The Bikemonger: Oi! Not that one…

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Charlie the Bikemonger is a purveyor of bicycle merchandise, singlespeed addict, and advocate of fun. Luckily for you he also (probably) thinks too much about riding bikes – and he’s here to tell you all about it…

So here is the thing, the really big thing… you may well be on the wrong bike. “What? Did he just say that?! Who do you think you are, Charlie?” Woah! Hold on, calm down, keep your hair on… Hear me out.

You’re mental…

Inside your typical mountain bikers’ brain, there is a secret epic battle. Two factions apparently getting along just fine, who really are fundamentally at odds with each other. Happy in love together, completely unaware they are destroying each other.

It’s only natural to have a hunger for the challenge; to always be looking out for technical singletrack, picking up local intelligence, going on recon missions, finding the disguised trailhead. Personally I love the slow technical descents where you are ‘balls on’ to a locked-up rear wheel with a silent scream in your throat, desperately trying to decode the next set of roots and drops. You get half a second to plan your route, but a rock sends you the wrong way; so man the hell up and ride it out, no matter how ugly it gets. This is it, this is the reward.

However, while one half of the brain is often dead set on getting rad, the other half is desperately seeking methods of making these technical trails easier. Already thrown in 140mm of travel and a stack of money? How about a dropper post, bigger discs and some knee pads? Ah yeah, now it’s easier. Actually, now it’s easy. The gnarly trail you heard rumour of, hunted down, and eventually nearly mastered with the aid of nothing but your own balls and stupidity, is now easy.

STOP! Go back to square one, start again, it’s all over now. Find more hard stuff to hit. Sincerely this is the only way out, this is the dragon being chased – you now need stronger and harder shit to ride. So go and find it. Hey, I’m not complaining, this is how I ended up dodging eruptions in Iceland. As your technology ups its game, as your gun gets bigger, you need to find yourself bigger game to chase. Any surfer who has an 11-foot pintail on the wall had better have an appetite for big surf. With a Les Paul in the corner, you’d better be able to wail. Got a long travel freeride bike… you’d better be able to take big drops.

Otherwise you run the risk of being the guy who stopped having fun, and started finding excuses and saying crap like ‘I’m over it’. Or being the kid with all the toys and no respect – a sloppy emulator at best. All because you were over-biked for your trails or under-trailed for your bike.

The official way to figure out what's fun
The official way to figure out what’s fun

Free your mind and your chamois will follow…

Ever heard of a Venn diagram? It’s a bunch of circles that explain where some stuff and some other stuff hang out in a two-dimensional world. Venn diagrams are great for business strategies. You can plot the entire toilet roll market over two axis of ‘soft to hard’ and ‘cheap to expensive’. Get it? So here is something for you to do. (Hey, I’m giving you homework – this has all become a bit interactive…)

Do this: Make a chart of your quiver of bikes. Use the axis of ‘fun to race’ and ‘road to mountain’ and draw shapes that show where your bikes sit. Do a lot of your bikes overlap on the diagram? You are duplicating. Have you only filled up one corner of the chart? That’s probably because you hate racing and gravel and smooth stuff, or have never tried it.

I once had a memorable chat with a good customer and a good guy. He wanted the new carbon 29er full sus frame.

“But you already have it…”
“No, Charlie – the new carbon one”.
“But that’s the same as your alloy one, just 400g lighter. You will be spending thousands replicating exactly the same experience.”
“OK Charlie, what would you do?”

After a little thought I prescribed a Surly Big Dummy cargo bike, because he lives on an island with low speed limits, has kids, and tourist traffic jams to deal with. With the money left over we went with a fat bike, because his island doubles in size at low tide. Heading half a mile out, he could ride the rocky terrain that was under the sea a few hours earlier. Two great, entirely new experiences, that are not only cool, but that he also gets to share with his family. Hey – it’s a whole big world of bikes out there. You have never had it better, you overgrown brats. Whatever you want, it’s up for grabs.

