I spent 4 consecutive days trying out the Stooge, I wanted to get to know it a little before I put finger to keyboard ... this is what I discovered.
A last look over the edge, release the brakes, push down on the pedal and off we go ... although this was the very first time we'd joined forces with any degree of commitment, nothing untoward happened. The first right hander was taken at the usual pace but the rear end 'shimmy' that generally accompanies such cavalier endeavours didn't materialise. Click, click and push on the pedals, the track straightens and levels slightly reducing the effects of gravity, speed costs and you have to pay with a bit of effort. The first of the wide, wheel swallowing ruts appears and with it the first real surprise ... lift the front wheel and it feels like someone or something else is doing it all for you, it's not just easy, it's really easy. If you can't manual either buy a BMX or a Stooge!
|Riding the BB200? Commit this to memory.|
So, my first experience of pointing the Stooge down hill was a positive one, plenty of grip, very stable and an ability to hoist the front end clear of whatever happens to be in your way with minimal effort or fuss. A few more miles of 'getting to know each other' deposited me at the start of an old road. Judging by the ground, nobody or nothing had been along it since the cattle drovers left it for dead sometime around 1892. A combination of rock, mud and gradient conspired to make forward momentum a difficult thing to achieve ... this is where I got my second surprise of the day. On paper the Stooge should be a good technical climber but I wasn't getting it ... what I was getting was very little grip from the rear tyre. I'd already decided that the 760mm wide bars didn't suit me and they'd be changed that night but there was something else and whatever it was felt like it was causing the rear end to break free of the ground at the slightest provocation while climbing. The rear wheel was wearing a 2.2 Conti' X King rather than my usual Race Kings so I was fairly confident that there was enough tyre but something was certainly amiss.
Later that night I stood in the workshop staring at the bike. The silly wide bars had already been relegated to the floor and a pair of chopped Fleegles sat in their place, that would make the position better (for me) but it wouldn't account for the lack of grip on technical climbs. Halfway through my second brew I had an idea, I reached for a 6mm allen key and spun the bottom bracket eccentric. The frame had arrived with the eccentric set as far back as it would go, I now dropped it as low as it would go.
|On our way back from the trail centre test.|
The narrower bars were an instant improvement and made the bike feel more balanced without any loss of control in the going down department. What I didn't yet know was whether changing the eccentric would help with climbing but I knew where to go to find out. Anyone who's ridden across the mountain plateau from Nant -Yr- Arian to the mountain road and Machynlleth will have come across a small dam, below the dam is a ford and next to the ford is a 30%, rutted gravel climb. It's not a long climb but it's technically very hard and I'd decided that if we could make it to the top, then any issues from the previous day were cured.
The Trail Centre Test.
Is that a Jones mate?
Yeah, all Jones frames are branded as Stooge now.
With the trail centre test concluded, I finished my flapjack, necked my brew and headed back home. The previous day combined with the mornings 30 miles were starting to give me a real feel for the bike. I'd very quickly stopped thinking about descending and just let the bike do its own thing, the careful line-choice usually required when riding rigid feels like overkill on the Stooge.
I'd already started to get an inkling that the bikes climbing prowess may have been restored to anticipated levels but I couldn't be fully sure until I reached the dam. Carry a bit of speed through the ford, pop the front wheel up onto the other side, allow the gradient to slow you just enough - then PEDAL!
25 seconds later we crested the top, the Stooges honour well and truly intact and my lungs trying to exit my body through my ears.
Whether altering the position of the eccentric really made the difference or whether it was just a placebo almost doesn't matter ... the important thing was that I now knew it could climb as well as any other rigid 29er I've ever ridden and descend better than all of them.
|Steel + rigid never goes out of style.|
Although the forecast was predicting rain measured in feet rather than inches, my enthusiasm for a third day hooning round the countryside remained undiminished. I was pretty happy with my set-up and aside from a quick shuffle of headset spacers I hadn't changed anything except the bars. All I wanted to do now was share some miles with the bike and get 100% used to it.
A few hours later I sat looking out of the cafe window, slurry dripped off every inch of the bike and I smiled ... it was a sneaky inward smile but still a smile. I felt like I was riding something special, not special because it cost lots of money (it didn't, it owes me well under a grand) but special in a 'I've discovered something brilliant' kind of way. Each time I looked up from my plate, the bike winked at me and said "come on, we've got places to go" ... I couldn't wait to get out of the cafe and back into the 'summery' weather.
|The colour of fun!|
Another day, another ride ... the previous days weather had turned into today's weather but I didn't give a toss! ... which I think says more about the bike than any stats or figures ever could.
I'm not going to pretend that 4 days is long enough to truly get to grips with a new bike but I do think it's long enough to get a pretty good idea.
If you're looking for a suspension substitute then stop it - it doesn't exist ... the Stooge is a rigid bike and it rides brilliantly but it's still rigid. If you can accept that, then regardless of whether you're an old hand or new to the world of non-bounce you won't be disappointed. The seasoned rigid rider will feel like they've just discovered Colonial Sanders secret recipe and the newbie will probably wonder why they ever bothered with suspension in the first place.
|A bike, a tree and a valley.|
Oh and I should just point out that the build quality is top notch, neat consistent welds and paint that won't flake off at the first sign of water ... I'm told the frames are manufactured in the same factory as a certain US company who's products are well regarded and widely used within the bikepacking world.