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Editorial

If it isn't Carbon - are you Still a Mountain Biker?

Words Cam McRae
Photos Cam McRae
Date Jul 17, 2018

Before bikes it was Porsches, Lamborghinis, and Lotuses (Loti?) that dominated my wheel lust. Without a fat stack to satisfy my urge for European exotica, Road & Track magazine scratched the itch. After I pored over articles and tests I read the columns in the front pages, and Peter Egan’s Side Glances was my favourite.

One of his pieces has strangely stuck with me after all these years. Peter was recalling an enthusiast who had a litany of reasons why he hadn't gone racing; it was too expensive, the track was too far away, he didn’t have a worthy car… They all sounded pretty legit to me, but Peter wasn't having it and he held the trump card that was tough to argue with; if your desire to race is strong enough you’ll figure it out.

Excuses are Fine

Devil's Gulch. Pedro Chambré augured shortly after this photo was taken - and we still had many miles of trail to go. 

I probably remember the article because my fragile youthful ego (even more fragile than today) was bruised. I loved the idea of racing cars as well but I had my own list; I didn’t know where to start, nobody I knew was into racing, there wasn’t a track nearby… Road & Track’s sage was on the money of course.* If I had wanted it enough I would have figured it out, BS excuses be damned.

I found the shoe on the other foot on social media when one of our readers, complaining rightly about many of the bike industry’s issues, disclosed that he had stopped being a mountain biker since moving to B.C. 


This is why, even though I've ridden mountain bikes for years (hard tail in Ontario) I don't ever see myself getting into it here in BC, because you NEED a decent bike to ride here and it's prohibitively expensive.

Fair enough. Make your choice - but know it’s a choice. Sure bikes are expensive, or at least they can be, but if you are letting cash stand in the way you should know the fire just doesn’t burn that hot for you. Surfing is expensive, skiing is expensive and even fishing can be, but everyone knows diehards who figure out ways to chase each of those despite modest means. This is every bit as true for mountain biking. Excuses are fine, but I'd rather have singletrack. 

In 2013 we tripped down to Leavenworth WA for Trevor’s birthday. It was all about riding. And Oktoberfest. And riding. We hooked up with the dudes from what was then called Das Rad Haus (hopefully they are making bigger money in the weed business now) and they toured us around sweet ridgelines, rock slabs and one monster of a serpentine descent. 

Brent Upson

Johnny Flair (Brent Upson) leading the way. 

We rode with three familiar characters; Tom, a lean toque-wearing young ripper who worked at Stevens Pass summer and winter, James the shop owner who found the balance between crusty and jovial - and his soft spoken fast-riding buddy. The first two were on relatively new bikes with some flash details, as is often the case with industry types, but the last rode a weathered and beaten Kona Stinky that was at least 10 years old. It had patina on its patina for charm but it was clapped out and heavy despite being well maintained. It looked great, in a nostalgic way, covered in stickers, and battle wounds and it sounded awful. 

Patina

A Chris King headset on a 10-year old Kona Stinky.  Style.

Nobody on newer bikes had more fun than buddy on his Stinky - and he rode like a champ. Not like a champ considering what he was riding, but an absolute champ. The rest of us were getting onto the carbon train and seeing him shred gave us pause; what is it we’re chasing, and why? He seemed to have already caught it.

Yes, bikes are becoming pricier, and at a pace that has leapt ahead of everything except Vancouver real estate. Somehow $5000 has become the norm for a mid spec duallie. And yet there are still riders of modest means who manage to figure it out and get a bike that suits their needs. It’s not hard to find a used 26er in perfect condition for the price of a single carbon wheel. You can probably even get something with a carbon frame and top shelf bits. But you don’t have to.

going down

Time to go down. 

Ride a hardtail, work part time in a shop, scour the web for deals, befriend an early adopter; if you are really a diehard you’ll figure out how to make it work. Your post-ride ride smile will be a little broader and the beer a little sweeter knowing you out-manoevered the marketing machine and the posers. 

*I couldn’t find the original article but it turns out Peter Egan continues to write about getting into the rodeo

Comments

Fasta_Pasta
+2 dtimms Cam McRae
Scott Jamieson  - Nov. 8, 2017, 3:01 a.m.

I had lost a bit of passion living in a big city far away from trails, so I took a job in Italy. I knew how badly I wanted to get back on it, so I sold my old rig for $700, and had a modest budget of $3000 (I sold other gear and worked extra to find that other 2300) to build a rig worthy of the trails here (they're hectic by the way). I'm a proud owner of a 2015 model Niner WFO with a Pike and GX, and could want for nothing else. I love my bike because of the places it has taken me and the friends I've made, and I'll ride it until it dies. One bike, countless trails, many adventures.

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craw
+4 goose8 cxfahrer Cooper Quinn Taz123
Cr4w  - Nov. 8, 2017, 7:26 a.m.

I really want a better look at that Kona.

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cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Nov. 8, 2017, 7:35 a.m.

I'll check the rest of the album again but I don't think I have a decent shot of it. We were too busy riding!

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nicholas
+1 Cam McRae
nicholas  - Nov. 9, 2017, 7:17 a.m.

