The Mountain Bike Life

For those who have read some of my previous outings of the blog variety you will know that I am currently in the difficult yet oddly enjoyable position of a mountain bike personality crisis. (For those who haven’t read the previous posts: Where were you? But nice to have you with us….) I am also a geek with a habit of over analysing the emotional element of our fair sport. So, with the addition of absolutely no science, mathematical standing or even real understanding of what use the outcome will be, here is what’s been going through my head on this journey to re-align my peddling preferences:

Whats your style on the trail? Does gravity apply to you? lets see what the maths say.  

To explain I have, like many of us, a garage with a selection of bikes. Full suss, hardtail, jump/street even a road bike (OK, I’m a Brit and Wiggo made it cool, sort of) but recently nothing seems to fit the bill. My initial reaction was to read lots of shiny magazines, visit my mates in the local velocipede emporium and barf over as much cash as I could muster on the prettiest thing that took my fancy. Indeed that is why my garage is home to the aforementioned full suss, hard tail, etc, etc, etc.

So lets enter the world of geek. I recently watched a video on Ted.com by a lady who built an algorithm for dating sites (bear with me, and before you tut just how much do you love your bike?) which got me to thinking. Is there a formula to picking a stead that fits on an emotional and physical level? (Physical as in mountain riding, not any other kind of physical….) Now this is TMBL so lets take a real world look at the problem. Please note that the scores don’t stand for favour on one answer or another, simply a goofy way to fill some time.

The Gladiator (score 500) – Big, Burly, strong. High in explosive strength. You are the guys that lift heavy things for entertainment, frequently have a kinda anti gravity-esque ability to throw yourselves and the bike up things with sheer brute strength. You guys really eat your spinach. People with arms big enough to tattoo in widescreen…..

Mr Eveready (score 400) – Not all brute strength and stubbornness, nor flea weight whiz. You are the irritating rider that looks normal but seems to pedal, pedal and pedal some more. A blend of Hare and tortoise. Not massively fast just consistent. You are the ones that grind the competition down. We think we’ll pin you in the technical bits but you pedal that too….

The Whippet (score 300) – We all know one of these. You weigh less than my shoes yet seem to be spectacular at turning pedals. You also suffer less in the indignity of Lycra. You aren’t the drain pipe guys of the road world but the small compact guys. In a power to weight ratio you most likely run similar to Maximus in the first category but don’t weigh as much as his lunch so can’t throw it the same way.

The team player (score 250) – You are the rider that isn’t always a rider. Fitness isn’t a calling, pain and shortness of breath is a perfect tell tale to push less, not a sign to fight the good fight. strength isn’t in abundance, nor is cardio scope. You are here for entertainment and entertainment alone.

It goes without saying that all of these descriptions rely on the subject first being capable of riding a bike off road with a basic core fitness and stability. None of these candidates needed to cut the back wall out of the house to get to the trails… (Please note I am not being derogatory around our more rotund community members, but self powered travel capability is a pretty well accepted requirement in MTB.)


OK, OK, he’s not running knobbly tyres, but in terms of pure brute strength Sir Chris Hoy packs the explosive power of a fighter Jet. Gladiator…. Image from Wiki Commons by Robbie Dale.

Style:

Consider your style on the bike how it feels as you ace sections. Are you the kind of person that looks for the chicken runs or accelerates when you can’t see past the lip? Are you the kind of person that goes with the less is more speed concept on the berms or the ‘use the force’ physics of the argument?

The Sledgehammer (score 500) – For you no smooth transitions. The effortless sweeping line changes of the spacemen aren’t in your tool box. Nope your pace is hard won. You pedal out of rutted lines, smack up steps and wrestle over logs. You will defeat the trail by sheer force of will measuring your miles in sweat and tears.

The Space Man (score 400) – Not because you are ‘spaced out’ (read previous comments on the inclusive nature of MTB) nor because you are literally Astronauts. Although I don’t know if NASA flight employees pedal on dirt? No, you guys are Spacemen (Or Women, for all of the above gender is not a factor. I’m a geek not a suicide risk…) for your ability to defy gravity and a few other laws of physics. To be the spaceman you’re the guy (or gal, see!) who runs the same lines as your crew but faster. Seems to just use those brakes a little less. Carry just that much more speed than seems totally viable to others.

