Every cyclist knows the most important thing when buying a new bike is how it looks! Cycling is as much an art and passion as it is a mode of transport or way to get fit and so just like an oil painting, a bike has to look right. Yes technical specs and build quality are obviously important but if you don’t love your bike, you’re less likely to ride the thing!
Despite picking up my wonderful plusbike earlier in the summer, I’d found myself thinking about more than just pure off-road trails riding. Despite being a trail slaying beast, my attempts at commuting to work on the Pinnacle Ramin 3+ had left me wishing for a bit more pace on the tarmac and so with this thought pinging around my brain I found myself in my LBS enquiring about cyclocross bikes. I wanted some degree of “out the door, ride almost anything” ability and was directed towards the Crossrip range – a bike designed for road with a bit of light off-road ability.
The Crossrip looked good and would likely suit the roadier side of riding but then I was shown the 920, decked out in a subtle but menacing gunship blue, armed with full racks front and rear and rolling on 29x 2.0 tyres. It looked like a Land Rover, beautifully functional and ideal for the type of riding I do – straight out the door and off to a bivvy/wild camp spot. As an “adventure touring” bike it was clear it wasn’t going to be as quick on road as the Crossrip but it looked ideal for loading up with camping gear and hitting both the open road and trails.
I promptly put in my order and after a thorough bike fitting earlier in the week, I picked it up on Saturday and have been on two quite different rides since.
My plan for a longish ride on Saturday was promptly curtailed when I got a call from my mate suggesting an afternoon in the pub. No long ride then but instead a first chance to test out the 920’s ability as a utility bike.
Although ready to load up with gear on the racks I don’t yet have panniers so decided to load up my usual mtb backpack with a change of clothes and the usual bike maintenance spares and strapped it all to the top of the rear rack.
To say it was a joy to ride without getting a backpack induced sweaty back is an understatement!
The pub was only a short 3 mile ride away all on roads and the bike clipped along at a reasonable pace. The burly 29x 2.0 tyres aren’t going to set any speed records but they rolled well enough.
Sunday saw me heading out on a longer foray around my back yard, ticking off a decent 21 miles of road and off-road including some singletrack!
The bike took it all in it’s stride, on road I was buzzing along, the speed and turn of pace made me feel far more confident amongst traffic than I usually feel when lumbering along on my MTBs.
Admittedly it’s certainly no TDF winner and if you’re after a Strava KOM hunting machine you’ll be better off looking elsewhere but that’s not what this bike is about. After screaming along and churning out the road miles I soon spotted an interesting looking Bridleway. On a purebred road bike such an opportunity would have to wait for another day, on another machine, not so with the 920. Point it at a bit of mud or gravel and the Trek doesn’t shy away, instead relishing the chance to get those big tyres stuck into something a little more taxing than tarmac.
Running some of my regular off-road trails I didn’t notice any discernible difference in speed compared to my plusbike, in fact on some sections I was considerably quicker.
Again, as with road sections it’s not going to be as good off-road as a pure out and out trail machine, there were certainly sections that I had to pick my route carefully, whereas with the plusbike I often just bulldoze my way across any obstacles but I actually found this enjoyable – it gave a much more engaged experience, relying as much on my own technical skill as of the bikes.
So it’s certainly not a bike built for pure on road speed and certainly not one I’d take for a days off-roading across steep technical routes.
But it is a bike built for covering a lot of terrain quickly and efficiently. If your adventures require a mix of road riding to get to wilder places then this bike is well worth a look.
A note about the gear shifters…
I’ve read a few reviews which didn’t speak too fondly of the bar end shifters. They were certainly a new one on me, located as they are right at the end of the drops, rather than the more familiar road style of being integrated with the break leavers.
Complaints ranged from worries about breaking off in a crash or transporting the bike through to one rider knocking them with his knees, promptly putting an end to a hill climb.
Admittedly they do seem quite vulnerable to breaking and I’ve been careful when storing the bike, thankfully no crashes yet to be able to comment on how they stand up to an impact.
When riding however, I actually quite like them. As a touring orientated bike it seems unlikely you’d be riding in the drops for too long, meaning the more conventional break leaver positioned shifters would perhaps not be in the most convenient place for where your hands are likely to be most of the time.
Yes, shifting does require a change of hand position and sometimes a little thinking about but they actually remind me of my first racing bike which had the shifters on the downtube! Albeit a little easier to access.
A firm push or pull will see you shifting up or down a gear and the action, whilst a little clunky and agricultural is reminiscent of operating a tractor with their big mechanical leavers. It’s kinda fun!
Early days obviously but once I’ve had a chance to put more miles under the wheels I’ll report back, however for now I’m well pleased!