Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Bike Decision 2017: If It Fits, I Sits?

As you may remember, the announcement of Liv's 2017 line a couple of weeks ago prompted me to ask some important questions about my next bike purchase. Since then I've been Googling, hashtag clicking, and social media trolling trying to dig up any more data to inform my choice. Giant's national sales meeting was last Thursday and Friday, so I thought that Monday would be big release day, but nothing happened. Despite the lack of a big reveal, I dug up just enough information to make me feel like the cat in the picture above. The Giant/Liv 2017 line up has presented me with a series of boxes, and it's unclear which one I should shove myself into.

I got a peak at the geometry for the Pique Advance SX and was really disappointed to see that it still had a 69 degree head tube angle, even with the 140mm fork. That's a degree steeper than the men's Anthem with a 120mm fork. I actually posed the question on Liv's Facebook page as to why the women's models have so much steeper head tube angles than similar-purposed men's bikes, but have not yet received a reply. They seem consistent in this design enough that there must be a reason, but I certainly don’t understand it. If they provided some justification based on their women’s geometry research, I might feel a lot better about the bike’s ability to do what I want it to do. I’m willing to accept that the Internet bike nerd hive mind by which Frank, and in turn I, am heavily influenced, might not know everything, especially in the niche of women’s mountain bike design. However, while “No weaknesses - fast up, faster down” is an awesome combination of marketing words, I want to know what that really means when the numbers don’t seem back it up.

Unfortunately, it seems that the Pique is not so much the love child of the Lust and the Intrigue, as the Lust 2.0. It’s still an XC bike before all else, with a little bit of added trail capability in the form of more suspension. It’s not like I haven’t been getting by on a Lust for two years, but there are certain downhill trails that I’m afraid to try on it, and others I’ll do but don’t enjoy. My fitness has improved enough in the last couple of years that lugging the 26 pound bike (aluminum, lower-end build) to the top of Rothrock’s climbs doesn’t really bother me so much anymore, so my upgrade goals aren’t to get a lighter bike that climbs faster (I have a hardtail for that), but to get one that packs more fun into my 26 pound climbing capacity. As I stated my one-sentence criteria for my new bike to Frank last night: I want to a bike that’s efficient enough for me to ride for the whole Transylvania Epic race and that descends well enough that I don’t feel like I’m going to die on the enduro segments.

My dream was that 2017 would bring a carbon Intrigue, but instead it brought no Intrigue at all. I was emotionally prepared for that dream to not come to fruition, which is why I was basically set on a Trance Advanced when the new Liv bikes were announced. With so much flash and fanfair, I really wanted to be on team #ladycarbon, but the more I research, the more I don’t think options offered will meet my needs. The Pique is a little too XC (probably even with more fork), and the Hail is a little too enduro. I’m glad they made the Hail, and it will fill a need for a lot of women who are wanting to get into enduro, but I don’t think it will be a good fit as #1 bike for me. It's meant to shine at fast speeds, and the majority of my time spent in Rothrock composed of monster-trucky slogs. I just don't think I'm fast enough to make the bike go fast most of the time. Of course, I'd love to have one just to bomb down fall line trails and to race enduro, but I need a better everyday bike first.

Things have come full circle now that I’ve got a visual on the 2017 Trance Advanced 2 from the Australian Giant site. The Trance Advanced 0 is too expensive, the Trance Advanced 1 is too ugly, and my first reaction to the Trance Advanced 2 was, “It looks like a plaid shirt, but not necessarily in a bad way.” I more I look at it, however, the more it grows on me. The orange and blue kind of look like paint brush strokes, and it I think it would lend itself well to some pink highlights. 

I’m a bit concerned about the jump to the 150mm fork and the man carbon. Okay, I joke about special #ladycarbon, but I do believe that choosing a bike that is designed for a lower average rider height and weight isn’t complete B.S. In perfect world, the #ladycarbon version of the Trance would probably be lighter, but that isn’t a thing. I’m not sure how much difference it actually makes, anyway, and it’s probably more important to choose a bike based on the riding style for which it was designed than the body for which it was designed.

I go back and forth about the pros and cons of each, and then soak in the bummer news that neither will supposedly be available until September. I was already making big plans for the fun times me and my new bike would be having in August before ‘cross starts to take up all my weekends until winter. I’m holding on to a thread of hope that it will be sooner based on my past experience of getting my hands on that new, new shit early, thanks to especially wonderful, vigilant account reps, but that’s probably unreasonable to expect a second time under very different circumstances.  I’m very tempted to just to choose whichever bike I can get my hands on first, since I feel like I’m not going feel 100% confident in my decision either way.

This has already been the most agonizing bike decision that I have ever tried to make, and I realize that it’s because I actually have choices, albeit imperfect ones. Prior to this, it was always just a matter of buying the newest thing in XC bikes at the best spec I could afford (which usually wasn’t much). Now that I have the budget, experience, and terrain to step up to my first big girl bike, the world just got a lot more complicated. 

I know that people do all kinds of things on kinds of bikes, and ultimately it’s up to me to overcome where my bike falls short. When I moved here, I couldn’t imagine anyone riding more than 100mm of travel as an all-purpose bike, because that’s all I could drag around fitness-wise. I overcame that, and now I feel like I’ve outgrown Princess Monster Truck. Even if the Trance doesn’t climb perfectly, I suspect I can overcome it the way I did with my Lust, and the downhills will be way more fun. Maybe the Pique Advanced SX will be so light and efficient that I finally feel confident enough to enter the TSE, even if I end up scared to death on the enduro segments because my bike is steeper than I’d like. Maybe forcing myself through the scary stuff will improve my skills, so when I get a real enduro bike I rip it up like a boss.

Perhaps I need to take some wisdom from our kitty friend above. Life presents you with a series of boxes, and they are rarely the exact size and shape of your body, but they’re all fun to sit in nevertheless. Sometimes you just have to jump in one, sit in it, enjoy it for what it is, scratch the hell out of it, and know that the mailman will always bring new boxes in time.

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