cy ode to impracticality
Paint Fast, Ride Slow

An Ode to Impracticality

Words Cy Whitling
Date Jan 25, 2023
Reading time

I bought a brand new downhill bike the day before my local bike park opened for ski season. A friend immediately messaged me, saying I should have bought an e-bike instead. 

Apparently e-bikes climb really well; you can go up anything. My DH bike does not. I will be pushing it, a lot. Apparently e-bikes are great grocery getters. They allow you to eliminate cars from your day-to-day life. My DH bike will not. I will continue riding my drop bar bike to get around. Downhill bikes are basically dead. There’s no point in buying one when you can just buy an enduro bike that’s as capable as DH bikes from just a few years ago, but pedals to the top, and doesn’t make you feel like a poser when you ride it with a half shell.

Untitled_Artwork 606

Definitely should have bought an e-bike instead.

E-bikes are really cool and DH bikes are passé. I am not really cool. I’m an illustrator in a world of AI images. I think this DH bike and I will get along just fine.

I try to be pretty rational about my bike choices. I do my research, consume plenty of reviews, read between the lines of geometry and kinematics charts, and try to figure out how market trends are going to affect my resale value. But I’ve come to understand that, for me at least, new bike day is driven as much by the ideal self that my ego imagines, as it is by any logical thought.

Not to project, but it sure seems like that holds true for a lot of other riders. “Downcountry” bikes are in part popular because they let our legs feel as strong as we imagine them. Gravel bikes help us capture that feeling of anything-sorta-goes adventure. Enduro bikes make us feel better at both climbing and descending than we used to be. E-bikes give us the range, climbing ability, and endurance we think we should have.

But I bought a DH bike. Because the “me” I most relate to on a mountain bike, the perception of myself that gets me most excited is the 15-year-old kid who moved quickly from his first hardtail mountain bike to a 2008 Giant Glory 0. Some riders’ good old days involved a lot of pedaling, big vistas, lap after lap of climbs and descents. Mine involved a skinny teen walking a 45-pound DH bike back up for another hit on sketchy jumps on Moscow Mountain.

IMG_1046

29-year-old Cy wishes I still had this truck. 6" lift rolling on 33s, and still shockingly good gas mileage. No shuttle pad, just some old beach towels. No stereo, just an iPod dock duct taped to the dash.

The Glory had 200mm in the rear. 180mm up front, with the travel adjust knob all the way out (mine had a tendency to rotate in as I rode, so I wrapped it with tape to keep the Bomber 66 at full travel). Kenda Nevegal and Blue Groove tires, narrow bars, front derailleur that didn’t work, rear derailleur that sorta worked. Code brakes that were most effective as a turkey call. Big old hole in the downtube that the shock stuck through. 

IMG_1048

No really, those brakes were LOUD.

I bought it from a sketchy guy who claimed Shawn White gave it to him (I still worry that it was stolen). I did not own a shock pump, never swapped the spring, never tuned anything. I blew the shock in practice before the Moscow Arms Race. I got bucked by its uncontrolled rebound in the primary heckling area, rode a nose wheelie for an improbable distance, and ran into a tree.

The closest to maintenance I got was occasionally WD-40ing all the moving parts and then wiping them down with chainsaw bar and chain oil.

IMG_1047

Fight me @toolboxwars

That bike and I went through a lot of firsts together. First double, first real drop, first real jump line, first day at a bike park, first rock roll, first bike race, first concussion, first quasi-legal trail building, first sick homemade edit.

Untitled_Artwork 608

Remember when Nike 6.0 was a thing?

Home painted Red Bull helmet, but with sparkly unicorns instead of bulls, Carhartt pants, flannel shirt, old basketball shoes stuck to white pedals with the paint flaking off. I never pedaled it, and didn’t really shuttle much either. Instead I’d hike straight back up the DH trails, sessioning jumps and roots. 

I sold it in 2013. Lord, I miss that bike.

IMG_1049

My peers are buying e-bikes now. They seem to like them. My last two bikes have been enduro bikes that I’ve tried to convince myself were basically pedalable DH bikes. And they were fine, more than fine. But man, I love looking down at a direct mount stem, shifting through a tight-range road cassette, launching into the unknown, trusting my travel more than my ability. So when I had the disposable income and the itch for New Bike Day, I bought a DH bike. It’s made out of metal. It doesn’t have very much paint on it. It has more travel than I know what to do with. I love it.

Maybe someday I’ll buy an e-bike, or maybe someday I’ll convince a brand to trade me one for a whole bunch of art. But for now, I want a DH bike. I want to go big and erase braking bumps and ignore service intervals and run party trains with my friends.

