When the weather started to improve a couple of months back, my neighbour’s two young teenage boys decided, perhaps with a little persuasion from their parents, to start cycling the seven or eight miles each way to school. The opening of a new Sustrans cycle path covering most of the route was a major deciding influence.
The problem was, they both had BMXs, which have again become the normal bike for secondary school kids. Basic BMXs are all well and good for short jaunts but not great for 15 miles every day. So I set about sourcing two practical bigger wheeled bikes for them.
Their budget was not generous and they quickly became as aware as I am that the ‘beginner’ mountain bikes that some of their mates have are way too loaded down with poor suspension and me-too imagery to be a good proposition for anything involving effort over distance.
It seems odd that an averagely switched-on 13 year old becomes quickly aware of this but the bike industry still assumes that hefty inefficient suspension is a better option than no suspension at all.
Kids, and lots of adults, often like the idea of getting a mountain bike rather than a skinny tyred hybrid because the idea of doing some woodsy riding from time to time is appealing, and the fat tyres add comfort. But much of their riding is over even surfaces and over distances where the suspension that typically gets added to low budget bikes is a hinderance rather than a blessing.
Mountain bikes without suspension forks are really difficult to find. It’s a pity. I ended up getting the neighbour’s kids a discounted Kona Smoke and a Ridgeback Cyclone, both adaptable bikes without the usual suspension clutter and both great for school runs and adequate for occasional off road jaunts.
Don’t get me wrong. I love suspension equipped mountain bikes. But there’s no point in adding it to budget bikes that would benefit more from less weight and less rolling resistance. It was strangely refreshing to find that an average 13 year old can work that out, even if much of the industry can’t.
What do you think?