Boost spacing on hubs, forks, and frames.
27.5 (or 29) plus.
Electronic shifting and suspension.
Visit any mountain bike website–including ours–and you’ll see articles about new products or standards that claim to be “game-changing” or “the next big thing.” The pace of so-called “innovation” seems to really have ramped up in the past few years. Product cycles last a year, if that. 2016 products get launched in the first quarter of 2015. I’d hate to be a shop owner right now.
While it’s fun to read about the latest and greatest bikes, components, and gear, the sheer volume of information can be a lot to digest.
Each post on a new product brings out the armchair engineers claiming that it will be either the best or worst thing to happen to mountain biking. Inevitably, there is griping about the cost of the product. And generally, this is before anyone has had the chance to try the product in question.
With so many new products and so much information available, one can easily be led to analysis paralysis. Should you pull the trigger on that new fork you’ve been saving for when the next model is just months away and will be so much better than the current offering? Having all these options can be a blessing and a curse.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the material side of mountain biking. A buddy shows up to the ride on a new Nomad with all the latest wunder-bits. His bike has 6″ of travel and weighs 25 pounds. Twenty-five pounds! “That’s lighter than my hard tail,” you think. Suddenly, your bike seems inadequate, inferior. But is it, though?
While it may be nice to have the newest and best components, if you don’t have them, does it really affect your enjoyment of riding? Really think about that. Why do you ride in the first place? Is it to be a model in the mountain bike fashion show, or to act like a big kid playing in the dirt?
I’m fortunate to have a good group of riding friends that keep me grounded. There’s a wide range of ages (20s to 60s), abilities (XC to DH), and equipment (hardtails and full suspensions in all wheel sizes and travel brackets). There is definitely some good-natured ribbing and teasing that takes place, but it typically revolves around the condition of our bikes, rather than our choice of equipment. Show up with a clapped-out fork and a wobbly wheel and we’ll ask how you even ride that thing. Drivetrain sounding crunchy? We’ll heckle you about your mechanical skills–or lack thereof.
Once we’re out on the trail, though, it’s our legs that do the talking. Pushing the pace, smoking the group on a climb, or cleaning that technical section where everyone else dabbed is what gets you respect. Not the bike you showed up to the ride on.
Don’t let the never-ending stream of new products get you down. Your bike isn’t going to be obsolete, at least not anytime in the near future. Factories are still churning out 26″ tires, although maybe not in the latest tread pattern. But that’s ok. You can still buy tires that took racers to World Cup podiums in years past. Forks for 26″ wheels are getting slightly harder to come by, but you can snag a sweet deal on a closeout or used one. Why not stock up for the next few years and get two? 10-speed cassettes are still readily available. 9-speed cassettes are still readily available. Hell, you can even find eight speed cassettes without too much trouble.
If you find yourself getting irritated by all the mountain bike news, here’s an idea: instead of taking your anger out on your keyboard, turn off your computer and go for a ride. And if you really want to give a big middle finger to the bike industry, ride your current bike until the wheels fall off. Well, don’t let it go that long, but you know what I mean. Want to give two big middle fingers to the industry? Ride a rigid singlespeed, just so long as it’s a 26er. That’ll show ’em.
Your turn: What’s your opinion? Do you “need” to have the latest and greatest components, or are you totally satisfied with your current steed?
I love this article, Aaron. I ride with basically two crews of people: one of which are complete bike and gear snobs who mock my 2012 Trek Fuel as being antiquated, and one of which really just like to ride bikes. At the end of the day, much like a car, the next and best technology is just a turn away, so I’m perfectly content with my beat up sled because I ENJOY it. Sure, someday I’ll upgrade it, but you nailed it: there’s nothing wrong with my bike.
Couldn’t agree more with you, Aaron. Great article.
Thanks Fitch and stumpyfsr!
