Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Bike Decision 2017: You Belong With Me

You're scrolling through Liv posts
And you’re upset
They seemed to put the trail bike idea to bed
'Cause they don’t get “Rothrock XC” like I do
I'm in the warehouse
It's a typical Tuesday night
I’ve got the kinda head tube angle they wouldn’t like
But she'll never roll down Croyle like I do

But she’s got frame art
I’ve got dude parts
She's #ladycarbon
And I'm in the back stock
Dreaming about the day when you wake up and find
That what you're looking for has been here the whole time

For the small, yellow, 2016 Specialized Camber Expert Carbon 650b that has been sitting in the East Coast warehouse for probably a year, that day finally came on Friday. Now he’s on his way to State College, just in time for me to do a 100-mile race on my hardtail and then be too physically trashed to ride him for a week or so. For him, better late than never, and for me, better early than September. Yes, #BikeDecision2017 has reached an unexpected conclusion.

There, I fixed it.

A week ago I was 80% leaning towards the 2017 Giant Trance Advanced 2, as I liked the idea of being able to ride a big bike that could shred steep stuff with abandon. I was also growing kind of fond of the “plaid shirt” color scheme. At the same time, I was scared that it would be too much bike to pedal around the slow, monster-trucky parts that make up the majority of my riding. I definitely didn’t feel that Adam Craig hopping through swoopy Pacific Northwest loam was in any way representative of my real life.

Frank sought to help me resolve my remaining trepidation about the Trance by borrowing 2014 Trance Advanced for me to try out. It was a size too big and perhaps had the suspension set up on the soft side, so I wasn’t expecting a miraculous ride experience, but the trial ride was not indicative of anything that I’d want to take on full-time. I rode it once on the little XC trails in town and once on the ridge. Both times I was exhausted by the end because it just felt like so much work to ride. I just didn’t have the power to propel it at a speed where it was actually fun most of the time.

I briefly reconsidered getting the Liv Pique Advanced SX and just using a Cane Creek AngleSet kit to slack it out a degree or so to assuage my descending concerns, but there also comes a time when even the most loyal brand patron must evaluate other options. Since I get a similar discount on Specialized and already have Hellga sitting in my garage as precedent, I decided to give them another look.

I remembered briefly perusing the Specialized collection a few months ago just in case the 2017 release turned out to be a bust. I thought I remembered a women’s bike that was 130 in the front, which was the women’s equivalent of the Camber, but with what I thought was more travel. (It turns out that I was comparing it to the men’s 29er.) I told Frank that if they made a “carbon Lady Camber” for 2017, I might be interested.

As it turns out, they will, very literally have a “carbon Lady Camber” this year. The Rumor is being replaced with the “Women’s Camber”, which is available in carbon. This means that instead of a slightly different women’s-specific frame in 2016, the frames of the 2017 women’s models will be the same frame as the 650b men’s models but with different colors and parts. I wasn’t really even aware of the men’s 650b version until I started researching this, but I figured if I was getting the same frame either way, it was really a question of color and spec. I mean, since I can no longer use “Rumor Has It” for the title of this post, what good are a women’s saddle and grips that I’ll probably swap, anyway?

When comparing the colors and builds available for 2017 in both the men’s and women’s versions, we discovered that the best monetary and aesthetic value actually lay in the men’s 2016 Expert version. It’s marked-down, end-of-year price perfectly rode the Bob Barker line of getting as close to my budget as possible without going over. Both the 2017 men’s and women’s Comp level have red on them, which is probably my number one color deal breaker, and would have less-nice components. The next step up was the boring black men’s Pro level, which was over budget. Since the 2017’s didn’t promise any massive updates, it just made sense to go ahead with the 2016, which was a better color, a better value, and I could have lots of time to enjoy it before ‘cross instead of waiting until September to get a 2017 model.

While I don’t go around fantasizing about yellow bikes, the fact that it is a clean, pleasant shade that could be perked up with some pink and blue still won out over the other options. Our Laser Cats kits will be going full baby shower (pink and blue on black) beginning this cross season, but the new bike should actually be a pretty great match to the stripes on our current kits and our enduro jerseys. At 130mm front and rear with a 68 degree head tube angle, it promises to be the “in between” bike for which I’ve been searching. I should get noticeably better descending capability for a much smaller adjustment in the amount of slack and squish that I have to learn to push around, compared to the Trance. Finally, once we build up and install the carbon rims that Frank bought a while back, it should be no heavier than my Lust and even more “pleasantly obnoxious” in color. So with the “pro” column quickly filling up and heavily outweighing the cons, I have finally come to a bike decision that I feel confident about. I can’t wait to see what new adventures we will have together.

There, he fixed it. Stickers are cool.

And yes, he already has a name. Since my hardtail is Jamie the Climbslayer I thought her bigger, burlier trail bike buddy should be Brienne the Beauty. Unfortunately, since I tend to name my bikes in the gender for which they were marketed, and Brienne is not so gender neutral as Jamie, it no longer seemed to be the best choice. So I took a note from all of the GOT “shipping” articles that came out in the spring and went over one degree of separation…to Tormund Giantsbane.

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