Spring is here (FINALLY), and that means a fresh batch of demo days. I gave the Leisure Lakes one a miss due to the demos being group guided rides, and instead waited for the Specialized demo day. Aaah, Specialized – manufacturers of my beloved Professor, not to mention three of Mr Toast’s bikes. A solid, reliable brand who’ve gone from being good value, to being overpriced, and back to being good value. There is one slight issue with the current crop of Speshes, however, and that’s the thorny issue of wheel size.
Specialized, with a few exceptions, only make 29ers now. Being of shorter stature, this has proven to be a bit problematic for me. Previously, back in ye olde 26 days, I struggled as women-specific bikes were far too short in the top tube for me, and bloke’s bikes often had no stand over. My Professor, a 2009 Stumpjumper FSR, was the exception. It was still a little tight on stand over, but the reach was perfect and together, we’re a good fit. So really, I don’t need a new bike, but I’m always trying to ensure that I have a back-up plan in case the Professor perishes.
The push towards 29ers has cut down my already limited options, however. I kind of got on OK with a Giant Anthem, but I didn’t really get to ride it as much as I’d like to make a definite judgement. The small Specialized Camber had less than zero stand over, but the reach was fine. The Stumpjumper was even worse, due to even longer forks.
But hark! A Rumor! A women’s specific 29er. Would this fit me, or would it still have a crazy short cockpit for t-rex women? Looking at the geometry it seemed promising – very similar wheel base and top tube length to my Stumpy, and lower stand over. Well, I never.
So, I patiently waited to demo the Rumor. When I arrived there, the small Rumor had been out for 50 minutes already. Great! It should be back any time now!
The previous demo-ee finally returned the Rumor after having it out for well over two hours. By this point, there were two other women waiting for it. Despite being next in the queue, I surrendered my spot to another lady who was there with a chap – he’d already got his demo bike, and was waiting for her before going out. If I went out first, it’d mean that either that they wouldn’t be able to ride together, or that he’d wait, meaning that whoever wanted to demo the bike he was on would also be delayed.
So, after three hours of waiting, I finally got out on the Rumor. Was the wait worth it? I sat on the bike, pleased with the geometry. Standover! Sweet, precious stand over! Internal cable routing, niiiiice. And the Comp is white with purple grips and decals – OMG IT MATCHES MY EXISTING BIKES AND GEAR!!111
Unfortunately, my initial reaction was “HELL NO”. It felt completely alien and just plain wrong. My body position felt weird. The handling felt weird. The brakes felt weird. I pondered though – was it the bike that was wrong, or just me? After all, I hadn’t been out on a bike since October… unless you count my new 110cc scooter. Toot toot!
As it felt distinctly odd, I elected to skip the Steg – squiffy handling, squiffy brakes and general uneasiness on the bike does not go well with rocks. I raised the saddle a little, and the bike immediately felt better. Off I toddled, skipping the boardwalk section and heading up the fire road hill.
This was slightly terrifying – would I be able to get up the hill without having a cake-induced heart attack? It was also at this point that I realised that the Rumor had different gearing to my Stumpy, having two chainrings instead of three. WHAT MADNESS IS THIS? Yes, I paid more attention to the paint job than the gearing. Deal with it.
The more I rode it, the more it made sense. No gears that you’re not supposed to use for fear of knackering the chain, no utterly redundant big ring. By the top of the hill (which I managed to get up without stopping, much to my surprise) I felt a lot more comfortable on the bike. A quick sip of water, and I was finally riding FtD for the first time in ages.
The Rumor did well – given that I find High Voltage particularly bountiful on the slippy pebble front, grip was excellent and it ate up braking bumps and jolts. Again, it climbed and turned well up Zig Zak, but I decided to err on the side of caution and toddle down the ramp. A few more sections and I was really rather taken with the Rumor – I still found the handling a bit quirky, but that’s probably to be expected after a) a long time off the bike, and b) on an unfamiliar bike. I was left with the impression that it would be awesome over somewhere like Llandegla or Glentress, but less ideal for the tighter areas of the Chase – although again that might be me, rather than the bike. The only other gripe was that the brakes were a bit spongey and the levers pulled right back to the handlebars – I do one finger braking, and the lever kept on hitting my middle finger knuckle whenever I wanted to even feather the brakes. But that’s something that could be fixed with a good setup (possibly involving throwing the Elixirs into the fire and replacing them with brakes that don’t need bleeding every five minutes).
I returned the bike with a big smile on my face, and the Rumor has certainly made me a bit more open minded about getting a 29er to replace the Professor, should he fall in battle.
Of the demo day itself, the Specialized guys were great – they were making sure that everyone was completely happy with the bike setup before they went out, adjusting not only forks and shocks but handlebar angles too. They were frequently apologising for my wait, and chatting to make sure that I wasn’t forgotten. They were also handing out free t-shirts and Phenom saddles, which was a nice gift for Mr Toast. YAY! PRESENTS!
I might take another test ride of a Rumor later in the year, when I’ve shifted some of my winter bulk and gotten used to biking again. That said, I quite fancy trying an Ibis Mojo too…