Captain Kirk would be a mountain biker…..
I’ve definitely chosen to begin writing for a Mountain bike blog at exactly the wrong point in time! This first entry finds me at the end of 5 weeks of literally no pedalling due to various circumstances. Whilst I don’t have much recent riding to comment on I did find myself sat on a beach in ‘rural’ Michigan and, as so many times has been the case, I found myself inspired into thought by a most unexpected sight.
There I was minding my own, surrounded by happy (irritatingly tanned and healthy looking) families in beautiful surroundings of Pentwater, MI, when an older gentleman, resplendent in Breeches, Knee socks, trouser braces and an Olympic standard handlebar moustache came pedalling solidly into view. An eyebrow raiser on its own but elevated to a true ‘day-maker’ by the fact that the pedals were attached to a 117 year old Penny Farthing.
Brief interrogation revealed that the Pedaler in fact owns a fleet of 30 antique bikes which all see regular action. Despite his advancing years (as a side note I have decided that my twilight years shall be accompanied by a handlebar moustache, its a bucket list thing.) he has completed full tours on these magnificent machines including a 700 mile tour across Germany and Austria and an epic journey across America that saw him climbing to a finale in mile high Denver City.
I very quickly came to a few cycling related conclusions. For one thing none of us modern bike users can moan about gearing, braking, handling, comfort or safety. For another I am pretty sure that the will power of a guy willing to ride a bike such as that up Austrian mountain roads would destroy me in most character strength tests.
But it was the technology of this ancient, beautifully built velocipede (which incidentally was 100% original, including bearings, with the only exception being the solid rubber tyres and the rubber pedal blocks!!) that really got my mind thinking about our bikes. The pilot of this wondrous beast told me that in his collection drive designs, wheel sizes, frame shapes and even materials vary hugely. It was a truly innovative time for cycling.
In the last hundred years or so we seem to have landed on a fairly solid platform for efficient bike design. A couple of matched wheels, frame mounted drive, pneumatic tyres etc. I don’t want to offend any of our skinny tyred tarmac loving comrades but I recently purchased a road bike. It was the first of its genre I have owned in approaching 20 years and guess what? It was nearly identical to my last one. Both were roughly the same shape, they are/were both made from large diameter Aluminium tubes. Both ran side pull calliper brakes. In fact the only appreciable difference was the addition of 3 extra sprockets at the back and integration of the gear shifter to the brake lever.
In the last 30 years my mountain bikes have been consistently evolving. From steel frames and rigid forks through to fully suspended carbon fibre masterpieces. We’ve travelled through elevated chainstay frame design, biopace chainsets, elastomer damping stems, cantilever brakes, U brakes, V brakes, disk brakes. We’ve dabbled with mad suspension designs, air dampers, coil dampers, single pivot, VPP designs. Maxles, Axles and tugs. Single speed, hub gears, even gearbox bikes. You name it and its all been out there and the best bit? It still is.
Even now we’re as a sport opening our minds to new wheel sizes. 29”, 27.5”, 26”… Every new idea, every new material, every new concept literally allows us to move faster, further and for longer than ever before. Can you think of any other sport that has such rapid and fundamental development occurring although its core technology is over a hundred years young and its market has matured?
As a mountain biker you literally are getting the chance to go where no biker has been before because now its possible to get a bike there. A few minutes of the Red Bull Rampage on Youtube proves that. A chance to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new limits and new boundaries, to boldly go where no wheels have been able to go before……. What a privilege mountain biking is! Live long and prosper friends.