I never really liked Kool-Aid…

Posted: April 23, 2015 in Outside on a bike, Sometimes...

So, the bicycle industry would very much like me to believe that without 29″ wheels, dual, triple adjustable suspension (with on-the-fly levers…the REAL reason for the new “wide bar” trend if you’re a conspiracy theorist. Which I totally am…) dropper seat posts, boost hubs, slider drop-outs and scads of other “new and improved” do-dads and shiny bits, it will be impossible for me to have fun.

Bullshit. Hydraulic disc brakes? Yes. I needed those.Glad they came along. Stopping is important. Front shocks? Yes, I have more fun with them (but have no need for 8″ of travel, as I  don’t regularly attempt to jump Snake River canyon,so I don’t have to stick that landing).I like being able to feel my hands. Aluminum frames are nice, although I still have big love for real steel. Although I initially preferred it’s flexibility, the weight loss is so significant, I found the trade off to be worth it.

Now, to be perfectly honest, I’ve always been more or less a Luddite, but I’m eventually swayed by actually GOOD ideas. It literally took me 20 years to finally have enough faith in suspension that I broke down and got front shocks, but it wasn’t all stubbornness.  Waiting brought the cost of forks appropriate for my needs WAY down as well as allowing the technology to be honed and the lousy ideas to be weeded out.Luckily, this all corresponded with my getting to old to ride rigid, so it was kinda a win/win, yo. I’m ALWAYS open to ideas that improve device performance or if it reduces weight by a TON, but just because it’s shiny or new or the bike snobs dig it is NOT reason enough for me. Usually. As in all things, there are exceptions. My dumb bottle cage thermos and my Park tools apron, to name a couple of the dopier ones.

29ers fer instance. The next big thing they said. But they’re already being kinda phased out to make room for the vastly more reasonably designed 27.5ers. (I know what size they really are, so I can call em what I want.Pipe down). Lovers of both enjoy preaching the death of the 26″ wheel, but if a quarter century of watching these trends has taught me anything, the classics never go away.

The reason 26″ wheels remained unchanged for as long as they did is because the for the MAJORITY of riders, they functioned the best. It wasn’t until the dawn of several niche styles that anyone ever even thought things like this were necessary. But these fads fade, and eventually go back to basics. Everyone can ride XC. Red Bull riding is not for the majority. So equipping my bike with downhill suspension and giant wheels, or these new plus tires is something I don’t need to do. Because I’m not the only one who feels this way, 26″ wheels will continue to be manufactured in varying degree. And even if they become scarce, trends dictate they’ll soon enough be all the rage, once again.

I absolutely love that there is so much research going on in the mountain bike world. But not ALL of it needs to be trotted out the second somebody invents it, and not ALL of it is applicable to everyone. When the market is saturated with devices designed for professionals, amateurs buy em, misuse em and get hurt. Or, more often than not, their bike snob friends use em, and the average Joe, between his desire for acceptance and relentless advertising winds up buying super expensive crap they don’t need and will never use. At least not to the full potential the part was designed for.

I’m an old-school, wheels on the ground rider. I was when I was 20 and I will be when I’m 70. And I’ll STILL be riding when I’m 70 BECAUSE of that fact.But I love pushing my endurance. Riding ALL DAY, picking my line…I don’t WANT to go as fast as I can over any terrain without thinking because my bike has 500 feet of travel front and rear. I don’t want a single-speed because I don’t want to work that hard to get anywhere. I like my nice, happy mediums. A couple of inches of travel and a ton of gears. So I get to go longer, climb higher and move faster, not too easily, but without undue struggle. I also love watching other people do the stuff I don’t like to do or can’t do. But I can resist the pressure to buy the stuff THEY need because I know I DON’T need it, dig?

With my hardtail, I am forced to think. To make decisions, to develop my SKILLS. I cannot simply bomb over everything because of my BIKE. Plus, the idea of dropping 10 feet to hit the next section of trail to me just seems, I don’t know, dude,,,stupid, I guess. And it ain’t because I’m old. I always like not breaking my stuff if it could be avoided. Crank arms and testicles, both. Being old just makes me bitch about stuff more. But… if you’re reading this, you know this already.

Conversely, new riders can jump on, pedal once and fly down stuff it took me months to master without putting any thought into it whatsoever. This sort of mentality is putting folks on the trail who go way too fast and have no understanding of finesse, simply because they have no point of reference. This is ALL they have ever known! They actually think it’s SUPPOSED to be EASY. Not only do they fly past guys enjoying the challenge of choosing the best line (not only putting us in danger, but pissing us off and creating a rift in the community, weakening our strength and our voice on the trails). Should the trends ever change back (as they almost ALWAYS do), these poor suckers will be completely lost, and again our community will suffer a hit due to the shrinking of our ranks. Even if that never happens, sooner or later, everyone is going to be a dottering old crank. What use will all their go fast gear be then? How much blacker can their poor, elderly, disillusioned hearts become after realizing old farts like me were on to something? None. None more black.

