Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Trek Demo Day at Duthie Hill Park

The only bad thing I can say about today is that it happened to be the day my camera died. Hanging with me is tough on cameras, in the past few years I've managed to kill an HP, a Kodak and now a Nikon. If you know of a tough digital camera (ideally one that will take NiMH AA batteries and store to an SD card) please drop me a note. And if you happen to work for a camera company and you want somebody to test the hell out of your camera, definitely get in touch with me.

Anyhow, my camera's display crapped out, so I was shooting blind today. Pretty much none of the forest shots turned out. Which is a damn shame because my nice boss Mike told Hughie, Chris and me that he'd watch the store so the rest of us could go up to Duthie Hill to and ride various Trek and Fisher bikes. Today was Trek's Dealer Demo day at Duthie Hill, a world-class mountain bike park that the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance has been been busy building over the past few years. I've written a bit about Duthie Hill before and the park is just about ready for it's grand opening.

I got a few shots of bikes and people but I'll let Walter Yi's amazing video capture the feel of Duthie Hill. One of the Trek guys commented that it's like riding through the set of Avatar. Actually, it's better than that and it's pretty much in my back yard.

It's super fun to ride bikes in the woods. All the bikes I rode today had more gears than my Moncog Flight and more boingy bits as well. I have to admit I can see the appeal of some of these machines. The first bike I grabbed was a Fisher Rumblefish II. Gary Fisher has done more to promote 29ers than anybody and the man knows what he's doing when it comes to bike design. 29ers strengths lie in their tendency to keep rolling but the big wheels tend to take more effort to wind up to speed and whip through turns. Duthie hill is all twists and turns and ups and downs and it throws a lot of stuff at a bike.

I'm not the fastest guy, nor the most skilled (most of my miles are on fire roads and broad, sweeping trails) but that made me a good guy to test the Rumblefish II. The bike handles really well at low speed in twisty little turns. Fishers use a custom fork offset and a shorter cockpit to keep the steering predictable no matter what your speed and the more I rode the bike, the more confident I became. And while I wouldn't take something with so many moving parts on a long slog like the Great Divide, for bouncing off roots, ramps and rocks that suspension stuff is pretty darn cool

Next up, I tried a Trek Fuel EX 9.9. What the heck, I'd just gotten off a $4K bike, I might as well see what a few thousand more dollars would buy me. Actually, I'll never be seeing the money to buy one of these and it's not really my style, but I was happy to speed date this bike. I'm enough of a 29er guy now that the 26" wheels seem little, and the carbon frame makes the whole bike seems light. Though quick off the line and very comfy on the trail, the bike didn't seem to hold its speed as well as the Fisher. Overall though, the bike was quicker to flit through tight turns but the front end seemed light to me. In fact, I popped a couple of wheelies on some steep climbs, something the Trek guys chocked up to my single-speed tendency to charge the climbs and hammer. Maybe I'm just not cut out for a $6,800 carbon bike.

For my final bike of the day I grabbed something way outside my comfort zone, a $3,800 Trek Scratch 7. This is one of those bikes optimized for going downhill fast but unlike those engineless motorcycles that have to be dragged up the mountain on a ski lift, you can pedal a Scratch uphill. While climbing on this bike is certainly possible, it's not what I would call optimal. On downhills, though, this bike is pretty darn optimal. It just sucks up bumps, dips, holes, all that stuff. This bike is mentally relaxing. I found myself zoning out and grinding up the climbs and it kind of took the worry out of descending. I think with more time on the bike, I'd go hunting for rougher stuff to roll down.

I do wish Trek/Fisher had brought some more small bikes and some singlespeeds. I did a very quick spin on a slightly too big Fisher Super Fly. I would've really liked to try the smaller version of that bike, especially the single speed version that Fatty raves about. A Fisher Rig is probably more suited to my style and budget, however.

Enough words for now. Here are my lousy pictures and Walter Yi's great video of Duthie Hill.

Keep 'em rolling,


Duthie Hill from Walter Yi on Vimeo.


Lee said...

No luck on the AA front, but the Pentax Optio W-series (e.g. W80) has proven to be Point83-tough. It's spent lots of time taking tumbles in the mountains, the city, and into the occasional pitcher-turned-tripod.

Peter said...


Again, no AA power, but it should stand up to abuse. Might work with your solar charger so you can kind of work around the AA problem

DrCodfish said...

Wow, great video, makes me wanna do that!
Dr C

jodycb said...

No AA but Olympus makes a line of cameras called the stylus tough. http://www.olympusamerica.com/cpg_section/cpg_digital.asp?section=stylustough

I have an older version the 1030sw. I love it. It fits in my pocket. The battery lasts forever. It's waterproof so I don't worry about taking it with me in a downpour. It's also supposed to be shockproof, and the new ones are freeze proof.

I think the idea of the solar charger is a good one.

AMarburg said...

Hi Kent,

The older Pentax Optios do take AAs. We have a Pentax 33WR and, despite being one of the ugliest cameras made, has proved to be dog-, baby-, kayak- and otherwise outdoor-proof and takes pretty decent photos for a 5 year old digicam. I believe the Pentax 43WR is the same with more megapixels ... any newer than that and Pentax went to proprietary batteries.

None on ebay right now, but it seems like the kind of thing that could be found for a song with a little searching.

Scott Loveless said...

Another vote for the Pentax Optio W series. The W80 and W90 cameras are claimed to be waterproof and shockproof. For a little less cash, the WS80 is waterproof but not as rugged. No AA, but they'll all take SD cards.

bike cheap classic insurance said...

I have a Kodak LS743 it gets quite a few kncoks and it seems to be holding up well. You should check it out. Hope that helps.

Al said...

Long time listener first time caller as they say. I use an older model GE camera (they make everything!) I think it's great. It uses AA batteries and SD cards, and has been pretty rugged for me. I take it everywhere, kayak trips, hiking, biking, you name it. I've dropped it, gotten it wet and it still works. And it's inexpensive. I bought it to lose and so far haven't destroyed it.