I picked up my new mountain bike today so, after a few well-earned days rest, I hit the trails and found out just how awesome the Merida Big Nine TFS100 29er is.
Firstly, riding with suspension is a revolution. I used to have a mountain bike with suspension (an early 2000s Giant Yukon) but I never really rode it off-road (I used it to commute). So having travel in the front forks was such a confidence boost. No longer did my bike come to a screeching stop if I didn’t pop the front wheel up far enough over obstacles, but the suspension allowed the front wheel to roll over instead. Instead of slowing to prepare to dismount at every log and rocky creek bed, I found myself attacking obstacles instead.
Secondly, the 29″ wheels are magical. I found myself riding up hills I previously walked and rolling much more quickly along the flats. On my way home, I even managed to get most of the way up the twisting and turning Grass Trees trail, which is a huge confidence boost. The bigger wheels also mean I have more clearance under the bottom bracket, making it easier to ride over logs without getting caught on them. The only down side of the 29er is that it is a bit more difficult to get it through some of the tighter turns on the single tracks. But I’m sure that this is also just a matter of me getting used to the bike.
Thirdly, the hydraulic disc brakes are the bomb. After struggling all this time with dodgy V-brakes that got filled with mud, suffered cable stretch or plain failed on me, the reliable braking system is something to be celebrated. I found myself cruising down hills with speed, rather than holding the brakes out of concern that they’d not work if I needed them. I took a hill at 46kph that I’ve always walked down in the past.
As you have probably gathered, the new bike has increased my riding speed. I used to ride the trails in Bayview Conservation Reserve at between 9kph – 11kph (5.5mph – 7mph). Today, my average speed for a 25km ride was 14kph (8.7mph). It’s still not fast, but it does represent a 40% improvement in just my first ride, including 7km (4.4miles) that I rode after the sun set.
I have to give a shout out to the boys at 99 Bikes, Underwood. They were friendly, knowledgeable and patient. I spent about an hour test riding bikes on Sunday and they made sure each was properly set up for me. I never felt rushed to make a decision or purchase. In fact, I told them when I went into the shop that I didn’t have my credit card with me. I also liked that they didn’t try to sell me a bike outside my stated budget. I told them I was looking in the $600 – $800 price category and they only gave me $600 – $800 bikes to test ride; they didn’t try to force me to stretch my budget to the $1,000 – $1,200 price category. If anyone’s looking for a new bike, I would definitely recommend 99 Bikes (if you go to the Underwood store, tell them I sent you).
Total: 25.9km MTB