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Willow's Wisdom on the Rocks: 29ers aren't magic

  • By Willow Rockwell
  • Published May. 23, 2012
  • Updated Oct. 11, 2012 at 4:51 PM EDT

Truthfully, I didn’t really want to write about 29ers. I don’t really know the technical ins and outs of the machine, and frankly I don’t really care! However, my editor convinced me that women would still want to read about 29ers, and that they would want to hear about them from me, so I reluctantly agreed.

I fell in love my Trek Superfly in 2009. I was having a great season and the momentum was still on the upswing. After finishing 2nd at a National Race in Vermont, I decided to give the 29er a try at the National Race the next weekend in New York. I won, in spite of two flat tires on the way to the finish line.

Now, the bike didn’t win, but the bike was fun. A couple weeks later I became the first person to win a world championship medal on a 29er. And that race was fun, too.

I had raced a 26-inch hardtail for about 15 years, and the bigger wheels were definitely more comfortable. My lower back was getting tired and stiff after all the years pushing my limits, and comfort was a big motivator in my switch to a 29er. When you feel good, you go faster, plain and simple.

Now, I know that race results are not everything. Trust me, I am retired. On that note, I am having more fun on my bike than I ever have, and I am still on the Trek Superfly. They don’t pay me to say nice things about their bike, so you can trust me, I promise.

I was riding with Myles a couple weeks ago, and I said, “Now that I can ride any bike I want to, I would still choose this one.” That’s saying something. I feel safe and confident on the Superfly. The bike handles wonderfully and yes, it does roll fast.

After leading the World Cup in 2010 and winning another bronze medal at the world championships, I was a little irritated with the whole 29er thing. I felt like my bike was getting all the credit, and my ego didn’t like that. For 2011, I planned on racing a 26-inch full suspension. Just to prove a point.

Well, as you know, I got pregnant, and didn’t race that year, and now I am retired. So, I never really put the comparison to the test. I can tell you this however, it was NOT more fun on the 26-inch hardtail or full suspension. It just really wasn’t.

As a woman, a bike fit is important no matter what bike you ride. I like the RETUL system. I am 5’2″ and the 29er really fits me well. You will want to have a shorter stem, and you will want to flip it over so your handlebars are not too high. I use a 90 mm stem at a negative 17 degrees rise (all that means is flip it over so the stem is not pointing up).

There is no magic bike, it is all about the magic you put in it. And the more fun you are having, the more magical it all is! Trust yourself and at the same time, be willing to try something new. And that goes for all things in life. Enjoy….


Willow Rockwell is a woman in transition. As a professional mountain bike racer, she won two Bronze Medals at the Mountain bike World Championships (2009, 2010) and led the World Cup in 2010 for a brief time before finally finishing second in the series. Poised to conquer the world and win an Olympic medal, she discovered she was pregnant in the Spring of 2011. She chose to devote herself to her unborn daughter and left the sport behind. During her pregnancy she wrote a memoir titled “My Wheels Gave Me Wings.” It chronicles her difficult childhood, her near self destruction, and her path to healing and self acceptance. In 2012 she attempted a comeback to the sport, but discovered that the warrior who would “fight to the death” had died within her. It was time to lay down the sword and be a warrioress for truth and light. It was time for new adventures. She is now re-discovering and re-inventing herself as a mother, a wife and a goddess woman. She hopes to inspire others to heal their deepest wounds, and to re-emerge as a powerful being full of self expression.Willow writes regular columns for Singletrack.com, is enrolled in a Sacred Sexuality course, loves all things feminine and beautiful and still loves to ride her bike.

FILED UNDER: 29er / Bikes and Tech / MTB TAGS: / / /

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