Monday, August 26, 2013

Giants at Duthie

This past weekend here in Seattle, bracketed by two hectic long weekends in the Bay Area, was special because we hiked to Snow Lake at Snoqualmie, the place where I took Marketa snowshoeing shortly after she moved here in December. In summer months, the trail that starts right off the ski area parking lot is obvious (we never found it during the winter) and it is described as the most heavily used trail around Seattle. It proved to be true - a steady stream of hikers, children, dogs went up and down the trail, most people reaching the lake overlook, but many also hiking down to the lake shores. Despite the trail being quite rocky and challenging at places, the frequent stopping or dodging tourists made for much less fun than the winter solitude among trees and peaks. But the lake itself was beautiful and we were glad we saw it in its summer glory.

I also managed to get out for a half day mountain bike ride at Grand Ridge and Duthie. This is a perfect destination when you cannot get out of town for a whole long summer day. Thirty minutes drive and you are on a sweet trail, not overly technical but with decent amount of climbing and lots of fun turns. The best part is reaching the Duthie skills park and riding the XC perimeter trails. It turned out that Giant had a demo day there and I managed at least to take a quick look at Giant's new bikes.

They had XTC carbon hardtails, carbon FS Anthems and aluminum Trance bikes on display. As everybody knows by now, Giant has jumped on the "new" wheel size (27.5) and most of the bikes were sporting the "mid size" wheels. What caught my attention, besides the beautifully executed carbon frames with quite attractive (even if slightly euro-trashy) color combination of black, white and blue, were the SRAM X01 1x11 drivetrains.

The simplicity of a single chain ring, the clean bottom bracket area with no front derraileur and the sophisticated-looking rear mech were quite a sight. Of course, the real engineering marvel is the 10-42 cassette, the largest sprocket looks huge when you look at the rear wheel from a side, but you get used to it in a minute.

The carbon X01 cranks were as pretty as their more expensive XX1 siblings, and the cable and brake hose routing, partly internal, partly following the contours of the Maestro link and rear swing arm look clean and professional.
All bikes were equipped with Rock Shocks suspension with remote lock-outs and Schwalbe Racing Ralph tires. Super wide handlebars are a norm today, but I lacked dropper seat posts and forgot to look for cable routing under the top tube. Impressive bikes, in comparison, my 26-er Mojo looked like a relic from a deep past, no matter how ahead Ibis was in bike design in 2006 when I bought the bike.
I am quite sure that 27.5" wheels will replace the 26 size, it just makes sense in all aspects. I am not that sure about the 1x11 gears, the tech geek in me would love to have it, at the same time I know that 32/42 may be too tall for me on some climbs and I would probably miss the easy and quick  shift from a large to a small chainring when needed. One could argue that you should always be in or close to the right gear, but trails will continue to surprise us and shifting across four or five cogs would certainly stall me when I would need it least - like a steep drop down to a creek then an abrupt steep climb up the other side. The future will tell but I think it will be great to have all these choices available.

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