a good proportion of vertical wheel travel too and is easier to get moving, which gives a more instantaneous response from the rear suspension. The Trance X 29 definitely put some smiles on some previously unexperienced riders faces.
For the more "experienced" rider who wanted to try something different on the day, the favorite of the day was definitely a tie between the Yeti SB95 & the SB66. The SB95 is Yeti's full on All Mountain/Enduro 29" full suspension bike, usually sporting the very best of every component & when tuned to the rider, is quite simply a trail eating freight train. Every single rider had the suspension set up by Raul from Silverfish (Yeti UK) & the ride did not dissapoint. We have an SB95 demo bike ourselves & to be frank, I did not consider that a 29er full suspension bike could be so "planted" without making a serious compromise somewhere? You can't beat the physics of a bigger wheel & the handling "compromises" but as an overall package, this has to be one of the best full suspension Mountain Bikes ever to roll through Dales Cycles (there have been a few) & with the carbon version imminent (?) I can see a new bar being set VERY high for 29" trail bikes, just like they did with the press' favorite ASR5
The SB66 is a good old 26" with everything you would expect from a barnstorming trail bike. It feels a bit more skittish than the 29er in a straight line over mid size rocks & roots, but the bike seemed to inspire confidence in every rider that took it out, with complaints that riders were "out-braking" themselves & nearly coming a cropper, though this seemed to dissolve after a few laps, a testament to how much faster a well suited bike can make you?
We unfortunately only had one 650b bike on offer at Cathkin. Scott had hooked us up with the Carbon version of the new Genius platform. Hard to say what the folk thought of it as there's nothing to compare it to really? The consensus was it was fast & light, bringing the best of the SB66 & the SJ FSR together in some weird marriage of lightweight materials & sorted geometry & a fairly planted feel? I'd recommend a jaunt on a 650b bike to see what all the fuss is about!
The great thing about these events is that instead of just telling folk in store about the benefits of saddle position, shock pressure, tyre pressure, stem length, wheel size & any amount of other tweaks and adjustments you can carry out on a bike, is that you can actually demonstrate the issue hands on. The amount of feedback on small adjustments made to bikes on the 2nd & 3rd runs was great to hear. hopefully riders will have gone away thinking about their own setups, regardless of whether they are tempted to buy a new bike or not.
So, the day was a great elbow in the water for Cathkin Braes too. Glasgow City Council helped us immensely, with a special mention to Aiden O'Meara for all the help in the lead up to the event.
Thanks also to Colin Hislop for the images.
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