LoL! Thanks for the article Cam!  The headset badge, BGR racing sticker from my Bros down in SanJuan Capistrano at Buy My Bikes is how this article found me. LOl! It was followed up on Facebook with a bunch of the old school homies posting their old frames with BGR stickers on them!  Tha KS for the walk down memory lane ;).  BGR for life! ;) Cheers!

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cam@nsmb.com
+2 Cr4w nicholas
Cam McRae  - Nov. 8, 2017, 2:15 p.m.

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fartymarty
+2 Cam McRae nicholas
fartymarty  - Nov. 9, 2017, 5:31 a.m.

Hell yeah, that's a real bike.  How many of todays carbon wonderbikes will last this long?

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cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Nov. 8, 2017, 10:54 p.m.

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DBone95
0
Darryl Chereshkoff  - Nov. 9, 2017, 6:41 p.m.

This comment has been removed.

dtimms
+4 Cooper Quinn Andrew Major natbrown Cam McRae
dtimms  - Nov. 8, 2017, 8:03 a.m.

I really hate the argument that if you really are a rider, you will find a way. Some people don't have an extra couple hundred to spend on a bike. And not to mention any type of riding gear. And some people live in a place that getting to trails is difficult and it costs money to drive to a place. Besides the money, time gets crunched in life. We have jobs, family etc...  That said, I have made decisions in my life that allow me to have singletrack out my door and 2 bike parks within 15 miles of me. But I don't want to stand on some soap box and proclaim I am a true mountain biker and you are not simply because you made decisions that were best for you and your family. Life is very complicated and parts of this article come across smug and elitest. Cam, I don't want to be too critical. I enjoyed the article and it does hit home to enjoy the ride and not get caught up in the marketing machine. I just want us as a community to be more understanding and welcoming to people trying to get into the sport.

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cam@nsmb.com
+3 MountainBikeBarbados . natbrown dtimms
Cam McRae  - Nov. 8, 2017, 10:04 a.m.

I have been on both sides of this as I mentioned. I never did anything to get closer to the goal of racing cars on a track, even though I dreamed of doing it and said I would love to. I don't think that makes me worse or better than anyone who followed through, just as I don't think someone who takes an interest in mountain biking but doesn't make it happen is better or worse; it's just likely their priorities lie elsewhere. Maybe that's family, maybe that's music or maybe just earning a buck, but while I respect those who make choices to pursue mountain biking, even when it's inconvenient, I also respect those who pursue other courses. 

My argument isn't that if you are skilled enough or smart enough or good enough at networking - it's about passion and drive. I don't see how those are smug or elitist unless you are attaching meaning that I haven't suggested. 

I'm a believer that life is about choices. I'm not saying it's easy or convenient or tidy, but the fact that some people figure it out is all the evidence I need. If you choose not to do something in life, own it. Blaming the industry or your location or most other obstacles that aren't actually physical barriers is a cop out and imho it means that for whatever reason you haven't chosen to make it happen.

If it's smug and elitist to suggest the dude on the clapped out ten year old Stinky can have just as much fun as the dude on the carbon super bike - or even more - then I guess I'm smug and elitist.

And I did think Peter Egan's point of view was a bit rich as a 20 year old. It wasn't until years later that I realized he was right.

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dtimms
+1 Cam McRae
dtimms  - Nov. 8, 2017, 10:42 a.m.

All valid points Cam. I didn't call you smug if a dude rides a clapped out ten-year-old Stinky and I did attach meaning to things you may not have suggested.  

That said, everyone interrupts what you read in different ways. To me, it came across as "If you want to be in our club (mountain bikers), then mountain biking needs to be more important to you than anything else because those are the choices I made." 

There is also a lot more I read in that article and I acknowledged that. You can go and have fun and ride a bike on dirt without having a bling machine. Just get out and ride. So I think we are on the same page with all that. 

I just read parts of it differently. Great article and thank you for engaging us in a discussion. Always good to get a solid response and you are a much better writer than I am. I struggle to articulate my arguments in written form.

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cam@nsmb.com
+1 dtimms
Cam McRae  - Nov. 8, 2017, 10:49 a.m.

All good. I enjoy discussing ideas like this, and I certainly could have made it more clear that choosing to figure out your life with mountain biking in it doesn't make you better or worse - and without that proviso it's easy to see how someone would see this as elitist. I am also aware that our industry is very prone to elitism and that it makes for a much less friendly community.

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CaMKii
0
Ben Li  - July 17, 2018, 8:49 a.m.

As a lover of all things 2 wheeled, ever think about getting a motorbike to scratch that motorsport itch?

A beat up old Ninja 250 or SV650 is cheaper than most mountain bikes new, and can be taken to the track with little to no modification required. Take a look at Pitt Meadows track days and WMRC for pretty cheap starting points.

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natbrown
+3 chachmonkey Cooper Quinn fartymarty
natbrown  - Nov. 8, 2017, 8:44 p.m.

I'm sure you don't intend this to be some grand all encompassing law of nature or anything. So, my critique might seem a little unfair and I'd like to say from the outset that your point makes sense so long as you don't stray too far from the lower-middle through upper income brackets of your audience. However, if you were to consider this much more broadly, say the entire global population, it's pretty obvious that there are legitimate, practical reasons that could preclude someone from being able to fully commit to the hardcore MTB lifestyle. So, taking that into consideration, there are probably similar reasons that might affect people who are within your audience here. So much so that it's hard to avoid calling Peter Egan's point of view on car racing, at best, privileged.

