Friday, November 22, 2013

Unholy Guacamole, or The Tale of Our New Mountain Bikes



We had a couple requests for a post about our experience with shopping and purchasing our new mountain bikes. Jim can’t get motivated to write it since he can barely use his right hand due to a fall on our last ride, but more about that later.

We have been biking for years, both road and mountain, but only being able to carry two bikes we sold our previous mountain bikes before we went full time.

Our favorite recumbents. They got lots of pre-retirement mileage.


We loved our recumbent bikes but just didn’t find a lot of suitable riding in our travels, so in 2009 while volunteering at the Bonneville Lock and Dam in Oregon, we sold the recumbents and bought a couple of cruiser type bikes.


We thought those would be suitable for both dirt and pavement riding, and they were to some extent, but without suspension they weren’t much fun to ride off road.

During our first winter in Mission, Texas in 2011/12, Jim got the bug to get another recumbent after seeing so many people in the RV park riding recumbent trikes. He was able to swap bikes with a guy from Austin, and was back to riding a recumbent. There was a five mile paved bike trail just outside the RV park gates which led to many great areas to ride, so during our two winters in Mission we biked several times a week.


After leaving Texas this past April our opportunities for road biking dropped off considerably since most of our summer and fall were spent boondocking in the forest on dirt roads. Our pals Boonie and Box Canyon Mark are always preaching the mountain bike sermon, and it finally took!

We probably would have done it sooner, but we needed to be somewhere long enough to sell the other bikes, and this seemed the perfect opportunity.

Having owned several mountain bikes in the past, we knew that full suspension bikes with shocks on the front and back were a must. What has changed over the past few years is that now you have a choice between the traditional 26” size wheels and the new 29” wheel bikes. From our shopping experience it appears that 29ers are now all the rage, and after hearing all the salesmen (and Mark) sing their praises, we decided we may as well go for it. Of course they are more expensive, but we were accustomed to paying big bucks for recumbents, and with five months of workcamping for a free site, and five months of boondocking, our expenses for the past year have been extremely low. So what the heck, we aren’t getting any younger, might as well splurge!

My Giant Anthem. It’s very pretty even when covered in dust.


Jim’s Specialized Rumor. He bought a ladies bike to have more clearance over the bar and a shorter reach to the handlebars for his short arms. The salesman assured him that lots of guys buy the women’s frame.Winking smile


 Since we haven’t ridden a mountain bike in almost six years, it’s a bit hard to compare the 29er to our old 26” bikes, but the theory is you get a  more comfortable ride, better obstacle rollover, and even better traction with the 29’ wheels. We certainly feel like that’s the case, and even I can attest to the fact that I have been easily going over rocks and ledges that I never could have done on my old mountain bike. We are sold, and feel like we made good choices on both our bikes.

Now for the Guacamole Trail, one that Mark, Bobbie and Boonie had not previously ridden. If you’ve already read Mark’s post about our ride, you know it was quite a technical trail, not the kind I was ready for after our long steep climb up Dalton Wash Rd. Bobbie and I decided to stop and take in the view and then hike the trail while the guys went on.


Yes, we came up that road. It  really wasn’t as bad as we thought going up, although we did have to get off and walk in a couple of steep spots.


Show offs Mark and Boonie rode the whole way.


Taking a little break for our legs and lungs.


When we caught up with the guys on the trail, Jim was nursing a swollen thumb and Mark had blood running down his legs. They tried to downplay their falls, especially Jim, after having fallen three times. Bobbie and I definitely made the right decision not to continue trying to ride!

Since Boonie has moved on to warmer and drier pastures (maybe), and Mark and Bobbie will be spending Thanksgiving week back east with family, Jim will only have me as his riding partner. And you can be sure we won’t be riding any more advanced trails!

As for our old bikes, we were hoping to sell them locally, but after listing them on the St. George, UT and Las Vegas Craigslist and only getting one inquiry, Jim posted them on Bent Rider Online a few days ago. They were both sold within two hours so we are now awaiting checks. We picked up some boxes from a local bike shop, and as soon as we have the money in hand we will box them up and ship them off to New Hampshire and North Carolina. A happy ending to our story!


If anyone has a technical bike related question, Jim will gladly answer. His thumb is feeling much better now.


  1. All I know about my bike is that it has two wheels and goes when I pedal. ;)

  2. "I have always been unsatisfied with life as most people live it. Always I want to live more intensely and richly. Why muck and conceal one's true longings and loves, when by speaking of them one might find someone to understand them, and by acting on them one might discover oneself?"

    -- Everett Ruess via Box Canyon Mark

  3. We bought two hybrid treks when we started full timing and they have been fine for most rails to trails but I can see how we will want something more when we hit the west. Thanks for this how to. Sorry about the falls. I think I'm too chicken to ever be an "advanced" anything. Too afraid of breaking something else after two ankles.

