Thursday, December 6, 2012

Trail Test -- Mohican State Park

In my mad rush to get to the trail Wednesday morning I got half a mile down the road before I realized I forgot my jacket and had to backtrack home to grab it.  My second attempt got me to the end of the block and I noticed I didn't have my camera.  By this time I'm feeling like Chevy Chase stuck on the roundabout in European Vacation.
Eventually I did make it to the trail head only to discover that the memory for the camera was still at home stuck in the computer.  I had my cell phone and its camera works fine in a pinch so I was able to document the ride.  Having been through the drill so many times I normally never forget my essential gear but with a new bike hanging on the rack my mind was in that dazed state of giddy anticipation much like just before a first date.
I chose Mohican State Park for the first ride of the Motobecane Fantom DS.  It only makes sense to find the trail with the biggest ups and downs and rootiest and rocky sections to try out a new trail bike.  Keep in mind that I've been riding the same hartail mountain bike for the past 15 years and have no experience with dual suspension designs so this post is just a summary of thoughts on the initial ride.
Observation #1
This thing is a blast. I should have gotten on the dual suspension bandwagon 10 years ago.

After a couple hours on a hardtail tree roots perpendicular to the trail get to be downright punishing and there is no option but to stand so that the legs can absorb the constant jarring.  It was funny because I would see these trail surface irregularities coming and brace for impact but I quickly found out I could just stay in the saddle while the suspension greatly diminished the rapid fire hits.
The suspension was equally effective in the rocky sections.  Again with years of hardtail experience I consider myself pretty good at picking a line and staying with it but on the Moto if I didn't manage to cleanly finesse my way around a rock the bike easily absorbed the impact with out the rear end bucking around with that out of control feeling exhibited by a hardtail.
The head tube angle on the Moto is perfect and sets up well with the Recon shock.  The fork travels freely with no forward or aft deflection at all while rolling through obstacles.  I've ridden frame - fork combinations in the past that just didn't feel right in extreme situations like gully crossing where the front end of the bike has to suddenly cope with abrupt and violent change in direction.

Following is a particularly steep, loose and rocky climb that I spun right up with little difficulty.  As I suspected the 10-speed cog in the back with 32-34-36 low gears makes climbing ridiculously easy after coming off 8 years of 32-20 single speed riding.  It's been a long time since I rode with a 22 tooth granny gear and I have to admit I was enjoying it.  No more stand and grind just drop it down stay in the seat and casually spin up the hills.  Surprisingly even with a longer travel fork the front end seemed to stay down when applying torque with little tendency to wheelie while climbing the steep stuff.
Initially I was worried about climbing with a heavier bike.  Using the digital bathroom scale I did a little weight comparison between my two mountain bikes.  The Moto checked in at 29.4 pounds while the Yeti single speed measured 23.2 with the difference between them being 6.2 pounds.  Honestly I could not tell a difference when climbing I think because of the much lower gear ratios offered by the ten-speed cassette. 
I think the Fantom DS is considered a "trail bike" and it fits that description well. To me it seems to pedal just fine uphill and when I let loose on the downhill sections I've never felt safer and more in control.  An experienced rider can do steep rough downhill on a hardtail but I am amazed at how this bike seems to work even better when velocity increases. Lessons learned I suppose and this old dog can still learn a few new tricks.  
The Bike came equipped with Panaracer Fire XC Pro 2.1" knobby tires that look very much like old school square lug dirtbike tires.  They hooked up well in all conditions and I don't remember the back wheel losing traction and spinning out all.  In my opinion Bikes Direct did an outstanding job specing out the parts list on this bike.

I love Mohican country and even though much of Ohio is pancake flat at least here I can ride my mountain bike in terrain that somewhat resembles mountainous.  This is an interesting little segment where the trail forks into two with one side of the Y skirting the edge of a 100ft cliff.  It's a bit of a thrill especially while making the little log hop seen in the upper left corner of the picture.

We received a good deal of rain Tuesday during the afternoon and into the night.  I wasn't too concerned with it because Mohican is fairly rocky and drains well.  Still there are bowls and drainages that hold the moisture so I picked up a little mud along the way. 
I like the way the rear suspension is laid out on this bike with the shock positioned inside main triangle somewhat protected from wheel spray.

In all I spent between 3 and 4 hours on the bike and had a most fun and satisfying day on the trail.  And like that proverbial first date where the sparks fly I'll be counting down the days until we can be together again!


  1. You desrciption of not needing to be so carful with your lines reminds me of my switch from full rigid to hardtail (~15 years ago). Notice any rear suspension bob when pedaling on flats?

    1. I've read about pedal bob but I'm not feeling it on the bike. Seems to just pedal like a hardtail without all the bouncing around in the rough stuff. I did ride a short section of pavement through the campground and again it felt like a hardtail. If it was bobbing I couldn't feel it. In any case I'm pretty pleased with it.

  2. Jealoussssssssssssssssssssssssssss

  3. Oh yeah I forgot to add: 4 hours and 20 miles and I saw one (1) other rider. Saaaweeet!

  4. Nice bike. Nice trail. Nice day.

    I'm a bit green with envy, too...!

    Now that you have a serious mountain bike to play with, you should come by this way and check out some serious mountians!

    Course, you'd want to wait till the sun comes out. Give it a few months.

    1. Yeah I've heard of those epic BC trails! I'm sure it would be worth the passport fuss.