First Ride (Part Deux)

31st January 2013
I finally got out on the Whyte today for a proper first ride. Not just up Hoad Hill or an abortive attempt at The North Face Trail in Grizedale.

Today I actually made it right around The North Face!

Wet, muddy, windy... it was a bit of a grim one, but that made it all the better to test out the Whyte and a couple of cheeky upgrades that I have made already! As I set off something became rapidly apparent, bigger wheels take more effort to move around. With a big climb infront of me this was a daunting prospect but I battled on regardless.

This brought me to a second discovery. Whilst you put the extra effort in (it feels like running a couple of ratios higher than a 26" wheeled bike) the reward is quite a noticeable increase in speed. This speed, and the larger diameter of the wheels brought me rapidly to a third, highly entertaining, discovery... if you point at an obstacle and keep those legs rolling the front just rolls straight over followed without drama by the rear. The super-tacky tyres were not helping with the drag, but they did offer massive grip on the slippery wet rocks and roots, further helped by the large contact area that a 29" wheel gives over a 26er and the horst link rear suspension setup. This was fun on the way up and pushed me into taking really stupid lines to see just what I could get away with.

The big test was a sharp right hairpin, followed by a steep technical climb into a sharp left hairpin. The surface comprises of boulders and loose rock... it is about half way up the first North Face singletrack climb for those who know it. I have cleared it in the dry before, but in this slop... no chance.

Or so I thought.

Up, up and away I went - from there on in I knew this bike could handle some tricky situations. The additional drag and effective gear ratios were starting to tell on my legs, back and lungs but I was having way too much fun to stop.

The top section of the trail went equally smoothly with the bike handling the tight, twisty singletrack without breaking a beat. The 29er Achilles heal of slow steering doesn't seem to impact the T129 at all, indeed you forget about the big wheels.

That is, until the trail points down.

The Whyte gathers speed like an out of control locomotive, it gets deceptively fast with trail features appearing long before you expect them and still the speed builds. The stepping stones were dispatched without a second thought, the lunps and bumps gave moments of air time and the bike just came alive. The reverb seat post was up and down constantly allowing me to take full advantage of this momentum, either to provide stronger peddling input or dropping the seat right out the way to provide greater maneuverability. Someone, somewhere, had uprated the brakes from the advertised 180/160mm rotors to 200/180mm - I have no idea if that was Whyte Bikes, ATB Sales or Wheelbase in Stavely but I was glad they had as you need something big to scrub that speed off for the tight corners that I suddenly found myself negotiating whilst trying to avoid the plummet over a steep bank into a raging stream!

Eventually I rolled back into the carpark grinning with exhilaration and thinking this bike... it is begging for something more challenging than the North Face Trail. I am going to have to push my bounderies to make the most of what this bike offers. My muscles are aching now, suggesting that the other benefit of pushing the big wheels around may be an increase in fitness levels, which is a bonus!

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