We’ve been all over the place recently, meeting with vendors and riding bikes. I love writing about this sort of thing and thought I’d share my experiences of the bikes I rode.

Specialized Tarmac Disk: This was a super nice road race bike with all the fixins: Ultegra drivetrain, Ultegra hydraulic brakes, carbon clinchers. Very nice . The really great road bike feeling you love combined with the oh so strong and predictable strength of Shimano’s great road hydraulic brakes. This bike is physical proof that I way underestimated the speed with which we’d be presented very nice road bikes. And it’s just a great bike. Super ride. Great handling. The whole package.

Specialized Venge ViAS: One of the two new aero road wonderbikes of late. This thing is really cool. I didn’t have a speedometer when I rode the bike, nor did I ride with other people who might say things like, “Dude! You’re so fast!” so I cannot say that it transformed me from dud to stud. It was neat to ride a bike and see zero cables. The brakes were more than acceptable. Di2 is always fun. I confess that I am not super-obsessed with going as fast as possible, but I can say that I felt like nothing was compromised with this bike. It was no less comfortable than the Tarmac, and I think that’s quite a statement to make about a very aerodynamic bike.

Specialized Diverge: I loved this bike. Fatter tires and a compliant frame make for a really great ride. The bike I rode had hydraulic Red shifters, and though I love SRAM drivetrains, I’m not a monstrous fan of the hydro road shifters. I think they look strange, and I don’t care for the ergonomics. So there. Everything else was super great. It was a 1 x 11 drivetrain, and going up super-steep hills (of which there are a few in that part of the world) required a non-zero amount of fortitude. I rode it up hills. I rode it down hills. I rode it on pavement. I rode it on dirt roads. I smiled a lot. This is a very good bike, one that I think might be perfect for our (cough) imperfect (cough) Michigan roads.

I rode three mountain bikes while I was in California. The ride went like this: You ride straight up for a while on a switchback trail. Then you ride down a switchback trail strewn with good-sized (like a volleyball, maybe?) rocks. The hairpin turns on the switchbacks were a tad dusty/sandy, and the drop off was significant for a flatlander like me. I was out of my element. My guides did a good job of instruction, but my personal pucker-factor was high. This is no doubt worth knowing as I describe my experiences.

Specialized Camber 29er. Nice bike. This is pretty much the bike I rode in North Carolina last fall, and I liked it quite a lot. “Do not slow down,” was suggested. “Stay on top of the rocks. If you slow down and get in amongst them, it’ll be bad.” The Camber is plenty predictable and an all-around cool bike. It’s less intense/quick than an Epic, but with 20% more travel (120mm) at each end. Very nice. I was probably too freaked to do it justice, and by “probably” I mean “certainly.”

Specialized Stumpjumper FSR 650B. Holy smokes. Fat tires. Lots of travel. What a crazy bike. This is exactly what I needed to chase some of the fears away. I had a great time on this bike and kinda wish we had need for something like it around these parts. Make no mistake: I was still not fast. But I wasn’t thinking about purchasing additional life insurance, either.

Specialized Fuze 6Fattie. Despite the rather curious name, this thing was great. I confess that I didn’t ride it down some of the sketchier hills, but I had a super-fun time. It got me thinking again that this whole plus-sized thing might be something cool.

I rode three mountain bikes on Trek’s trails in Wisconsin. Trek’s trails are something else, something that you might expect to ride in heaven. Kinda flow-y like Merrell. Kinda intense like the dump. Kinda curvy like Custer. These trails were a lot more like like we have around here, and my comfort level was significantly higher than it was in California.

Trek Top Fuel. Trek’s new dual-suspension race bike was a very hot ticket during the demo period. This was the first bike I rode, and I was impressed by two things. It felt very comfortable and exceedingly fast — as though it had the efficiency and weight of a hard-tail. The Top Fuel also has very quick steering. I honestly did not know that a dual-suspension bike could feel like this. I also honestly know that this is too much bike for me. If my mind wandered during a ride (which has happened more than once), this thing would throw me on the ground and take my lunch money. Very fun, but realistically too hard-edged for a wannabe like me.

Trek Fuel EX 29. More travel than the TopFuel with a little slacker head tube and burlier tires and wheels. Fun. It didn’t feel as roaringly fast and quick as the Top Fuel, but it also felt like it my buddy and not some wild animal I was trying to tame, not unlike the comparison between Specialized’s Epic and Camber. I had a great time on this bike and was singing wonderful songs to myself the whole time I rode it.

Trek Stache. I’d intended to ride the new Madone and contrast it with the Venge, but lots of people were practically chanting, “Stache. Stache. Stache.” So I had to try it out. What a crazy bike. 29×3” tires with a 110mm fork. The way it worked at the Trek demo was this: you’d grab the bike you wanted. A Trek guy would install your pedals and get the seat height figured out, then you’d cruise down to the tent of the appropriate suspension company and get everything dialed. So I’m getting the Manitou fork adjusted and the tech dude (from Michigan!) said, “This is actually a pretty rowdy bike, very playful.” Rowdy? Hmmm. Turns out that I like rowdy. This thing was an absolute hoot. I am a man who prefers to be planted on terra firma. I’m talking both wheels on the ground. And yet I was trying to jump this thing. And then I was trying and succeeding. And then I’m riding the Stache on some of the features that I’d opted against on the other two bikes. I got back to the Trek tent and asked, “What is this thing? I was absolutely riding stuff that I cannot ride.” The Trek guy said, “Yeah. The Stache absolutely levels you up one.” I’m going to be honest: I kinda went to these demos to figure out what dual-suspension mountain bike to purchase for myself. And now I’m thinking a whole lot about the Stache.

And that’s what I know. I wanted to get these thoughts down before they fade, and I’ll see if I can collect a bit of commentary from my cohorts at the Trek demo and from Ryan, who went to Bellingham to ride Konas.

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