There’s a huge untapped secret army out there, often underrepresented by the industry and the press.
Myself and most of my friends represent a fairly large (geddit!?) demographic of this. We’re mainly male, in our thirties and above (although not exclusively, there are young ‘uns amongst us as well), with mortgages, and responsibilities that mean that we can’t ride our bikes as often as we’d like to and, as a result, our bellies are steadily growing. We generally have average to good skills, not Steve Peat type skills and come from a cross country background not a street or gravity background. As we get older we want a bit more suspension, so now many of us are getting in to all mountain bikes for comfort as much as for performance.
Just because we are large, doesn’t mean we want to ride freeride bikes, in order to take our bulk. Gravity was seen as glamorous until people got fed up of pushing these heavy behemoths uphill due to the lack of uplift facilities…this is the UK after all, not the USA or the Alps. Guy Kesteven has covered this many times and has stated the five inch trail bike as the best all round option for
The bicycle companies and the mountain bike press often see ‘low weight and strength’ as the key words in their advertising. But note the emphasis in the sentence. It is on low weight first and strength second. The advertising and press is about how light the bikes can be made, then the fact that these light bikes are also stronger and stiffer than last year’s models.
The majority of us fat lads like riding trails just like anyone else. We want a bike that can hold our bulk but not be too heavy. Personally, I want the bike to be strong enough for my bulk first, then be light second. I don’t care that a full suspension frame can be five pounds in weight. I’d rather it was 6 and a half pounds and I felt reassured that I wasn’t going to snap it.
Yeti in particular have responded well to concerns from larger mountain bikers - the new hydroformed 575 is stronger and lighter (my emphasis) than the previous CNC knuckled version...Interestingly, Yeti said they only replaced the knuckle because people kept anxiously asking them if it would snap, but they haven't actually had any that did snap at the knuckle! so, they've cleverly dealt with a perception, not a reality...
I remember ten years ago wishing that I had a Pace RC 100 hardtail frame, but it had a maximum fifteen stone weight limit, from memory...did this depress me? did it inspire me to lose weight or did it just make me think of a different brand? Come forward ten years and there are ever more options for the more rounded mountain biker with other commitments than just riding his bike.
But something that may be worth finding out is the upper rider weight limit for the whole ranges of manufacturer's bikes, not just how light the bikes are!...my hunch is they can cope with people like me who are a couple or three stone or so overweight... but it would be great to know exactly, and, yes, maybe it would be an incentive to lose some weight for some of us.
As always, comments are welcome – please feel free to share your stories and your bike choices.