The Angry Mob

Words Morgan Taylor
Date Mar 5, 2014

It’s no big secret that we participate in a fairly expensive sport. $10,000 bikes and $300 helmets and an endless list of necessary accessories… things can add up quickly. Even if you start with a middle of the road $4000 full suspension bike, put $500 of upgrades into it, and then buy a helmet, backpack, gloves, shoes, shorts, jerseys, pumps, tools for home and away, and so on, you’ve easily invested $6000 just to have a reasonable kit and one bike that you might even have to drive to the trailhead.

Simpsons_angry_mob-full

Is it time to revolt?

People are mad about this. They remember the old days where $1500 bought you a top end steel hardtail with XTR, and you could ride a bike in jeans and a t-shirt. I’d like to propose that before the angry mob jumps back on the “life is too complicated” bandwagon, we step back and look at what we’ve got. It’s not actually as bad as it may seem.

Bicycle technology is at an all-time high right now. We’ve got suspension at both ends of the bike that functions really well. Brakes that inspire confidence. Quiet drivetrains. Seatposts that go up and down. And in all of this, we have options. You don’t go out and buy the only thing on the market that works; you choose from a wide variety of well thought out products.

The technology train shows no signs of slowing down, and that’s not really a bad thing. A classic DH race bike by the numbers looks more like a modern day XC bike (save for the fact that 26” wheeled XC bikes are becoming obsolete for good reason). If you are butthurt about 11-speed gears, rejoice in the fact that good old 9-speed is still functioning as it did in days gone by.

The above points alone are enough to convince most riders, and inflation has yet to be considered. That $1500 bike in 1994 would cost you $2150 here in 2014. That’ll buy you a hardtail with a well-damped fork and parts that no doubt outperform the relics on your teenage dream bike.

The modern mountain bike is a rocket ship capable of being raced at the international level off the showroom floor. $10,000 buys you the pedal powered equivalent of a Porsche, but remains mostly serviceable by the home mechanic. While the five figure mountain bike is a far cry from its ancestors, it is an amazingly capable machine.

There are lots of ways to spend your money. Every pastime has its buy-in – and there are much more expensive ones than mountain biking. Realistic ones, too. Cars aren’t cheap, but people sink money into them. Boats – and most other fuel-burning recreational vehicles – are terribly expensive. Fixing houses is a money pit. Children. All of these things cost more than bikes.

If you truly wish to mountain bike without the exorbitant cost, your hands are not tied. 9-speed drivetrains are indeed still reliable, 26” wheels are tires are still serviceable, and the fashion police don’t actually care what you’re wearing.

I’m not sure if the angry mob has ever attempted to participate in another hobby, but biking would be considered downright affordable in other circles. Let the chest thumping hardmen of the mountain have their obsolete technology; I for one am quite happy with mountain bikes right where they are.


Listen to the Governator!

Posted in: Trail Tales, News

Comments

cam
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cam  - March 6, 2014, 9:20 a.m.

Another point here is the absence of user fees unless you are doing lift- accessed riding. Golfers and skiers know all about this. The full price for a Whistler lift ticket is now $110.

Your gear will wear faster when you use it more but otherwise riding four times a week costs no more than riding once - or not at all. Empty wallet? Perfect time to saddle up.

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Oldfart
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Oldfart  - March 6, 2014, 12:52 p.m.

That's just the point. Mountainbiking can be expensive, but there are many many less costly bikes out there that are perfectly good bikes for a fun ride. No user fees to speak of other than lift riding. You don't even need a car to ride to trails in most cases. Less weather dependent than other sports too. Ever seen wind sport participants just hanging around waiting for the wind to blow? Golfers or Tennis players having to book a time to play and no one can play tennis alone. We riders have little to complain about and much to rejoice.

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mthomaslee
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Matt Lee  - March 5, 2014, 9:42 p.m.

