Monday, March 9, 2015

Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt - First Impressions

My BC Bike Race rig is here thanks to the fine people of Rocky Mountain and North of the Border bike shop. If NOTB is your LBS then you are a lucky person! They are small but mighty, carrying top Canadian and Californian brands, Rocky Mountain, Norco, Marin and Turner. 

My LBS is the amazing RIDE Cyclery, so Blaize did the honor of getting this red rocket all built up and rip-ready. When I first saw it in its stunning red paint job, I mostly just felt humbled. For me? Really?? Some days it feels like I've got all the luck. 

Since then, Thursday night, I have been out riding on this handsome beast every day. Here are my first impressions: 

Day one: the "women especially" RIDE Ride I lead on Friday mornings, through Calavera. 

I was happy for this to be the first outing because I knew it would be shorter, which is important to me when dialing in a new rig. Sometimes, the littlest thing out of whack, e.g. seat height, won't show its ugly face until you're sore the next day. Millimeters matter. 

On the climbs, the Thunderbolt surprised me with its "stick-to-it-iveness" thanks to its XC inspired geometry. With only small inputs from me, I could easily keep the front wheel down and the back wheel catching, even over uneven terrain. This thing climbs. 

But point it downhill and it's a fire-red fiesta. The first time I got the chance to let it fly, I picked up a QOM and felt like I was more in control and confident in that section than I ever have before. And this is the first ride!! I hadn't even begun to play with the Ride-9 chip! We are off to a great start. 

For more Thunderbolt thinking, check out the post that explains why I chose it. 

Day 2: the regular RIDE Ride, Saturday morning, Calavera 

This ride is decidely more "dudely" and the training plan said "no rules" so off we went to add in some mileage, steepness, and tech. 

Right off the bat, I was wowed again by the Thunderbolt's climbing prowess. First climb was very steep and loose and we went up like it had an escalator. Bam. 

The rest of the day featured some tech descents and the dropper post made such a difference for me. Confidence was sky high. 

Jumps were fun and easy, and the bike is a joy to get off the ground, while landings were solid and squirrel free. 

I felt like this bike made me a better rider by the end of this one. The "gel" had begun in earnest. And with no tweaks, aches or pains to speak of, I was ready for Sunday. 

Day 3: La Costa with the "Fountain Ride"

For me, this would be a true test. La Costa is my backyard and the place where I've done by far the most riding in North County. When I'm testing/reviewing bikes for MTBR I always make sure to do a La Costa ride because the trail is so old hat I can really tell what difference the bike makes. 

The Thunderbolt pedals so well you can forget it has rear suspension at all. On the flat ride into the Copper Creek section, it was almost getting away from me as my velocity was always greater than I thought I deserved. A good thing! 

First climb is a real bitch taking almost 20 huff puff minutes to the top. But at least it's steep. The pitch and technicality of it were welcome though and the Thunderbolt thought nothing of it. 

By the top of this thing, with lots of hard rides on my legs, stress in my life, and sun beating down, I did start to feel the weight of the bike a bit.  I'll be looking at ways to lighten up but the spec is already drool-worthy so that will be a challenge. 

Coming down La Costa I learned my new favorite thing about the Thunderbolt: corners. Especially descending switchback corners. 

With the wide bar, and slacker geometry, I felt like one of those guys in the DH videos who just slice through the bottom of a turn and come catapulted out the other side. I'm sure that's not how I looked but it was still an awesome sensation. One of many good vibrations rumbling from the Thunderbolt. 

Whereas before adopting this handsome devil I had to take deep calming breaths remembering the ferocious terrain of the BC Bike Race, now I can hardly wait to get at it.  

I'm so happy with how well my homework paid off; I absolutely made the right choice. Thank you Rocky Mountain Bikes. This one's a fighter. 

"Rocky Balboa."