Riding a bike is an absolute joy. Or at least, it should be. Sometimes though, there are little things that get under our skin. Little things that really bother us for absolutely no reason whatsoever other than they’re just not quite right. You might be reading this wondering what the hell I’m on about. I mean, most people just get on their bikes and ride right?
But for the perfectionists out there, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. And you’ll know that “just getting on your bike and riding it” is straight out of fantasy land. I mean, how can you possibly concentrate on the trail ahead when the rider in front of you has their quick release lever facing forwards??
There are lots of little things that bother us from an aesthetic perspective. And in the point of full disclosure before we offend anybody, they’re just exactly that. Aesthetic irritations. Visual blemishes. Unsightly annoyances. Indeed, none of these really have any effect on how our bikes actually ride, and there are largely much bigger things to worry about in life. But that doesn’t stop them from being really, really irritating for the more obsessive ones of us in the world.
1. Unsightly Disc Brake Stickers
Urgh. Easily one of the most irritating side effects of having a bike that comes with Shimano disc brakes is that little warning sticker on the rotor. It is actually a useful sticker, because it tells you not to touch the rotors, and for those unfamiliar with the premise of brake pad contamination, that’s good. What isn’t good is seeing a five-year old mountain bike that has had three drivetrain replacements, and yet still has the original orange stickers attached to the original disc rotors.
And not only is it a sticker, but it’s FLUORO ORANGE, so your eyes are constantly drawn to its annoying presence. So, read the warning sticker when you get your new bike, then simply peel it off. Easy.
2. Poorly Aligned Stems
Ok, so there are varying degrees for this one. Because modern steerer tubes and stems aren’t indexed (Wow. Imagine if they were? Now THAT is a fantasy land I want to live in!), lining up your bar and stem to the front wheel can be something of a guessing game. But this is a game that some people get very, very wrong.
Unless you suffer from eyesight issues or a biomechanical issue whereby one arm is shorter than the other, this should not be a problem. If you’re in the former camp, find a friend with good vision and straighten out that stem! Oh and if not, you could always buy one of those £65 laser-alignment tools from Tune. Yes, I have one…
3. Incorrect Tyre Logo Placement
At Singletrack, we spend a lot of time shooting photos of bikes. Be it for Fresh Goods Friday or out on set snapping shots of a bike for the magazine, we exhaust many hours looking at bikes and positioning them in an eye-pleasing manner for your visual pleasure. So you’ll understand just how hot under the collar we get when we have a bike where the tyres aren’t lined up with the rim. [Ed – actually, that’s just you Wil. The rest of us are waaay more chilled than you..except maybe Rob Crayons].
And how is that I hear you ask? Well it’s simple really, and here is the rule that EVERY bike should follow: the graphics of the tyre need to line up with the valve on the rim. Using the above photo as an example, the “Vigilante 2.3” logo should be at the bottom of the rim in the 6 o’clock position where the valve is, and the “WTB” logo should be at the 12 o’clock position. Simple.
4. Helmet Strap Flap
Yes there are many different heads out there. And yes, there are also many different helmets out there. But the number of helmets we’ve come across that end up with a snake-like end-trail of excess strap floating about in the breeze has left us a little baffled. Perhaps our chins and gullets are on the emaciated side?
Whatever the reason, being slapped in the face by your own helmet is not only irritating, it’s downright humiliating. Zip ties, O-rings and rubber bands have all been employed to reign in our helmet coattails, but do they really need to be that long in the first place?
5. Non-Compliant QR Lever Placement
Oh no. This one is downright awful. This one really gets Wil’s twitch on.
It’s almost as bad as seeing a road biker with the little lever on their brake calliper flicked open. Except with lever placement on a mountain bike wheel, this one has the potential to be quite unsafe too. Seriously. Just think for a moment how many times you’ve ridden off road alongside dense bush where overhanging branches and tree stumps come within spitting distance of your fork or frame dropouts. With a forward-facing lever, is that not basically an outstretched hand wanting to grab on any trail debris that comes near you?
The simple solution is to either mount your QR lever facing backwards, or tuck it up into the fork leg so that it has nowhere to go if it does get caught. Because safety. It also looks MUCH better too, and causes less eye-twitching.
6. Wayward Disc Brake Bleed Port Plugs
This is one for the eagle-eyed perfectionists out there, and likely one that only mechanics really pick up on. But it is still highly annoying for the more particular ones amongst us. On Shimano hydraulic disc brakes, there’s a little rubber cover that shields the bleed nipple. Because the bleed nipple is closed (or at least it should be?!), this cover doesn’t really do anything – much like a valve cap on a tube valve. It may keep any residue oil from flicking onto the rotor, but it’s not as if oil will come flooding out of it if it’s not fitted properly.
Despite it not really mattering if its left dangling on its own, that doesn’t stop it from being a visual hiccup on an otherwise lovely looking bike. So don’t leave your bleed nipples uncovered. Put a rubber cap on it instead, and keep your obsessive riding friends happy.