I was very much of the opinion that biking was an expensive sport, hobby and lifestyle up until I dated someone that rode horses at a competitive level. After seeing the simply eye-watering cost of entry into the sport (not to mention the ongoing upkeep of gear AND a living, breathing creature), I find it hard to complain about the cost of biking any more.

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walleater
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walleater  - March 5, 2014, 7:45 p.m.

I think it partially depends on whether one equates speed with fun. I sure do at times, which is why I appreciate my 29rrrr full suspension bike. My 1992 RMB Vertex still puts the same size grin on my face though when I take it out, plus when I stick a carbon fork on it in a couple of days it'll probably be down to around 23.5lb. Find me a new bike that costs around $400 and weighs that. Riding it is an experience, not just a Strava exercise. It also puts into perspective the notion of spending $400 on a cassette.

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Bryce
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Bryce  - March 5, 2014, 3:18 p.m.

So that $1500 sick bike from back in teh day had a 7 speed drivetrain, elastomer suspension, rim brakes (non-V), 500mm flat handlebar, flexy everything, and a smattering of boat-anchor parts. Pretty comparable to a $500 Canadian Tire bike nowadays. Bikes are much cheaper nowadays.

What will make bikes cheaper is having more companies go the way of YT and sell direct. Even better if they ditch the silly marketing and put that money into R&D.

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nat-brown
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Nat Brown  - March 5, 2014, 12:34 p.m.

Ha! "Children." I always enjoy your articles, Morgan, and I think in context, this might be my favourite sentence from you. Probably a wise call not to follow it up with a specific point like your other examples. Enough said, as they say.

I'm totally on board with your point here too. Both my bikes are pretty old compared to what I see most riding around the shore, and while I must confess to coveting all the new gear, I manage to have lots of fun when I'm riding what I have. I don't know how much more fun I'd have if I did have my dream bike. Having a kid and buying a house, both for the first time in the past year means that I'll be sticking with what I've got for a while. Looking forward to getting the little guy set up in a few years though.

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Captain-Snappy
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Merwinn  - March 5, 2014, 12:18 p.m.

When I want a laff and knee-jerk, asinine, ignorant comments made by the kiddies, I read PB. When I want comments that have some thought and critique put into them, I read NSMB. My kind of peeps.

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xc_chicken
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XC_chicken  - March 5, 2014, 10:57 a.m.

Loved my chrome Mongoose ATB Pro 25 years ago, wish I still had it. I'd still rather race and ride the newer 29er dual suspension I have now.

I had no intention on buying a 29er; only what fit me best and felt like a decent ride. I tried plenty of 26 and 29″ wheel bikes, and for my lanky dimensions I found a 29er that met my criteria. Although the new bike was a couple pounds heavier than my hardtail, my lap times improved immediately. I could also ride more tech sections than before with more confidence. No buyers remorse for me.

For me the modern ride is more fun. Brakes are far more dependable under all conditions.. That's a basic safety issue, and a performance one too. I remember riding down North Shore trails at night with dimming BLT light on a full rigid (with a Height right) in the late 80's.

Really enjoyed those rides. Now I really enjoy the lighter, stronger, better handling bike that is far more capable that I am. Loved my 1991 Civic SI, but there is no way I'd take that over what I have now. Except maybe as a collectors for nostalgia, but not as my daily driver.

I welcome new technology. Sure, some will be just as far-fetched and I'll- conceived as Bio-pace, but much of the newer tech makes riding better. Running Stans I haven't had a flat in two years. That's a good thing 🙂

I think that most (but not all) of the angry mob would probably buy a $10,000 bike if they won the lottery. I know I would. I'd also hunt down that old Mongoose Pro.. And get a custom Dekerf.

My current ride retails for about $4500.00. Through a shop team discount I paid about $1000.00 less. I hadn't bought a new bike since 2004, and before that 1991. I buy the best I can afford at the time and get many years of enjoyment blasting through the trails; the fun part hasn't changed.. The bike is just more dependable and capable.

Off to ride lower Seymour now..

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RossputiN
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RossputiN  - March 5, 2014, 10:53 a.m.

