I don’t ride at night very often and so usually get it wrong. Last night, by 7:05pm I was ready to go with lights fully charged and bike ready. I hadn’t forgotten anything and the shop had only been closed for 5 minutes. Was this a good omen? I was going to be riding the Scott Scale 29er Elite in a medium (kindly loaned to me by David). I have ridden lots of 29ers but this one I like the best not because it is the best spec’d but it is the best fit. I was also going to test the Niterider Minewt 600 with an Exposure Joystick helmet light. I’d already planned my route and it would involve the most extreme single track that our local area can offer.
I started quickly feeling really good – one advantage of being stressed is that when you start to exercise the stress release comes out in the form of increased speed and power (not having eaten during the day I took an SIS Smart Gel so the caffeine probably helped too). The bike was going well and, what’s more, I could see. I tested the bike on all the usual trails and it felt perfect, perfect enough for it to go down as the best hard tail that I have ridden. However, these were the usual trails and I wanted to see how a 29er would work on the limit. I started riding a series of ever steeper and more twisty trails with fallen trees and drops to spice things up. I eventually dropped in to a little section of berms many of which have very steep drop ins so that no amount of braking will stop you. You are totally reliant on riding the berm (or crashing). This was the first time that I noticed the wheel base of the 29er. On a 26 I’d be comfortably taking the perfect line, on the 29er I was whipping round unnervingly close the top of the berm. I was going quick and the 29er smoothed out any rough stuff so overall this was the best that I’d ridden this track and is was at night. As I hit the last couple of bends the Minewt warning light turned red. I was at the bottom and would be climbing for a while so set it to low.
On the climb there are a series of fallen logs that I have been practising clearing smoothly. On the 29er I found getting my timing right a problem. I got over them all but like a beginner being jerky and catching the chain ring. Not a problem just another excuse the do some more practising the forget my 26in technique and to take advantage of all those things that make 29ers so much fun.
I met a lot of riders. I would guess that any one riding around these parts could bank on meeting up with at least two groups whenever you ride at night.
Finally, on the widest, straightest and easiest wide track I hit a solitary big flint and instantly pinch punctured both front and rear tyres. I took me a long time to complete my repairs (great to have the Joystick on my helmet) and got cold soaked with sweat, I was well over dressed with Baa Baa base layer and Endura FS260 Jetstream jersey (it was warmer than the summer). By the time that I had fixed both tubes the magic of the merino was working and I was warming up. The journey back was down hill so no more sweating and I got back comfortable warm and drying nicely.
I had plenty light left to really go for it on the Sheep Track and then through the single track off Cissbury in the woods back to Coombe Rise.
The Scott Scale 29er Elite is not only a great bike being fast, light and confidence inspiring but also incredible value for money. Read my first reiview here. This weekend I have a Whyte 29er CS carbon to test – will this be better? I’d guess so.
The best night light combo (burn time/weight/power) has got to be the Exposure Max D and Joystick, however, at £490 that is beyond many riders. Beleive it or not the Minewt 600 cordless delivers more or less the same light as the Max D ( I was riding in very difficult and fast conditions) it just lacks the burn time but for a 2 to 3 hour ride it is enough, it comes with a helmet mount, is cordless and only costs £135. Please note that different brands measure Lumens differently.
The Minewt has a simple handle bar clamp that never budged all the ride including an over the handle bars tumble at the end of the ride.
2 x 10 and 29ers
2 x 10 is for 26″. The 26 x 36 on a 29er is equal to being mid block in the granny on your 26″ so decide how strong you are before you go for 2 x 10. Sram are introducing a 38/24 crank and 11/38 cassette to give you an 18inch gear equivalent to you lowest 26″ gear.