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Test: ‘Women’s-Specific’ 29er Bike

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When I was asked to test the Myka HT Expert 29er from Specialized, I thought the company rep was kidding. I am a small person — 5’1’‘ and about 108 pounds — so the thought of those huge 29-inch wheels spinning under me seemed daunting, if not illogical. My racing partner (and fiancée) has been a 29er convert for more than a year now, but even he was skeptical of my small frame on a big-wheeled bike.

This past weekend, I took the Myka on its first serious test ride. The venue was a 6-hour adventure race on a new team with two other women. My first impression? The 29er bike actually felt like it “fit.” I didn’t feel small over the big wheels at all — instead, I felt a bit invincible!

Myka HT Expert 29er

Because of its giant wheels compared to the small frame, the bike looks disproportional at first. But any aesthetic concerns were soon forgotten as I pedaled on a quick ride through a mountain bike park. On the ups, downs, tight turns, and singletrack, the Myka rolled fast. I hardly noticed rocks or roots, and in places where my 26-inch bike had seemed lacking the 29er rolled right through.

One caveat: The big tires feel sluggish at startup, especially on climbs. Making tight turns can be a challenge, too. The Myka is more like a Suburban than a sports car. However, on race day, when I had to ride hard down washboard dirt roads and fire lanes, the bike rode fast and smooth.

Gender-specific touches include a RockShox Tora 29 TK SL Le Femme 80mm fork that is sold as “women’s-specific,” meaning its spring weights are tuned for the lighter-weight sex. The frame is made for women, as is the seat, the Specialized Body Geometry Women’s Riva MTB saddle.

Best part? The Myka HT retails at only $1,250. I am now sold on 29ers in general, and the Myka is a great place to get your feet wet if you’re curious like me.

To be sure, for serious competitors the bike is not “race ready,” and I will still use my higher-end (and lighter weight) rig in big competitions. But for beginner or intermediate riders getting more into the sport of mountain biking, the Myka performs well and doesn’t break your body or your wallet along the way.

—Chelsey Gribbon is a member of the YogaSlackers. She raced on Team GearJunkie.com in the 2010 and 2011 Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race.

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