Interbike’s Outdoor Dirt Demo (ODD) is an opportunity for bike shop employees and journalists to ride much of the latest gear a few miles outside Las Vegas. The trails are so hot and dusty you know it can’t be good for you, but so fun you keep riding anyway.
While shop employees no doubt use the opportunity to try bikes of all prices and types, most journalists we know use ODD to ride as many dream bikes as possible before passing out from heat exhaustion, dust inhalation, or too many visits to the back-tent beer kegs that can be found throughout the expo.
I know, pity us. We do it for you, dear readers, rest assured.
But, in this year’s sputtering economy I decided to try something different at ODD and at the indoor portion of Interbike, which begins Wednesday. I will be looking at and trying bikes and gear that, while not cheap, is at least designed for those of us who DO have to ask “how much?”
My Sin City Skinflint articles will appear each day this week on Singletrack.com and/or VeloNews.com as appropriate.
Our first day at Interbike began overly late because of missed flight out of Denver, so the party was well under way and throbbing along at an even 100 degrees when we arrived at Bootleg Canyon in Boulder City, Nevada.
Fuji Outland 1.0 29er
It didn’t take long to spy an interesting ride: the Fuji Outland 1.0 29er. The aluminum-framed full suspension 29er has a nice mix of Shimano SLX parts with an XT rear derailleur thrown in for extra sizzle. It offers 100 millimeters of travel front and rear and a newly designed rear suspension with a tried-and-true Horst link design and sweet, large-diameter sealed bearings at all the pivots.
The 2011 model will retail for $2749.
Mike Gann, director of product and planning for Fuji’s parent company, Advanced Sports International, is particularly proud of the frame’s two-piece aluminum linkage, which adds considerable lateral stiffness to the frame.
I took it out for a few laps on the singletrack and found the suspension was unobtrusive: no big pedal feedback, no harsh bottoming out (or topping out) and, as Gann promised, no lateral squirminess, at least at the modest speeds I was capable of in the heat. Besides the rear suspension design, the tapered steerer, with its 1 ½-inch lower bearing, also likely contributed to the lateral stiffness. 100 millimeters of travel is far from bottomless, but it didn’t feel stingy, either.
An aluminum full-suspension 29er with anything less than top-flight components, wheels and tires is never going to win any weight contests, and the Fuji certainly had ample gravitas on the trail. But I found the Fuji, in my admittedly short test, had some of the best traits of a 29er: it gave a fast rolling, secure-feeling, small-bump-eating smooth ride. And for me, who climbs on a 29er only rarely, it only felt tall and ungainly for a few turns before I adjusted.
Bootleg has some very narrow sandy turns where being a few inches off line would send you scittering down steep loose embankments or into the sage. Other than some concerns for the brakes (a little more on those below), I quickly felt confident charging into these turns that I hadn’t seen since last September.
The SLX/XT shifting was flawless and the RockShox lockout shifter mated as nicely with the Shimano shifter as with SRAM parts — aesthetically and ergonomically. The only distraction was the Tektro hydraulic brakes, which were as rough and unnerving as a Tom Waits wake-up call.
As I live the Interbike lifestyle this week I’ll keep an eye out for what other full-suspension 29ers are available for less than three grand. But my initial rides found the Fuji to be a good choice: While not as light as bikes that cost two or three thousand dollars more, it has a solid suspension design, all the latest technology (internal cables, tapered steerer, lock-out fork …), a rock solid Shimano component mix and a ride that only a 29er full-suspension can offer.