I race (badly) every Friday and now ride, not “a” but “my” mountain bike, every Sunday. The Friday road racing was supposed to replace the Tuesday Goodwood Gallops were I’d usually be hanging on for dear life and praying that I’d last. Not so the fourth cat races. I’m not strong enough to get away and so I hide away waiting for the sprint which I am not doing well in either, so end up having any easy cruise around an airfield which means that I an rapidly losing fitness. Next Friday is the last one so I might as well go on a suicide run….
I do have my own bike now which I love. Previously I just rode whatever demo was free or I could borrow. The problem was that although I could adapt to anything, with so much road riding, I found that I was losing my touch and made worse by being unfamiliar with the bike. My bike is now a Kinesis FF29 and it is set up to perfection. Knowing the bike is really boosting my confidence.
Today, the forecast was bad and the weather worse but as it’s so mild that I didn’t care and even rode in short sleeves. It was a social ride and we went to try the new blue trail above Steyning. It’s great, challenging, and requires confidence rolling over the Northshore sections in the wet. Well done to Steyning MTB for the work and thanks to Wiston House for the use of the land. It’s not as long as a Welsh trail centre run but it is only 30minutes ride away and exciting enough to be worth the trip.
In summer and in the rain our pretty woods remind me of the Vancouver North Shore. It is incredibly lush and wet most of the time there. I know because I rode those trails on many visits to BC – and it was nearly always wet.
So how does the FF29 perform now that I’m used to it and its set up. Apart from today’s relaxing jaunt, the bike is consistently fast, it’s keeping me up at the top of some of the Strava leader boards. I can’t put my finger on exactly why it’s so quick as it’s not super light at 24.5lbs but the wheels are really light. The geometry is fairly racy and now that I’ve got my stem lower it is an incredible climber. The geometry puts me right over the bike keeping the front down and the rear wheels gripping on all the really technical sections. Despite the 29er extra chainstay length it’s still easy enough to pop the front up to clear the logs climbing the Lion Trail (yes, climbing! In the rain it’s really pretty). The shortish BB to front axle helps here too. The 29” wheel means that the bike always feels safe even when dropping into some steep and tight chalky berms. The fork helps too. It’s a Manitou Tower Pro which delivers similar damping control to a Fox costing twice the price and weighing more. For the FF29, it has the advantage that it extends the wheelbase by 10mm over a Fox fork which improves the trail feel. Initially I found the bike a bit short and got a seat post with a good set back and set the saddle all the way back but that was how I rode any 26” bike.
The heavy rain of last night has cleared many trails so the clay had been washed away leaving grippy chalk or flints. The only hindrance is the overgrowth narrowing the trails. The puddles do a good job of clearing any mud away and so cleaning my bike only took one bucket and 15 minutes, there’s no way that I’d put a hose near my own bike. You can though as we are always looking for more jobs in the workshop. Once the bike was done I used a bucket first on my clothes and then my legs, it was surprisingly warm.
Manitou Tower Pro details
Travel: 80mm, 100mm, 120mm
Spring: MARS AIR
Spring Rate: Medium
Bottom Out: Rubber Bumper
Steerer: 1 1/8″ AL
Crown: Forged Deep Bore
Compression Damping: TPC Technology
Rebound Damping: Adjustable TPC
Compression to Lockout
Leg Diameter: 32mm
Leg Material: 7050 Butted AL
Wheel Size: 29″
Brake: Post Mount
Crown to Axle: 490 / 510 / 530
Weight: Lbs / Grams: 3.74 / 1697.96