We make holes in teeth!

Friday, March 31, 2006

The Miracle of Birth

Last night, my credit card gave birth to a wonderful new Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Comp mountain bike. Those of you who know me well may ask, "But Norm, isn't your wife about to give birth?" The answer to that question is yes, she is. In fact, right after we left the doctor's office for her 38 week ultrasound, we drove right to the bike shop and picked up the new bike, which I ordered Monday.

I see this as the first real step in a long series of me being an utterly irresponsible father. I figure why not get a jump on things and start a few weeks before the kid comes? Hey, might as well get a leg up. My next stop is trying to smuggle beer into the hospital. I'll keep you posted.

I have little else to say about the bike because all I have done is read reviews and ridden it around the parking lot. It rates really well and feels great so far as my test rides went. But that extends as far as a few different parking lots as well as my driveway last night, still dressed up in my button down shirt and Cole Hahn shoes I wear to work.

I expect it to be like nothing I've ever experienced on a mountain bike before. Having been riding a hardtail for about 12 years, it's going to be a new experience. I don't know if it will initially be good or bad. But it should be interesting regardless. And going downhill is going to be a blast, for sure. My guess is that by the end of the first ride, I'll be sold. I'm sure it will be a future blog.

Now onto the details of the bike. If you're not into bike specs and brands and whatnot, I suggest not reading any more because you're going to be bored. For those of you who care, I picked this bike after reading various reviews, riding a few bikes in the parking lot, and talking to some friends. When it comes down to it, this was the only bike for me. That's when you know you've done your due diligence, when a single bike comes out as the only choice. My result: Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Comp is the bike for me.

The process started when my mountain bike finally broke to the point it needed dire attention. Long story short, it "broke" when I half-tossed it into a tree. The chain was skipping mercilessly on the rear cassette, and the meeting with the tree bent the back rim irreparably. At that point, I needed a new drivetrain and at least 1 new rim, if not 2, not to mention brakes. When I took it to the bike shop for advice he looked at me and said, "Let's talk about where you want to go with mountain biking."

So the search for a new mountain bike was on. In my imminent consumer-based American lifestyle, I almost went home and convinced the wife that the Cannondale Rush 800 was the bike I should buy. All this after talking to Eric at High Gear Cyclery for 20 minutes. But I couldn't convince myself, so I didn't bother trying to convince the wife. Thankfully, I backed off and thought about it for more than 18 seconds.

It seemed that for my style of riding - basic XC riding with climbs and an intermediate to intermediate-plus level of technical stuff thrown in, I needed to spend in the realm of $2000-$2500 for a bike to fit my needs. Ok, so that starting point eliminates a whole lot of bikes. Here's what seemed to emerge, in terms of brands: Cannondale, Kona, Specialized, Giant, Ellsworth, Gary Fisher, Trek.

Now the elimination process begins. As an aside, this is no different than resume elimination from the door. If you're hiring and you have 50 resumes, you decide that you don't like people named George for this job and so remove all resumes beginning with the letter G, and maybe everything from A to M for the hell of it. Well, it's not quite that random. But there are basic considerations.

Trek, my life long bike brand, immediately fell off the radar because nobody had much good to say about them. Their energy is in road bikes right now, and their mountain technology isn't up to par with a lot of other brands. Too few shops sell Giant and Ellsworth, so those bikes dropped out as well. I'm not about to drive an hour to buy a bike and have it serviced if need be. It's got to be something carried locally, at a shop I'm comfortable buying at. Gary Fisher also fell off for that reason, plus they seem to be in the higher end market, above my price range.

That left Cannondale, Kona, and Specialized. Specifically, it left the new Cannondale Rush series, Kona Dawg series, and Specialized Stumpjumper FSR series. The Cannondale's fell off next because of a few things. Woody's experience with them was a big one, but also Somerville Cyclery said they had problems to the point they no longer carry Cannondale. It seems a lot of these details are worked out now and Cannondale makes a solid bike. But they still don't sell their tools to the public, which means all maintenance is done by sending their Lefty shock and front hub to their service center. Being on the hook like that isn't thrilling to me. This left Kona and Specialized.

Kona was the leader after a test ride. The guys there like them and they rate really well. But after talking to a few more people this changed. Kona is a great frame but for the money you pay, the components you get aren't up to par with some of the other bikes. Also, nobody had a bad thing to say about Specialized. While nobody really came out saying that Specialized is their preferred bike of choice, it was always a "good solid bike," or a "can't go wrong" bike.

But then I read some reviews, and the Specialized comes out really well. So off again I went to the bike shop and took it for a spin. It felt good, soft, impossible to say by my current standards. The decision to be made was the Comp or the Expert. Only a few things set them apart, nothing really worth the cost difference in the 2. The Expert has a front shock with more adjustments as well as brakes with adjustments on the lever. After talking to people, these are adjustment levels that absolutely nobody ever uses. You set it where you want it then leave it where it is. The Expert offered nothing more besides a $400 increased price, and a different color.

That was Sunday. I slept on it, came across nothing to dissuade me, then made the call Monday morning, 15 minutes after the shop opened. I picked it up last night. That's the end of the buying story. The riding story has yet to begin.


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