Last month two bikes were stolen from a certain garage in San Donato Milanese. Those were my mountain bikes; the garage, well that wasn’t mine1.

And it was dead easy to open the garage for these gentlemen. Not only did they steal my two most precious bikes, leaving the city bikes untouched, but also my tire pump and all of my tools like allen keys and sockets etc. These gentlemen, they were really into bikes and knew their stuff pretty well. I hope they won’t be so stupid to go ride my bikes in Finale Ligure.

Anyway, that has left a huge hole in my life. Yes, they were only bikes, but bikes for a biker are very personal things; probably because it’s so easy to change parts and make them better or different as your ability increases or your interests with regards to terrain or type of riding evolves. So they grow with you, and you start to feel an affection for them — which I have never experienced with my motorbikes.

transition covert

Apologies for the selfie, but that one in the background is my Covert, and this is its last image I have.

And these two particular bikes have been very dear to me; I have been riding the Covert since early 2010, and I raced it at Trans-Provence when it was still a somewhat obscure adventure. Let me add one thing about Trans-Provence (I have a long report still in my drafts folder which I’m unable to complete); admittedly I wasn’t up to the task, and this event nearly destroyed my enthusiasm and willingness to go out and ride. But I came back home with a more realistic idea of who I was and what I could do — and I’m not only speaking in terms of riding ability here.

With my Covert at Trans-Provence 2010.

After that I continued to race for fun, knowing full well that I was never, and never could be, a good rider. My placement in the few enduro races I did after Trans-Provence has always been in the lower half of the rankings — but you know what? In reaching my forties I did make peace with the fact that I’ve got no talent, only a strong desire to make myself better at stuff that gives me pure and unadulterated pleasure such as riding technical trails and go downhill as fast and clean as I can.

custom 29er LSDB

Custom-built, fully rigid 29er on the Tartufobike trail, Calestano (PR).

The 29er was supposed to be a bike that should have really grow old with me. It was a custom made frame built with love (so they say) by my friends at La Stazione delle Biciclette. Its geometry was stolen (i.e., inspired and then slightly modified) from the Genesis Fortitude. All steel obviously, with a rigid carbon fork and some other parts taken from the bin or bought for little money. My idea was to use it as a winter training bike, and then in the future convert it to slick tires and maybe some drop bars to commute, travel, or transport my kid around.

Latest incarnation, with brand new Maxxis Crossmarks and Fizik Airone.

But it was bloody good fun for some serious mountain biking, requiring full committment, a very active riding style and accurate line selection. I had a dream to race the 24h in Finale with this bike; in this past year I did the famous loop in Finale several times and the bike was perfect on these trails. Like somebody else has written, a lesser bike requires you to increase your skills and ability, and a tame, well known trail becomes again something to conquer.

29-zero-s-s, a self-filmed experiment I did months ago, never shared because I always wanted to go back and make it better.

In the bad mood I was after discovering what happened in that garage, I found some relief in thinking back at the previous two weeks, when by pure chance (as I haven’t been riding much these past few months) I had the opportunity of doing two rides with both bikes — and these rides, although short, they were absolutely brilliant, reigniting in me the passion for mountain biking.

new bike

So where I am now? Well it seems that I have bought myself a new bike, a do-it-all bike — which I don’t have it yet because it’s in the UK now (in the capable hands of my friend Phil that has recommended it, found it, and fetched it).

What’s interesting is that this bike belongs to a category of bikes that I have never ever considered before, because they are all invariably ugly bikes, and most importantly, they are even uglier when a relatively ‘small’2 person rides it.

But I could not find another bike for a cheaper price right now, and because of all the expenses we’re going through as a family with the house renovation it really did not make economic sense to spend more than 2k euros. So this bike will be even cheaper than that, with a top-notch build nonetheless.

What’s interesting is that only yesterday I fond out about these new Kona Process, which come in 3 different models — 111, 134 and 153 (the number indicates the amount of travel; no indication on wheel size as you may notice). And the one I like the most is this short travel model, the 111, which incidentally is a 29er.

As they say in this review — and they were very good in pointing this out — the matter of wheel size becomes almost irrelevant when a bike is this good to ride. It is also the first time probably that a 29er looks this good.

So my new bike is a Norco Shinobi, and it is very similar, at least in principle, to this Kona 111. Yes, a bit longer travel (140/120 mm front rear against 120/111 mm for the Kona) but the idea is the same. So now I’m excited to see what a short travel bike can do. And yes, I’ll stop saying “ugly 29er”. I want to get back on the bike real bad now.

  1. This garage is the one we have now as we stay in this rented apartment until our new apartment is being renovated. We’ve been here since last October and probably we’ll stay until February. Yes, renovation (as intended in my wife’s plans) takes a long time. 

  2. Not that I have ever thought myself as ‘small’, but rather normal. 172 centimetres, where I come from, is the perfect size to ride motorcycles, to drive a Mini or an (old) Fiat Cinquecento. It’s only after the globalization that now Southern Italians have come in contact with these people from America or UK or Friuli where they are all taller than that and start questioning the manliness inside a 172 cm body.