For years, cyclists thought the road to mountain biking superiority was paved with body armor and motorcycle-like shocks. It's only recently that mountain bikers have realized that this war of escalating suspension is unwinnable. If you have five inches of suspension, I can get a bike with six. And then you'll get a bike with seven.
This way madness lies.
The answer to this MTB one-upsmanship? Go the other direction. Trendsetters in the mountain bike scene are now rejecting derailleurs, suspension, and lightweight materials in favor of old-school cool.
The problem is, rigid, steel, single-speed bikes already over the place. What's left for the trend-setting retro-grouch to do?
I'm glad you asked. There are still plenty of ways you can shun technological progress to impress your friends. Just follow these simple tips:
OK, fine. You've shunned carbon fiber and even aluminum in favor of good ol' fashioned steel. Good for you. But you know, as long as your bike is made of hollow tubes, you haven't really embraced the material. For your next bike, go with solid steel. Demand that your frame weigh no less than 40 pounds. Ideally, you should have your frame cut out of a solid block of iron, or poured into a bronze mould. Imagine a steel bike with no welds. Beautiful.
But don't let it end there. Are your tires really filled with air? You may as well fill them with helium, you weight weenie. If you really want to convince your friends that you're after a pure, simple experience on your bike, you'll cut out all the complex gymnastics required to keep a tire inflated, and will go with a solid rubber tire -- like the kind wheelchairs use, but with more tread.
Just think: no more tubes, no more rim strips, no more pumps, no more flats right in the middle of the road. And all at a weight penalty of only six pounds of rolling weight. Per wheel.
It's totally worth it, though, because you're keeping it simple.
Did you know that disc brakes have 93 moving parts? Well, they do! Or at least, I'm guessing they do. The fact is, I have never met a human being who really understands how disc brakes work, and we're all so terrified of breaking them that we've never found out for sure. Most right-thinking people believe they are made from technology recovered from alien space ships.
So ask yourself this question: Do disc brakes belong on your bike?
The answer, of course, is: "No."
And don't fool yourself into thinking that side-pull brakes are much simpler. Those use dark magic. As do cantilevers and coaster brakes.
For most instances, a old-school, purist mountain biker like yourself should find the whole idea of brakes laughable. Why would you want to stop? Did you hit the trail today so you could stop? No. You're here to ride.
On the off chance that you do need to stop, however -- I have heard that this is in fact occasionally necessary -- drag a foot (or, if you must, a shoe)on the ground.
If it was good enough for Fred Flintstone, it should be good enough for you.
Saddles are for Sissies
Why do you ride? So you can sit down, lazily lounging about? No. You ride so you can stand up and pedal.
Besides, as a rigid singlespeed rider, when do you ever sit down? Not while climbing: you've got to stand up and row the bike. And not while descending, either: in the absence of suspension, you've got to use your elbows and knees to absorb the bumps.
Do yourself a favor, then, and get rid of that saddle. It's unnecessary, and it's a symbol of sloth. As a purist, you have no need of it.
Dress the Part
Most mountain bike clothing is specifically designed to look like it's not mountain bike clothing at all. And yet, underneath you've got wicking fabric, a fancy antibacterial chamois, and who knows what else, all contributing to excellent cycling functionality with a casual look.
This has got to stop.
It's time to lose the lycra, polyesther, and any other synthetics. If you're going to keep it real, it's time you wear cut off jeans when you ride. Or better yet, burlap.
I guarantee, the chafing (and, most likely, bleeding) you will endure will be worth it, because you -- unlike your comfortable friends -- are no poseur.
In the same way that gorillas thump their chests and wolves bite each other on the throat, singlespeeding mountain bikers assert their dominance by asking each other what gearing they're using.
Send yourself straight to the front of the pack by setting yourself up with a 32-tooth ring in the front and a 3-tooth cog in the back. I guarantee: this 309 gear inches will impress. Especially if you can climb anything greater than a 0.05% incline.
The only problem is, as you make these changes, you can expect your friends will follow suit. Which is why you need to start working -- right now -- on building your own high-wheel MTB. A big wheel up front, a tiny wheel in the back. Kind of like those 69er singlespeeds, but much moreso.
Think about it. No chain, no gears, no freewheel, no brakes. Just a the ultimately biking experience.
Start riding one now, and watch your friends follow your lead.
Elden "Fatty" Nelson blogs as the Fat Cyclist, where he offers up insightful commentary like this most every day of the week. Fatty's current favorite bike is a steel WaltWorks, set up as a rigid singlespeed. He has not yet begun work on building a solid bronze bike, but thinks it would look unbelievably cool.