I’ve felt foolish these past two years. Living so close to the singletrack trail system wrapping the James river, but without a mountain bike to take full advantage of those trails. I finally took the plunge and brought home a bike to learn to ride in the dirt on.
I had initially set out to get a hardtail, but after two months of debate, the value of the Rift Zone 5 was too much to ignore. Full squish, with a dropper, 1x10, through axles, and tubeless ready wheels for under two grand was enough reason to pull the trigger on this bike. It’s proven to be a great tool to learn to work with. The 120mm of travel front and rear is more than enough to soak up the irregularities, and rocky rooted mess that you’ll be happy to find in the JRPS. I’m continuously surprised at the size of the rocks that the 29” wheels will just eat and roll over without a loss of momentum.
I started slow with the flat singletrack out at the Poop Loop, learning to get comfortable with banked turns, rock gardens, and a few log crossings. The utility of the dropper post became very apparent when I first rode the trails at Dogwood Dell. Dropping the saddle out of the way made it so much easier for me to do the rollers without losing all of my momentum. I also felt so much more comfortable on the downhills being able to center my weight over the rear with no saddle to interfere. I also appreciate the dropper because I can more easily persuade friends who do not ride, to try my bike out without need for a hex key. On a trip out to Pocahontas State Park last month, we dropped the saddle to my partner's height, and she got her first experience on fire roads, and even a small section of singletrack.
At this point the only modification I’ve done to the bike is switch over to some lock-on grips. In the near future I’m going to make the jump to tubeless. The appeal of lower pressures is more obvious to me more now that I’ve gotten a better feel for the bike, and wiped out a few times from lack of traction. I will eventually swap brake levers down the road, the Shimano M315 levers are a bit longer than I’d like. They do stop like the dickens though, and I’m not sure that I can ever buy another bike that doesn’t have hydraulic disc brakes.
I’ve had the bike for just under two months now, and I have zero regrets about the purchase. It’s proven more than capable of handling anything that I can throw it at. Buttermilk still scares the crap out of me, but it’s getting better!
Check out the 2018 Rift Zone family here.