This is all pretty extreme, but not impossible and although the actual results will most likely be more subtle, they will nevertheless be destructive towards the “art” part of trail riding. But it won’t ever die out completely. For every Bob Dylan gone electric innovation, they’re will be a Pete Seeger keepin’ it real.

But it still gets my asshairs in a bunch that the bike industry (not ALL of it, mind you, but a LOT of it) is giggling up their collective sleeve at how gullible us mountain bike douche-bags are and coming up with endless new ways to force feed us stupid trends. And it effects every new generation a little bit more. Sorta like MTV dumbed the collective intelligence of the world down with reality shows. Seriously, would Kim Kardashian ever been an idol to girls who listened to L7? That’s all I’m sayin’.

Combined that with newer riders expectation that all trails be sterilized,manufactured affairs where all obstacles are strategically placed in order to avoid challenge, the future looks bleak for the mainstream rider. Eventually trail building will revert to natural trails with minor modifications done to minimize the ecological impact. The rumblings are already stirring in mountain biking publications (real ones, not ones who’s content is dictated by their advertisers. This may help you distinguish…  www.churchoftherotatingmass.com ) and the backpedal is never far behind.

The big bike companies know the herd mentality. An industry that used to be insanely cautious about trotting out new ideas and spent TONS of money and time on R&D before the presented it to the public has done a complete 180. A couple of huge scoops by the few (SRAMs 2X, then 1X drive trains are a pretty massive example) have all of the other manufacturers scurrying to play catch up, and the original innovators groping around for anything to keep them in the lead. Combine that with what has become a zillion dollar racket and we have lots of “must have” crap that we simply don’t need flying at us from all directions like poop in a monkey fight.

I understand, I do. I am just as susceptible to advertising as the next guy. I love shiny. I love new. Luckily, I’m kinda an old fart, as you know. I’ve already bought things that were great until a few days later when they were obsolete, or recalled. That’s where you get that wisdom crap all us curmudgeons are always going on about.

I’m a business owner, so I totally dig the “strike while the iron’s hot” cash in. But I also know that a quick buck can lead to the public loosing trust in your entire product line if just ONE item is a lemon. Especially if it’s hailed as the “Next Big Thing”.

I am also not so much a masochist that I can’t appreciate something that TRULY makes riding better. Not necessarily EASIER, but BETTER. In my case, perhaps something to reduce fatigue over an eight hour ride, as opposed to something that makes it easier to navigate some technical singletrack. Something that deals with issues out of my control, as opposed to things that make the skills I’ve honed a little less useful.

I get it. I absolutely do. But I have enough experience behind me to know what I don’t need. Folks brand new to the sport don’t have this luxury. And that could be the death knell for their passion for the sport. Again, extreme, but possible. You have to dilute my fervor with your own sense of reason, dude.

Me? Well, I know where to find new rims & tires (another reason that kept me from jumping on the 29er bandwagon was the glaring lack of WTB Velociraptors in that size). I know where to get parts for my QR skewer dropout forks. I know where the badass trails, loaded with babyheads, washouts, slippery mud,wet leaves and moss covered roots are (No. I will not tell you- chances are you have a friend like the confused kids I described above and you’ll bring ’em with ya!).

And I know that everything old is new again at some point. Remember the fixie beach cruiser resurgence of the mid 90s? Seems dumb now, but you can STILL find em! But all this crap is just one man’s opinion. And we all know what they say about them. Truth is, whatever gets your ass in the saddle and outside is all good. Just remember to use your noggin for more than holing up yer helmet.

My name is Fud. I ride a 26″ hardtail. I’m twice your age and I triple-dog dare ya to ride MY bike down MY trails with YOUR skills, kiddies.

I’m not braggin’, I can do it.

Namaste.

Here’s an article that explains some stuff and some resources to help you make informed decisions…

http://www.pinkbike.com/news/The-Argument-For-Short-Travel-Bikes-Opinion-2012.html

http://www.mtbr.com/reviewscrx.aspx

http://www.bikeradar.com/us/gear/

http://www.pinkbike.com/news/pinkbike-reviews

http://www.singletracks.com/mountain-bike/reviews/best.php

If your bike ins’t just something you hang on your car to attract girls in spandex shorts, and you prefer riding a quality bike as opposed to working overtime to pay off the latest gizmo laden tech-fest, here’s a link fo’ youse! http://bikesdirect.com

Comments
  1. This was delightfully delicious!

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