So…….29ers. A little while ago I pondered whether the 29er was a fad or an industry wide experiment with a large and willing test group. After trialling a Giant 29er I’d decided that if it was indeed a great big experiment (bloody conspiracy theorists eh?), I’ve probably fallen into the positive group. This was easy to say when you’re playing with someone else’s bike, but how does it feel after taking the plunge?
After replacing my Orange E8 with a Singular Swift I can now comment properly on the 29er experience. This review is based on the bike’s first ‘proper’ ride; a 4 hour blast over the South East Wales hills of Machen and Caerphilly with Matt and Barry (adventure racing experts/aficionados/n’er do wells from Might Contain Nuts).
I’ve heard some strange statements about 29ers along the lines of “They look funny” or “odd”. If you fall into this camp, do not (and by ‘do not’, I mean “DO NOT”) let this put you off. As the picture above hopefully shows, the 29er is a beauty. Big, bold and beautiful with an understated classiness courtesy of the smoky blue and cream finish. Nice work chaps.
Don’t ask me. I’m rubbish at tech stuff. I left this in the capable hands of Craig and Cyclopedia. But from memory/reading the receipt* the bike is equipped with a 29er wheelset that encompasses Notubes ZTR Crest rims and Hope hubs, whilst all the rest is Shimano XT (discs, chainset, cranks etc.). The forks are rigid, the handlebars are long enough to be a pole vault for a small child and the seatpost is the nicest shade of black*. I plumped for the Large frame, which is aimed at riders between 5ft 11″ and 6ft 2″.Geometry details are available from Singular and involve numbers, angles and millipedes (?). You know the type of thing.
Told you I was rubbish.**
In a nutshell….. awesome; and I don’t use the adjective lightly. This bike has restored my faith in mountain biking. I make no secret of the fact that I’d prefer to use a cross bike off road than a mountain bike. There’s something about having big wheels that roll well coupled with the jigsaw puzzle of working out your lines – skinny tyres and rigid forks prevent the rider from crash, bang, walloping over rough terrain- that simply make the cross bike more appealing. But the large wheels of the Swift, allied to wide handlebars, comfortable and large mountain bike geometry and big tyres (2.5” Schwalbes) forge a sedan like ride. The Swift rolled across mud like the stuff was tarmac. It climbed like a demon. It descended – almost – like a hardtail rather than fully rigid bike (in other words I could almost swear there was some form of suspension). At steep descents and drop offs, I could roll the bike to the edge, have a look, pick a line and go. Control was the order of the day. Being steel certainly helps. I’ve always enjoyed the feel of a steel frame. It’s more complaint than Ali and way more reassuring than carbon. The only area in which the 29er perhaps doesn’t perform quite as well is tight and twisty singletrack, though I suspect that may in part be due to me. Moving from the very narrow set-up of both my old mtb and cross bike to hugely wide bars takes a little getting used to.
So how does it compare to a 26” bike? Well applying the usual caveats/clichés of horses for courses, depends on the set-up, all bikes are different etc. etc., swopping the 29er mid ride for Matt’s 26” Speciailzed Epic felt all wrong. According to Barry I looked a bit twitchy on the smaller bike (stop sniggering at the back) and despite being a full on boinger, it felt less comfortable. I think its safe to say, I’m a convert to the big wheeled clan.
I love this bike. The Swift has the potential to become my favourite. Time will tell of course, and the review has been written on the basis of 6 hours of ride time split over two rides. But on both occasions, the Swift was put through its paces over a variety of terrain; from muddy to gnarly, to single track and fire road. This bike performs. And as for 29ers?….. It’ll take a lot to get me back on a 26” mountain bike. I’m a convert.
*and made by Shimano.
**I’m not really that bad, but cycling should be all about the people, terrain, and experience, rather than the bits. It’s easy to lose sight of this.