Big Fat Fire: You don’t have to be a gearhead to enjoy the ride (column)
Big Fat Tire
My mostly new bike was nearly built up and ready to go. I was in the shop with the bike on the stand getting last minute adjustments. We were using the wheels off my other frame — why not? They are good wheels, the tires have plenty of life in them, and anyway, I had already spent a bunch of money that I hadn’t planned to spend. It was all happy-feely with lots of bromancing going on, the kind you get when a bunch of guys are hanging out in a workshop. This is until the shop manager pointed out that I had the front tire on backwards (most tires are designed to be directional). Crushed again.
I’m not much of a gearhead. That’s a little unexpected since I grew up in a car racing family. My dad was a self-taught engineer and fabricator. When I got older, I helped with the construction of the cars. Admittedly when my dad and I start talking race car stuff, an old gearhead gene gets switched on, but that’s the exception rather than the rule. I’m usually a decent mechanic and I do most of my own wrenching as long as I have time. Still, with bikes and skis, I’m just not that interested when others who just love talking tech start debating the specs of whatever toy they’re talking about. To me, your tool of choice either suits you or it doesn’t. Despite my motorhead background, I wrench on my bike or my car out of necessity, not mechanical geekdom.
The internet is an interesting phenomenon when it comes to stuff like this. Someone will say something along the lines of “I like X” or “who likes Y?” or “What do you think of Z?” Usually this will set off a five page discussion of why bike X or fork Y or tire Z are either the absolute best thing out there or are absolutely without any redeeming values. There isn’t a lot of objectivity out there.
It’s the same with events like races. Some people (OK, it’s mostly guys) will tell you this race is the absolute best, most fun, most challenging and the next post will be from someone saying that same race is the worst-run sorry excuse for a race out there. Post asking for information about Leadville and I guarantee 30 percent of the replies will be how you shouldn’t waste your money on such a lame race and go do a real mountain bike race such as Y.
Even better, start a conversation about where the best trails are and what the best trail is. There will be a full-fledged version of interwebz WWF cage match to the death. “My town is better than your town,” “You aren’t a real mountain biker if you like trail X,” “You’d like trail Y if you’d just progress your skill.” Then start talking about any trail work that’s been done. The lot of a trail manager/designer/builder is a tough one; you are guaranteed to catch grief from a number of disgruntled mountain bikers who are unsatisfied with your work (they are almost always people who don’t volunteer for trail days).
Saving the best for last, any conversation about clothing almost always degenerates into a Spandex vs baggies brawl with predictable comments about one’s suppressed sexuality.
Yes, there are people out there who are fine with others predilections and don’t have strong, gospel opinions about whatever bike, fork, race, festival, trail or clothing items someone else prefers, but sometimes you wonder if there are very many of them.
I guess it just shows how diverse mountain biking has become. There are a mind-boggling variety of bikes and gear out there. There are seemingly endless choices for you whether you are a XC racer, a “trail” or “all mountain” rider (I’m still not sure what those two terms really mean) or a gravity slave riding lifts or bikes with tires like automobile inner tubes.
I just don’t get hung up on any of it. Yes, some bikes are better suited for different types of riding, but it’s just a bike. There are very few truly junky bikes past a certain price-point threshold so ride whatever tool fits your passion and whatever feels best to you. As long as you’re riding in a responsible and respectful way it’s all good. Just don’t expect to engage me in a long conversation about the merits of X, Y, or Z. I’ll just shrug my shoulders.
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