A New Year?s Resolution?
January 03 2012
I’ve been fiddling with my bikes a lot recently. Periodically I get unsettled, unsure whether I’ve taken the right path, made bad decisions, squandered opportunities and found myself in a cul-de-sac of tepid bike specing stagnation. It’s New Year’s Day and instead of being out on the bike I’m on the sofa, thinking about thinking of going for a ride. I’m mildly hung over and with rain beating against the window it’s not the time to get too carried away. The washing machine gargles away in the corner and as it chokes on the muddy slime of winter’s froth, now’s the time to do some thinking.
A full 29 inches - the next big thing?
Flipping through an old issue of Dirt I stopped on Seb Kemp’s column talking about Albert Kinsey and his scale of sexual orientation, it seemed like an alternative topic for a bike magazine. I’m not particularly interested in the scale and I don’t know too much about his life’s work, but I was curious how this was going to come back around to cycling. Quoting Kinsey the theme of the scale is that “nature rarely deals with discrete categories” and instead is a “continuum in each and every one of its aspects”. Basically, you are unlikely to be absolutely hetro- or homosexual, instead you are in a category from 0-6. I haven’t checked the facts here, but Seb’s authority on the scale is solid enough for me to rely on.
Kemp carries on with wit and style, but basically he applies Kinsey’s theories to the world of mountain bikes; “tired of the proliferation of category terminology” he wants a marketing continuum, a sliding scale from 0-6 where product can be infinitely placed without label or discrimination. A scale in itself can be inherently restrictive, but his point still stands, why assume bikes have to fit a definite category? In last year’s brochure Steve Wade (our designer) said he wanted to get away from numbers and instead focus on the ride. What is an amount of travel? What is a head-angle? What is a seat-tube diameter? In isolation all these things are arbitrary with no orientation to anything specific, but as a whole they are forced to morph in the expected industry pattern. Individually good features which absolutely must combine in a way which predetermines use, that’s how it works right? An all-mountain bike has X, Y and Z…
So what’s my point and why did chancing on Seb’s column clear my mind? Well, I find myself messing with bikes because I’m never happy, swopping and changing more frequently than my bank balance can often stand. Why? I do it because I’m trying to force myself into a category that doesn’t fit, I’m pretending to be something I’m not. I’m not an XC rider - I’m too unfit. I’m not a downhiller - I’m too scared. I’m certainly not a trials rider – I’m too rubbish. I don’t fit into a category and neither do my bikes. As a brand we build frames for a general area of use, but you don’t necessarily need to interpret use according to the terms we or anyone else prescribes.
Ride it your way. An old vid, (over)testing the ST4 on my local trails...
So what is my New Year’s resolution? It isn’t to persuade my colleagues we should dispense with our ‘ride guide’ system, we need categories to give the bikes a general theme. It isn’t even to try different disciplines again, I don’t have to buy another jump bike to know I’m still not as good as the spotty teenager in the park. Instead, my New Year’s resolution is to stop faffing, to stop second-guessing ‘development’ and to build bikes for how I want to ride, where I want to ride, now. Simple.
What does this mean for the personal fleet? Less tinkering, and being happy that my Five is setup exactly as I want it – heavy and overbuilt, but fun. It also means I’m going to come out of the XC closet and buy a 29er frame and build it for how I ride. There’s no right and wrong, and if wheel size was on Kinsey’s continuum you wouldn’t have to decide which way you wanted to swing. 29er ambient-enduro, 26 flow-light, 24 lump-pump, 650b CC – it’s all-good in this particular camp. As a brand we don’t shirk fashion, sometimes it’s cool, but throughout 2012 we’ll keep doing the things we like and we think you will too. Continuing the evolution, simply.
Stop faffing, start riding… (but be cautious during rain showers…)
Happy New Year whatever, wherever and however you ride…
Kemp, S (2010) Dirt Magazine: December. Vol.106