I like the 'bike as Porsche' analogy. I remember Mr. Andrew Summers asking me (after a particularly rad day riding WBP on my '03 Brodie Brute) the rhetorical question "…so why would I want to ride an SUV when I have access to a Ferrari?".

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cam
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cam  - March 6, 2014, 9:14 a.m.

The. bonus in the bike world is that often the Ferraris are more reliable and sometimes even more durable than the Fords.

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Dirk
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Dirk  - March 5, 2014, 10:19 a.m.

I think a lot of where people get angry is not because high priced gear exists, it's because all this high priced gear comes with new "standards". No, you don't need to buy the latest 11 speed gear and yes, for the time being, you can buy some 9 speed stuff. But then it goes away. And in a year or two when it wears out or breaks, you now have to replace the whole thing, or at the very least work really hard to find a replacement.

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morgman
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Morgan Taylor  - March 5, 2014, 10:33 a.m.

Is that really true, though? 9-speed is now two generations of MTB drivetrain old, shares a freehub body with 10-speed, and yet you can still find and buy it (at seriously reduced prices). 26″ tires aren't going to vanish. Suspension gurus still know how to service 5 year old forks. Bikes are going obsolete a lot less quickly than phones and computers, for what it's worth…

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mammal
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Mammal  - March 5, 2014, 1:28 p.m.

Definitely true for a lot of new standards. 9spd -> 10spd, now you need a new derailleurs, shifters and cranks with the right spacing. 1-1/8 fork on the used market seem to be more pricey than newer, better tapered forks in that same market due to supply and demand. Not saying that these standards don't improve the product, but it really does alienate a big group of folks that just want to maintain their ride.

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rvoi
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rvoi  - March 5, 2014, 9:50 a.m.

Similar story here. I bought a very mediocre hardtail frame with a high standover for $75 then built up a complete bike from the spare parts bin. I thought it would be a townie/beater bike. This 26″ (gasp) bike is so much fun to ride that it has become my preferred ride.

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Cheez1ts
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Garrett Thibault  - March 5, 2014, 9:24 a.m.

"If you are butthurt about 11-speed gears, rejoice in the fact that good old 9-speed is still functioning as it did in days gone by."

I disagree with this point. I've been running the exact same 9-speed drive train for three years and it doesn't function nearly as well as it did in days gone by.
thumps chest

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enduramil
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enduramil  - March 5, 2014, 9:37 a.m.

Technology will always be improving the stuff we ride. Some will be able to afford the new stuff now. But if you can't afford the stuff now it will always trickle down to the lower end parts later.

And of course there is always the other trickle down stream…when people want to upgrade say their Saint shifter to the next great one. Someone will buy it to replace their part.

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morgman
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Morgan Taylor  - March 5, 2014, 10:30 a.m.

Leave it to an engineer to take things literally.

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bigmike9699
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bigmike9699  - March 5, 2014, 9:21 a.m.

Morgan, I generally really enjoy the pieces you write (this one included), but I have to ask (and am asking seriously, but I am genuinely curious), how much of the over-priced (albeit amazingly functional) cycling gear do YOU actually pay retail for? I hardly believe (and please, correct me if I am wrong) that working for NSMB pays you enough to be able to afford $7000+ bikes and the top of line kits that we can see you riding locally wearing… and I don't mean that to be offensive, I honestly don't, because you consistently provide us with well written reviews and product details that are hard to find elsewhere on the net.

I worked in shops for 10 years (most recently until 2010), and I am quite familiar with mark ups, distribution and importing (when necessary), and while I still ride fairly high-end stuff (thanks now to a high-paying health-care job), I still buy most of my stuff online/used. If companies want to charge such significant prices for products (which may or may not be justifiable given R&D, production and shipping costs), they no one is to blame but those companies for the 'death' of the LBS… because lets face it, bike shops aren't really making much money these days as 'brick and mortar' establishments…

All that said, I did really enjoy this article… I do love Arnold.

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morgman
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Morgan Taylor  - March 5, 2014, 10:30 a.m.