I might be a bit like the Kona rider from your piece here (though not worthy of respect), and I have little to complain about in my life. My annual budget for upkeep of my '09 hardtail is $500 max, and I'm pinching pennies to make that happen. Whatever, I make it happen however I can. I commute on this bike too, which is one of the ways I save a little for upkeep. My financial situation makes it clear to me how precarious my ability to ride a working bike is. Failure of the frame or a major component means I might not be able to ride for some time. Sure, there are choices I've made that put me in this position, but they don't necessarily reflect on my commitment to ride. If it's as simple as putting riding above everything else, then I'm not sure that's a good thing for society.

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cam@nsmb.com
+1 natbrown
Cam McRae  - Nov. 8, 2017, 11:10 p.m.

Good points Nat and I could have gone deeper and more global but I decided not to for the sake of a cohesive thesis. Too many provisos and sidebars didn't seem like a great idea - but I agree with you entirely. And note - I did not say or even infer that pursuing a sport ahead of other concerns was good for society; only that many people have proven that it can be done.

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WheelNut
+1 wizardB
WheelNut  - July 17, 2018, 8:53 a.m.

Hmmm, makes me wonder if commuting on an old single speed road or hybrid bike might be more economical. Maintenance would be limited to the basics on a single speed, commuter tires are cheap and a decent used frame or complete bike should be attainable for under $200. Your MTB wouldn't be seeing anything other than trails so maintenance would be a lot less intensive.

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morgman
+3 Metacomet natbrown Cam McRae
Morgan Taylor  - Nov. 8, 2017, 8:57 a.m.

"This is why, even though I've ridden mountain bikes for years (hard tail in Ontario) I don't ever see myself getting into it here in BC, because you NEED a decent bike to ride here and it's prohibitively expensive."

The other factor limiting people from getting into mountain biking here is the skill needed to ride that expensive bike in technical terrain. 

Despite hard work having been done by local advocacy groups in the past few years, there is still no truly beginner-friendly trail network within biking or short driving distance from Vancouver. There are snippets of trails, often with sections that require getting off and walking, and basically no opportunity for a walk-free, continuous beginner riding experience on singletrack.

Sure, some can ride North Shore blues on a hardtail, but most can't. And the same terrain that most mountain bikers would like to have a capable dual suspension bike to ride is simply out of reach for people looking to get into the activity on a casual basis. 

The equipment outlay is just money, but the skill needed is a huge hurdle for many potential users.

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cam@nsmb.com
+1 Metacomet
Cam McRae  - Nov. 8, 2017, 10:09 a.m.

Skills are a good point Morgan, but the counterpoint is that I regularly see six year olds on shitty bikes riding Bobsled. It may not be easy to start as a beginner here, but it's certainly possible, even on a rigid bike. It's a tough learning curve and it'll be frustrating, but so is learning the clarinet or speaking a language, and each of us knows that if we wanted those things enough we could become competent. 

So are the trails a hurdle? Yep. Are they an impossible barrier? I don't think so.

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morgman
+2 Cooper Quinn Cam McRae
Morgan Taylor  - Nov. 8, 2017, 10:55 a.m.

The reality is some people don't care progress their skills beyond riding green trails, and if that's the kind of rider you are, then the North Shore is a very hard place to identify as a "mountain biker". It's nearly impossible to link up a ride here that doesn't require intermediate-or-better technical riding skills. 

There are plenty of places one could live – such as the east side of the Cascades in Washington where your story takes place, or central Oregon, or BC's Okanagan – where miles upon miles of flowy, fun, non-technical singletrack exist and can provide a continuous riding experience for riders who want to get out in the woods on a bike and ride something other than a gravel path, rail trail, or forest service road... where a bike with a rigid fork is an acceptable starting point.

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cam@nsmb.com
+1 Geof Harries
Cam McRae  - Nov. 8, 2017, 12:28 p.m.

No question - this is a bad spot for the green for life crowd.

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gdharries
0 Cam McRae Merwinn
Geof Harries  - Nov. 8, 2017, 12:32 p.m.

This is true. Riding North Shore trails is far safer and more fun when you have a capable and often quite expensive bike. For a regular human on a budget, riding those trails on an older bike can be terrifying and bloody. I know because that was my experience back in the late 90s when we lived in the lower mainland.

It's much easier for more people to be mountain bikers when you live somewhere that can accommodate more skill levels. Vancouver is not that place.

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DanL
+2 grcgrc woofer2609
stinky_dan  - Nov. 8, 2017, 1:47 p.m.

My regular 'crew' rides consist of a big mix of bikes. I was lucky enough to be able to step up from an 11 yr old Stinky to a Process last summer. I'm riding with two friends on a hardtail norco and hardtail specialized and a friend on a new YT capra.

Some sections my two hardtail friends have to walk, some sections I crash on after following my much more experienced friend on the YT. There are definitely horses for courses on the shore for sure. But there is barely any time difference on rides and none of us come out of any sesh with anything less than a shit eating grin. 

We're making it work, I guess is the tl;dr of this. I do think that there is some tech that will make certain rides easier - I can definitely plow over terrain that my friend can't so easily - but overall I think it's really down to the archer not the arrow.

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Captain-Snappy
0
Merwinn  - July 17, 2018, 11:19 a.m.