Untitled_Artwork 609

I guess e-bikes are the future. I don’t look down on them or hate the folks who ride them. But man, I just got this DH bike, wanna come sit on it and marvel at how squishy it is, and how chunky the 40 looks from above as we wait for the snow to melt? Yeah, I’m gonna hit some sweet jumps on this thing.

Untitled_Artwork 607

This hasn't actually happened yet, but it's going to!

Related Stories

Trending on NSMB

Comments

TristanC
TristanC
1 week ago
+30 Velocipedestrian Nick Maffei Spencer Nelson capnron derekra Karl Fitzpatrick bishopsmike Dustin Meyer Pete Roggeman Cy Whitling BenZ Aaron Lelevier Tadpoledancer Etacata mrbrett Andrew Major PowellRiviera Sandy James Oates Metacomet Mammal cheapondirt shenzhe NealWood DadStillRides IslandLife bushtrucker ShawMac twiceraked WestCoastCanuck Timer

I believe that is the greatest series of "only pictures of my new bike," that has ever been taken.

Reply

Cydwhit
Cy Whitling
1 week ago
+18 TristanC Nick Maffei capnron Tremeer023 Gabriel Barbosa kcy4130 Andrew Major LWK Mammal gmacbike@gmail.com Cam McRae cheapondirt shenzhe DadStillRides IslandLife bushtrucker derekra Pete Roggeman

This whole trip and sequence were just really serendipitous.

- Buy DH bike the day the ski hill opens, for skiing

-Convince my partner and her friend that we should go to the only place with DH bike worthy riding within 9 hours of home

-Realize that spending a month off the bike has made me totally unprepared to hit anything

-Nice high school kids encourage me to send one of the biggest jumps I've ever hit, and take nice pictures of it

-I bail cleaner than I've ever bailed before in my life.

Sometimes the stars align.

Reply

mammal
Mammal
1 week ago
+12 TristanC Velocipedestrian derekra capnron Gabriel Barbosa Cy Whitling Cooper Quinn Cam McRae cheapondirt IslandLife bushtrucker Timer

10/10 bail. Outstanding.

Reply

mammal
Mammal
6 days, 11 hours ago
+4 derekra Cy Whitling capnron Velocipedestrian

After further review, it's even more outstanding that between the 4th and 5th frame, the bike has contacted the front side of the landing lip, and bounced back to almost the exact same position. Absolutely amazing.

Reply

velocipedestrian
Velocipedestrian
5 days, 17 hours ago
+1 derekra

Went back to look, and saw the dust cloud from the bounce. Good spotting.

Reply

mikeferrentino
Mike Ferrentino
1 week ago
+20 Velocipedestrian derekra Tremeer023 Gabriel Barbosa Mammal Vik Banerjee KawaBunghole Cy Whitling PowellRiviera Cam McRae NealWood IslandLife bushtrucker Pete Roggeman tmb1956 Peter Leeds Mickey Denoncourt Stihlgoin trioofchaos Timer

Beautiful.

e-bikes can suck it.

Reply

Stihlgoin
Stihlgoin
1 week ago
+1 Cy Whitling

Wholeheartedly concur. (Both points)

Reply

Dave_its_just_a_bike
Dave_its_just_a_bike
1 week ago
+14 Adrian White derekra capnron Tremeer023 Niels van Kampenhout Andrew Major Sandy James Oates shenzhe NealWood IslandLife bushtrucker Pete Roggeman tmb1956 Lu Kz

This piece is awesome!  As the world shifts to video content, I find myself missing the written word and stories about riding a bike (instead of stories about a bike).  The illustrations are amazing as well, lending a light-hearted fuzzy memory vibe. Please more content like this.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
Pete Roggeman
1 week ago
+6 Adrian White Cy Whitling DanL capnron Tremeer023 Lu Kz

We agree, Dave! The written word is safe here.

Reply

agleck7
Agleck7
1 week ago
+10 Tremeer023 Gabriel Barbosa Pete Roggeman Cy Whitling Aaron Lelevier Metacomet Mammal IslandLife bushtrucker Lu Kz

I want a DH bike

Reply

MTB_THETOWN
MTB_THETOWN
1 week ago
+9 capnron Pete Roggeman Cy Whitling mrbrett Sandy James Oates Metacomet IslandLife bushtrucker Lu Kz

Wonderful read and paintings. If I wanted something practical, I wouldn't mountain bike at all. Where would the fun be in that?

