New Bike Day

I still remember one of my first proper bikes when I was a teenager, it was a GT Palomar mountain bike.  Back then (this was the 90's) it had Rapidfire shifting, cantilever brakes and alloy rims.  It was also a smidge too big at 17" size for my height at the time.  After that I owned a Haro MTB which had a suspension fork with 60mm of travel and V-Brakes which I thought was awesome for the time.  I rode this bike mostly on the road with the occasional excursion into the dirt, but nothing all that serious.  I kept this one well into my university years, using it to commute.  It even got stolen once and miraculously returned at one point.  From then on I owned a succession of road bikes.

Any of the regular readers of my blog know that I'm quite partial to dirt, and it really was just a matter of time that I would end up with a mountain bike.  I've not been posting much in the last year as I have changed jobs and gone through many other things in my life which have occupied my time.  Before starting my new job I had a small break and spent it test riding bikes, visiting Swinley Forest which is a bike park in Surrey Hills and generally riding.  From the get go I decided to get a mountain bike that could tackle things that my gravel bike could never do, so it had to be a full suspension bike.


There was really so much choice, and the nature of mountain bikes had changed significantly since I was young.   There were so many different types that didn't exist previously, I went to a demo day held at Hadleigh Park, an ex-olympics XC course where I was able to test ride quite a lot of different types of bikes.  I rode a Cannondale Trigger enduro bike and loved how smoothly and effortlessly it went downhill, then followed that with a Merida 29er XC bike and appreciated how well it rolled over obstacles and how fast it went.  Later on I tried riding a Scott Spark 720 plus bike and loved how it combined the best qualities of both of these.

It was a 130/120mm travel trail bike equipped with 2.8" 650B+ tyres, these tyres are larger and more voluminous than the standard 2.25" tyres normally found on mountain bikes.  They give it a feel of being able to roll over anything like a fat bike but without the heft, the volume gives it crazy amounts of grip and gives you a lot of confidence to throw it into turns and loose terrain.  The bike also featured the novel Scott Twinloc, this is a device which alters the volume of the rear shock causing it to become more progressive (the spring rate ramps up more quickly as it goes through its travel), this enables more efficient climbing with less bobbing, and makes the dynamic head angle steeper and gives you a slightly higher BB; all this is quite useful in slower more technical terrain or when hammering up a hill.

Soon after I ended up buying a Scott Spark 710 plus, this was a lucky purchase as it was 40% off as it was a 2017 model that was being superseded.  It was MBR Plus bike of the year 2017 and received a 10/10 review.  Originally I was intending to get the 720 plus which had an aluminium frame but was hard to pass up this one as it was only a few hundred pounds more which got you a carbon mainframe, better suspension and a better groupset.  Straight away one of the first things I got for it was a pair of Ergon GA3 grips as the stock ones were rock hard and not too grippy.

Winter muck

Having purchased it in winter though meant that there was mostly very sloppy wet riding for the next few months and the constant hassle of having to wash the bike every ride.  I took it to Surrey Hills and got familiar with many of the trails around Peaslake.  Eventually as spring came around I rode the South Downs Way which is one of my favourite long distance natural trails to ride.  I wasn't quite sure if the bike would be overkill for a trail like this, however it felt perfectly fine and much more comfortable.

Despite the rocks and terrain of the South Downs Way being quite mild, on my Gravel bike I would typically get fatigued from all the bumps after about 3-4 hours of riding on it.  The plus tyres of the Spark as well as the suspension really helps with comfort, and not only that. I was able to climb up steep, slippery inclines on it that previously were only walkable.  The traction afforded by the big volume tyres in combination with the rear suspension opened up another world of ascent.

By the time summer came around I was able to ride around Surrey Hills and many other trails on drier terrain which really made an enormous difference, I really prefer riding where I don't have to spend hours cleaning afterwards.  I did however neglect my gravel bike for a bit, however it does form a good complement to the bike collection which was the original intention.

Thanks for reading