I bought a new bike a few weeks ago from The Bike Express in New Milford, a Specialized Fuse Comp6 Fattie. It’s not a full fat tire bike, but a mid-fat or 27.5-plus. I can’t say enough good things about John at Bike Express – He hooked me up with a 2016 leftover and I couldn’t be happier. There’s a lot that’s new about the bike besides the 3 in. tires. It’s got a 1×11 drivetrain, so no front derailleur. So far, I don’t miss that, and the range has been absolutely fine. Hydraulic discs stop me fast enough to raise the back wheel off the ground on the level, and the tires and front suspension roll rocks and logs wonderfully well.
The bike is better than me, and it turns me into to a grinning idiot.
Faint praise, that, but I never was much of a mountain biker even though I’ve had one since 1985. That bike, a Ross Mt. Hood, I bought on impulse and never rode much. When I started riding it again last fall, it was obvious my friends had me at both a technical and a skills disadvantage. The skills I can work on. Largely, that means overcoming fear that comes from the combination of inexperience and my old school equipment. The Ross’s 26 in. tires, rigid frame, and short wheelbase had me bouncing into the brush on trails that the Fuse would handle with aplomb. I’ve felt the evidence of that, and just need to convince my brain to pedal and not brake. In one ride, I cleaned a number of sections at Waldo that defeated me for months on the Ross.
Kudos to my riding friends for being so supportive and encouraging. It feels like they’re as excited for my new wheels as I am, and they’ve got nothing but good advice and positive reinforcement on my skills. Now, that could be because they hope they won’t have to wait for me as much as in the past, but I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and say that they’re just great guys.
Of course, there’s some dialing in to be done. The bars on the Fuse are much wider than the Ross’s. I rode the Fuse once with the stock bar width just to be conservative, but they were clearly too wide for the slalom course that is Waldo. I cringed every time I passed between two trees, and hooked a bar end once. I lopped an inch off each side before yesterday’s ride at Upper Paugussett, and never thought once about the bar width on the trails.
The other dialing-in is tire pressure. Coming from a roadie background where I got nervous below 100 psi, the low pressures of mountain bike tires skeeve me out. There’s no clear answer online, but I found enough info to be confident there’d be no pinch flats at 20 psi. I rode that a week ago at Waldo. Yesterday, I tried 18 psi with no trouble, and the bike felt grippier and smoother. The comparison wasn’t direct though. Different trails, and there was some residual snow that made me a little nervous. I’ll run 18 psi next time as well to increase the sample size, but some people on the Singletrack forum are running as low as 13 psi. They’re probably skinny little buggers though, and I’ve got 190 lbs. to shove through the woods, so pressures that low seem unlikely for me.