The Gambler (score 300) – If you’re this rider its an all or nothing affair. Brain in the bucket back in the van, risk dial up to eleven. Ready steady go or ready steady crash. Its a luck rather than judgement thing. When it goes right you’re semtex on the trail. When it goes wrong its all kinds of wrong. Commitment is your buddy and hopefully so is luck!

The Jedi (score 250) – This guy isn’t the fastest. He’s (or she, I hadn’t forgotten) no spaceman. Not an exhibition in speed, but a presentation on smooth. If you’re this guy (or gal, can we just agree I’m being inclusive?) you’re the one looking for lines others don’t see. You’re the one wondering why no one else saw the transitions, wall rides, high lines, ridges. You didn’t go faster but you made it look easy and added some thinking and flair. The force is strong in this one….


Hans Rey, perhaps the original Mountain Bike ‘Spaceman’? Image from http://www.pinkbike.com/news/Endless-Trail-Hans-Rey-Interview-2013.html Copyright Dan Severson photography

The Territory:

So where are you going to ride? be honest. Go on. Even if you live in Utah, have no mortgage to pay, no self preservation instinct and no day job are you really going to ride the Rampage? Nope. Thought not but don’t panic, you and several billion others bro….

Grizzly Adams yard (score 500) – Big mountains, babbling brooks (creeks for you American types) Shore style ladders perhaps, granite monoliths, loose exposed ridges, root and rock gardens like something from Lord of the rings. Think big, think scary, think magazines…

Pruned perfection (score 400) – Now we’re not talking lawns and rose gardens. We’re talking trail centers. Single track but not quite as nature intended. Not for you loose, off camber shale corners or boggy open field hauls. Nope, its all subtly created berms and hard packed single track.

The Short Sharp Shock (score 300) – Going up, going down, going up, going down, going… Oh you get the point. Living in the lowlands where the the hills are a top to bottom affair and a ride will always be one or the other because there really isn’t another option.

Pavement prowler (score 200) – Fire road, bridle paths, boardwalks. No loose surfaced treachery for you. For you MTB is an image enhancing tick in the box. This is no bad thing, a green lane experience is a gateway drug to the sport proper.

The Money Tree:

Money is an emotive subject. Third world debt, for example, is a very serious topic and focused fairly closely on the cash. When considering your bike budget its not only about how much you have, its about how much you value it. It may be that you are Daddy Warbucks, but foster a less is more approach, or you may be Oliver Twist but willing to live in a drain and burn leaves to keep your chunk of Carbon mastery warm and dry. The choices are all yours:

Lotto millions (score 8) – enough said, you’ve got it, or have somehow gotten it, so you’ll spend it…..

The middle class (score 6) – Biking is a budget feature in your life. You’re not sneaking around here, its not an endless pot but good kit is a must.

The family basket (score 4) – Your a ‘bang for the buck’ shopper. You know that a few sheckles more tidies those angles or gets it in this years flavour of anodized euphoria but its a bike not third world debt…

Goodwill guy (score 2) – If it ain’t broke it ain’t getting fixed and if it is, its most likely got to get fixed again. Several times. Either you ain’t got it or it ain’t worth it but its bike on a shoestring here.

The Tick Tock component:

I had all the time in the world once, and now I have all the time I can steal. Its not worse, its different. Understanding your time element is key to making choices about your riding preferences perhaps more so than any other factor. Getting your kit right means more time on the trail, less time wishing you were.

Dog Years (score 5) – What you want, when you want. Which means you’re either a student, lucky or both. Good on ya, we remember those days….

Normal human (score 4) – Normal is subjective of course. In this instance we’ll base it on a 5 days a week job, some family commitments but time to ride regularly and clean and service your bikes and kit.

Double time (score 3)
– Family, job, friends, school, PTA, home improvements etc mean time is on a budget. You get to ride, little but often.

Nano minutes (score 2) – Perhaps its corporate travel, perhaps its a family like a ‘Cheaper by the Dozen’ movie re-run? Whatever it is your riding fills the gaps like sand between driveway pavers. snippets. But as they say something is better than nothing.

