Velo retro: The Monocog 1x9

Back in the early 90's, my first mountain bike was a Bridgestone MB-3, a steel bike with a rigid fork and thumbshifters -- even then, Bridgestone was a company famous for its almost Luddite design philosophy. I was first and foremost a road cyclist but I did like to ride off-road; in the course of the next few years I sold (probably a bad move) the Bridgestone and graduated to first an anonymous Trek mtb and then an orange Gary Fisher "Genesis" hardtail. There are quite a few of my used bikes being ridden around Burlington I suppose because I sold these rigs in various bike swaps through the years.

Now I have a new ride -- a Redline Monocog 1x9. Things move in circles: It's a steel bike with a rigid fork and a single thumbshifter; there's no front derailleur -- just a 9 speed cassette on the rear wheel. The bike also has 29 inch wheels instead of the more usual 26 inch mtb wheelsets. The large wheels allegedly soak up more shock and vibration and also roll over obstacles more easily than smaller hoops. The bike came with large tires and by running low air pressure (lower than recommended) I have found that it is possible to minimize chattering and bouncing when riding over rough sections despite the bike's lack of suspension.

The larger wheels give a somewhat unnerving perspective on steep descents because it does give one a sense of being up higher than is usual... and it looks to be a long way down. The bike, however, does have a pretty stable ride and doesn't seem to want to do an endo. The lack of suspension does make it something of a handful on steep rough descents but I confess after a couple of hard crashes when I first ventured onto trails I have been riding very cautiously in technical sections.

The bike's gearing (34 t front chainring plus a 9 speed cassette) also takes some getting used to as I have found that the lack of bailout gears means that more energy is expended on a ride and that some climbs that would be rideable with a granny gear are not with this setup -- at least until I get stronger. Also I have learned that I tend to be maxed out on climbs quicker because of the gearing and that consequently I need to be careful climbing; this was a contributing factor in two very hard crashes I took when the bike was new.

All in all the Redline has proven to be a pretty fun bike to have so far and there are many trail networks to explore in this area. I think that it's good for me to spend some time just playing on a bike again because all of my riding lately has been pretty utilitarian -- commuting back and forth to work on my battered road bike.

Some rides in the Waterbury area. The ride in red, isn't technical riding, but includes some brutal climbing and riding through overgrown meadows filled with stinging nettles, I am not sure that I will repeat that experience until after some hard frosts kill off the jungle-like vegetation. The rides in green and blue are in the Perry Hill trail network, maintained by the Stowe Mountain Bike Club.

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