Sunday, May 6, 2012

Bucking the trend

In bikes, as in life, there are times when we give in to peer pressure, do what the magazines say, and buy equipment based on looks and popularity rather than form and function. Sure, 'x' product may work better for you, but 'such and such' pro was riding it, so that means it must be better.  Or my favorite, when 'racer-guy x' justifies spending a month's wages on 'carbon part x' because it will save him 20 seconds over the course of his next race.  What he doesn't realize, of course, is that going to bed early or eating better or training smarter might save hime 40 seconds rather than 20, and if he is to do any or all of those things, he's going to save himself some cash in the long run.

It's only natural that we get caught up in the hype.  Living in a progressive society during one of the most fast moving technological eras in the history of the world has us used to attaining information at a ridiculously fast rate.  I can think back to the days when I would actually have to wait for the new "California Cheap Skates" catalogue to come in the mail to see the newest skateboards.  I would cherish that little booklet, keeping it in my schoolbag and pulling it out to take a peek at any opportunity.  It would end up dog-eared and crinkled from thumbing through it so often.

These days, kids just have to Google their favorite company and they instantly get the latest models and the best price to be had.  It has been said that advances in travel have made the world smaller.  True, but now, more directly, the internet has made our world not only smaller, but more unified as well.

We get minute by minute updates of the latest news, gossip, sports scores, etc.  It's amazing how quickly information moves in this day and age.  And, like I've stated, bikes, like life, are not immune to this.

Every time I pick up a new mountain bike magazine (yes, I'm old fashioned and still actually read print material), I'm treated to the latest and greatest gadgets, pro reviews, new bikes, and writers opinions on what is better than whatever else.  In a lot of ways it's terrific to see how much the bikes of the mid 90's (when I got my first mountain bike) have progressed into the near space shuttles of today.  Back when I got my '95 Trek SingleTrack, suspension wasn't even a standard feature on bikes.  Steel hard tails that more resembled road bikes than what we know of mountain bikes today.  They were heavy, clunky, and anything but nimble, but still people managed to shred on them just like they do today. Maybe the jumps weren't as big, and the rock gardens not as gnarly,  but guys still got their 'gnar' on and slurped Mountain Dew while doing it.

Fast forward to today, and you've got a nearly infinite selection of categorized bikes to choose from.  For the cardio geeks there are Cross Country bikes; for those that want to enjoy long days being in the woods on comfy bikes there are Trail bikes; for those wanting to go up and back down the mountains, riding everything in between, there is the All Mountain bike; and for those seeking ultimate excitement and adrenaline pumping action, there are FreeRide and Downhill bikes.  All these different bikes are meant to be better at performing their designated duties than the others, while some are even supposed to be Jacks of all trades.

When looking at the bikes, you'll be hit with more marketing hype than is possible for any human being to process.  With the advances in technology comes infinite amounts of "This bike will do this," and "This bike is a true quiver killer."  It's all in an effort to sort out which rider belongs to which bike.  The good news is, for just about every rider and ever style there is a perfect bike.  The bad news is that it's going to take some time to get to that bike.

It's important when considering any bike you ride, whether it's deciding between what you've already got, or picking out a new rig at the bike shop, you absolutely must remember what you like to ride, how you like to ride it, and what you want to accomplish.  If you're goals include racing cross country, you'll put higher priority on things like weight and rolling resistance.  Likewise, if your goals include hulking off the biggest drop in the park, you'll be looking more for durability, strength, and suspension.  The key in all of this is to get what works for you, and not what works for the guy on the cover of the magazine.  Even more, you must not fall into any of the hype regarding certain products that may be the best thing since sliced bread this season, but will never be seen again soon after.

For me, I've been struggling lately between two bikes that I've got.  They both do the same job, just in slightly different ways.  They're very similar, so much so that if they were fighters in a boxing match, there would be no clear favorite.  All too often, I allow my mind to run wild with the pros and cons of each bike, creating a needless battle of "which bike is better" in my head.  The end result, always, is that I wind up realizing that whatever bike I'm currently riding is my favorite.  I'm happy with either bike, and the 'battle' I just had in my head, melts away the moment I begin to turn the cranks.  All the hype be damned, riding makes it all go away.

The point of this all is to listen to your body.  Ride the bike that makes the most sense when you are on it, rather than when you are thinking about it.  Things like air shock versus coil, long travel versus short, and even 29er versus "real" mountain bikes (only kidding all you 29er dorks!) are irrelevant if they don't feel like they should when you're using them.  For as much as you can say "My style is this," or "My style is that," it all means nothing if you feel like garbage on a bike that you thought was your style.

Ride what you like and don't worry about the hype.  In the end, that's really all it is anyway.

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