7. Mud-Collecting Fork Arches
The hollowing-out of fork arches has long been used to remove excess weight from the magnesium chassis on modern suspension forks, and it’s also employed to fine tune the overall stiffness and compliance of the fork lowers. But holy crap, is this not just a magnet for mud and dirt?? Even after you’ve washed down your bike following a wet and sloppy ride in the forest, there almost always seems to be an extra 1/3rd of a pound of mud concealed inside those little machined-out pockets.
Most of our test bikes get fitted with some kind of Marsh Guard or other fork arch-mounted mudflap. But even still, is there not a simple way to cover up this indefensible mud pit? We’re looking at YOU fork manufacturers!
8. Shadow Plus Clutch Lever Switched ‘Off’
Shimano’s engineers spent a long time coming up with the Shadow Plus system. In case you didn’t know, it’s a one-way friction clutch that helps to keep the chain nice and tight so it makes less noise and it’s less likely to come off the front chainrings. In fact, it’s one of the key technologies that paved the way for the modern 1x drivetrain system. Really, it is amazing. So after all that hard work that Shimano’s engineers put in to offer you this ride-smoothening, noise-cancelling technology, you leave the switch off?
The reason there is a lever there in the first place is so you can turn the friction clutch off to help you get the wheel in and out of the bike. Just don’t forget to switch it back into the “on” position when you put the wheel back on your bike. It’ll save your obsessive riding mates from blowing a gasket.
9. Twisted Saddle Placement
This affliction may be related to the off-centre stem people. Perhaps crooked vision can be blamed again. Or perhaps there is some anatomical anomaly that necessitates the need for a wonky saddle nose? Whatever the reason, a saddle that isn’t lined up with the top tube on your bike is wrong. Just plain wrong.
Wil can admit to having actually used a laser to align his saddle correctly to the front of the bike. Is he a bike nerd? Or is he right?
10. Birds Nest Cabling
This is one you have to get used to as a bike tester, because you simply don’t have enough time to shorten the gear cables and brake lines on every single test bike that comes through the office. And inevitably there will be bikes like the example below that just leave the hairs on your neck standing up whenever you cast a glance towards the front of the handlebars. Noodles. Spaghetti. Worms. Silly string. Whatever it reminds you of, it is unsightly in every sense of the word.
At its worst, excessive cable length can actually be quite a hazard when riding through shrubby trails, where wayward obstacles are likely to snag one of the lassos on the front of your bike. At its least-worst, long cables just look messy. And for not that much money, you can get them trimmed back to their optimal length at your local bike shop. Put that on the upgrade list above the carbon handlebar and the new 1x drivetrain.
11. Forgetful Removal Of Cassette Pie Plates
I’m pretty sure this is a universally loathed component, but then how is it that so many bikes on the trails are still afflicted with this god-awful piece of plastic? Perhaps riders simply forget? Or perhaps riders actually prefer to have that plastic pie plate on there? It is indeed the only contender on this list that does indeed serve a functional purpose. Two in fact. Firstly, the plastic pie plate acts as an emergency barrier between the end of the cassette and the spokes, so your chain is less likely to jam itself in a new home.
The other function it serves is as a barrier between your disc rotor and the lubricants and degreasers used on your cassette. That helps to avoid your brakes from being accidentally contaminated. So really, the plastic pie plate does serve a functional purpose. But that doesn’t stop if from looking downright hideous though does it?
12. RockShox X-Loc Remote Lockout
I’ll admit that this is quite a specific annoyance, but it was enough for both Chipps and Wil to come up with independently from each other, so we felt it was necessary to include in this list. The hydraulic X-Loc lever for RockShox forks such as the SID and RS-1 uses a push-push function just like the Reverb dropper post. The difference is that when you push it, the button stays in, before you push it again and the button comes back out again.
The problem? You have to push it in to unlock the fork, and it has to be released to lock the fork. Now that might not sound like a big deal, but from everyone we’ve spoken to about this particular function, it is EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE of how you think it should work. If RockShox reversed the function (so a push in locks the fork, and a release unlocks the fork), then we could all put down the pitchforks and find something else to obsess mindlessly over.
13. Sub-Optimal Headstem Cap Positioning
This is pretty self-explanatory really. And even the most carefree of riders out there will surely be doubling over and vomiting in the gutter looking at this horrific example of headstem cap placement.
Seriously, who doesn’t own a 5mm allen key? Otherwise, we hear chess is a very entertaining sport – maybe look into that?
14. Reflectors. And Other Things
What is the first thing you do when you buy a new bike? Well, aside from removing the cassette pie plate. Yep, that’s right – you REMOVE the reflectors! It’s one of those habitual processes that you undertake when cooing over your new pride and joy, along with removing stickers from the disc brake rotors and checking the alignment of your stem.
You could suggest that reflectors provide some kind of function, but for riding at night, you’ll surely be relying on high-powered LEDs to let other road users know that you’re sharing the bitumen with them.
Okey dokes. So there you have it. A list of silly little things on mountain bikes that really grind the gears of us perfectionists in the Singletrack office. Or as Mark pointed out “Things that are just wrong”.
So, what about you? What gets under your skin? Misaligned logos on handlebars? Grips that are rotated the incorrect way?
Leave us a comment below and let us know what grinds your gears!