Twosome on the Singletrack: His & Her World's Finest Mountain Bike
It's all downhill from here and that's just the way we like it...a twosome cruisin' down the singletrack on GIANT's luxury-grade off-road bicycles. How do two busybodies make time for romance and fitness without enduring such bugaboos as Gym Monotony and Weekly Yoga Class Fatigue? To commingle amour, high-tech exercise, and the autumnal outdoors, make room in the garage for a spry couplet: love should be robust, but waistlines should be slim, get a mountain bike for her and another one for him.
Mountain biking has greatly evolved from hardtails of the 1970s when the sport got rolling around Mt. Tamalpais in Marin County, CA. Before that, besides mud-splattered adventures, you could also count on rigid rides and sore backsides. By the 1990s, engineers solved the problem with front and dual suspensions, but as newfangled designs made rugged terrain more comfortable, they also added weight and rendered pedaling inefficient on climbs. The holy grail, thus, would be a full suspension bike that runs light, climbs fast, and grants riders versatility to adjust shocks on-the-fly to trail conditions. It hath arrived...and in His & Her versions: the black and silver 2011 Trance X Advanced SL 0 ($8,400) and the 2011 Cypher 1 ($2,650) in chocolate cherry color with white accents.
My first bicycle was the classic Huffy with a banana seat that Uncle Vincent taught me to ride. That wasn't actually too many bikes ago in my cycling chronology, so what did I know about GIANT's boasts of a DT Swiss Tricon XM1550 cross mountain wheelset, Fi'zi:k Gobi XM saddle with braided composite rails, or a Shimano XTR M980 11x36 10-Speed cassette? Nevertheless, as a lifelong member of the GBGH club (Go Big or Go Home), I figured any pursuit worth pursuing is worth pursuing to the nth degree. GIANT is the largest bicycle company of its kind in the world, and the Trance X and Cypher 1 are the supermodels of GIANT's mountain bike portfolio. So with foliage bursting into fall color, 'twas time to gear up and hit the countryside.
In an instant, my sweetheart and I upgraded from rusty, bush league hardtails circa the Bush administration to sleek, state-of-the-art hot rods with hydraulic disk breaks and spec sheets that would make any MTB pro quiver in his crankset. Yet before we could unleash these beasts, Amy and I had to get educated. Like learning to drive stick, there's a rite of passage inherent in the transition from conventional "platform" pedals to spring-loaded "clipless" pedals that require cleated bike shoes. The main advantages are pedaling efficiency (you're pulling up, not just pushing down) and the precise control that comes from oneness with your bike. On the down side, clipping-in and -out takes a bit of practice and until you've got it smooth, you'll eat it a few times. No biggie; the biggest bruises during these falls are mainly to your ego.
Once we got this part down, our GIANTs became giant fun. This friendliness toward neophytes was part of the draw. Instead of flummoxing us with parts we'd rarely need or settings we'd never use, the bikes charmed us with an elegant simplicity right off the showroom floor. The cycle shop technician fitted the models to our heights, but no elaborate tutorial was necessary. Out of the box, they were ready to run, and although I started in Granny gear, by the second weekend I was catching air, executing powerslides, going gonzo and Googling how to enlist in USA Cycling or the IMBA.
Akin to a champagne producer's prestige cuvée (think Louis Roederer Cristal) that assembles the very best grapes into a seamless blend, the Trance X and Cypher 1 are all-star amalgams of top components. How does it all come together? A telling test came when we took these babies onto some railroad tracks. Instead of the
expected, spine-rattling, pile-drive motion, the 5" Maestro Suspension and Fox Racing Shox absorbed bumps with a meticulously crafted frame and front fork so that there was nary a tender spot on our derrieres. And carbon fiber composite meant light enough to ferry ourselves over obstacles without bulging a disk, yet durable enough to hang tough in gnarly wipeouts. This translated into panoramic, rock-hopping treks that exhausted the daylight long before we sapped our stamina in the saddle.
