Behind the bars

I’ve been waiting patiently, as it rained pretty much all of January, just so there could be a decent day for me to ride. While I was a bit dusty (having been off the bike for about a month) I did get a few hours to refresh myself with my local track. I got some much needed time on the bike to see exactly what all the buzz surrounding carbon fiber was about. Before I go into the review, I feel I must humor you with some background of where I am coming from in regards to this carbon machine.

Over the years I have slowly progressed with my equipment to better and better offerings as they have become available to me. I am willing to admit, I am no Professional Rider by definition, but I sense that my 25 years of riding may have some merit to it. From racing nationals across the US and sometimes out of the country, I have some experience under my belt.

Roughly since 2009, I’ve been riding a Supercross. At times, they varied from the Blur line up, to a few offerings of the Envy line up (1 white Envy, 1 orange Envy, 1 blue Envy, and then later to a yellow Envy V5). All of these bikes over the years, while maintaining a similar feel, all had slight advancements in them that made them feel better than their predecessor. When I finally got on an Envy V5 the changes were drastically noticeable for someone like myself. Everything from the stiffness out the start, to the ability to make pedaling feel easier. I felt like I was able to get more power down off my starts more consistently. The bike really surprised me, mainly because it felt easier to control and it had a lighter feel without losing the rigidity feeling that happens when taking weight off.

So, when plans were set in motion to make a new flagship model, I was a bit skeptical; not at the idea that things couldn’t get better, but at the task at hand. The idea of trying to better your last design while pushing the limits of material that have been used in BMX is no easy task for anyone.

Since the beginning, I was never fully sold on the idea of people riding Carbon. My initial (non-researched) complaints were always the same: does a bike really need to be that much lighter and possibly that much stiffer? What is the point and is it really safe? I knew BMX had come a lot further than it ever had before and technology has allowed for some crazy advancement in the equipment we ride today. While I love to complain, technology and the advancements in it have made it a bit more difficult than before; which in this case, is not a negative factor.

I watched the Prototypes come in and get put to the test by the few select elite riders. I heard their feedback and even watched some of the abuse they were able to put the frames through. With dialed-in feedback from the riders, I saw complaints come in, which led to changes being made. The process was continuously repeated until the product was up to par.

At this point I was no longer concerned about my initial complaints. The strength was there, the quality was evident, and the tests had proven these to be up to par with what people need.

Now it was my time to have a go at it, because nothing compares to a good session out at the track with your own bike. Once the rain stopped, I managed to get in a few hours of track time in, and it was clear this bike was very different from anything I’ve been on before. For any rider who actually does gate after gate, trying to dial in that first straight, you will notice how much different a machine this is. While the stiffness can catch you off guard in the beginning, once you get adjusted it’s all-evident of what years of development can do for a bike. Once I was adjusted to the way it felt on the first few pedals, I noticed that my third and fourth pedals were coming around slightly faster and more consistent. Oddly, I was able to sneak in an extra pedal before the first jump. I figured I was getting my power down with less issues then before and since nothing else besides the frame and fork had changed from my previous setup, I figured that had to be it. I shouldn’t have been so surprised simply because the changes made to the V5 were very similar when I upgraded to that frame.

I was trying to take all these changes in one step at a time, so I could keep my mind sharp enough to notice anything else that might be different. Going full speed into the first corner at any track is always a fun, so you can bet I was eager to give it a go on this thing. It was a very weird experience during my first few laps. The Carbon rides very differently, it's sharp and precise. You have to be ready for what’s going to happen. I noticed that when you point this bike in a direction, it goes that way and doesn’t stop. Compared to Aluminum, which allows you to point the bike and then kind of push it around and make adjustments, the carbon doesn’t do that. Once you point, it’s like an arrow. It will go there and hold you very steady in the process. It makes you adjust and ride more precisely, but it’s a fun feeling that definitely keeps you on your toes. There is no back seat riding on a carbon, you have to be alert and ready. Personally, this is a good change for me, as it makes me advance my skills to match the level of the bike.