auburn test ride

This weekend Specialized Bicycles had a demo day at my favorite trail network, the Auburn Confluence recreational area. Even though it’s my favorite trail network, I haven’t been out there in a while, mostly because I haven’t been mountain biking much lately. So it was nice spending the day out there with Geo and Kiefer.

IMG_20130511_125420I tested out a Specialized Epic 29er. It was nice, except it was missing a dropper post. The lack of a dropper would make my later descent quite scary.

IMG_20130511_130444It was Kiefer’s first time on a real mountain biking trail, so I guess he was a bit spooked by how narrow the trail was, and how close to the river it was. I felt bad because he ended up walking a lot.

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The initial climb out of the confluence area starts on narrow dirt singletrack, but then dumps you out on a paved road alongside Lake Clementine. From there there’s another half mile of climbing to get to the fun downhill trails that take you back to the confluence.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy bike was equipped with Specialized Brain shocks. I’m usually not one to fall for marketing hype, but these brain shocks seem to really work. It’s some kind of automatic lockout for the rear suspension. Ordinarily (since I’m kind of a fatty cyclist) I’d experience a good amount of bob and flex in the rear of a full suspension bike, especially when climbing. This brain technology seems to lockout the rear shock automatically while I’m pedaling, but at the same time the suspension responds to any hits from below like normal, softening up the ride on the rocky trails. It’s magic. Too bad the tech’s a little out of my price range.

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Once we reached the top of our climb, we took the Shortcut trail down to Stonewall trail. This used to be my normal route. Up Clementine, down Shortcut to Stonewall to Confluence.

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George nears the bottom of Stonewall.

I later found out that they had reconfigured some of the trails. I used to clear Stonewall on my hardtail 26er without too much difficulty. Now Stonewall is a pretty narrow and steep technical trail, with numerous tight switchbacks. It was scary even on the teched out bike I was demoing. If I had known how technical the trail had become, I’d have wanted to test out a more all-mountain oriented bike like the Stumpjumper. But instead I had a pretty cross-country oriented Epic, and it didn’t have a dropper post, so I couldn’t shift my weight back far enough for the steep descents. So it was a pretty hairy ride down.

And to make matters worse, Stonewall now ends at Mammoth Bar instead of at the Confluence trail, so we had to climb back up the road to get to the trailhead for Confluence. It was incredibly hot, so the climb on the paved blacktop was not fun. Next time I know to take Culvert down to Clementine, instead of Shortcut/Stonewall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt took us a while to get there, but we made it to the Confluence trailhead. This is my single  favorite stretch of trail. If I ever have a daughter, I’d wanna name her either Auburn or Connie, in honor of the Auburn Confluence trail. I didn’t take any pictures while riding this trail today, I was having way too much fun (but there are some pictures toward the bottom of this post if you’re curious what my favorite trail looks like).

Whereas on my hardtail 26er I kind of have to be picky about choosing clean lines, this full suspension 29er just bulldozes over everything. It makes for an incredibly fun rollercoaster ride down.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe finished off the day with a refreshing dip in the river.

Every time I go to a demo day, I’m amazed at how well the full suspension 29ers ride. I might have to buy one eventually. I was actually planning to buy one this year, but ended up buying a road bike since mine was stolen. And in truth I have more road biking friends than mountain biking friends, so I guess it doesn’t make sense to throw so much money at a mountain bike. So I guess I’ll get by with my trusty old hardtail for a while longer.

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