Reply

craw
Cr4w
1 week ago
+8 Tremeer023 Cy Whitling xchngd Mammal Andrew Major Cam McRae IslandLife bushtrucker

I too love an expensive bike that sucks as transportation and can't reasonably be locked up anywhere. In hindsight I've structured my entire life to accommodate this peculiar love.

Reply

GiveitsomeWelly
Karl Fitzpatrick
1 week ago
+8 Velocipedestrian Tremeer023 bishopsmike Pete Roggeman Cy Whitling Niels van Kampenhout IslandLife bushtrucker

Excellent article. 

Whatever you do, someone else is gonna call you silly.

You do you. Be yourself. Spark your own joy, learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all etc.

Reply

morgan-heater
Morgan Heater
1 week ago
+6 capnron Gabriel Barbosa Cy Whitling kcy4130 IslandLife bushtrucker

To be completely honest, I want ALL the bikes. What's more impractical than that?

Reply

DanL
DanL
1 week ago
+5 Mammal Cy Whitling IslandLife bushtrucker Pete Roggeman

Exactly the same reasons I bought a DH bike when I had the money. Because.

Reply

ShawMac
ShawMac
1 week ago
+5 capnron Cy Whitling Pete Roggeman Mammal WestCoastCanuck

In 2021, after the bike park closed, age 41, I bought the first DH Bike I have ever owned. A 2018 GT Fury Garbo, ex rental, but very well maintained. The reason? I had yet to own a "big bike", and eventually I am going to be too old to put one to good use. Last winter I lovingly stripped every bolt and axle out of the bike and built it back from scratch.

I have big dreams, stupid dreams, like maybe racing in the old man class of the Stevie Smith DH. I don't care if I am last, but it will make me feel like I am doing what I should have done in my 20s. Those events sound so much fun.

Does it make sense to purchase a DH bike in a town with limited shuttling, and not much time to go to Whistler? No it doesn't at all. But shit is it fun when I do take it out.

Reply

Cydwhit
Cy Whitling
1 week ago
+3 capnron Pete Roggeman Mammal

My favorite part of all of this, is that I get to hear about everyone else's stories behind why they have, or want to have DH bikes!

Reply

mammal
Mammal
1 week ago
+3 Cy Whitling WestCoastCanuck Timer

I'm 43 and haven't raced anything in 15 years... I'll see you at Mt. Washington for the SSM DH;)

Reply

ShawMac
ShawMac
6 days, 5 hours ago
+1 Mammal

I was thinking of putting together a team name. OFD Racing.. (Old Fat Dad)

Reply

mammal
Mammal
6 days, 5 hours ago
+1 Cy Whitling

I'm not a dad, and I've got a buddy who'd likely demand that I joined his pseudo-team, but I'm definitely down for a couple adult beverages and a good chin-wag and about sending our old carcasses over questionable terrain.

Reply

Cydwhit
Cy Whitling
6 days, 5 hours ago
+2 Mammal danithemechanic

You're all also cordially invited to join my team, we even have jerseys!

Reply

ShawMac
ShawMac
6 days, 4 hours ago
+2 Cy Whitling capnron

I was checking out your artwork yesterday. Nice! The upside down number plate is a nice touch.

kavurider
KavuRider
1 week ago
+4 Cy Whitling IslandLife bushtrucker Pete Roggeman

I had one of these too!  2008 Giant Glory 1.  Roco shock, 66RCV fork (absolutely terrible).  Clanky heavy tank of a bike.  Size small (I usually ride a modern large). Ex-rental, so it was already pretty blown out.  

I loved that bike!  Rode it everywhere.  I had one of my fastest runs down a local hill on it, completely left my buddies behind.   

Love the article and the illustrations!  Thank you for inspiring a trip down memory lane.

Reply

mammal
Mammal
1 week ago
+4 capnron Cy Whitling bushtrucker Pete Roggeman

The resonates, right to the core. I spent the bulk of my 20's working away for the sole purpose of racing DH bikes through the summer. When I begrudgingly went to post-secondary after getting about as far as I could with DH racing, I still kept the last race bike I had, but began a new chapter of increased exploration on trail bikes. It's all I had time for, and presented something new. And explore I did, riding zones all over the Island, trips with mainland friends to Tenquille, Chilcotins, 7 Summits. I convinced myself that DH bikes were dead, I was much better without the lift lines and bro-fests that came with the pure gravity side of the sport

Then I eventually moved to the mainland, joining the same friends I'd spent racing summers with, and found out some of them are still keeping the flame burning. Enough exposure that I hauled that 2007 Norco DH out of the closet, and found the finest/cheapest/most current used frame that I could bolt most of my parts to. Turns out the last 26" Aurum was surprisingly current, aside from chain stay length and wheel size, and affordable. The flame was lit, but I needed to appease my practical side, this 3rd mtb had to fit the budget. 

