Until the summer of 2011 I had only mountain biked on hard tails. 2011 opened a window into just how much fun can be had on a mountain bike when I received my first dual suspension bike. I was able to descend much easier but to be honest, the bike was a tank. I was a turtle going uphill and while I became more adventurous in letting the bike roll over rocks, I was still not a bold descender because I still felt that front wheel could taco at any time. I wanted a 29r. I had sipped the kool-aid and I wanted to be part of the big wheel revolution. But how when I am pint-sized?
Jon at Pro Peloton had been raving about a Boulder custom-made bike builder called Mosaic. Well it was a grand idea and all, but I knew something so ornate would surely come at a pretty penny...just look at the head badge for an idea of what I mean. This is when Pro Peloton and Mosaic stepped in to make it possible. Chris at Pro Peloton fit me into his busy week of bike fits so we could properly work out the dimensions of a frame based around the big wheels. After working out different ideas with bar height and stem length and all those complicated dimensions it became clear a 29r would fit similar to a New Belgium cruiser…we're talking high rise bar Harley Davidson cruiser silliness. So Chris and Jon brainstormed and worked out dimensions for the middle brother that so far people haven't paid much attention to. They hashed out a blueprint of a 650b which looked to be the answer.
Aaron at Mosaic took this project on with enthusiasm as his first 650b project. He did a stunning job with the welds and with Chris and Jon's impeccable taste of parts to complete the bike, the end result was literally a piece of artwork. The titanium 650b weighed in at a feathery 20lbs so to climb it felt like I was ethereal as the angels. Coming from a road racing background I always cringed at the thought of suspension because there seemed to be so much wasted energy whilst climbing. So, while the dual suspension bike was something new, something fun, my climbing was mentally and physically exhausting. Returning to a hard tail was a breath of fresh air...when you really need it as you're wheezing at the top of a climb! The bigger wheels also made for more efficient climbing. The DT Swiss suspension fork had the ability to lock out at 80mm so the front end became lower and I could get enough weight over the front end for strong climbing, even on the really steep & punchy climbs. On the flats I simply felt like I had an extra gear because of the bigger wheel circumference. I could roll along at a fast clip and any bumps only felt like minor hiccups. This feeling could only be a sign of positive benefits on the descent!
The Windham World Cup course has been dominated by hard tails and up until a couple years ago, these were all 26" hard tails. So there are a number of holes which were created through the 26" wheels diving and biting into the soft dirt following any sort of drop. I remember riding this a few years back and having to be careful not to let my front wheel fold into these and go head over teacup. But all the hype you hear about the 29rs rolling over things? It is all true. The 650b rolled right over these, no problem. I was suddenly able to roll out of these with more speed and confidence. Then came the big rocks which are always a fright to me but the bike allowed me to treat them like pedaling over a handful of skittles. Next came a wicked steep and loose descent snaking through trees to lead into a very sharp left turn. Ahem, I passed 2 people in this section alone. The bike gave me a new confidence and what seemed to be a new skill set. I felt more in control of the bike and I could brush away any nitty-gritty scary details in the course. Maybe this is because I was just a bit higher up and I didn't have my nose to the ground to see all the details! But I think it is the combination of the titanium which absorbed much of the roughness of the course paired with the bigger wheels which truly roll better and easier.
The skeptics say big wheels make cornering harder because your center of gravity is higher and the big wheels cannot turn as quick. Perhaps this has truth to it with the 29rs. But the 650b bridges the gap between small and big wheels and I firmly state that I did not lose any control or feel my balance off kilter. I think the 650b is the answer for non-giant people. The bike raised my ability to climb, descend, power along, navigate switchbacks and rock gardens. It made my short mountain bike season a lot more fun and I am craving my next ride on the Ti Mosaic!