I disagree, Vancouver is that place today. Trails back then were largely fall line, techy, with consequences, and the bikes were barely capable until the industry caught on. Bikes have gotten lighter, lower, slacker, better for the most part, a lot more expensive, and local trails have... changed to accommodate more entry and intermediate-level riders. Some people don't like the new reality of the Shore but more participants means more united voices, for more trails, IMO.

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NealWood
+3 sospeedy Merwinn Morgan Taylor
NealWood  - Nov. 9, 2017, 12:59 p.m.

Skills aren't a barrier but it is a notable point.  For example, my girlfriend lives in Comox and there is a huge mountain bike scene there because of the accessibility of the trails in Cumberland. There is a large range of trails from really beginner to advanced and you can make pretty good loops for beginners without having to do huge climbs or walking long sections. I'm quite convinced this has lead to the large number of riders there.  

Now my girl asks where I could take her riding around Vancouver.  Let me tell you there isn't much here at her level.  We as experienced riders have little concept how hard it is for beginners. If you want to know how hard what we think of as beginner trails are just go out with a brand new rider and see how hard it is for them to deal with some roots or a short climb.

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Captain-Snappy
0
Merwinn  - July 17, 2018, 11:24 a.m.

Same could be said for many ski resorts. Should they change? Tough trails (and ski runs) forces people to become better riders (and skiers). If people enjoy riding, they'll keep doing it. Besides, why not support the local MTB instructors (Endless Biking, Dirt Series, etc.) and learn valuable techniques that can be used on all levels of terrain?

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taprider
0 Cam McRae Merwinn
taprider  - Nov. 8, 2017, 3:05 p.m.

if you don't hike-a-bike or portage, it's not a REAL mtn bike ride

actually my favourite trails are the ones I can't 100% ride, and it has been that way since I was a beginner

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uberlounge
+4 sospeedy grcgrc chachmonkey Cam McRae
uberlounge  - Nov. 9, 2017, 9:16 a.m.

All of us were beginners at one point. Like many grey haired mountain bikers, my friends and I started riding the North Shore on steel 71/73 degree rigid bikes with narrow bull bars, cantilever brakes and hiking boots on bear trap pedals. We rode up dirt roads and tumbled down hiking trails. I sucked back then, and as jumps and skinnies became the thing I remained off the back, but I still ride now.  We ride because we really like it, and I think that is Cam's point. It doesn't matter if you have a sick bike or if you are fast, or skilled, only that you get out and ride.

I lusted after a fillet brazed Ritchey Timberwolf with Tomaselli brake levers, but that never stopped me from repeatedly falling off my entry level Norco.

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Ee
+1 grcgrc
Ee  - Nov. 10, 2017, 10:04 a.m.

'''Sure, some can ride North Shore blues on a hardtail, but most can't. And the same terrain that most mountain bikers would like to have a capable dual suspension bike to ride is simply out of reach for people looking to get into the activity on a casual basis. '''

I ride a hard tail every time on the shore and Squamish,  Whistler etc, it's not an expensive bike and it takes a trail I point it down. Black's no problem, even the odd double black, skill level accounts for a lot yes but you can ride pretty much any trail on a hardtail ☺ just avoid the really big drops !!

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morgman
0
Morgan Taylor  - Nov. 10, 2017, 12:02 p.m.

You are in the minority of mountain bikers worldwide who can ride a hardtail in the Sea to Sky. This place is a surprisingly good breeding ground for hardtail shredders, but that ignores the fact that the vast majority of people period (not just currently identified mountain bikers, but people who might be interested in mountain biking) can't ride in this terrain, even on a carbon wonderbike.

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clarkee
0
clarkee  - Nov. 8, 2017, 9:17 a.m.

I think that is a case of most people not realising what they or there bikes a capable of.  I am not a regular rider but me and my 2009 Banshee Paradox seem just about fine on Seymour and Fromme and the tricities.  The short sections of walking offset the $3500 cost of new bike.  More photos of that Stinky please it sounds brilliant.

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morgan-heater
+4 grcgrc KavuRider chachmonkey Cam McRae
Morgan Heater  - Nov. 8, 2017, 9:21 a.m.

We have a guy in our crew that shows up on a clapped out hybrid hardtail bike that he got 3rd hand. I'm fairly sure the fork is completely ornamental. He doesn't go quite as fast as us on the downhills, but rides all the same trails, and has a great time. He usually beats us to the top, hauling a 24 pack of cheap beer in a backpack that I'm pretty sure he got in middle school. No dropper. Half the time he pedals with his seat all the way down. I'm fairly sure he is experiencing the same thrills as I am.

Also, speaking of cheap Konas, I built my up my used 2014 Kona 134 frame for less than 2k, and it's amazing. I'm fairly sure I'll be riding it for another 8 or 9 years before it breaks.

One thing that is a little different about mountain biking compared to other sports, like rock climbing for instance, is that spending money definitely increases one's ability to ride more difficult terrain. More than about $2k seems pretty incremental, but the jump in what feels easy on a 2k bike from a $300 bike is pretty extreme.

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kavurider
0
KavuRider  - July 19, 2018, 5:48 p.m.

I want to see pics of that guy's ride!

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lacykemp
+5 Merwinn Metacomet dtimms Cam McRae natbrown
Lacy Kemp  - Nov. 8, 2017, 9:23 a.m.

