June 9, 2011
I gravitated to the Llama because I used to ride my mountain bike all the time.
Yes, I was one of those who rode my dual suspension mountain bike on the road as much as off. That’s because I call it my comfort bike. That’s code for just loving it.
Don’t get me wrong, I do ride trails. You have to if you live in Oregon. We have some of the sweetest mountain bike trails in the U.S. Just another reason for you to put Eugene on your vacation map.
Now, I have to be honest. I had been itching to take the Pocket Llama onto the trails. We bill the Llama as a mountain bike. As the new guy around (I started in October), I still had plenty to learn.
Part of me hesitated. I really didn’t want to find out that the Llama couldn’t hold its own the trails. My background is as a journalist. You don’t spend a couple decades being objective and honest and just toss that out the window because your job now involves marketing.
So, if that happened — if the Llama didn’t live up to its billing — I’m not sure how I’d handle it.
That’s not true, now that I think about it.
I know how I’d handle it. I’d ride my Llama around town, jump curbs on the way to work like I do each morning, and take my mountain bikes on the trail. Just keep it on the down-low.
With some atypical dry and warm weather hitting the area for a few days earlier this year — including a weekend — I finally had my chance for my test ride.
I tossed the Llama in the back of my SUV and headed for the Middle Fork Trail.
It’s just outside Oakridge, and one of the really popular rides in the area.
The trail hugs the Middle Fork of the Willamette River.
I’ve ridden it a number of times on a number of different bikes.
The first time I hit it on my GT i-Drive.
I’ve hit it on my Marin mountain bike.
And on my brother’s Gary Fisher Cake.
So, the Llama had some serious standards to live up to.
The Middle Fork Trail isn’t the most technical around. Many of our trails in Oregon are pretty smooth. Sure, there are rocks and roots. But no outta control challenges here.
It’s a rolling trail.
Lots of ups and downs.
It’s a fast trail.
A fun trail.
But not fun if you can’t keep your bike under control.
So here’s my disclaimer. I’d have to rate my mountain bike skills as intermediate at best. I never raced BMX. I have no advantage with small wheels.
And it’s Bike Friday’s small wheels that grab most people’s attention.
I could easily see myself pole vaulting a lot on a trail. Fear that small wheel would dig in.
I hit the trail with apprehension. Careful at first. But in a matter of seconds, I realized a couple of quick adjustments I had to make.
I dropped the handlebars a little lower than I’ve been riding them. Suddenly, WHOOSH!
I was off and rolling.
Oh, sure, I crashed once. Got my rear wheel in trouble on a dip and rise through a creek.
I usually crash at least once, though. One of those slo-mo events.
For the most part, though, I was amazed at the control I had with the Pocket Llama.
I got comfortable with the little wheels a lot quicker than I thought I would. Once I knew how to squeeze them through rocks and roots, it was a breeze.
The little wheels let you gun up a hill with an added zing. A big zing. In the spots I did have to dismount, I found myself back on the bike a lot sooner because of the ease of getting on and off a Bike Friday.
Without the top tube there threatened my manhood all the time, I started taking some more chances than I’d normally take. I call dual suspension training wheels for mountain bikes. Once I had dual suspension, I started going over things I’d shy away from on a hardtail.
Since there is no front suspension on the Pocket Llama, I expected to be thrown around a lot. But the Thudbuster suspension seat post delivered. It kept me in the saddle, centered, balanced. Wow.
If I didn’t say that it felt like my most fun trip on the Middle Fork, I’d be lying. It was as much fun as I’ve had. It felt quicker. Faster. Sweet.
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