The Moustache Variable:

This is particularly important. Consider this the ‘Flux Capacitor’ of the whole equation. (Do you know what this means? If you got the reference consider yourself a movie geek, you know who you are….) When we’ve covered topics like riding style and physical power why are we worried about facial adornments? We need a representation of the creative/emotional approach to bikes and riding. Yes a metaphor if you will, I’m not literally expecting you to slap on a handlebar ‘Stache and strut your facial stuff. Do you harbour a bike tech geek streak? Do you long for simplicity? are you a big-hit-horst-link kinda-shreddar or do you pine for the (questionably mythical) zing of old school steel?

The Full Real Ale (score -300) – No nonsense: Warm, comfortable, instantly sets you aside as a person who chooses a traditional easily sustainable approach. You are the simplistic biker, the purist.

The Ornamental Handlebar (score -200) – Its about appearances as much as practicality. You need people to know you ‘choose’ this slightly harder, individual path, but need to keep in touch with the foundation of the sport. Your in touch with the Zen of the bike…

The designer stubble (score -100) – A statement of cool, but not of individuality. ‘I am a mountain biker, I am rugged, I am tough, and frankly I don’t have time to worry about the zen, just the boom’.

The Up-Shave (score -50) – Precision. This is not about statement or soul. Its about the fastest/smartest/most advanced way to get the job done. Lycra not baggies because it means less drag, this is no red painted frames because they are the heaviest…..


It might be ‘Stache’ envy, it might be my MTB history, it might be simply be because when I meet Mr. Fisher (uncle Gary as I have now decided to refer to him….) he liked our MRG marketing, What ever it may be, the man pushes the Moustache envelope.

So what do we have? Most likely totally BS, but lets follow this through. After all you’ve read this far, and by now you’ve decided your headings. The equation looks like this:

Power source + Style + Terrain / Tick-Tock – Moustache = ?

Told you this was weird…. Use your score to place along the horizontal of the graph below then use your money tree score to place you on the vertical. Then see what you get. In a perfect world you’ll get just what your riding. But in my case I got what I have been riding, not what I was looking for so I did the exercise again with a helping of reality.

Not a shred of science, but funnily enough a compelling reason to ‘need’ a new bike…. All in the name of facial hair….


20 years ago I was the EverReady Spaceman, gagging to live in Grizzly Adams garden. I had dog years to tinker and play and as a fortunate soul maybe didn’t get to lotto winners circle but made it to middle class most of the time. For me it was a Gillette world, cutting edge, quickest, smartest, coolest, fastest. And I so want it still to be.

Trouble is I’m now a team player, who as a qualified MTB instructor relies on his (hopefully attending) Jedi skills to guide him around his short sharp shocks in the double time he has available on bikes that have to run from the family bucket. I love to kick against my corporate sell out and I do so by hankering after a glorious handle bar moustache, but the rest of my face (metaphorically speaking) is clean shaven….

Where does this place me on the graph? Right above the Trek Stache 8. Team player climbing assistance with Jedi handling. Short sharp shock suitable weight with Family bucket pricing and double time hard tail low maintenance requirements. And as its a long travel hard tail, with big wheels its unusual in fact its the only one by a large (read budget friendly, If you tried to buy the kit separately you’d pretty much double the price tag) manufacturer. Its an acquired taste, educated option. Its not the easy answer and its not an excuse to stop waxing our tips. (moustache reference, keep up people…)


Hard tail with slack angles? All mountain set up on a 29’er? No dampers and internal cable routing to reduce servicing? Trek Stache 8, could this be the Jedi-Team Player-Double timers best bet? Well I’ll let you know how the bike runs.

What this proves, beyond any shadow of a doubt is that any biker when put to the test will know no bounds in inventing reasons why he (or she) needs a new bike. So to put my money where my mouth is and see if it all makes sense I’ve bought one. A Stache 8 that is, no proper test ride. No sale or return option. Faith in the maths, no matter how unfounded it may be. How did I do? I’ll let you know next time……

Review: Specialized Tactic II MTB Helmet
I was never much good at good-bye

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