The Mountain Bike Life

As most of us are removing our bikes from our December 21 apocalypse shelters, I think we can revel in the fact that considering the world didn’t end, we all will live to see another model year of machines from our favorite industry. In 2013, we can expect to see companies spend heaps of cash to develop even more reliable dropper posts, lighter carbon downhill frames that can stand up to the rigors of the world cup circuit, and wheel-sets that weigh less than some of the tires I own.

Transition’s 2013 Klunker, shown in “Party in the woods matte black”

Awesome, but where did all this come from? Think of just how crazy the concept of a pneumatic seatpost that works like an office chair would be, say forty or so years ago. Mountain bikes that we know today really haven’t been around before the 80’s. Back in the day, bicycle enthusiasts, hippies, and social outcasts used to rig up beach cruisers with a hybrid of motorcycle and road bike components, push them to the top of fire roads on mountains, and blast down them. There wasn’t much single-track riding, no climbing, and no knobby tires, disc brakes, or suspension. That was mountain biking. If you want more of an explanation of how the sport got its start and you haven’t seen Billy Savage’s Klunkers, please stop everything you’re doing right now and order a copy online.

Likely influenced by Savage’s 2006 film, a recent trend has started in re-building these rugged, coaster brake ‘balloon-tired’ bikes, and riding them on downhill trails, dirt jumps, and around bike race venues. In 2010, Transition Bike Co of California had made a widely popular video called Lars and Bars gets Klunking, which received over 32,000 hits on the Canadian mountain bike news website, Pinkbike. The video featured the company’s employees throwing old-school Klunker bikes off massive dirt jumps and down some fairly technical downhill runs.

Just this year, TBCO has, as they’ve stated on their website, “taken a huge step back” in terms of mountain bike development. They have produced what could not be described any other way but as a new-school Klunker, embodied in their fitting name for the rig, the Klunker, retailing at the low price of $549 USD. What they accurately describe as being “the original downhill bike,” includes a cromoly frame, super-wide riser bars, beefy in-house branded wheels paired with 2.35 knobby tires, and of course, a rear coaster brake. With only one gear, no front brake or even handbrakes for the matter, and aesthetics that could easily confuse it with your run-of-the-mill beach cruiser, you could argue that $600 is a bit much for a cruiser bike. On the other hand, do you see a $150 Wal-Mart special being able to pull stunts like this?

For under the price of a suspension fork, not only would a Klunker give you something sturdy enough to ride at pretty much any track you could imagine, but its low profile look makes it easy enough to ride to and lock up at the bar without having to worry about getting it stolen. It’s unlikely that critics of the Klunker will forget to claim that this is just the ‘fixie’ of the mountain bike world, but before the haters hate, know that this bike is anything but a fashion statement, like many fixed gear bikes have come to be. Transition birthed this bike purely with having fun in mind and as a great homage to the early days of the sport.

Good on you, TBCO!

-KN

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