Guest blog by Brittany Phelps of The Diva Feed
That bike is “too much for me.” What does that even mean? I have worked in the bike industry since 2009 and I have heard this phrase too many times. Mostly from women. Similarly, I have also heard, “I don’t want a bike that makes me go faster.” Uh, whaaat? That’s crazy talk! But really I get it, it’s mostly a miscommunication. What most people are saying is that they fear being unable to manage the bike and they fear uncontrollable speeds and riding outside of their ability/comfort zone. This is understandable and fairly responsible! I have some insight that I believe will address those concerns and offer future bike buyers some insight that will help guide their bike purchases.
Riding Captain Ahab in Moab, Utah
I certainly haven’t done extensive scientific research to justify this blog, however I think the historical buying patterns are really quite simple. Hypothetically a person walks into a bike shop looking for a bike. Let’s say they have been following their boyfriend and his crusty mountain bike buddies and riding across the American Southwest. Maybe they feel comfortable riding the 18 Roads, the Brand trail-types and other buffed singletrack options but they are really curious about trails like Porcupine Rim, or maybe even some big mountain climbs like the Monarch Crest trail. They probably are riding an older bike, not outdated but older. They probably had no idea, or have no idea what they are riding. This should never go unappreciated. Think about the frankenbike that you started on. Have you ever thought about the fact that somehow you managed to stay inspired while riding that piece of junk down some rocky trail? Have you ever wondered what it was about mountain biking that kept you always searching for that next trail?
Brand Trails, Moab, Utah
Anyways, their current bike, it’s too big, or too small. The handlebars are super narrow, they have an insane stem and riser bar set up. The shocks are in rough shape, the tires are skinny- too skinny and ain’t nobody got time for that. Fingers crossed they don’t have a monster saddle or toe clips. Maybe it’s a hardtail and their super modern, mountain-bike-junkie boyfriend already took the reflectors off. Anyhow, this person walks into the shop, daydreaming about their first real bike purchase and anticipating the day that they take their bike off the shuttle van and fearlessly ride down some of the country’s most epic trails. They have some vision in their mind of a bike that inspires a new kind of confidence. The problem is, they have no idea how to communicate these feelings they desire.
Bike shop people ask them things like; what wheel size do you prefer? Where do you ride? What kind of bike do you have now? What’s your price range? The customer retorts with a vague list of desired specs and retort from Bike Mag’s Bike Bible (actually that’s pretty intense, but yea, let’s say they understand that much). They narrow down a few bikes in their size and divulge in the geometry, and the technology in the rear linkages. It then is time to embark onto the test ride phase aka harsh shifts, blasting into curbs, awkwardly standing up while coasting and the infamous shock and fork thrashing (for lack of better words). They finally hop on the bike in their pink crocs (lol) and take it for a spin around the parking lot. They try to imagine ‘berm, berm, jump.’ It gets wild as they counter steer through the parking lot, dodging cigarette butts and leaning the bike into imaginary corners testing its maneuverability.
All the bikes feel amazing compared to the hunk of junk that has been disassembled and is in the backseat of their car right now. Okay, yes, this is 100% my personal story, laugh now and then forever hold your peace. They try to find something that is, sort of, middle of the road. They might even go so far as to say, an “all-around” bike; not too much travel (boring), not too slacked out (super boring), not too heavy (a given) not too fast (irrelevant). The goal is to find something that feels comfortable climbing and descending. The good news is that the bike industry has been there and done that and the bikes available these days address all those concerns.
Classic Fruita Trails overlooking the Colorado River
On paper, so many bikes fit this category. However, we are still left to address, what can that bike do for that customer? The next question, is this bike the right tool for the job? Break that down even further, the real question, the only question to ask the customer is, does this bike inspire you? When I am riding my Knolly I feel like my bike is a work horse. In the most technical sections I find myself giving up before the bike quits. However, this is happening less and less every time because my Endorphin inspires me to try things I didn’t even believe I would be capable of doing. I knew when I chose Knolly that I would probably never push this bike to its limits, but looking back, I’m sure glad I didn’t limit myself from trying.
So if you’re buying a bike, remember it is normal and completely acceptable if you do not know exactly how much you will push your abilities or if you will ever ride the bike at its limits. It is also normal to not always know where you will ride and how hard the trails will be. So if you’re buying a bike, think ahead and when you think you’re thinking ahead, think ahead further! There is no need to be conservative with your thoughts on how much you will progress. If you feel the need to limit your prediction of your future abilities, I do believe you will regret it in one of two ways. You will either find yourself walking down miles and miles of trails, or you will find yourself buying a new bike within a year or two.
Taking a break in Sedona
You simply cannot buy too much bike.
So hear this advice and take it as you will. You simply cannot buy too much bike. You can buy the wrong kind of bike for what you’re trying to accomplish. For example, you probably don’t need a full downhill, 8″ travel bike if you mostly ride cross country trails. But does 6.6″ of travel hinder your ability to climb up a big mountain pass? No, it doesn’t. Will 29″ wheels really make you faster if you aren’t practicing cornering and staying off the brakes? Definitely not. Will carbon really make a difference if you put heavy wheels and components on it? Probably, actually, realistically, no. The picture I’m painting is, that at the end of the day it comes down to how much you ride and how often you practice. You are buying a tool that will help you become a better rider so don’t limit yourself by being conservative with your riding potential. You’re buying a mountain bike, many of us are looking to keep that bike over a period of time. Similar to skis, you want to buy a bike that you can handle, but can grow into. Maybe right now you aren’t jumping your bike but that doesn’t mean that in due time two wheels won’t leave the ground. Remember, a full suspension bike can ride a dirt road just as well, if not better and certainly more comfortably than a hardtail. They say that humans only use 10% of their brains, well when it comes to buying a bike, turn that S*$% up to 11. Think ahead, dream bigger, see yourself exceeding your own expectations and remember that staying inspired is what will help you improve.