YOU DIDN’T KNOW THIS BUT…
Sean Estes,Specialized Global PR Manager
I was a die-hard 26 guy for years. I was one of the last at S to make the transition to 29. Mind you I was one of the slowest too – not to say I am slow, more so to say the rest of the MTB product team are all ridiculously fast. I am the slowest of a mostly fast crew you could say.
I tried a Stumpy 29 at a press camp in Bend and it felt really good, a little slow in some situations but super fast overall and super smooth. I built up my own 29 as soon I got home. Kept the 26 thinking I’d want to swap around for different scenarios. Turns out I never rode the 26 again. Sold it a few months later and never looked back. Have been a die-hard 29 since that day and have converted many friends who were also 26 stalwarts.
Fast forward to about a year or so ago when I see Buck (Joe Buckley R&D) test riding a bike with big ass balloon tires. I was curious because Buck is the fastest and most consistent rider in the group (Don’t tell Brandon Sloan I said that!) and he also happens to be the most opinionated and some might say stubborn. I wrote it off as just testing and figured even the fastest guys have to ride all the different stuff to at least know how it feels. He kept bringing the bike out on more and more rides and then Todd Cannatelli was on one too, except a hardtail. And he was chalking up some mega fast Strava segment times on rough trails – like top-10 out of many hundreds of people. Now I was really curious.
“riding like a ‘total asshole’, taking stupid lines that shouldn’t work”
Fast forward to this spring, with the release of the new Stumpy, I build up a 6Fattie for myself – Fox 34, XX1, all the good stuff. The perfect bike. Then at yet another press camp, I sneak in a loop at Downieville the day before camp starts, I climb up the brutal XC course at tempo with no warm up and I’m only about 4 minutes off my race pace from last year on a 1 hour climb. Then I drop into baby heads (extremely aptly named) and come to find once I upload that I PR’d every segment of the descent, some of which I landed in the top-10 out of thousands of riders. And I was, in the words of my buddy Nate Riffle who was with me on a stumpy 650 that day, and who happens to be a former pro DH racer, riding like a ‘total asshole’, taking stupid lines that shouldn’t work and simply pulling away from him due to no skill of mine.
I decided to race the 6fattie bike for the Downieville Classic All-Mtn. I managed to cut a full minute out my climb time over the prior year and another 7+ minutes out of the remainder of the XC course, for 15th place in the stacked pro category. The following day on the DH I came out of Sunrise trail, 7 minutes into the 14 mile long DH, only 1 second off Carl Decker’s best time on that segment (again, due to no talent of my own). I had caught my minute man within 10 minutes of the start, on upper Butcher Creek, when sadly I suffered a front puncture on one of many sections of awkward sharp rock. I made a mistake fixing the flat, lost my Co2 cartridge and thought my race was over. Luckily I was able to borrow supplies from fellow racers and salvage my run, tallying PR’s on all segments along the way. Even with all the trouble, I still bested my result from the year prior, for 23rd overall – even with the unscheduled 15 minute roadside pit stop.
Then I took the exact bike I raced on up to Crankworx and rode it all over Whistler valley for a week and never found myself wanting for more bike. For me, a rider who is fast but not mega fast and certainly not stylish nor talented, if anything just dedicated, the 6fattie is the most fun I have ever had on a mountain bike. It is also the fastest overall. It’s even fast on pavement, believe me, it is – I out-sprinted two riders on ‘normal’ bikes on the final pavement section to the finish at Downieville. If you are like me I think you will find the same conclusion. If you are a true pro rider then you may find different results, but let’s be honest, how many of us are true pros? Most of us are a lot more like me.
I think everyone should keep an open mind and ride everything they can get their hands on, not just wheel sizes but frame designs, tyre treads, casings, suspensions, narrow bars, wide bars, thin grips, thick grips, etc. It’s definitely not fair to knock something until you try it, because you never know what you will like or what will end up being faster. I have been very pleasantly surprised twice now with 29 and 6fattie, and who knows what the next surprise will be but I for one can tell you I can’t wait to be proved wrong yet again!