This is a fair comment and one I was anticipating. The gear side of bike journalism is a perk, but it's certainly not free – it's actually quite difficult to quantify. I am very fortunate to have the chance to ride a lot of nice gear, but it's at the cost of a lot of time, late nights on the computer, and so on.

You'd be absolutely right that I can't afford to buy all of the gear I get to use. I also can't afford to buy a house. I truly appreciate the opportunity I have to ride a lot of different platforms and pass that information back to our readers, my friends, and the community.

I love producing gear articles, but I don't lose sight of the fact that the culture of mountain biking is a big part of why I do what I do. Creating editorial pieces like this one to open up honest dialogue is an important part of our position here and I appreciate your input.

If I was to build a suspension bike right now out of my own pocket, it would be an Enduro 29 Comp with a wheel upgrade, a different seatpost, and different brakes.

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moity
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moity  - March 10, 2014, 11:31 p.m.

If I was to build a suspension bike right now out of my own pocket, it would be an Enduro 29 Comp with a wheel upgrade, a different seatpost, and different brakes.

Would love to hear more about this as I'm thinking of moving from my 2010 Enduro (great bike!) to the 29er Comp.

I've only managed to get a spin around a carpark, down some stairs etc. not a very realistic test so would really like to hear if you've had some time on one of these and if you can compare to the 26.

I'm heading you on the seat post, and brakes. What's the deal with the wheels? Are they to heavy for your taste or something else?

On the money side of things I'm totally down with what you are saying, current gear can last a good while with a bit of maintenance, 4 years on my current ride and it's still going strong, 9spd and all.

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morgman
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Morgan Taylor  - March 11, 2014, 2:38 p.m.

I really enjoyed my time on a couple of different Enduro 29s last year. I like big wheels, but most long travel 29ers have correspondingly long rear ends. Specialized did some magic with the front derailleur mount and was able to get a 430mm rear end on the Enduro 29. It pedals like it has less than 155mm in the rear even with the shock open, but descends fast and snappy and sits nicely in its travel.

Compared to the 26″ Enduro it does have that 29er feel. Bigger wheels, more rotational inertia, a slightly steeper head angle, but almost the same travel. Not quite as "flickable" for riders who don't manhandle their bikes in the air. I personally find it just fine and as my comment would indicate, I'd choose it over a 26″ wheel – someone around here has to be a 29er evangelist and that's me.

The wheels are heavy. This is one way to make a 29er feel dead (or not flickable), especially with the heavier tires needed to match the long travel capabilities. I put a set of 1450 gram XC wheels on the Enduro and it brought the bike from feeling All Mountain to Enduro Race, if that makes sense. ENVE or Haven 29 would be a great choice; the XC wheels were on the light side for the platform.

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barnz0rz
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barnz0rz  - March 5, 2014, 7:53 a.m.

Going back to a hardtail was the best bike choice I've made in years…. I have had more fun riding since I got it in September then I've had in quite a while

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mammal
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Mammal  - March 5, 2014, 7:45 a.m.

Agreed about the fine balance between max value and over spending. Built up a steel hardtail last spring and it's been the least I've spent on a bike in a decade and the most fun I've had in years. I do admit to never having tried a mtb wheel over 26″, so maybe ignorance is bliss, to some extent.

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Cheez1ts
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Garrett Thibault  - March 5, 2014, 9:19 a.m.

I've only tried one 29'r and I really really liked the bike, but I still can't wipe the huge grin off my face when I ride my 26″ steel hardtail. It doesn't matter about the wheelsize or price, having fun on a bike is having fun on a bike.

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D_C_
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DMVancouver  - March 5, 2014, 7:16 a.m.

I recently picked up a $1500 hardtail. I have as much fun on it as I do on my $4500 all mountain bike. Sure, my all-mountain bike has dual suspension and higher end, lighter parts, but the entry level parts on my hardtail get the job done. Once you go above a certain threshold, spending more is mostly bling and diminishing returns.

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