So if you are thinking of buying a bike because it has 10mm more travel, or an extra cog, or new graphics… Simply slap yourself around the face with a firmly rolled up copy of MBUK [other magazines are available – Ed.] and buy a ‘cross bike instead (after reading Mint Sauce). Jeez… ‘cross bikes are good, you get to chase down and pass roadies and then tuck into the singletrack, blatantly robbing the skinny bastards of the opportunity to catch you. You get to fly past over-biked full sus kids, elbows down, on the drops, wrestling your inadequate tyres through terrain that will make the warranty guy triple crown*.

And here, my beautiful Singletrackworld friends, we come back to the start. Entertain the idea of hitting your local tech trails on a bike that ain’t ideal. That ain’t optimised. Ditch your gears, 40mm and drop bars, or rigid steel, and get back that old feeling, the ‘woah I cleaned it!’ feeling. You cleaned it. You did it – not a massively effective and efficient bike.

Charlie, practising what he preaches.
Charlie, practising what he preaches.

Shed the sus rig and do us all a favour. If your riding has lost its taste, then try another flavour. You have gotta stay jazzed. If you are not having fun, then what are you having? This ain’t no spinning class, this is really bloody important.

THIS IS MESSING AROUND ON BIKES.

*The Triple Crown is the most coveted surfing contest in the world. Held in Hawaii every winter, over three locations, often in 20ft+ waves. However the cheeky Australians use it to describe evacuating from all three exits simultaneously. Hey, isn’t it great to learn stuff?

Comments (19)

    This ain’t no spinning class, this is really bloody important.

    THIS IS MESSING AROUND ON BIKES.

    Love it……!!!

    Bang on the money!

    Is it 2000 again?

    😉

    YES YES YES, couldn’t agree more. Although it is still great to have a sexy new gnaar bike too, for special occasions.

    How right .Good article.

    Some true words indeed…..
    …..but maybe I do need that titanium 29+!!!!!

    I bought an Anthem 29er two years ago because I had, unusually, made quite a bit of money. I know it isn’t a Bikemonger type of bike, but it also wasn’t the type of bike I’d normally buy, and in many respects it falls a bit short for some of the terrain I ride over. But it’s bloody lovely and I’m probably having the most enjoyment on it, that I’ve had out of any bike.

    I bought it because I liked it and because I had a little extra dosh available, so I wasn’t frightened of breaking the mould, so to speak. Which, I think, proves Charlie’s point!

    He was also right when he instructed me to drink Henry Weston’s Vintage Cider several years back. I never drank cider then, but he converted me.

    Charlie The Bikemonger…….cures all your ills.

    The other small considerations were a) that my knees were buggered and full suspension did them no end of favours, and b) how many long travel hard tails does a talentless rider need to have in his garage anyway?

    The answer to b being in the negative…Not One More!

    Although I quite like the look of that………………..etc etc

    Bought a kona unit on the ride to work scheme. Cheapest bike I’ve ever bought and probably the most fun. It makes everything a challenge and because it’s rigid (as well as single speed) the wheels are normally off the ground 🙂

    Oh, they removed all the swearing. But they are the grown ups and know best.

    Thanks, sincerely for the comments. Writing for STW is a weird thing. I am jazzed to be given the chance to do this, but it’s not easy finding enough sense in my head to form 1000 words of non-drivel. And then you wonder if it will be received well. Thanks again.

    Thats the most sensible thing I’ve read on Singletrack in a long time. Interestingly (to me), although I’ve got bikes which cover the whole spectrum above, the 2 that get used almost exclusively sit firmly in the bottom left corner and top right corner respectively. So its either big fun or big pain on my rides!

    Oh, and once Charlie has introduced you to cider, get him to take you to the Square & Compass where they make their own 🙂

    Amen.

    Though I now just have a big circle around the whole chart with ‘Tripster’ written next to it.

    I put ‘Summer’ and ‘Winter’ on the Y axis. Works better for me as I don’t race and fun’s kind of a given.

    Fantastic, well said Charlie.

    He talks so much sense for someone so crazy 🙂

    “…it’s not easy finding enough sense in my head to form 1000 words of non-drivel. And then you wonder if it will be received well.”
    Welcome to my daily life, Charlie 🙂

    I tried riding rigid, got shaken to bits, hated it. Never again (except in winter’s deepest slop).

    SS is great though.

    Excellent. Not news but nicely written and a reminder to buy something different next time

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