In Portland, Oregon, we're pretty lucky to have Forest Park, one of the largest urban parks and nature reserves in the country. The main through-way in the park is Leif Erikson Rd., which is a mostly unpaved fire road that runs nearly 12 miles from one end of the park to the other. Forest park is a great place to walk or ride, and it's only about 10 minutes (by bike) from downtown.
Yesterday I rode through the park. The sun was shining and by mid afternoon it was nearly up to 70 degrees. I rode the new 29er touring bike totally unloaded to see how it handled, changing the tires from 47c semi-slick road tires to WTB Exiwolf 29” x 2.55 – big fat knobby off road tires. This is the same bike I picked up in Eugene and rode back to Portland a couple of weeks ago. It's a stable bike, but I wanted to see how it handles at speed over bumpy terrain.
This bike was built primarily as a touring bike, and has the clearance for fat tires and fenders. I haven’t reviewed this bike yet because I wanted to spend some time in the saddle in various conditions and see how I liked it. For the trip back up from Eugene it was great. Very stable with weight, sure handling, comfortable, a wide gear range. Even with about 15 pounds of gear on the front I was able to ride no-hands without a problem.
Going through the park yesterday I was again impressed with the stability and handling. The bike has detachable low rider mounts and a fairly sizeable upper deck on the front rack, which means it can hold a lot of gear. Even unloaded the bike steered easily, and flying down a rocky, gravelly section of Lief Erikson I sat back and took my hands off the bars and the bike held its line easily. Stability, no hands, with or without weight on the front – I like it.
I didn’t remove any of the racks, and carried along my u-lock in the integrated lock holder on the rear. The bike also has large stainless fenders, mud flaps and a kickstand – all these things add up, and make the bike heavier than one I would usually ride through the park. I would like to strip the bike down to the bare essentials at some point and try it out. But, even with all the extras on the bike I was very impressed at how quiet it was – no rattles, squeaks or knocking. Even the lock shackle is wedged in so it can't rattle. The only thing I noticed was that in especially bumpy places the lower part of the front fender would shake back and forth enough to hit the knobs on the tires -- not a big deal, and to be expected riding off road with fenders.
Another trip I want to take is with the bike fully loaded on the same trail, just for a comparison – fully loaded front and rear panniers and a dry-sack on the upper deck of the front rack. I want to pack it as if I were going for a long trip off road. It will be slower going, obviously, but I’m very curious to know how it feels. I’m fairly certain that it’s going to do just fine.
You know what would be even better, would be to pack it as if I were going on a long bike trip, and then go on a long bike trip. We’ll see what this summer brings…
Flickr Photo Set
Off Road Touring Bike