Imagine being able to hire the bike of your dreams, or at least one that was advertised as “a game changer”, that you were curious about. To put it in context, it was also whilst I was desperate to get out on a bike, and get a ride around the Swinley trail centre. It will be about 3 months since I have ridden a bike, and riding at the remodelled Swinley trail centre for the first time in about 3 years. My own bikes were (and still are !) in a shipping container somewhere in transit from overseas. I had planned to ride on my own, but a good mate of mine was now free, and a cunning plan was made to meet up.
The swinley bike hub trailhead shop opened at 9am (I was there at 8.45am and chomping at the bit). By 9.15 they had very casually managed to get the mondraker foxy out of their bike store. After a very patronising briefing about how strong disc brakes can be and how to use gears and hydraulic seat post etc I was ready. Hold on…..no I wasn’t. The brake levers are touching the handlebars, when I joked “do the brakes had any pads in” I got the response “oh some people like them like that” that and a shrug of the shoulders and I knew I was not going to get anywhere.
How about the fork (fox 34) it had a very slow rebound and the adjuster was stuck. The guy tried to adjust it, failed and I got another shrug of the shoulders. This is pointless less I thought so we headed off for some laps of the new blue and red routes.
The track was wet and slippery after the rain pouring down the day before. Luckily the tracks were not actually too muddy, as the tracks have well quite designed drainage built in. The weather was actually keeping many people away (including a few of my riding pals), but I personally could not wait to get covered in mud as it had been so long since I had ridden in the wet, or in fact in the UK. The car park was packed, even with the pay & display charging. I would say 70-80% of the cars were owned by mountain bikers. This place is getting pretty popular I thought.
So how was the bike ? Well the new foxy (this was a 2016 Foxy R) has a distinctively long top tube. Even more so in a large size. They call it Forward geometry, and the long top tube is coupled with really short stem (30mm). Its designed for maximum stability on the descents and is considered cutting edge geometry.
There are lots of punchy but relatively short climbs at Swinley. The ride was twitchy on the climbs as expected. Unfortunately, the weight of the bike was very noticeable (approx. 32lb), this thing weighs a tonne, my aching legs confirmed this. For a short travel 140/150mm bike this is heavy, albeit it felt like you could probably give it some hardcore abuse if able to or if you had working brakes :). It certainly did seem stable at speed although I was not to confident to play too much on the jumps. What started off feeling like a garden gate was actually starting to feel ok, overall I found it relatively easy to get to used to .
To add to the poor servicing woes (brakes and fork), the SRAM gears were not well adjusted and I wasn’t getting all 11 gears. This and a sticking Reverb seat post were adding up to being a major distraction – not what you need when trying to have a blast around a great trail. The brakes were just plain dangerous so I ended up adjusting the lever throw on the side of the trail.
I also noticed a fair bit of flex in the frame (around the pivot near the bb), knowing the low level of TLC this bike had received, it could well have been worn bearings. Overall I think the bike had potential but it was just too heavy for me, and unfortunately too poorly maintained to unleash it’s full potential.
When I gave the bike back I reinforced how poorly serviced the bike was, and the excuse I was given was “it was half term last week, so the bikes get a bit trashed”. That to me would mean that if it happens every school holiday, fleet maintenance could be sufficiently planned, but hey, who am I to tell them how to run a business. To be honest I didn’t really enjoy the bike or the hire experience and I certainly will not be hiring from these guys again. It was however, great to be out again, although I cant wait to get back there on my bike, which is built to my spec, and may even have brake pads installed and working suspension 🙂