Has a bike's performance ever surprised you?

An ugly bike that was so fast or a gorgeous bike that was torture

Just like people, bikes come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and colors. And personalities, too. Sometimes the beauty matches the performance, other times it's all for show. 

Only awesome in appearance

Bikes like this are the biggest let downs. It's easy for the eyes to convince a bicycle geek's brain that a bike that looks the part will actually play the part. 

The sleek tube junctions, the oh-so-fancy drivetrain, and deep, aero rims, surely they'll combine to create an absolute screamer that'll have you setting personal records on every ride. 

Maybe even the geometry has you intrigued and under a spell. The numbers mirror what you want, what you need. People are actually pretty terrible at decision making and desire is good at deception. 

Only then, when you ride it, does the dream all come crashing down. It could be weight, maybe it's flexy, perhaps it's way too stiff, whatever it is, the bike doesn't jive with you and the ride sucks. 

I've ridden a handful of bikes like this. Luckily, most were in the late nineties and early 2000s, when reality and technology still sat on opposite sides of the room like boys and girls at a middle school dance. 

This is amazing!

Bikes that fall into this category are so amazing. The dull-looking, boring machines that only upon riding do you realize that they're total sleepers like the little, old car that's rocking a twin-turbo V8 under the bonnet. 

There's a good chance these bikes don't have the latest, hyper-modulus, top-secret, aerospace carbon. And chances are the wheels aren't deep black circles emblazoned with the trendiest, spendiest, color-matched logo. But it doesn't matter, because when you hop on it, all is right in your cycling universe. The bike and you are one. 

The bikes that don't look fast, or sleek, or have the right combo of colors yet still somehow manage to have that intangible magic that allows you to ride better, faster, and farther — these are the lifetime possessions that memories are made of. 

I've experienced a few of these bikes, too. Most noticeably and interestingly, Trek's 69er platform. It was a short-lived experiment, born from the mind of pro-rider Travis Brown where the front wheel was a 29er and the rear a 26er (this was before 27.5in was much of a thing). For me, it was love at first pedal stroke. So much so, I still have two complete 69ers in my garage, one with a squishy fork and gears, the other a rigid singlespeed. Oh yeah, I have a spare frame as well. 

Over to you... 

Have you ridden a bike that looked the business, oh so perfect, so perfectly proportioned, so gorgeous but in reality actually rode like crap? Or have you had a complete mutt of a bike, one that you avoided to not have to experience its surely dismal performance only to be utterly amazed by its incomprehensible speed and agility? 

Ugly or beautiful, fast or slow, whispy noodle or jackhammer of pain, let us know in the comments below.

Russell Eich

Tech Writer, US
Russell fell head over heels in love with bikes in the '90s, and has been involved in the bike industry ever since. Between wrenching in bike shops, guiding professionally, and writing about bikes, Russell has honed an appreciation for what works, gained knowledge of what doesn't, and can barely contain his enthusiasm for what comes next. His two-wheeled passion continues in the Rocky Mountains high above Boulder, Colorado.
  • Discipline: Mountain, road, cyclocross
  • Preferred Terrain: High altitudes, forgotten singletracks, bike parks, roads without cars
  • Current Bikes: Custom Meriwether steel hardtail, Specialized S-Works Enduro 29, Kona Jake the Snake, Trek 69er, and a bunch more
  • Dream Bike: Yeti SB5c, Intense Tracer 275C, Black Cat custom road
  • Beer of Choice: Gin + Tonic
  • Location: Rollinsville, CO, USA

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