Hell I work in the bike industry and have never owned a carbon bike... I confess that's changing, like today, BUT still. I climb as fast as anyone else. Ride the same shit as everyone else, and probably have as much fun as anyone else on my same old bike that I've ridden for 3 years. I kept it because I loved it and it felt good. My car - the only car I've ever owned my entire life- has 203,000 miles on it. It's a 2005 Subaru Impreza. I love it. Would I love a new car? Sure, but do I love my current, beat-to-shit Subee? Youbetcha. It's all consumerism in the end. We just pick our battles.

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fartymarty
0
fartymarty  - Nov. 9, 2017, 5:40 a.m.

I've also never owned a carbon bike and hope I never do.  I sold my last aluminium bike in 2005 and have been on steel since.  I good 29HT have changed things a lot.  You can ride a lot and not get beaten up like I used to on a 26HT.

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alexdi
0
Alex D  - Nov. 8, 2017, 11:40 a.m.

IMO, fun is mostly about skill and fitness. Speed, though, depends a lot on the bike. I find my old 26er challenging and enjoyable, but I can't keep up with my mates riding it.

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gdharries
+2 Merwinn Cam McRae
Geof Harries  - Nov. 8, 2017, 12:26 p.m.

It took me years to save up the funds from coaching and freelance work (and I sold three bikes from our family's stable to get the rest) but I spent $3200 on an aluminum full-suspension bike that has served me quite well on trails all over the place.

To simply have fun, you don't need carbon and you don't need Eagle. You just need something that's safe, reliable and works reasonably well.

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earleb
+1 Jan
earle.b  - Nov. 8, 2017, 1:36 p.m.

I think the media can do a better job of pointing out the good budget bikes. See Andrews fine articles on the subject. 

I also think some manufactures shoot themselves in the foot chasing new concepts/designs when there are very good proven designs that are passed over or forgotten. All that effort just chasing "new" costs money that needs to be recovered, lower expenditure means they can sell at a lower price. 

The typical shop bro doesn't help the situation much either. Someone walks into a shop and get's the impression that the sport can only be done on 6-7k super bikes.

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tehllama42
+2 Mic Cam McRae
Tehllama42  - Nov. 8, 2017, 3:26 p.m.

This.  Exactly this - I think an extension on the min-max theme, but with looking at what used bike options exist, would be a really excellent series of articles.  Drew (with the help of the rest of NSMB, and some of us forum goofballs) has created arguably the best set of information about how to properly get into good hardware spending under 2 grand for new stuff...  Understanding where somebody can get awesomeness going on for less is a really fun thought exercise.
For my part, I've fully moved onto the carbon conspiracy, but a used three year old Instinct on LB wheels and some intentional excess carbon bling on the bars rides better than all but the nicest >$8k demo bikes I've tried (lots of them), and I'm still all in for three grand...  it really can and should be done for less, and there's a lot to be said for putting in the work and research to do it for less, and NSMB has become one of the better resources for people willing to do that.

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metacomet
+1 Cam McRae
Metacomet  - Nov. 8, 2017, 2:13 p.m.

Loved this article.  Its something I have thought about quite a bit and have been on both sides of at different points.  I Started riding when I was quite young and really began more seriously through highschool and college, and a few years after college.  I had put a lot of money into the bike that I had and it was ridden to death and no longer really safe to keep getting abused.  Combine that with getting married and having a baby, then another baby, moving twice to new and unfamiliar locations, and picking up DH skateboarding cause it fit my current time and location and budget. And the next thing you know it had been years and years since I last rode a mtn bike.  HUGE Regret.  One of the biggest hurdles that I can look back on now is thinking that I needed to replace my old bike with one of similar value.  That thinking kept the door shut a lot longer than it ever needed to be.  I should have bought an affordable and solid steel hardtail so I would at least have a bike I Could Actually Ride, even if it meant at a lesser capacity.   I couldn't have really conjured more money, and I couldn't have conjured more time.  But I could have made it work.

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kiksy
+4 grcgrc Morgan Taylor natbrown Cam McRae
kiksy  - Nov. 8, 2017, 11:52 p.m.

Great article with some good points. 

However, I would argue 2 counter-points:

1. Do we really want mountain biking to become a sport where the only way to get into it properly is to sacrifice everything else in life and go all in? 

2. Given the examples in the article, yes, surfing, skiing and fishing can be expensive, but the core item needed to participate in those sports are very simple, with few individual components. A 10 year set of ski's will still perform pretty much as good as they did when they were new. Yes, ski tech may have improved, but everyone was doing fine on them 10 years ago. 

The same cannot be said for mountain bikes, especially full suss. A 10 year old bike thats been well used will likely have had nearly every component replaced at least once. This is fine, however, once a bike gets too old it reaches the point where maintenance costs become too high in comparison to the value of the bike.  Very few people would shell out ~$200+ on a suspension damper service on a bike worth $500, $600 , even $1000. 

So the second hand market is full of very tired cheap bikes that need some loving to make them work as good as possible, and also just be safe. As a newcomer into the sport though, most people have zero or little maintenance skills and even fewer tools required to perform those repairs. The cost of taking an older bike that needs a lot of work to a shop to get sorted can easily exceed the cost of the entire bike.

