Mountain Flyer Exclusive (oooooh)
Tomac is set to add several new bikes to their lineup for 2011 and over the weekend of Aug. 7-8, 2010 the Mountain Flyer staff got a chance to check out two new trail bikes from the legendary namesake. Predictably, the 2011 lineup will include a 120mm travel 29er and a similar long-er travel carbon fiber 26-inch trail ripper. Such bikes are becoming the standard choice for riders looking for a light, fast bike that can climb and descend with one thing in mind: ripping-good fun.
Each year around this time, Tomac’s Joel Smith and I begin to exchange emails over plans to hook up and ride in Gunnison’s high country. Smith takes up summer residence in Buena Vista—a river town just over the divide from Mountain Flyer’s home in Gunnison—so it would seem to be convenient but for whatever reason—kids, schedules, weather, etc.—we have failed to coordinate until this year.
Luckily it worked out this time and I even managed to recruit a few other Mountain Flyer staffers—Chris Hanna, Steve Mabry, Scott Leonard, and Jordan Carr—and another industry guy: Fred Grinnan from Endura.
Typical to the bike industry as we know it, the talk was more about riding and less about business so the impromptu 2011 preview came as a second-thought when Smith offered to let me take the new Diplomat 29 prototype for a ride.
The Diplomat is a 120mm travel aluminum 29er and Tomac built it right with a short (low stack height) tapered headtube, nicely shaped toptube for low standover height, beefy pivot bearings, and an overall compact look and feel. The only notable thing missing from the design was the “new standard” BB30 bottom bracket. But that’s intentional according to Smith.
“I’m not really a fan of the BB30 standard,” says Smith—poking fun at how many “standards” we have. “They’re still having trouble with bearing failure on those so I’m not ready to dive in.”
The ride planned was Doctor Park Trail, one of my all time favorites for its ultimate bang-for-the-buck alpine singletrack experience. Typically, it is a 2.5-hour loop but, at my suggestion, we opted to add in the Ute Gulch Trail extension, which turned out to add about 2 more hours (most of it steep climbing) to the ride. As Smith pointed out: “you should always take the long route.”
As our group pedaled up Spring Creek road to access the trailhead, we talked of fishing, eating, and bike design. It turns out Smith applies the take-the-long-route philosophy to designing Tomac’s line of bikes.
Tomac is not a company that pumps out five to ten completely new models every year, instead they carefully and methodically test, tweak, and refine a design until they love it. Then they go to production and stick with the design. When looking at the prototype 29er I was riding, Smith described the progression of determining the ultimate pivot point for the bike—a process that included a custom test frame with an adjustable pivot placement—and the efforts they made to keep the chainstays and headtube short to give the bike quick handling and a natural feel on the trail. All that work and test riding (much of it done by John Tomac himself) does pay off.
After an hour of riding up the gravel road, we crossed spring creek and started up Ute Gulch Trail. The trail is narrow, rocky, wet and deceivingly technical. I was immediately impressed by how well the Diplomat 29er climbed. With a Fox RP23 in the rear the bike was a very capable climber and especially excelled on the loose, rocky, and slippery climbs Ute Gulch was throwing at us.
Despite my occasional poor line choice on the narrow trail, I was cleaning more of it than usual. The most impressive thing was, for a bike with 120mm of travel, there was no bobbing or squatting feeling in the rear end but the suspension was still active when I needed it most: climbing through technical sections. Considering I had only been on the bike for an hour, it felt very natural for me. It was simply comfortable and predictable.
We climbed for what seemed like forever to gain the ridge, where we snacked, enjoyed the view, and talked more about the bikes. Smith was riding another prototype bike: the 120mm travel, carbon fiber Supermatic. This bike will definitely be a challenger in the five-inch travel trail bike segment and I’m looking forward to the chance to ride it. Similar to Tomac’s well-regarded Snyper model, the Supermatic uses a single pivot design with optimized pivot placement for pedaling efficiency and ultra plush ride. Although I didn’t get to ride it, it sure seemed to work well for Smith.
After regrouping and regaining our composure from all the climbing, we rolled of the top of the ridge into one of the best descents in the area: Doctor Park Trail.
At speed, with no stops, Doctor Park dishes out 30-40 minutes of ripping downhill with rocky, steep, bar gripping switchbacks mixed with episodes of the smoothest, aspen tree-lined, flowing, narrow singletrack you can find. This trail is a dream.
Smith took off in front of me and let the Supermatic go. It is always a good sign when the president of a bike company can rip singletack—onsight—with finesse and confidence. At the speed we were riding, I was glad to be on the 29er. The Diplomat 29 was stable on the straightaways and very capable in the turns. I had trouble sticking with Smith on the rocky switchbacks but was able to real him back in on the straights when I let those big wheels roll.
“With 29-inch wheels, 120mm of travel feels more like 140mm on the trail,” said Smith as we stopped at the halfway point to regroup. He’s got that right. And Tomac definitely did something right with the geometry and pivot placement on the Diplomat 29. It just seemed to handle everything well.
Tomac is one of the more understated brands in the industry. Their official press launch for the new designs is scheduled for December and I’m looking forward to the chance to learn more. The Democrat 29 and Supermatic will certainly be bikes to check out in 2011 if you’re looking for a new 120mm travel trail /play bike.
Find more info on Tomac Mountain Bikes Here