  4. Not being sure where we would end up this winter, we didn't even bring our bikes. Paul would sort of like to have his now. Oh well. We have two legs to get us around.

    Good luck with your new purchases.

  5. I like having mt bikes but am very careful when I ride. It amazes me how much mt biking beats up your body...even with full suspension! When I was in my 30's I'd try to "keep up with" the guys I rode I could care less! I'd much rather enjoy the ride and save my bones than keep up with Hans!

  6. Thanks for the bike info in detail! We have road bikes right now but may think about trading when we get back west. However, we really like having bikes for town/city riding. We try to ride everywhere we can like the grocery store, touring, etc. How are your bikes for road riding around town? I think we would do more road riding than mountain biking over time. We can't carry four bikes!

    Mark gave a great detailed description of your biking adventure!! Those guys are crazy! Hope Jim's hand is all right. Sounds like he is luck that's all he injured. At least you and Bonnie had your heads on straight:) I thought it sounded like a fun hike!

    Be safe out there:)

    1. We have done some riding on paved roads with the new mountain bikes and with the the 29" wheels they do surprisingly well.Very comfortable and fast. I like the fact that if you want to go off in the dirt or hit some gravel you don't risk the tires sliding out like on our road bikes. If you were going to be doing a lot of pavement riding you could always swap tires for something less knobby, but so far we are happy to have one bike that can do it all. Everything is a compromise when you carry all your worldly belongings everywhere you go!

    2. Thanks, Jim, that's just what we needed to know. Sounds like a good buy for us come spring!

  7. I have also been looking at a new mountain bike but get overwhelmed with all the brands. Why one Giant and one Specialized? I am not a very experienced mountain biker and not a kid any more; which brand would you recommend? Thanks so much for sharing this info, you answered a lot of questions.

    1. Our first criteria was that we had to be able to test ride these bikes. That mean't we had to either be able to buy used or buy new and locally. I had been looking for used as we have been traveling over the past few months and found very little and what little there was had a high price tag.

      What I also learned was that the entry level price for a full suspension 29'er is just under $2,000 and you can spend up to $10,000 and probably more.

      To have an enjoyable riding experience fit is critical and yet it often not very well researched by the rider including me. This time I intended to do a better job.

      This area has a large number of good to great bicycle shops. If you are interested in used they generally sell their rental fleet starting in October and these bikes are a year old. If you are willing to buy a used and abused bike be sure to inspect it closely and especially for cracks at the weld points. Also be sure to ask the shop to do that as well. The name brand bikes generally give the original owner a lifetime warranty on the frame which doesn't transfer.

      Why one Giant and one Specialized? Because that is what they had on hand and were willing to discount. Gayle and I both liked the Giant but I had virtually no clearance over the top tube and it was a large frame "women specific" bike. A medium or small may have worked but they had none to look at. The Specialized had a different frame design resulting in a more sloped top tube with plenty of stand over height for me. It is a medium size frame also "women specific".

      That is one of the issues regarding 29'er bikes it is harder to get a good fit for shorter people. While I am average height my leg and arm length are a bit on the short side which is what has made bike fit more problematic. In the end I have been very happy with the Specialized Rumor.

      Another bike in the same price range is the Trek Lush 29 which is also "women specific" and has a good component package. Didn't get to see one so don't know much about that.

      One final thought, like car salesmen you have to be careful when dealing with bike shop salesmen. They will do their best to sell you what they have and their information is not always correct. Take helmets for example. I was told by two different shop employees at two stores that helmets should be replaced routinely at either 5 or 2 years and one said that was even if they sat on a shelf unused which is simply not true.

      I am not an expert and hope this helps. Feel free to email direct if you have more questions.

      I have to say that we both found a new love for bicycling when we switched to recumbent road bikes and road several thousand miles a year on them for over a decade. I had forgotten how much fun a mountain bike can be and riding the trails here has been a blast. I hope to spend more time biking and less time hiking in the future.


    2. Thanks Jim, your enthusiasm is contagious! I missed the year end sales this fall but the used idea sounds like the best way to go; your experiences have helped me refine my search. I heard about the Trek Lush; very popular reviews. What I got out of your detailed response is that FIT is the most important; I'm short and want clearance.

      I appreciate you taking the time to pass on your info!

    3. I found a bike! Are dogs and bikes, not specifically together, allowed on the Lost Dutchman trails?

    4. I found a bike! Are dogs and bikes, not necessarily together, allowed on the Lost Dutchman trails?

  8. Hi Folks - thank you for commenting on my blog about Gary's Multiple Myeloma. One of the things that he has had to give up is his beloved bicycling! His bones are akin to Swiss cheese, so falling would be a VERY BAD THING. But he is interested in your experiences with the recumbents. His hybrid TREK is currently languishing in our storage room, and feeling very neglected.