Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Saw Shootout

In the past few years, I've cut a lot of trees. Shan and I have heated our house every winter with a wood stove, and we also kept up the trails around the farm in the mighty winter of 2009/2010. So I think I know a thing or two now about wood. And cutting it - not just with a chainsaw, but with some of the raddest handsaws around. Keeping a rideable loop of singletrack on the East Coast is tough work, and a big saw goes a long way. So I thought I'd post up a review here of some of the handsaws I've used over the past year, sort of like the way MTBAction or whatever magazine you subscribe to writes an "All-Mountain Bike SHOOTOUT!" or whatever they call it. Think of this one as a sawout if you will, if you shall, if you must. Anyway, let's dig right in from the top.

Silky Big Boy 2000

If you've been reading this blog for long, you are probably familiar with the trials and triumphs I've had with the mighty Silky Big Boy 2000. We've had our ups and downs, and yes, I'm on my 2nd warranty replacement blade. But in terms of sharpness, capability, and outstanding customer service, it's hard to top the Big Boy for a really high end folding saw. Also workable as a sword in a tight spot, but only for a few good swings.
One of the problems with the Big Boy is the sheer size of it. At almost 18" folded, it can just barely squeeze into a Camelback Blowfish or HAWG, sort of the way that Danny O or Catlett have to fold their tall, lanky selves into a small car. And on the trail in action, that 3-foot saw can cut through some massive deadfall that you might think only a chainsaw can handle - but the length of the saw and the diameter of what it will cut can actually work against you when the saw gets pinched and binds. This is a high-performance machine, the Ferrari of gigantic handsaws, and one hard stroke the wrong way can actually break the blade. But I guess that's what you risk when you use a 3-foot handsaw to cut an 80-foot oak tree.
Buy this one (mail order, likely) if you simply must have the best. You probably know who you are. After-market Ferrari decals sold separately.

SOG Folding Camp Saw

Possibly the best folding saw of all time, provided you don't actually have anything to cut. Seriously, a nice, tight 8.25" blade, jet black, and with it's own carrying case included, this thing LOOKS sharp. Then you try to cut something and things get complicated. I won't go into details, but apparently cutting isn't really what this saw is designed to do.

My first experience with the SOG brand, I saw they had a badass adventure racing team. And I thought, oh hell yes, this must be a good brand for a folding saw. Well it turns out these folks must be using the SOG battle axe (worth a click) or the Entrenching Tool (also worth a click) for most of their cutting when they're sleep deprived and slogging through a pit of mud for 48 hours, because the SOG folding camp saw isn't cutting shit for me. I also watched a futile attempt by C-Ham and Danny O to use the sexy SOG to cut some handlebar height vines that were hanging about...and the vines won. But for just $23.59, this thing can at least make you look good, son.
Buy this one if you dig looking the part of the conscientious trail volunteer out on a ride but you don't like actually stopping to do any work. Don't buy it if you need to cut anything tougher than a jelly donut. Which is entirely possible.

The Mighty Red Corona

Last, but certainly not least, the mighty Red Corona. Available at Lowes for a 20 spot, but online for as little as $15. It's hard to imagine a better value for a folding saw. Plenty sharp, good blade life, tough as nails, and just the right size for storage in most packs. In fact, you can store a Corona in a jersey pocket provided you also put a 16 ounce water bottle in the same pocket - the two push in there nice and tight and you can stay hydrated while you chop fallen pines from your favorite local haunts.
The best thing about the Corona? Availability. You can stop by Lowes, Walmart, The Home Depot, most anywhere on the way to your ride, pick one up, and make your world a better place. The good folks at Corona recognize the trail-pimping needs of the everyman, and they're bringing it to the people.
Buy this one if you love your trail, and you're tired of steeple-chasing your way over limbs and the growing piles of mangled derailleurs on the floor of your garage. Also, buy this one for Christmas for your duo racing partner whom you've been stringing along about Lodi for 5+ months, and then forget to give it to him repeatedly. Finally see him in the Spring (maybe at Lodi, maybe not) and stick it in his pack for a little extra weight on a big ride. Try not to use it in the meantime.

It is my humble opinion that a mountain biker should have at least as many handsaws as they have bikes. While that might not be reasonable for those of us who have 4 or 5 bikes, it's the effort that matters - you should have at least one.

Do you part this spring.
Tread lightly, and carry a big saw.

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