Couple this in with the myriad of standards on bikes (which often need unique tools ) and it seems that people with lower budgets and/or lower time to ride face an uphill struggle to even get to the first rung on the ladder of mountain biking. 

Now, you can definitely have as much fun on a sorted hardtail as you can on a $6000 carbon enduro bike, but if everyone else around you is riding high end full suspension whizz-bang machines, it's easy to get the impression you simply can't afford to enter this sport, no matter how dedicated you might be.

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fartymarty
+1 Andrew Major
fartymarty  - Nov. 9, 2017, 5:47 a.m.

I think the secret to riding on a budget is riding a steel HT.  It saves you massively on servicing costs.  If it breaks you can generally get them welded / brazed up again at a reasonable price.

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cam@nsmb.com
+1 Andrew Major
Cam McRae  - Nov. 9, 2017, 8:16 a.m.

Well said. Nothing to disagree with there at all.

PS - great comments here. Such a thoughtful audience!

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syncro
+2 Cam McRae fartymarty
Mark  - Nov. 9, 2017, 7:52 p.m.

then I won't ruin it by saying something

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Mic
0
Mic  - Nov. 10, 2017, 2:18 a.m.

Now I am curious.

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syncro
0
Mark  - Nov. 10, 2017, 1:02 p.m.

Send $20 dollars to my PayPal account via elleohelle@hotmail.com and all will be revealed.

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Mic
0
Mic  - Nov. 10, 2017, 2:24 a.m.

Re: Seond hand/used bike issues mentioned

I think that this is not really a legit issue if a person wants to start riding. It would make for a great Satruday late afternoon with a drink or two while pulling apart that used bike and get some skills in being self sufficient.

And a bike rider does need a few tools anyways, and fixing a bike at home can be done with a mini/multi tool, might be no fun - but can be done.

This issue might be different for people who do not care at all about how a bike is working or who only ride because of the hype, true.

The question at the beginning of the editorial is purely rhetoric, though. Who gives a shit about what anyone is riding?

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wacek-keepshack
+2 grcgrc Cam McRae
Wacek Keepshack  - Nov. 10, 2017, 10:56 a.m.

Last weekend, I took my 26" hardtail with 100mm fork for a ride with 4 very prominent riders, each on carbon Spec E29s. I can tell you... it was not cool. I hated every single minute of the ride... a month earlier I rode the very same bike on almost exactly same trails with slower riders on worse bikes. And I was a God. Elitism? Maybe. But chosing your riding friends can be crucial... if you don't expose yourself to elitists, you may have a rather good time. I personally have never ever experienced more exclusive group of people than 15-25 year old Joeys on poor or medium specced bikes being into gravity riding. I experienced it both in Poland and in Sweden. Their unfounded guilt of being poor riders not owning top bikes is so big they just can't help themselves to give shit to people who have worse bikes than theirs and they will roast the sht out of anyone who owns an expensive bike and doesn't ride well. This summer I've been hanging around a few riding spots across Poland with my super unique, boutique, pretentious carbon bike, and it was drawing attention, but on one occasion, three students were virtually sucking my balls for owning it. Later on I overheard their conversation as they were talking rather hideous things about an owner of a fresh Ibis parked nearby "rich fat basterd", then laughing at a dude on DJ hardtail with a quite long seat post. "is he going to ride up and then down this mountain on that?!"

Choose your riding group wisely... as simple as that... don't let idiots drag you down. I could not care less if there is a BMX made of gold... nobody should. It's our own responsibility to control our reactions to triggers (yeah, I know, not a popular opinion)

Cheers!

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JBV
0
James Vasilyev  - Nov. 11, 2017, 7:30 p.m.

so weird. where i live bike talk is moderate. a few guys like to talk gear and bikes, but many don't. there are very few parking lot/trail head conversations about other people's bikes and never anything derogatory. guys just don't really care.

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wizardB
+1 Cam McRae
wizardB  - Nov. 13, 2017, 2:07 p.m.

I ride an average of 2 times a week and have not bought a new bike since 2006, I ride anything and everything and have a great time most of the time I'm riding my Stiffee. I ride to have funI'mnot competing to see who has the newest crap or what kind of times I have. I ride for fun and only fun and see no need to spend thousands on a new ride when my old ones are still this fun.

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sanesh-iyer
+1 Cam McRae
Sanesh Iyer  - July 17, 2018, 5:50 a.m.

I find myself hemorrhaging my student-life budget into cycling, and have basically my whole life. Whether it's a new bike, or new gear (GPS today really hurt!). That said, I do think that for a certain demographic (namely the younger crowd, without a career yet) the "if you want to make it happen" motto applies. I paid tuition and rent in Vancouver, and happily rode the whole time. I worked for it, and took no holidays or weekends between work and school for most of my teenage years, but it's possible. 

Currently I'm on a steel HT MTB and aluminum road bike. They're quite nice, but not super-wagons, and I have fun. I'm not entirely convinced full-suspension is necessary, and I'm pretty certain most people are way over-biked (which is fine), point being you can have fun on what you can afford. 

That said, the other day on Facebook there was a discussion about bike price increases. I'd love to see something that quantitatively compares what you get now for what you got years ago, taking into account things like inflation and commodities (even if rough). Some quick math pegged inflation as contributing roughly 20% to the cost of a bike in Canada over the last 10 years. I'm not sure, but maybe bike prices have stagnated relative to the broader economy but salaries have stagnated? I'd love a quantitative investigation into the bike cost increase "trend" from NSMB!

