In my quest to find out how a 29er would perform for me, I’ve rocked a 2011 Specialized Stumpjumper Comp 29 on neighborhood gnar, pump track, dual slalom, dirt jumps and big-mountain violence. So far so good. Yesterday I finally got to ride the beast on a standard XC trail.
This is what the bike is designed for. Game on.
2011 Stumpjumper Comp 29 with upgraded wheels and cranks, plus my Answer flat pedals, 70 mm Answer stem and original issue Maverick Speedball seatpost. 2.2 Purgatory Grid tires, tubeless with about 25 psi front, 28 rear.
So far this bike has performed really well on a wide range of terrain. It’s smooth and fast in the rough stuff, it corners darn well and it’s no chump in the bike park. The remaining question has been: How will it handle a “normal” trail with braaap style?
Specialized Stumpjumper Comp 29, with upgraded wheels and cranks, and my seatpost, pedals and stem.
Graffiti by my 2-year-old Fiona. She and her twin sister Finley are geniuses.
Up and down Picture Rock Trail in Lyons, CO. This 6-mile route has a fun mix of flow and chatter, smoothness and rocks. The climb is easy in the thirty-something ring. The descent isn’t hard to ride, but it’s challenging to ride fast. Think of a 6-mile pump track with tricky rock combos and dozens of quick lateral transitions. This is my go-to trail ride: A nice test of overall fitness and flow.
I’ve ridden Picture Rock on two generations of Stumpies and Enduros, plus an SX, a P.3 and Captain America — all with 26″ wheels. Yes, I keep track of my times.
I’ve had the flu since last weekend: coughing up mucus, sweating all night, low power, low acuity, generally feeling like crap. I’ve been laying low all week (hard with a brand new pump track in my yard!), but the bike had to go back to its owner Jason Emmanuel yesterday, so this was my last chance to hit trail.
Yes, of course I set my timer.
A stiff headwind made my groggy wheeziness feel even more crappy, but I settled in and eased into the hill. As I warmed up, I started feeling pretty good.
• Except for the XC-nerd narrow bars, this bike fits just like my Mighty Stumpy 26. I no longer feel like I’m testing some crazy bike with huge wheels. I’m just riding.
• The Stumpy 29 rolls over bumps very easily. This is old news, but it still strikes me. The big rocks are easier, but I think I saved a lot of time and energy on all the tiny (1-3 inch) rocks.
• On a choppy trail like this, I often climb my 26ers with the ProPedal off. While the plushness absorbs some of the chop, it definitely adds some wallow. With the 29 I rolled with ProPedal on, and it felt even smoother — and firmer, less wallowy.
• Hmm. I suppose because 29s are inherently smoother over chop, you can run a firmer pedal platform than you would on 26es. You could also run less suspension or even a lockout or hardtail. So, 29s can give you a smoother AND more efficient ride. I know this isn’t news to a lot of you, but it struck me so I’m sharing it.
• While it’s done every day all over the world, I didn’t just sit there and bash through everything. I tried to maintain nice balance, but my fore-aft transitions felt less urgent. All of my movements felt rounder, easier.
• As I reached the higher sections, I noticed I was pulling a taller gear and more speed than normal. At one point, I found myself pumping a tight left-right transition over some rocks. Pumping corners uphill — that’s a sure sign that you’re climbing pretty well!
A strong climb for me on the Stumpy 26 is 47 minutes. My best (pinned so hard I couldn’t descend well) was a 45-something. Yesterday, pedaling sick into a headwind, I rolled a 43:55 — and it felt easy.
That is pretty convincing. I can see rolling a 41:00 or 42:00 on this bike.
After the climb I hacked up two liters of mucus. It was so gruesome people were asking if I needed medical help. I set the Triad shock to open, softened the fork and lowered the seat. Time to go.
I could tell right away that the sickness was going to affect the DH more than the climb. I work way harder going downhill, and I need way more balance and general acuity.
• The Stumpy 29 carried great speed through the rough stuff. Yes, nothing new here, but I noticed for sure.
• It was a lot easier to pedal in the moderately rough sections. With the big wheels, my feel feel more planted on the flat pedals.
• Cornering traction exceeded my expectations. If I could ride this bike on this trail again, I would carry a lot more speed into the corners. When the Purgs did let go, they released into some pretty sweet, controlled drifts.
• The bike felt too soft and vague. When I pumped hard into transitions — especially corners — the suspension wallowed. Darnit, I should have left the ProPedal on and the fork firm. I always descend this trail with open suspension because it helps absorb the chop. With the 29s, that is not necessary. OK I get it now: Set your 29er firmer than your 26er.
• Oh yeah, lunch time. I had to stop for about 10 groups of riders on the way down. This bummed my flow, but it gave me time to hawk up gross things.
• While I was clearly low on power and acuity, some rough/tech sections were definitely faster on this bike. I’m not judging by perceived speed, which is never accurate, but by how far I carried up the rises.
• I braked too much! I’ve ridden this trail so many times I have established braking points. With this bike, I don’t need to brake in a lot of those places.
• This was my big concern: Can this bike handle the superquick side-to-side transitions and kung fu pump action? The answer is yes. I hit all of my usual lines at good speed. I was able to whip the 29er around just like normal. The big wheels did not suck.
• While the Stumpy 29 could be braaaped (pumped, whipped, drifted, jumped) in the interesting sections, in the tamer sections it felt quieter and easier than the 26. If you don’t know what braaap is, the big wheels are your clear choice.
I’m not going to publish my downhill time. I’ll just say:
My downhill time was within a couple minutes of my personal record (set on a 2008 Stumpjumper Pro Carbon 26 — Brains front and rear, incredible bike).
Accounting for traffic and sickness would put me at or likely better than my best. If I learn the 29s, I can see riding significantly faster (and easier) than than on 26es.
To me, Picture Rock Trail is a great test of XC fitness, skill and equipment. It’s not hard, but it’s hard to ride fast. It has big, medium and little rocks. Most can be pumped; many must be skimmed. It has countless corners: some sweeping, some abrupt, most interconnected. You will not rip this trail unless you and your bike are in harmony.
For this type of ride — the type of ride most people do — the Stumpjumper Comp 29 clearly climbs faster and easier than a Stumpy 26. Oh yeah, and it descends faster and easier.
Stay tuned for the summary of my four-ride test of the Stumpjumper Comp 29.
Know more. Have more fun!
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