After a few years of rattling around on my battered hardtail the time has come for a serious upgrade into the world of proper mountain bikes, the only question being what to choose. Actually as I discovered when I started to look around there is an awful lot of things to consider when you are parting with a sizeable chunk of your own cash. There is no such thing as ‘a mountain bike’ as there are different styles of bikes for the innumerable branches of the mountain bike family tree (actually someone should draw that it would be ace) broadly categorised by Cross Country (XC), Trail, Enduro, Downhill. So the first thing to think about was ‘What sort of riding do I do?’ or perhaps more importantly ‘what riding might I be doing over the next few years?’ and this would narrow things down a touch.
The answer to what sort of riding do I do is really slow not very good riding ! (check out my Project Snail posts) which I do mainly on XC terrain with a nudge towards some trail riding. Trail riding is what I’d like to be able to confidently ride so with that future in mind I started my search for suitable bikes, looking at reviews, narrowing brands down, asking people and trying to come up with some sort of vague shortlist. Once you begin this process though other thorny questions arise, how much travel do you want (or require), what about wheel size, and what level of spec do you want (or can you afford). With regards to wheel size I’d have quite happily stayed on 26 inch but there are less and less to choose from so I decided to look at 29er over 650b as I’m unlikely to be able to ride the very techy tight stuff where 29ers perhaps struggle. I looked at a range of travel but decided that 120-140mm would be ample for what I do and give the growth in case I ever get any better at this lark. Spec, ideally wanted to go with Shimano over SRAM and come in around the SLX / XT mix, I wanted to have the option of going tubeless and I wanted to have a dropper post. Never did I ever think I would write the last bit of that sentence but having had a go with a dropper post and spoken to others who ride them they all say they would never go back.
So I had my rough ‘wish list’ of what I wanted, now to find the bike that would deliver this and fit me within the budget that I had, which while decent was going to rule out the super marques. Once I started going round bike shops, having a look and trying out bikes I quickly came to one conclusion, the geometry and sizing of bikes is so different that for me getting the right fit by trying a lot of bikes was going to be essential. I’m a stumpy Welshman, some bikes that were technically the same size as I ride now were too big others too small so while I did consider the elephant in the room of direct sale bikes I ruled it out very quickly as there was no way I was going to spend decent money on something I had no idea what it felt like to ride. This would be my one biggest tip, unless you really understand geometry and your body size, don’t buy a mountain bike unless you have tried it and compared it to others. I was starting to despair a little as many of the bikes I tried out just didn’t feel right, didn’t fit or didn’t deliver what I wanted, even taking certain compromises with the spec into consideration.
A couple of people had mentioned having a look at Cube bikes and also mentioned EscapeBikes nr Ingleton as a good shop that stocked Cubes. They had a welcoming approach when I contacted them about the Cube Stereo (the bike in their range that I thought might best meet my needs), ‘Yes come on up swing your leg over and try it out’ and I’ll just point out that not all bike shops adopt this approach, some seem genuinely surprised that you might want to you know actually ride and try the bikes in their shops. Sam up at Escape was great taking time to talk knowledgeably about the range (again not all bike shop staff can do this) and get the bike set up for me to try, including adjusting the sag in the shocks. The bike felt great as soon as I got on board and crucially for me the fit was good and I felt instantly comfortable. It did of course feel odd looking down at big wheels but I’m sure I’ll get used to that. The spec and value for money looked excellent, SLX / XT mix, dropper post, Fox doing the suspension all wrapped round a carbon front triangle – way too good for me :-)
So after months of searching and trying numerous bikes the Cube Stereo (see photo above) is what I’ve settled on and I can’t wait to pick it up and get used to it. Hopefully we’ll have many adventures and smiles over the next few years and who knows I might even get to the stage where I ride it to it’s full capability and even if I can’t I try to have as much fun as I can trying.