Mud Mask & Crit Candy
You know those spas that offer seaside Reiki treatments or dual facials? Consider these bikes your personal trail therapists in pursuit of a new kind of mud mask, the one you get after racking up miles, traversing switchbacks and boldly going where most bikes cannot go. And if your ever wanted to be that stud on the beach with six-pack abs and a bikini stunner, these bikes might just land you the same kind of looks.
Besides their performance on the trail, the Trance X and Cypher 1 are head-turners of the first order. I pulled up to Lamplighter Roasting Company, a bike-centric coffee shop named after the tall bikes employed by late 1800s-era torch-wielders lighting gas lamps along city street. Enthusiasts with custom frames on the brain flocked around the Trance to marvel: said one onlooker, "Man, even the derailleur is carbon fiber." It reminded me of the time that same Uncle Vinny collected me from my New Jersey high school in his Ferrari 308 and inadvertently landed me a date with a cheerleader named Trish.
Just as tennis requires more than a can of yellow balls, a mountain bike fetish demands the proper ensemble of apparel and accessories whose attributes span safety, comfort and style. At minimum, you'll need to step into pedals, shoes and a helmet. Other arguably indispensable add-ons are quality gloves and eyewear, a padded chamois insert for your hind-parts, portable hydration, and a sturdy lock worthy of a primo security detail.
I spoiled my baby-blues by investing in a serious set of shades. The Pivlock V90 Max ($139) comes with three interchangeable lenses--to deal with varying light--and snap in or out in a sec. We entrusted Amy's eyes to the frameless Boardwalk sunglasses ($119). Though my Pivlocks are more suited for cross-country criteriums than cafés, her Boardwalks were post-ride chic enough to transition from sunlight to spotlight in a Hollywood minute.
Pearli Izumi Jerseys ($55-80) make Amy a badass belle of the bike and the men's long-sleeve Launch LS Jersey ($80) possesses all the moisture transfer properties for riding in transitional weather without skimping on curb appeal. Throw in some sturdy Socks ($10-15) and never has falling off a bicycle looked so damn sexy. The Launch Short ($90) includes an ass-kissing, detachable Versa 3D Chamois Liner and features ample storage for gadgets, a trail map, and a multi-tool.
When it comes to protecting your skull, the brains behind Giro have cornered the market. Tour de France winners Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador wear the Ionos ($235), why not you? (PEDs not included.) For her, try the Atmos ($180) and prove that you cherish her mind as much as her softail. And you don't need to be a manicured diva to appreciate comfy, handlebar-numbness-preventing Giro gloves ($24.99-$37.99) with silicone tips that allow you to operate a smartphone without taking off your gloves.
What happens when you hop off the bike? I got caught on a steep grade and the ShimanoM230 ($200) saved me from slipping down the slope like a lemming. Besides a sole that custom fits to your foot, the toe spikes grip terrain for added traction when the trail is too rough for wheels. For her, the Shimano SPDSH-WM41 Women's Multi-Sport/Touring Shoe ($84.99) features a removable sole plate so that she can go both ways--platform pedals or clipless--as she sinks her teeth into mountain biking. The cleat is recessed, too, so she won't stumble around off the bike. Remember, clipless shoes need clipless pedals too: Shimano PD-M970 XTR ($179.95). As bikeradar.com put it, "Shimano's been developing MTB clipless pedals longer than any other brand, and these are the pinnacle of its achievement."
To refuel your outings, the M.U.L.E. ($89) packs nearly a gallon of water at your lips with a lockable bite valve, plus capacity for a 13" laptop and stowaways like gorp, cigars and small electronica. Fill it with hot water on cold mornings and it's a portable heat pack around your body.
Added up, this top-o-the-line mountain bike fiesta runs $11,080.00 for iron horses + $1,894.88 for ancillary gear = $12,974.88. Do the math and that's $17.73 each per day for two lovebirds hitting the starting line with a whole new reason besides bacon to rise and shine on a brisk Saturday morn. You can still have bacon, but with GIANTs in your stable, those bikes will beckon you to earn your breakfast and conquer some trails before lunch.