Weekly shuttle/bbq days, the odd day or 5 at Whistler, boys trips out to Merritt, the fire was now well past the incipient stage. It turns out that I just love smashing proper terrain with dedicated DH weapons, there's no other feeling like it for me. Right back to my 20's, every time. Eyes always on the buy'n'sell for the next affordable 2.0 update, this past holiday season brought me a '16 Aurum Carbon frame, again, most of my stuff swaps over. It's perfect. Fit and performance leave nothing to be desired. My time portal to 25yo me.

Reply

IslandLife
IslandLife
1 week ago
+4 Mammal capnron Cy Whitling Pete Roggeman

I just went to the Buy/Sell to look at DH bikes... hmm, that 2015 Giant Glory DH for $1200 is pretty tempting...

Reply

Bagheera
Bagheera
1 week ago
+3 Pete Roggeman IslandLife bushtrucker

Yeah, I had the 2009 version of that same bike. Can't say I miss it, really, but then, I DID pedal it uphill, all 21.5kg of it. The paintjob was kinda cool, though. Looked like a tank, rode like a tank. Even had it with me for my only stay in Whistler...
Great pictures and great read, as usual.

Reply

Cydwhit
Cy Whitling
1 week ago
+2 IslandLife bushtrucker

Yeah, 16 year old me thought that paint job was really cool.  It wasn't a pretty bike, but something about that square down tube and almost anodized looking graphics gave it a rad industrial vibe.

And yes, a tank. Before the days of pump tracks in every town I'd go ride the whoops section of the local CX course over and over again on the Glory, such a workout.

Reply

PowellRiviera
PowellRiviera
1 week ago
+3 capnron Cy Whitling bushtrucker

Amen, this was a pleasure to read.

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
Cam McRae
1 week ago
+3 capnron Cy Whitling bushtrucker

Loved this piece Cy! Looking forward to working with you more! 

This makes me wish I had never sold my demo 10 years ago.

Reply

danithemechanic
danithemechanic
6 days, 18 hours ago
+3 Mammal Cy Whitling capnron

Cy, your article couldn't have better timing.

Most of my cycling experience has been done on bikes that were deemed unpopular at the time i bought them, but didn't really work any different than the ones in fashion.

The time has come and i'm ready to get my first downhill bike!

Reply

bushtrucker
bushtrucker
1 week ago
+2 capnron Cy Whitling

As someone who thinks they're too old go get into DH riding this makes me think again. Great read!

Reply

UFO
UFO
6 days, 22 hours ago
+1 Cy Whitling

Quality DH bikes of yesteryear are available at rock bottom pricing. I picked myself up a fantastic Knolly Podium last year, but unfortunately broke my foot before getting a chance to put some laps in.

For my intents and purposes, my rideable terrain hasn't really changed over the past 10 years so this first proper DH bike I've owned will serve just fine for the next 10 years to usher me into my 50's 

26 for life!

Reply

mammal
Mammal
6 days, 11 hours ago
+4 capnron ShawMac UFO Cy Whitling

I've bought a dirt cheap but brand new 26" Aurum frame in 2017 (6-year warranty!), and have been happily ripping it since, but with a 27.5 fork/wheel up front. Small rear wheel but really good geo. I just found a dirt cheap 2016 Aurum carbon frame to slap my parts on, so it would appear the 27.5 DH bikes are coming into the cheap now. 

No better time to buy a DH bike.

Reply

chacou
chacou
5 days, 8 hours ago
0

Currently shopping for a metal 27.5 DH bike, kicking myself for selling one 2 years ago. It's my 40th year, some people buy eBikes for "mid-life crisis", I'd rather have a DH bike (keeps my daily driver enduro bike in better condition)

Reply

balldontlie
Ryan Donnelly
4 days, 21 hours ago
0

Great piece Cy! I ordered a shirt and print from you in maybe 2017? And now I've been enjoying seeing your illustrations and stories on one of my favourite websites right now. Appreciate the story.

Reply

mollyjoyce.az@gmail.com
mollyjoyce.az@gmail.com
2 days, 19 hours ago
0

As someone who deeply appreciates classics and prefers to learn the method before buying an easier experience I can honestly say that all I want is a DH bike - alas I don't live in a place where I would use it much :(

Reply

rossp
rossp
22 hours, 31 minutes ago
0

Love it. As a fellow middle aged dad, my full on DH bike days are pretty much in the past, but I keep that impracticality vibe going with a 2 seater car.

Reply

Please log in to leave a comment.