This is a great article, and I know my of my friends and I make fun of just about everything you mentioned. That being said, I will piggyback on the comments you made to Stephen Farnsworth: sometimes you need to upgrade when you surpass what your bike was built for. You’d be crazy to ride a rigid singlespeed on a DH course–you can do it, but it just isn’t fun. I have upgraded bikes twice in the past years, largely because I found that I simply outgrew them. I could have ridden either of them, but the fact is, it wasn’t fun watching my friends rocket down a techy trail, or launch of bigger things when I felt my bike could not keep up. Part of it was me, sure, but there is some truth to the bike industry innovation. Buying the latest and greatest can make you a better rider, as long as you don’t use it as a substitute for skill. And, if you can afford a $10,000 bike, then go for it–as long as you don’t turn up your nose at someone on a 5 year old aluminum 26er. New bikes are expensive, but the innovation is fun. I think your point was this though: whatever bike you currently have, enjoy it. You don’t need the latest technology to have a good time…but you might if you find yourself trying to keep up with people who are faster and better than you 🙂
One of my favorite articles as of late. Anyone who has ever raced XC learns quick that it’s all about the motor. Its nice to refresh our discussion to remember that there is more to this sport than being “parking lot fast” .
Your spot on. I have always been a believer in the there is more you can improve as a rider rather than a bike. I rode a FS XC (4″ travel for ten years). When the frame cracked I moved up to an all mountain bike with 6″ travel. The bike complemented what I have learned in 15 years of mountain biking. This bike would have been more than skill level ten years ago. I also bought a fatty cause as stated earlier they are just way too much fun not to have one. I even recently rode my fatty in the Five Boro Bike tour and was the envy of all who saw it. It really isn’t the bike, it’s the rider. The bike just helps….
I have always told my friends ” it’s the rider that makes the bike , the bike don’t make the rider “. When you get a new rig it takes some time to figure out how to gain total control of it. My new 29er is a much different ride than my old 26”. The upgrade has helped my riding and I love it.
After keeping a bike that I loved and raced for several years…..a 1st generation, 24 lb, Trek Fuel that I fully decked out with XTR and a Chris King adorned wheelset for 8-9 years, I demo’d a bike with disc brakes and realized **there was something wrong with my bike**. After that, I literally felt unsafe riding riding on my Fuel and sold it within a few months which has led to my lust for the latest and greatest. I’m not saying you can’t have just as much fun on a 20 year old Trek 8000 but boy do I enjoy 6″ of PLUSH suspension on a bike still weighing in at 28 lbs, a stiff carbon wheelset that rails through the berms or plows through giant rock gardens and a 1×11 drivetrain that shifts so flawlessly that it’s almost like it’s automatic. What surprises me the most about todays latest and greatest stuff is that it’s so durable as well and in my experience, isn’t finicky at all. It just works….and works well.
I have been riding my entry level rock hopper for years. Im 60 years old now, I don’t ride like I used to, but I love that bike, and everything we’ve been through. I can afford a 1.800.00 upgrade, but to tell you the truth, Im happy where Im at…the love of playin in the dirt never goes away and I guess the love of the bike too
Love It!! I broke my 1999 Y Bike a couple of years ago which forced me to ride my 1998 Bontrager Race and converted Bontrager Privateer single speed can’t kill these 2.
If it ain’t got a dropper post there is something wrong with it!
My brother put it like this “it’s not the engine, it’s the engineer”. Silly but true. And then again not so much. I’ve got a nice bike that recently had to have the fork sent out to be serviced. In the mean time, the bike shop was kind enough to offer me a loaner. It was an “entry level” bike. I’m not a bike snob, but it made a huge difference in my riding. And yes, it made me question my enjoyment. Maybe this article is speaking more to the “minor” differences in bike components? It certainly makes a difference when speaking about major differences. I was very happy to get my bike back. Happy riding!
Not necessarily but it sure helps to have newer good condition gear. As long as you’re enjoying your riding and your gear and bike isn’t affecting your fun then there’s no problem!
We should be content with what we have, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t change what we have. =) We should avoid being too swayed by all the marketing or by excessive materialism, but the fact is we can have more fun with better or more appropriate equipment for our riding style.
Sold my Moots YBB after (first bought 1st gen Mukluk out of a rental pool) after I bought my Salsa Beargrease (now my only mtb for ridin’ 52 wks of the year). Just love the handling and simplicity of riding a rigid fatty (buddies say I could be the poster child for fatbikes….child? Hell, I’m 62 and going to ride the GDMBR this summer on it with 3″ Knards).