10 Things The Mountain Bike Industry Needs To Stop Doing

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The mountain bike industry comes in for a lot of flak, not all of it justified. Do you think that five grand (And the rest – Ed) for a flagship model bike is too much? Believe it or not, there are cheaper ones in most companies’ ranges. Like bikes with 26in wheels and steep geometry? Hie ye to our classifieds forum and bag yourself a bargain. Nevertheless, there are some things that I really wish MTB companies wouldn’t do. Here’s a non-exhaustive list..

1. Model years

This is the Pole Evolink 176 downhill bike. mountain bike industry
Pole is one of a growing number of bike manufacturers who don’t bother with model years.

If you’ve got a good product, which has months of R&D behind it, why change it every year? I guess you can argue that model years are good because they mean last year’s bikes get discounted, and are therefore more affordable. But isn’t that offset by the fact that plenty of folk are riding around on perfectly decent bikes, yet feeling inadequate because they don’t have the newest model?

Model years seem like a throwback to the auto industry of the 1950s, when cars had pointless tailfins, did 15 miles to the gallon, and were basically a distraction from impending nuclear annihilation. Yes, shiny new things are nice, but so is the feeling that you’re buying something because you want it, not because you’re caught in a late capitalism consumer death spiral.

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2. Cheap mountain bike suspension forks

borked forks broken
Oozing quality.

If I ever become dictator, I will ban any mountain bike costing less than £500 from having front suspension. Cheap suspension forks are the mountain biking equivalent of the human appendix – they serve no apparent function until they go wrong and almost kill you. The mountain bike world has been doing lots of interesting things with tyres recently, so why not use these to provide a bit of cushioning instead? I’d rather ride a bike whose handling and performance is dictated by a simple air-filled torus, rather than a heavy, unserviceable pogo stick, any day of the week.

3. Ignoring women

A recent example of solid gold bike industry sexism.

This is a bit of a contentious one. Yes, I know that there’s a circular aspect to the gender mix of a sport, that many “women’s-specific” bikes are in reality anything but, and that there are broader social and cultural reasons why women may not choose mountain biking as a means of filling their spare time and sucking up all their disposable income. I also know that there are some companies going the extra mile to get more women riding and to give them bikes that they want. But still.

Cycling Weekly’s recent “token attractive woman” gaffe touched a nerve, not because it was a lapse in editorial standards, but because it was a sadly predictable glimpse of a much deeper problem. It’s amazing how many mountain biking companies market to a notional all-male audience, or sponsor a team of blokes but not one single female rider. If clever marketing and an inclusive attitude can bring millions of women into running – the most unpleasant, crippling form of recreation ever invented – then surely mountain biking, which features more cake stops and fewer fankles, should be an easy win?

4. Acronyms

SPD, ABP, VPP, CTD, SID… The mountain bike industry loves acronyms, more than the MOD, middle management and Mumsnet combined. The rest of us just scratch our heads, and think how much nicer paint jobs could be if graphic designers and paint shops could concentrate on making bikes look good, instead of applying letter transfers in meaningless combinations.

5. Shredits

George, what did you start? Queenstown Shredit with George Brannigan from george brannigan on Vimeo.

A short disclaimer first. Yes, I know the environmental impacts of mountain biking can’t be compared to lots of other human activity (at least, until we start burning down forests instead of just building jumps in them). But it seems to have become mandatory lately for every marketing video to feature riders hitting every trail like it’s a purpose-built DH track, with sharts of dirt firing out from every turn. Whether it’s carving bloody great ruts through nice woodland, discouraging folk who just want to mountain bike as a way to explore the countryside, spilling the beans on secret trails, or just the overall lack of originality, there are plenty of reasons why shredits should stop.

6. White Kit

Little-known fact: Chipps is sponsored by Persil

Despite being almost 40 years old, mountain biking still hasn’t realised that it involves riding off road. For proof, look at the profusion of white shoes, white shorts, white saddles – even white grips, where simply installing them can coat them with a patina of perma-grime. I can’t even keep white kit clean when I ride on the road, let alone on my local trails, which are mostly minefields of inky black puddles and sheep shit. Perhaps the mountain bike industry has forged an holy alliance with the manufacturers of washing powder, or baby wipes?