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PaulB
+2 grcgrc Cam McRae
PaulB  - July 17, 2018, 12:10 p.m.

"I'd love to see something that quantitatively compares what you get now for what you got years ago, taking into account things like inflation and commodities (even if rough)."

I've bought two bikes in the last 25 years. I paid $1,200 for both:

- A 1993 Mongoose IBOC Comp... rigid steel with Deore LX components. I still ride it as my wet weather commuter, it's probably given me the best ROI of anything I've spent money on in my entire life.

- A 2015 Norco Fluid 7.3... aluminum with low spec components and the most entry level RockShox fork and shock. A John Henry Days clearance special.

According to an online inflation calculator I found, $1,200 in 93 was roughly $1,700 in 2016 when I bought the Norco. I put new tires, pedals, and a Hilo dropper on the Norco, bringing it up to maybe $1,600, so I'm still $100 ahead for a far, far, better bike. However, I've spent more on maintenance of the Norco in the last two years than in 25 years for the Mongoose!

As for the Shore being hard to learn on... I started riding/pushing across Bridle Path, moved up to the easier XC trails, then the blue descents, and now I can ride most blacks.  Lost some blood and picked up a few scars along the way, but it's all been good!

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rideitall
+1 Cam McRae
rideitall  - July 17, 2018, 7:08 a.m.

A lot of good points, as always colored from past experience, as would be expected.  I have rode on crap hardtails with sub-par components when starting out, but so were most of my riding buddies.  As my skills grew, so too did the level of bike I had and sought after.   Now as I am older have a little more $$$ I can spend on gear, I have a reasonably nice bike. 

I don't need to lever of bike I have to ride what I ride, but being honest, the bike and most of the gear helps me ride to the level I currently ride it.  My abilities and willingness to crash hard are well understood by myself.  Good suspension components, brakes that work as I expect them too, reasonably light weight wheels with tires for the local terrain, and a good reliable drivetrain that with a huge gear spread that helps me with my not as fit body and mind get to the top of the trails so I can ride down as best I can.  

I have had relatively new riders on lesser capable bikes kick my ass both up and down the hill, likewise I have rode with people that trails that we take as easy as it gets, like Bobsled, be overwhelmed.  Some people will want to have trails made easier to suit their needs others will have the attitude that the harder parts of the trail that they are not able to ride now will one day be conquered.  Does make one person right or wrong, just different views.

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K
+4 Aaron Croft wizardB Ac Cam McRae
Kyle Rosten  - July 17, 2018, 9:07 a.m.

I just got rid of my 2018 BC edition instinct, carbon wheels and all. I found I was having way more fun and a bigger smile on my face every time I was out riding on my steel Chromag samurai. 1x10, beefy aluminum rims, decent fork and fun for days. 

I’ve ridden it on everything from double black Pemberton dh runs, north shore, to flowy Kamloops ridge lines. 

Never is it not fun, never do I feel like I don’t have enough, or have too much bike.

I will probably add a full suspension again at some point, but will is it needed? Heck no.

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Captain-Snappy
0
Merwinn  - July 17, 2018, 11:35 a.m.

I don't have a problem with carbonium, but I wanted bang for my buck and min-maxed my new steed: Altitude A70, all alu and steel. Better spec'd, and overall value than the similarly priced C50, IMO.

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Brocklanders
+3 grcgrc Niels wizardB
yahs  - July 17, 2018, 3:27 p.m.

When you get away from the Howe Sound Corridor you really notice how most people here spend a ton of money on their bikes. Was down in Oregon -Washington no too long ago and the older bikes still in full effect there. Many places people don't have the money, but are just as happy riding what they have. Even if they are way undergunned for the terrain still stoked.  Love that

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cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - July 18, 2018, 8:29 a.m.

I have noticed that as well and it warms my heart. I've noticed the same in the interior - particularly Silver Star's Bike Park. Very cool to see older bikes living on!

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aaronufl
+3 sospeedy Velocipedestrian Cam McRae
Aaron Croft  - July 17, 2018, 7:28 p.m.

When you're stuck in the internet echo chamber (do you even boost, bro?), the lure of consumption is strong. In any hobby, I find that I'm happier the more I'm out using the gear I have. The minute I delve too deep down the new gear rabbit hole, I start longing for all the niceties that are just substitutes for the real thing: the experience of riding the bike and being happy. 

Spend less time on the internet talking about gear and more time riding yours. You''ll be happier for it.

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kwolfkill
+2 Niels Cam McRae
kwolfkill  - July 17, 2018, 7:46 p.m.

As a daily site visitor and someone who works in the auto industry, I enjoyed your mention of Peter Egan’s old R&T column and its impact on you. Being an avid mountain biker (and a former auto racer) too, I can certainly relate to the commitment involved in both endeavors. And while I’ve owned more than a few FS carbon bikes, after moving from the wonderfully-technical riding of the PNW to the flatter Midwest, these days my go-to ride is a steel AM hardtail, and I love it.

Back to Mr. Egan, the next time I see him I’ll let him know he’s got a big fan at NSMB. Thanks for the entertaining read. – Kim Wolfkill, Editor-in-Chief, Road & Track

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cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - July 18, 2018, 8:54 a.m.

