The Mountain Bike Life

The last couple of months have been filled with drama. Drama from every angle. An uphill battle of uncertainty and bombing descents of irrational decision, followed by lulls of research, then back to the top again. No, I have not been doing some curious riding, instead I have been shopping for a new rig. Thus I have been tormenting myself by reading the technical jargon written in bicycle reviews and speculating on what bike is best for me.


It was a weird process, almost like the stages of grief. I am sure many of you have hit these stages as well. The most interesting thing about the stages was the influential power of our mountain bike media, it is so easy to get lost in the commotion of the latest bike review, the race results, the “culture”, and we can forget why we ride our bikes.

After hitting a few gnarly sections on a favorite trail and feeling my fork flex like wishbone in a toddler’s failed tug of war, I found myself searching the local ads for a fork with a little more stanchion girth, this led to the understanding that a tapered head tube would be necessary for the upgrade I wanted, and a new wheel set after that. Forget it. I will just get a new bike if that is the case, what I need is something that can take a little bit more of a beating. My shopping began.

So I hit the forums, the trail tests, and the online sales posts. Days were spent debating online sales versus full price local bike shops, then days on arguing new or used. Quickly I was caught up in an inordinate amount of information with nearly zero first-person testing. Local bike shops lacked the demo bikes to ride and I succumbed to the expert’s opinions, desperately trying to find the ONE.

My research obsessed over wheel size. With so many opinions out there I came to the conclusion that 29ers were better for climbing, and better for picking up super speed. 27.5 inch wheels were scientifically better than 26ers, but only noticed by robots and text books. 26ers with their niche/cult following by the majority of all mountain bikers worldwide are inferior to all other wheel sizes except for some mysterious “fun factor” that makes mountain biking fun (how rare?) and flickable.

I had it all in front of me, but could not find a demo bike to ride, and it was sickening. These bike moguls can put a product out there for thousands of dollars, but a demo bike is an elusive ghost? At the end of the day, what do we have to make a decision? Then it hit me, some random person’s sponsored research or a flashy video. That is it.

I snapped out of it. I realized it was not a new frame design or a new wheel size that I needed, I just needed an upgrade which looks to be a newer (used) version of my current setup, but I am horrified at the conclusions we must be all jumping to about bikes we have never straddled. Somehow, we live in a world where everyone (myself included) has an opinion about chain stay lengths, but I couldn’t tell you how long the one on current bike is or tell you the different feeling 10mm of length makes, yet for some reason it is a red flag in my purchase process.

Has anyone else noticed this ridiculous commonality? Opinions for days about bikes we have never ridden and an automated acceptance of the delicious media that is constantly forced down our throats?

Jeff QB

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