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Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Return to the Santa Cruz Factory Demo

It's been a year since my last Santa Cruz Factory Demo, and I've had enough riding under my belt on my mountain bike that it was worthwhile for me to try another demo to see if dual suspension bikes were any good.

I convinced 2 of my friends to come along, Eva Silverstein, who booked a Furtado. I booked a Tallboy for myself, but apparently had taken the last one, so had no choice but to book a Bronson for Arturo. It turned out that the Bronson was the higher end bike, but I'd actually wanted Arturo to try a 29er bike. Nevertheless, the 27.5" wheels were still substantially bigger than his 26" wheels.
We took a modified version of the ride I did with Arturo last time. This time, we did the Enchanted Loop twice, because the first time I did it, I accidentally rode it with the rear shock locked out! This gave me a good contrast, however, between what I would expect from a dual suspension bike and what a similarly weighted hard tail would do.
The most impressive thing about the dual suspension bike is how easy it made everything. Now, it's not a miracle --- I still couldn't do the kind of jumps that I couldn't do before, but it made all the jumps and drops I could do easier. In addition, at the end of the ride neither me nor my friends were as beat up as on hard tails, so I led them on a ride along the cliff-sides of wilder ranch as well.
The next day, I went over to El Corte Madera Park to ride a loop with my regular hardtail mountain bike (about $9000 cheaper than the Bronson Arturo rode if you're comparing MSRP).
El Corte Madera Park is a much more technical ride than Wilder Ranch. While Wilder Ranch is for beginners, the drops on El Corte Madera let you catch serious air if you're good. What I noticed was that while I was very fast at the beginning, as the ride wore, my fatigue made me less willing to do challenging stuff on my bike. On the dual suspension bike, I would have been more willing to ride more challenging material. For some of the super drops, my hard tail would be buckling like a bronco while the full suspension bike would be much more sedate.

In the end, while there's no question that the $6000+ MSRP bikes are better than my cheapie $700 eBay special, it's not clear that they're $5,000 better. Mountain bikes reward skill and finesse a lot more than road bikes do (and from an economic point of view, road cyclists can get their per mile cost down into the dimes per mile, which mountain bikes cannot easily do even with cheap mountain bikes like mine), so I'm unlikely to buy one of these new. I did notice that the eBay prices for the same bikes that are a year old are more than 50% off the MSRP, indicating that the first year depreciation of these bikes are ridiculous. Of course, buying a used carbon MTB comes with its own set of crazy hassles.

Of course, a $20 rental of the same bike is such an amazing deal that I'd urge you to try a factory demo for yourself!

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