This is my humble review of my ride on a 27.5 KHS 2500 – with SLX drivetrain including the XT shadow plus rear derailleur and 10-speed XT cogset – which makes it somewhere between the 5500 and the 6500 models?
This bike is adapted to trail and all mountain riding. Surprisingly, it feels like a road bike on paved streets – hard and unyielding as the racer bike -BUT transforms into a superb full suspension mountain bike on uneven trails. When hitting the earth and stones, the play of its parts and suspension is not only comfortable but, more than anything, gives comfort to the confidence of the rider. Do you know what I mean? Of course you do.
I plunge into trails and angles which I would have been otherwise afraid to take in another bike (bigger wheel size). The ‘tweener wheel size coupled with the performance of this low center of gravity bike makes it quick, quickly responsive, and playful inside the trails. Adding them all up equals a confident ride.
We were in the middle of the first long trail in the La Mesa Dam watershed in Quezon City, Philippines when the midmorning monsoon rain fell. Afraid that the heavy downpour will make the terrain more dangerous than it was, I pedaled faster than my regular pace through the wet and slippery trails. There were smooth, round stones all over but those didn’t faze me because I was confidently connected to my KHS 2500 MTB. I rode those forest trails faster in the mud and rain than I would have done in a sunny day.
One word I can sum up my ride in this KHS full suspension bike – CONFIDENCE.
This was my email to my biker friends. Didn’t mention the bike because they knew what bike I was riding on. It was my experience that I wrote about. Read on:
Sa ating padyakan Ay walang iwanan.
**** roughly translated “in our pedaling, we leave no one behind”
It rained hard Saturday morning in La Mesa Dam in Quezon City. What started out as a climate-friendly day (nearly 9 a.m.) turned into a rainy one by mid-morning. And we were just in the middle of the first single trail inside the forest watershed when the first drops of rain drummed on the tree leaves. Softly and tentative at first and with longer spaces in between. Then the rhythm became faster and the drumming became louder. Wooooh! I had to pedal faster because I had to get out of the long trail before the downpour reaches its real and maximum capacity. Jess and Mike were behind me trading stories when they realized I was already out of their sight and hearing. I was real scared from the mud and how slippery the wet trail would become. So I barreled on in the fastest time I could manage to get to the end of the longest, first trail.
I almost lost my perspective until Jess came up to me and said, “Umuulan na. Di ba ito ang pangarap mo na ulanin tayo dito sa La Mesa at mag-bike ng basa sa ulan?” (It’s raining. Is this not your dream to ride in the rain in La Mesa and get wet while biking?) I said, “Oo nga, ano?” (Yes, it was!) And I remembered: This rain was what I wanted. To be wet riding my bike into the muddy trail; to slosh into the rain puddles and watch the water splash against the tree trunks and dislodge the croaking frogs; to be wet and wild just like the popular soft drink 7-Up; and to be like a kid again into my first rain. This was my dream. And I was living it!
“Be still my beating heart!” I muttered as I watched my heart monitor soar into 187 beats per minute (I am 57 years old and my maximum heartbeat rate per minute should be 163 bpm and I should not go over 150 bpm). Fear does strange things to a human being (also to non-human beings, I figure). I was hurrying up, cycling my legs until my chest felt like exploding. “Had to get out of the trail before it becomes more dangerous than it already is,” that was what I thought. Then Jess Olivar’s words hit me like a cold shower in the already chilling rain (can you imagine that? a chill within a chill?). So I looked up into the raining sky and let the cold drops from heaven soak into me. Acceptance! Almost like living into the Bene Gesserit’s Litany Against Fear**(footnote 1)
After the emerging from the first trail in the middle of a downpour, I thought that Mike and our guide Buknoy would lead us out from the forest’s single trails and only use the double trails for jeeps which is more safe, comparatively. There were some discussion and consultation with the maps posted beside the towers. But in the end, even after Mike assured there would be no more trails, we went into many other single trails which we met for the first time and those we have gone into before. The descents looked scarier and felt steeper because fear was always knocking on my consciousness, aside from those glass looking, wet, slippery round stones which felt like marbles under my rear wheels. The ascents were much harder to climb because our rear wheels were slipping. “Whoosh!” “Whoosh!” “Whoosh!” Mine and Mike’s rear wheels sounded as they lost friction over the mud and stone. “Splaashh!” The bikes sounded like boats cruising into waves, I told Jess when he hit the puddle instead of following me into the shoulder of the trail. And Jess and I were laughing. We didn’t notice we were running fast and maybe faster than when the trails were dry. There was a sense of haste and hurry in our pedaling because we had to get out of the danger we chose to traverse. “Yung may tubig na trails parang walang lubak, ano? Mukhang pantay lahat kasi yung tubig lang nakikita mo, ano?” Mike observed. (Roughly translated: “The pool of water makes it look as if there were no bumps and holes in the trails, right? They all looked flat because all you see is the flat water, right?”)
We were not mindful of the time because we wanted to go through all the trails for a different experience. Each one looked and felt different, being wet and muddy and slippery. Mike and Buknoy wanted to pass through all dangerous trails and we followed. And yes! We followed our hunger for adventure and gave way to our feeling of freedom. We hit those wet and wild trails with a feeling of being free to do what we wanted to do. We came out of each trail scratched but each time we felt triumphant, like a million dollars.
There were sudden stops during climbs because the one ahead lost his footing. And you have to stop almost as immediate as he did to avoid hitting him. In the process, I fell; I lost my sense of balance; falling made me realize how tired I felt and I could not hold my balance for some time. Yes! It was harder to start again once you stop in the middle of a climb. There was more bike pushing than before. Some climbs I couldn’t do because of the one ahead of me and some climbs they could not continue because I was ahead of them.
At the end of the ride, it was 3 p.m. when we reached the parking lot. We were drenched, happy and beat. As promised, I brought out the surprise for the wasted bikers – 530 ml bottles of Tsing Tao beer. The first draft was the best, heaven, actually.
While we were washing up, and taking “buhos” showers to drive the mud away near the bike cleaning area, Mike showed me the GPS record of our ride. We went around all towers using mostly trails. We practically went around the whole watershed on our side. It was the longest, most difficult but fun ride ever in La Mesa Dam.
The brother of the actress Eigenmann or something was also there with his English speaking group. Mike was a fan. He threw his bike down and ran to Eigenmann’s aid when the latter took a loud spill. (note 2)
That is why, bros, you have to join the Bikers for the adventure of your lives!
If you don’t join us, you will not get rained on!
Raul Reyes (57 year old lawyer from the Philippines)
(The 27.5 is a much quicker and playful bike than the 29er in trails.)
1. Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear (borrowed from Dune, Frank Herbert)
“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing……Only I will remain.”
2. Mike’01 watches the soap operas. Eigenmann is a local actor.