Friday, August 24, 2007
I'm coming clean with an experience which brings shame and self-loathing everytime I tell it, or worse, everytime Ben tells it. And no, it doesn't involve the Internet, a late night trip to a seedy convenience store, or buying a Cannondale. It's all about the Big Wheels. I talked Benson out of buying a 29er when he blew the load (of money) he'd been saving up all summer. He was in Boston doing an internship during law school and had the means to build up a dream bike. What's more, since he was in Boston, he had the rare experience (for us western dwellers) to follow the process of having a hand-built titanium mountain bike frame built by one of the acknowledged leaders in the craft, Independent Fabrication. It also didn't hurt that they're one of the coolest group of people around. So there's the short version, which also serves as a handy intro. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm becoming more of a foody every day. I love to cook and I love to eat good food. I've learned over the years that when you go to a restaurant, one of the best ways to get the most out of the situation is to trust the server, assuming you can determine whether the server is serious. If the server is serious about his job, he'll know the menu inside and out and will have tried everything. I'm not sure how to explain whether you know when you can trust the server, but you just know. It's like when I send people down to Racer. Everybody, from people who didn't know that adult bikes come in more than one size all the way to the guy who just dropped $1,000 or so on wheels to save 75g just seem to sense that Racer knows his stuff and that they should probably follow his advise. I almost always fall into this category as well. Except for when 29ers came out. I assumed I knew it all. I should have known that people who do nothing but build bikes for a living would have known what they were talking about. I'm talking about Matt Bracken, President and frame designer over there at IF. Racer was riding a 29er and said it was the best thing ever. "They roll over everything" he would say. Matty B suggested that Ben get a 29er. I talked Ben out of it. And here's how I did it. I was riding my Serotta custom Ti hard tail that I'd ridden for several years. I figured I didn't have any trouble going down hill, but the extra weight and bigger wheel size would make it that much harder to go up hill. I found myself begging the granny gear with some frequency and figured the last thing I wanted to do is effectively give up a gear on the lower end. I also discussed the likelihood of slow steering. Add to that the argument that the 29er thing was probably just a fad, and Ben was convinced. He went with the 26er. When he came out to ride it, the 26er wasn't ready so Racer let him ride a 29er demo Racer had. As I would later find out, Ben knew immediately that he'd made a huge mistake, but he masked it because he knew how bad I'd feel. Ben's a better man than I am. I admit it. Then he didn't say anything but how sweet his IF was once he got it. If the story ended there, it'd be fine. We'd both be on 26ers. Ben would know better, but I would have remained in blissful ignorance. I continued to tell the growing number of my friends who used 29ers that they were idiots. Until Devin let me ride his 29er Curtlo on the second loop at Lambert Park. I immediately came to the same realization Ben did. I simply had to have a 29er. If I was going to replace the Serotta, which I affectionately refer to as "Bessy", it'd have to be with something as good, but with big wheels. I got the go ahead from Racer and set us up as an IF dealer. I then proceeded to order myself up a 29er Ti Deluxe. It's everything I hoped it'd be. On my first ride with Jon Boy and the rest of the Family, it felt like I'd been riding it for years. There simply was no break in period where I had to build my confidence. It went faster from the get-go. "Point and shoot" I started calling its ride quality. And Ben languished on with his beautiful, but cheerio-wheeled, ti IF. Since he got back, Ben picked up a Felt 29er. While he's not riding his little brother's bike anymore, and while his Felt is a very able bike, it's just not an IF Ti. Until he gets one, my shame will persist. So there it is, in all its ugliness. I ruined Ben's once in a lifetime dream bike experience by talking him out of the 29er and then proceeded to buy exactly the same thing myself. Usually, coming clean makes you feel better. For some reason, the guilt persists. Sorry, Ben.