The 5 Clichéd 'Truths' You Should Avoid When Buying a Mountain Bike
Back in the market for a new ride? Here's five things to watch out for when the salesmen get going...
The mountain biking world is full of clichés, some of which are definitely more cringeworthy than others.
The sport is still in its infancy and struggling to cement an identity in the rapidly expanding world of action sports, and because of this, there can still be a lot of confusion about what bike is best to fit your needs.
Whenever you go to buy a mountain bike, you can be absolutely sure that you'll encounter a certain group of set trends. Trends are trends for a reason though, and being able to find the root cause of them is the best way to stamp them out.
Anything enduro-specific is likely the same product as last year painted yellow
Point three of this list will particularly take some stamping before it goes away. Our media outlets have done an amazing job of polarising opinion around something that really isn't of as much importance as it's made out to be.
The following things wind me up in equal measure. Having formerly been a mountain bike marketeer though, I do have to hold up my hands and admit to having actively promoted some of these points in one way or another, and for that I am truly sorry.
It’s hard not to roll your eyes though whenever you see any of this nonsense…
1. Enduro-specific bikes
Last time we checked, enduro was a race format, not a style of riding. Subsequently, you can’t go for an 'enduro ride' unless you have ridden as fast as humanly possible against the clock.
Strava does not count in this instance, because nobody knows you're doing it unless you're one of those militant Strava types who insists on informing everyone of your rank at every available opportunity.
Enduro is simply the riding everyone did anyway festooned with a limitless marketing budget, international race series and its very own buzzwords.
It's what everyone else used to just call mountain biking. Please try and remember this. Anything enduro-specific is likely the same product as last year painted yellow.
2. Dinner plate-size cassettes
SRAM XX1, Hope's T-Rex and Shimano's new 11-speed drivetrain are all squarely aimed at getting riders to the top of a hill with less effort involved.
Small front chainrings combined with a very wide ratio cassette ensure you can find gears to suit almost any incline. These new developments certainly do offer the average rider an easier time of it when climbing, but ultimately, surely this will only make the problem worse?
If you're never riding hard, then you'll never get fitter, so you will never get yourself out of the situation. Buying something to make you appear faster is all the rage these days. I for one would much rather do some training, give it the beans and get faster by, well, just being faster.
This is a huge pet hate. Ever since the mountain bike world entertained the notion of new wheelsize it has been the source of some hefty debate.
29" wheels were the ugly duckling and took years to reach acceptance, and 27.5" (or 650b) wheels are a new phenomenon and have made it nearly impossible to choose what bike to buy any more.
I have even overheard sensible people claiming that they 'hate' a certain wheelsize despite having never even tried it. How can you hate an inanimate object?
Do not drop a bike out of a shortlist for potential purchases solely based on its wheelsize. It would be a tragic mistake
My last bike change was from a 26", 120mm travel, 25lb carbon XC bike that I should not have been riding on the trails I was riding it on. My current bike is a 27.5"-wheeled, 150mm travel, alloy/carbon, 30lb+ dare I say it, mountain bike.
My current bike is in no way, shape or form similar to my previous, other than in the fact that it is a full suspension mountain bike. For that reason I have yet to notice the difference in wheelsize that might just equate to less than 5mm.
It is still possible to make a terrible bike regardless of what wheels you have chosen to spec it with or what new wonder technology or material you have furnished it with. Do not drop a bike out of a shortlist for potential purchases solely based on its wheelsize. It would be a tragic mistake.
4. Carbon Fibre
This is not a mountain bike-specific phenomenon. Many companies have chosen to trade their once fantastic alloy or steel bicycles for carbon designs due to consumer demand, but as with anything, there are plenty of times when this does not work out.
The obsession with carbon fibre means that there is now a massive quantity of terrible carbon fibre bikes out there that are heavier and less fun to ride than their aluminium or steel counterparts.
You also can’t recycle carbon fibre, unlike steel or aluminium. Once it's dead, it goes straight to the dump.
Good aluminium or steel is always better than cheap carbon fibre. Take a moment to consider this before being drawn in by the carbon fibre bike that is suspiciously cheaper than the other carbon machines.
5. Downhill Pyjamas
If you’re going to be buying a new bike, you’re going to want some new gear to go with it, and there is just as much to watch out for in this market as there is when you’re getting your ride.
There was a time, not that long ago, when some companies, Troy Lee Designs first and foremost, created a set of downhill tops and Moto pants that looked like they would be just as good on the track as they would in the bedroom. Many wished they would stay in the latter and never be seen in broad daylight.
Just because your favourite downhill superstar is rocking the latest bedwear between the tapes, doesn't mean you have to
Colour coordination is key, and matching top and bottoms is a nice touch, but please think about what you look like before you drop your hard earned cash on an overpriced onesie.
Just because your favourite downhill superstar is rocking the latest bedwear between the tapes, doesn't mean you have to. They are paid to ride in this stuff, whereas you will be paying to ride in it.
Make sure that your kit matches, or at least compliments your bike's colour scheme. Pinstripe is generally not acceptable on anything apart from helmets.