The Golden Wrench

A blog about bicycle repair and maintenance by the mechanics at Freewheel Bike.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Getting Squishy with Giant Mendez

In 2013 I added a little bit of spring to my step and squish to my bike stable. I'm here to spread the good word about full suspension and how it's changed my riding.

I've always loved an opportunity to play in the mud, and a few years ago after getting my first Surly Troll I reveled in its versatility (more on that in another post). I could bike it around town, do groceries, or take it to some of my favorite off road spots like Theo Wirth or the Minnesota River Bottoms

A few years went by and although I was completely satisfied with the ride qualities of my fully rigid steel bike, I wanted to be able to do more! I wanted to be able to take on some serious features or play on a pump track! 

At the end of 2013 I had been doing my research and was considering purchasing a Trek Lush SL and was going to wait a bit to pull the trigger. I soon found out that in 2014 Trek was going to phase out their 26" wheeled model of that bike, and because of my stature (5'0") I was concerned about not being able to flick my bike around as I prefer to. I had to make a decision quick and I've gotta say, I'm not sad about what I had to do...

Betty looking fierce
With a light aluminum frame, Shimano SLX/XT mixed group, respectable SLX hydros, 120mm of travel front and rear thanks to Fox Evolution Series paired suspensions dialed for a lighter weight rider, this bike was a far cry from my steel single speed. The super hot matte and gloss black paint job didn't hurt either; this bike was perfection to me.

Before I got a chance to properly ride the bike I've named Betty I had to take a very relevant business trip to Trek where I got an opportunity to test ride the big sister, or 29er version of the Lush SL. After spending a few days on some of the most amazing trails I've ever had the benefit of riding I really feel like I'd gotten a handle on the Lush SL 29er.

Big wheels, no big dealzzzz
I can understand the appeal of a 29er after spending extended time on one. They are super fast, they roll over just about anything, and the wheelbase feels longer and stable. These are all nice things, but I couldn't get over the "monster truck" feel of the front end. My second day riding the bike I dropped the stem a spacer and it felt better, and I felt if I had more time with it I would have been better off dropping it another 10mm and it would have been perfect. A concern of mine that got blown to bits was that this bike's handling would be cumbersome as I am accustomed to much smaller wheels but with the tapered head tube and proper G2 geometry all I had to do was tell the front end where to go and it would GO!  ALSO, bonus, in 2014 this bicycle comes with a dropper post! Hitting some of the crazier features with a remote hydraulic dropper post made all of the difference in confidence for me. I see the appeal of a newer rider enjoying the stability this bike has to offer, and it is awesome crushing over everything in the woods.

This bike also features ABP, Trek's solution to suspension lockup when you pull your brake so I could retain control and not feel like I was being bucked off my bike. The Lush SL also features Fox's Climb/Trail/Descend switch to adjust the stiffness of front and rear suspension while riding different kinds of trails. I stayed in climb and trail most of the time, hopefully come spring I'll be able to take my bike to some places where I can use the descend feature. 

On the more technical side, Trek makes suspension setup easy. Adjusting from going rigid to full suspension was simple and nowhere near as scary as I imagined with their suspension setup calculator. All of the knobs and dials can be kind of daunting at first but fortunately with that tool and my lovely men in Shockspital I got it dialed perfectly. 

When all is said and done I would 100% recommend the Lush SL (and the Superfly 100 AL, the gender-neutral companion) to anyone coming in looking to get set up with a full-suspension mountain bike. If you choose the extra suspension to get more rad or even just to not feel like someone completely beat you up the next day, they are fabulous machines to take your off-roading to the next level. Whether you're coming from rigid or hardtail, you can't go wrong with a little bit of extra squish.