I had an opportunity to ride with the owner of Westlake Cyclery in Ventura County, SoCal. Let’s just say it was interesting. I've known Mike for several years. For the past few months, I've been on his case to try out singlespeeding. He hit burnout a while back, understandably since he lives in a bike shop, and needed something to put the fun back into riding. What better way than to bring out the masochist in someone?
Mike finally caved and received the first Trek 69'er to hit the U.S. It's an interesting take on the SS and 29" genre. The way Trek sees it the 69’er is the best of both worlds in one bike. I’m a true believer in the power of SS riding but I’m a hold out on the 29” fling. From my understanding, a 29” wheel is a slower steering wheel and takes more energy to get the wheel up to speed. But I’m no Einstein so what do I know?
For those of you who haven’t been paying attention, the 69’er is an aluminum hardtail frame with a 29” front wheel mated with a 26” rear wheel. Suspension is handled by a Maverick custom DUC 32 fork with 100mm travel. Yes, that’s a double crown fork on a hardtail singlespeed. Granted, the bike was nicely dressed with Bontrager Race bits and Avid Juicy 7 brakes, but come on. A double crown fork with a 29” front wheel?
Fast forward to the ride. Mike hasn’t been on a bike much lately, so we decided on a relatively mild 10-mile trail with some short, steep climbs and a few rocky, technical pitches. Considering he was probably over geared for SoCal terrain (34x16) he held his own without so much as a grunt. I was genuinely surprised to see him grinding out the climbs with a grin on his face. Mission accomplished: the man was having fun.
So he finally asked if I’d like to try out the Trek. I reluctantly traded my custom built singlespeed, which cost twice as much I might add, and swung my leg over the saddle of his production bike. Suffice to say, I was going into this with preconceived notions.
The front end just looked like it was a wheelie-waiting-to-happen as soon as the trail started ascending. Not so. While it was easy to pull the front wheel off the ground when I needed to, it climbed surprisingly well. I never once felt the wheel come off the ground during seated climbs, nor did the front end “hunt” for a line on steep, narrow singletrack.
Descending was also a welcome surprise with 4” of plush travel coupled with an oversized front wheel. I’m not sure if it was more of the fork doing it’s thing or the big wheel advantage, or a combination of both, but this bike just smoothed out all of the stutter-bumps and infant-sized babies heads.
The final test was acceleration from a slow roll. I’d be lying if I told you the bike sprang out of the gates like a quarter horse on steroids. The bike had a taller gear and shorter crankarms than I’m used to, so it took a little more effort to get up to optimum carving speed. But that’s an easy fix and shouldn’t be a big surprise when buying a bike out of the box. I will say, though, the bike carves the corners like nobody’s business! The big wheel just grabs hold and rails through the turns like a slotcar.
What didn’t I like about the bike?
The toptube, though sloping downward, seemed a little tall for my inseam. I believe Mike is a few inches taller than I am, so don’t take my word for standover clearance. The Maverick fork and 29” wheel also added to the perception of too much bike in my face.
I’m a big fan of bars that offer alternative hand positions: i.e. Mary, Jones-H, dropbars, etc. The one-position riser just doesn’t excite me. Especially during the out-of-the-saddle climbs.
The frame is a little stiff for my liking. I prefer the comfort of steel or Ti. I’m sure one can get used to anything but aluminum and Scandium aren’t my cup of Jo.
Climbing- very good (short crankarms w/ tall gear)
Descending- very good (frame a little rigid)
Acceleration- good (short crankarms w/ tall gear)
Big Hit compliance- untested
Small bump- excellent
Braking response- excellent
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Thread: Trek 69'er RR X-post