This thread is called “The Cheater Bike”, because in many ways, that’s what the Fuel feels like. Brendan was riding a Stache 29+, and he’s a talented rider. I was doing a far better job of keeping up than I had any right to. The Fuel made climbs effortless, and gave me more confidence on descents than I’ve ever had. When I would brake less and just let the bike rip, it would shred.
It sounds funny, but I felt the most in control when I was just a little bit out of control. When I got used to the bike sliding on the leaves, and skipping over the rocks, and being just a smidge loose–that was when I was riding the fastest, and that was when I had the most ability to control my destiny. When I’d slow down to turn, or to pass some obstacle, that would be when the bike would be less steady, and I’d start wavering towards the trees or the edge of the trail. The Fuel just wants to go fast. (The low-speed instability is a characteristic of bikes, not of the Fuel–it’s stable everywhere. I’m just learning that oftentimes, faster is better when mountain-biking).
Any climb or obstacle in the path was surmountable if I had the speed and confidence. Lofting the front wheel is ridiculously easy–from a normal, slightly off the saddle position, just pull back a smidge on the handlebars and put a tiny bit of power into the pedals. The front rises controllably. Keep on the gas as the rear hits the obstacle, and tuck the rear wheel up and over. Any failure to clear a ledge is on the rider.
Similarly, when descending, just point and shoot. Pick a line and go. The bike does all of the work. If you relax and keep it pointed in the right direction, it’s a screamer.
There are not a lot of instances where the bike can make you a better rider. Sure, an aero road bike has advantages over a non-aero bike, but there’s nowhere to hide on the road. With mountain bikes, the advantages of the Fuel are so great, that they can take a mediocre rider such as myself, and turn him into a hero. Or something close to a hero. It truly feels like cheating.
Every component on this bike was hand-selected to be the best. And they are. It’s one of the most amazing bikes I’ve ever ridden.