Changing Your Perceptions: Specialized Demo Day
I’m pretty certain that I made the right choice a year ago when I brought home a sparkling purple enduro bike, but i’m not one to pass up a chance to nosey at a bunch of different bikes. On a surprisingly warm sunday afternoon in February Mr Betty, Laura and I (or “large”, “small” and “medium” as we came to be known!) went to our local trails at Stainburn for Specialized’s Demo Day. The event was hosted by the guys at the Specialized store in Harrogate; who I can thoroughly recommend if you are looking for good advice, and they do a decent service too.
Neither one of us were looking for a new bike immediately, which perhaps gave us the freedom to try a variety of bikes that we wouldn’t normally consider. Specialized are a major bike manufacturer, perhaps the biggest, and it is often evident on bike websites that they come in for some flack as a result. They are often first among the manufacturers bringing new trends and products to market, some of which we were keen to try out today.
Mr Betty was really keen to try the e-bikes out, though I think it was more curiosity than any serious desire to purchase or operate a motorized vehicle. Specialized have been relatively late to the party when it comes to a solid e-bike offering (though a number of the major bike brands are still to offer an e-option) but we all managed to have a go on the Turbo Levo 6Fattie. This is essentially a remodelled stumpjumper with the levo battery system and plus sized tyres. All three of us were fairly adamant that we might well enjoy the e-bike, but we certainly wouldn’t be purchasing one or endorsing their use any time soon.
It is fairly safe to say that nothing climbs like an e-bike. On the first ride up the steep Stainburn switchbacks Mr Betty selected the Turbo Levo, whilst Laura and I kept it real on the Enduro 650b. It is safe to say from the whooping and hollering from Mr Betty he was having the most fun he had ever had on the climb to the top of the descents. When things turned downhill I think we were all sceptical about the Turbo Levo’s abilities. I was surprised that this bike handled reasonably well despite weighing significantly more than a modern downhill or trail bike.
For us there was just too much compromise; the uphills were so much fun in a way you would never experience on your normal human-powered trail bike, but we just weren’t sure that this was worth it when things turned south. This is not even getting into the discussion about whether in some way an e-bike is “cheating”, which is probably a discussion for another day. It is probably safe to say that our perception of e-bikes didn’t change, though that is not to say the Turbo Levo wasn’t an excellent specimen and it was enormous amounts of fun.
Perhaps a bigger surprise were the plus bike tyres. All of us were usually to be found on Magic Mary’s or something similarly chunky, but the plus sized purgatory tyre options from Specialized were significantly bigger at 3.0”. When you’re sitting over the bike and looking down at your front wheel the tyres look ridiculous, and you certainly wonder whether you’ve been tricked into something that is gonna leave you going OTB out on the trail. All of us enjoyed the large tyres, the grip seemed to be relatively endless and they swallowed up roots and wet rocks with ease. The purgatory 650b+ tyre’s nemesis is definitely thick, sloppy mud which was to be found in abundance on the soft loamy and slightly unofficial trails above the road at Stainburn. I’m sure that if these plus sized tires remain popular there will be a variety of models to cope with the British weather. Whilst these plus sized tires can sit on ‘normal’ rims, there are prone to rolling off, and if you’re thinking of buying a pair (as Mr Betty is) it’s probably running some really wide rims (38mm internal diameter or bigger I’m guessing).
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was just how grin-inducing the more ‘trail orientated’ options were. Mr Betty and Laura both gave 29ers a go and found them to be great on the climbs and not too shabby on the descents either. However all three of us gave the Stumpjumper a try out; either in 29er or 650b varieties and all came back to the trailhead proclaiming that the Stumpy was by far the most fun thing we had ridden all day. It was unsurprisingly great on the climbs, but it was explosively fast on the descents. None of us had considered going for a lower travel trail bike before, all opting for 160/170mm enduro bikes for trail riding and uplift duties, but the stumpy’s handled everything we threw at them on the rocky and steep track at Stainburn.
It may be a little while before any of us are looking for a new trail bike but the Stumpjumper will definitely be something to think about next time around (or sooner if we manage to pull off our ladykillers-esque plan to “come into some funds”).
Overall it was great to try out some different kit and talk to the knowledgeable and helpful team at the Specialized Harrogate store. The event gave us all something to think about, but probably left us feeling more certain that we had made the right choice with our respective steeds. If you want to try out the latest trends or just ride someone else’s bike as hard and fast as you can without getting into (too much) trouble then get yourself to the next available demo day.
February 27, 2017