I purchased this bike yesterday and brought it out for a quick 2 hour ride today because I am still quite busy with tests and assignments :'( The weather was very chilly with strong wind, and it started raining halfway through the ride, but that did not hamper my spirit any bit.
First of all, this bike was not setup properly from the bike store at all, I swapped my Times pedals over, tightened the cable on my rear derailurer, and adjusted the brakes to the way I liked them. This is my first bike with suspension, and due to the fact I do not have my shock pump yet, I did not play with the suspension settings at all.
I am very new to writing these reviews, but I will try my best and break it into sections:
We started the ride today with some long, and steep climbs. The shifting of the bike was very precise, however, the 9-speed derailure is difficult to setup properly, and my chain was skipping a little while climbing. From the short time I had in the saddle, I can see the shifting will be very very nice once everything has been broken in properly. It is definitely a step up from my STX setup on my old bike.
I have trouble finding words to describe the handling characteristics of this bike. The best I can come up with is agile, light, and extremely responsive.Across the singletrack, this bike turns on a dime, and does exactly what I want it to do. Once I have more saddle time, I can see myself being much faster over the tight and technical sections.
Pedal Bobbing and Climbing
This bike has EXTREMELY little pedal bobing while climbing both in and out of the saddle. Up the technical hills, this bike felt much lighter than my rigid Douglas, but overall, the climbing performance was about the same because my front fork was fairly soft. Also, the front end of the bike wants to pop up, but I guess that was because the rear was putting the power down to the ground too efficiently. Later on during the ride, I simply leaned more towards the front, and the problem did not come back.
Again, this is my first bike with suspension, but the bike absorbed all the small and medium bumps while climbing and riding across the single tracks. Overall, I feel much more confident due to the plushy ride, and the fact that my wheels are always on the ground. I will update this section once I learn more about suspension and have them setup perfectly to suit my riding style.
These V-brakes are AMAZINGLY strong. Going down a few technical downhills that I've tried before, this bike feels very stable and I felt I was totally in control. Most likely, the new found confidence is a combination of better frame geometry, good suspension and stronger brakes. Currently, I feel I have all the braking power I need, and will not upgrade to disc brakes anytime soon.
The tires gripped very well in dry, and packed down trails. However, as soon as rain started to fall, I had very little grip. Once I tried to take off by pedalling very hard, I spun the tire around the entire pedal stroke. Not very good for my first time out on wet trails today.
Overall, I am extremely happy with my new purchase. I believe this bike will serve my purpose of XC racing much better than the Kona Kula Deluxe I was intending of acquring. I just need more seat time, and I think I will be ready for a few races next season.
Feel free to leave comments and ask any more questions you have regarding the bike. For a high resolution photo gallery, please go to Rocky Mountain Instinct