“Kernville, CA is a small town in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains, best known in MTB circles for the Keyesville Classic – a long running race on the canyon walls and riverbed of the Kern River. Look north a bit and you’ll find two other things that people make the drive to this little town for: Just Outstanding (so good, there’s an IPA named after it) and Cannell, which over its last 8 miles sheds about 5,000 feet in elevation.
In just under a year of riding, I’ve put my Lunchbox through its paces. It took a while, but my DB Air is dialed, and all of the contact points feel really good. The only new component, a Fox 36 TALAS, was pretty much plug and play, and fits the character of the bike quite well. I felt confident in the bike’s ability to handle anything the trip would dish out.
Just Outstanding has the air of a really well-designed trail that could be in any number of lift assisted parks. Built and maintained by guys who still live and ride in the area, JO has a little bit of everything, with the exception of any man-made features. Short sections of tech, wide open speed traps, mini-doubles, tight turns in trees, a manzanita tunnel, high natural berms, off-camber corners…a delightful array of things to keep it interesting. Other than my bars feeling a bit wide in between the trees, the ‘Box felt like heaven through it all. So often I had the sensation of the bike disappearing from underneath me – the mark of a memorable ride, to me – but when I needed a quick manual in the descent, instant pedaling response out of a corner, an easy to lift front end to get up over a root in a transitional climb, or every one of the 6 inches the LB has (whether or not due to user error), the bike did exactly as commanded, even with my mediocre skill set. The rest of that ride would include a mix of “adventure” biking, wherein you’re hoping you’re on the correct unmarked trail, and a well-known trail called Dutch Flats, the Super D course of the 2014 Keyesville Classic. Steep, sandy, exposed, and technical…it pays to be confident in your equipment, here.
The next day came Cannell. 9,000 feet high, Sherman Peak serves as the launching pad for this 25 mile epic, which travels through four distinct climate zones. Alternating lung burning climbs and thrilling descents characterize the first 17 miles or so, during which you’ll climb about 2,000 feet, and descend about 3,500. Granite, shale, loam, meadow grass, and everything in between for the first two thirds, as “trail” fun as it is adventurous the first time – it can be easy to get lost. One of the biggest draws to Cannell for me and the few guys I was with was the aforementioned “Plunge” – 5,000 feet of drop over 8 absolutely thrilling miles. One doesn’t really *need* a 6″ bike for this part of the ride, but stamina and focus becomes something that requires a lot of attention at the end of a 4.5 hour ride at elevation, especially at the 25-30mph speeds easily attainable through long sections… the Box is so intuitive in this type of descending, really well balanced and stable at speed, even through fatigue induced mistakes.
At home, I pedal the Lunchbox everywhere. 2k+ a few days a week, 3-4k once a month or so. It’s more than serviceable as an only bike, but in my opinion, the bike’s forte is in its versatility. On a trip with a RIP RDO, a WFO, and an SB66c, the bike more than held its own in most every situation, where there were drawbacks to the other bikes.
A friend told me “a bike is just a tool”, and I couldn’t agree more. There is no true magical “one quiver bike”, but the Lunchbox has an answer for every situation, and far more often than not, it’s the right tool for the job.” -Kurt