With a new year comes new sponsorship, and this year I am very proud to announce I’ll be racing for BH Bikes. Admittedly, I would say I am like most of you when I associated BH with a strong representation in the road scene and very minimal US presence in the mountain bike realm. The only thing true about this assumption of mine is that BH is in fact one of the leading competitive brands of road bikes. As far as mountain bikes go, they aren’t too far behind. Ultimately, most of us are a product of what the media puts out and unfortunately BH hasn’t quite been given the light it deserves in the US quite yet. Have a look at any XC World Cup podium, you’ll be sure to see BH consistently reaching one of the steps.
So let me start out by telling you about one of the bikes I will be riding and racing this year.
Seen below is the Ultimate Carbon Hard Tail 29. What is she wearing, you ask? This beauty is built up full SRAM XX1 brakes and drivetrain, Rock Shock World Cup Blackbox Technology 100mm suspension, & Mavic Crossmax SLR wheels. The extra little bits I’ve added to personalize this whip are Ergon GA2 grips and SMR3 saddle, Xpedo M-Force Ti pedals, and Continental X-King on the front and Race King on the rear. How does this all transfer to your first impression? For me, it’s “Holy CRAP she’s beautiful and LIGHT”.
As someone who stacks up to 5’4″ and 100lbs, I’ll admit that the weight of a bike will pursuay my initial reaction when checking out new bikes. Generally, when it comes to most cross country riding and racing lighter is better, to a point of course. However, I have yet to be on a bike where the lightness of the bike compromises its performance and durability.
My first ride on the Ultimate was a 50 mile adventure of frozen snow packed single track, pavement, and snowmobile tracked out forest roads. Living at 6600ft, this as close to mountain biking as we can get out or door in January. My biggest take home note from this ride was the amount of terrain it opened up to me for winter base miles. So far – perfect for races with a LOT of road and a LOT of climbing.
My next ride on this bike was a bit more mountain bike specific on a 45 mile tour of the JEM Trails in Hurricane, UT. This system of trails are mostly fast and flowy with the occasional fun rock drop, chundry traverse and pebbly descent. Having not ridden a 29er, hard tail, or anything less than 120mm of suspension in well over a year I was a little apprehensive how this bike would handle real mountain bike conditions. To be honest, I’m not the best at line choosing – and find myself more of a point it straight and let off the brakes kind of rider.
For me, where I have noticed a draw back in the past with 29ers has been tight, technical areas, and quick cornering. So far, with the Ultimate I felt much more in control and found once I was familiar with riding on trail again the handling was like second nature. On a geometry stand point this was due to the shorter wheel base giving me more of a sports car feel vs a semi truck.
The only time I noticed a slight inefficiency was on longer sections of ledgey, randomly spaced rocky trail you would have to pedal through. Having full suspension would be much more comfortable through sections like this, however if you find yourself riding & racing mostly smooth trail with the occasional technical feature – the Ultimate 29 would be perfect! The 100mm of travel and bigger wheels can actually dampen choppy sections of riding quite nicely.
How about drops? Well, I had a chance to test this one out without even knowing it. We were cruising down a fast, smooth, flowy trail when a nice fly-through-the-air drop came up and without even thinking twice I was safely landed and back in the train of riders zipping through the desert. Now, I wouldn’t recommend you ride drops all day long on a hard tail – but as cross-country races are getting more and more technical, this hard tail is still capable and competent of A-lines.
As we were nearing the final miles of our ride, fatigue settled in and my handling seemed to go out the window. I took sections slower, felt more rocks, and daydreamed of food. This section of riding has absolutely no reflection on the bike and purely bonk related.
Overall, this bike is a pure cross country race machine. Weighing in around 20lbs fully loaded – it’s lighter than my road bike and can handle far more than what I put my skinny tires through. I felt like I floated up longer climbs and easily zipped up short, punchy ones. Like I had mentioned, when my familiarity of riding trail came back I also noticed an increase of speed I could carry through corners – as well as a surprising ability to play off poor line choosing.
Races where this bike would shine would be The Whiskey 50, Day 6 of the Breck Epic, as well as the majority of all cross country races especially ones like The Beti Bike Bash but would also do well at the Go Pro Games. Where this bike may not be the best would be more unforgiving, longer technical races like True Grit.
This is of course just my opinion as there are plenty of people who race some of the most technically demanding races on fully rigid rides. Those people are in a completely different category and I love them dearly, as they are typically very crazy and good at partying.
Thanks for reading, and tune in soon for my next post talking about the BH Lynx 4.8 29er. Until then, enjoy the weekend riding, skiing, running or just soaking in some delicious Vitamin D!