Wow. Reading your post gave me chills Kim. 

Please let Peter know he was an inspiration to me. The humour and humility he brought to his lively and personal tales undoubtedly influenced my writing. Looking back it's clear I've been clumsily chasing his brilliance ever since.

Thanks for making my day!

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kwolfkill
+1 Cam McRae
kwolfkill  - July 18, 2018, 7:09 p.m.

You got it, Cam, I'll definitely send your regards.

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RAHrider
+3 Cam McRae Aaron Croft Niels
Reed Holden  - July 18, 2018, 12:38 a.m.

Lots of good anecdotes and points of view here. A few gripes about trails being too hard and bikes being too expensive. My wife and I moved out here from Ontario 20 years ago. I had just graduated teachers college after previously managing a bike shop. We came out here with a Turner XCE and a Santa Cruz Superlight! Yes those were hot shit bikes back then.

BC riding humbled us as it does many but over the years we have ridden just about everywhere in BC. after a few years my XCE was needing a new fork, new cranks (broke in two) and I didn't have the cash to upkeep and no shop discount :'(

My commuter bike a Surley Karate Monkey became my new mountain bike. 7 speed thumbshifters on an 8 speed cassette with two chain rings. No shocks. No dropper. The most cutting edge parts were a chris king rear hub and a set of original XT disc brakes. That bike took me to every corner of BC riding (including black diamonds on the shore) - until it finally gave up mid ride in Kimberly BC

Surly gave me a new one. I didn't like the blue as well as my "skid mark brown" but old blue carried me through my medical degree (8 more years), until I could get my MD and a credit card that would carry my dream bike (ti hardtail). Here is a photo of me with my second Karate monkey in Rossland BC while in medical school.

You don't need much to have fun riding in BC. If any of you ever go back east to ride you will know that back there, you pay $ to ride in circles on 10 acres of flat forested terrain. BC biking is one of a kind. If you can't appreciate it because  your bike isn't good enough, you missed the point. I still have that blue karate monkey - it's my single speed now. Still ride it. Still love it. And I especially love it when my wife is driven crazy when we climb past some riders and she is on her carbon bronson with enve/chris king everything and everyone loses their shit over my prehistoric steel bike ignoring her marvel of bicycle engineering.

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dtimms
0
dtimms  - July 18, 2018, 8:43 a.m.

I snapped my skid mark brown Karate Monkey in the exact same spot.

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RAHrider
+1 Aaron Croft
Reed Holden  - July 18, 2018, 10:12 p.m.

The skid mark brown ones were real pieces of shit. 

Actually, it had a sparkle in the paint I loved. Who loves a brown bike, honestly.

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cam@nsmb.com
+1 Reed Holden
Cam McRae  - July 19, 2018, 12:33 a.m.

Great post Reed!

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aaronufl
+2 Reed Holden Cam McRae
Aaron Croft  - July 19, 2018, 6:41 a.m.

It's funny you mentioned more interest in your steel bike than the blinged out Bronson. I nearly always get remarks/questions when I'm out on my steel hardtail. When I'm out on the FS? *Crickets*

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awesterner
0
awesterner  - July 19, 2018, 11:14 p.m.

The real question is, should one risk showing up at a FIVER without carbon??? ;-)

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SchwinnEnduro
0
SchwinnEnduro  - July 22, 2018, 11:36 p.m.

Schwinn Protocol 2.7 stock

This is the stock image

I totally would.  I'm currently riding an aluminum Schwinn Protocol 2.7 (27.5 "er). I'm also upgrading the living shit out of her. I'm putting a DNM USD-8 fork on it, as a replacement for the current suntour xcm. I gotta say, after riding Rock Island @ Table Rock (single black) with this Schwinn, and clearing several small but decent doubles (jump ramps) and several rock gardens, this is the best budget bike for any rider, if only because of it's adaptability. The only thing that needs to be custom made is the pivot linkage, and only to be able to swap the stock spacetaker with a longer air shock (or coil, if you're into that).

I'm the kind of guy to show up on that frankenstein of a bike and keep up with the guys on the expensive big name carbon bikes with big name components. All while spending more on gear than the bike itself.

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grcgrc
0
grcgrc  - July 23, 2018, 4:24 p.m.

While I  like the idea of carbon, horror stories like the following keep me with the reliability of steel &, to a lesser extent, aluminium.

https://www.outsideonline.com/2311816/carbon-fiber-bike-accidents-lawsuits

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RAHrider
0
Reed Holden  - July 24, 2018, 11:20 p.m.

I don't think anyone should be afraid of carbon for the reason of failure. If there were a huge problem with carbon having catastrophic failures chronically we would all hear about it. I've broken most of the bikes I have owned. A few steel, a few aluminum and even a titanium. None from crashes, all just fatigue and wear and tear.

Anyone who wrenches on their own bike and cleans it regularly will usually discover new cracks before any catastrophe occurs. Your article notes the person bought a 2007 bike - it was already 10 years old. I wouldn't expect it to have too much life left in it if it was well used. I am more afraid of breaking a handlebar than anything else on my bike.

Out of curiosity, how often do you all replace your bars? I've ridden with some trials riders who replaced theirs every year. Seems reasonable when you think about it. Handlebars do tend to fail catastrophically, more so than any other part on the bike (forks are bad too).

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