7. Branded Riding Tops

mountain bike tops
If the Wu-Tang Clan were mountain bikers. Or maybe they are?

Mountain bike clothing often seems to be where hip-hop fashion was in 1992 – basically, the most important feature of your garment, apart from the baggy fit, is the size of the logo. I don’t want to get all Naomi Klein, but for those of us who aren’t sponsored riders, and don’t like being a walking advertising hoarding, can you maybe try something a bit more understated? You know, kit that’s aesthetically pleasing, as well as letting you know who made it?

8. Loose Ball Bearings

mountain bike ball bearings
Loose bearings in their natural habitat.

AKA Faff Balls. They may be cheap and strong, but good grief they are fiddly to replace. If you’re unlucky enough to have to renew some, I’d suggest getting your hands on a magnetic parts bowl, some very stiff grease, and a complete absence of anything else to do for at least one evening. If nothing else, make sure your kitchen units have enclosed plinths, or you’re never going to be seeing those tiny silver rage-spheres ever again.

9. Mountain Bike Shoes With Mesh Fronts

mountain bike shoes mesh
Footwear or water feature?

Do the designers of these ever ride in the UK? (No – Ed). Or at all? Do they realise that they make even the slowest encounter with standing water into grim, soggy-socked purgatory? In fact, I’d go so far as to say that shoes with mesh fronts are responsible for a significant degree of trail erosion, as riders pick their way round puddles like they’re negotiating a live minefield, instead of a bit of water. If you’re going to prioritise ventilation over weatherproofing, at least make the heels or soles mesh too, so the soupy shoe-juice has somewhere to drain to.

10. Making Everything Stiffer

chainring headset rotor centrelock centerlock 6 bolt seatpost bottom bracket bb hanger derailleur shoes boost hub mountain bike industry
Mmm, beefy.

Why does the bike industry always think stiffer is better? Is it a bloke thing? Do they realise that mountain bike tyres, assuming you don’t pump them up like you’re going for an hour record at a velodrome, squidge way more readily than any other part of the frame? That the most important element in the cycling equation, the person riding it, is just a floppy bag of watery meat, who doesn’t necessarily want every sideways impact from a rock or root transmitted straight into their groaning core?

There’s a lot of chat about how stiffer bikes give more “precise” steering and handling. If you were doing anything with precision – buttering some toast, or sewing on a button – the last tool you would choose for the job is a 30-lb collection of metal tubes, accessorised with a couple of giant spinning hoops. And furthermore, all the most annoying new standards of recent years have been in the name of stiffness. I’ll make an exception for modern wheel-securing systems, as these have an obvious safety benefit, but 35mm bars, press-fit BBs and Boost wheels are a royal pain, even before you start riding and rack up a hefty physio’s bill.

I’m now bracing myself for a flood of “you left this out” responses, but hold on a sec – we have a feature in the magazine, Room 101, for this very purpose. If there’s anything in the mountain bike world which really winds you up, you can email our resident Overlord of Griping, Charlie, at editorial@singletrackworld.com and he’ll dish out catharsis, correction or chamois cream as appropriate in the next issue of the magazine. 

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Comments (28)

    Completely agree ref the mesh front shoes. I have never, ever, found myself on a ride thinking ‘wow my feet are too hot’.

    everything except point 10 gets my seal of approval

    “PD, ABP, VPP, CTD, SID… The mountain bike industry loves acronyms”

    Oh yes, one of those is an acronym.

    11. Stop making stuff that’s only good for the bin when one tiny sub-component wears out.

    Easy of maintenance and servicing is almost never mentioned in marketing releases. It’s usually left to enterprising amateurs to find easy ways to fix stuff (e.g. drinking straw instead of specialist tools to service a Reverb post).

    I don’t think ‘Sid’ is an acronym, if you are talking about the RockShox fork. I always thought it was a name like their ‘Judy’ fork, that is, short for ‘Sidney’.

    My mistake, none of them were acronyms 🙂

    As Hamishthecat states, mesh toe box.

    I agree that you shouldn’t make a bike completely different every year, but it’s not a bad thing to change the color and tweak the spec every year. Then if you’re like ‘I really like that bike, but the color is hideous to me’, you have a shot at getting a color you like the next year. Or if some better or better suited component comes out (maybe a better fork, or something), you can put it on the new model year. I think this is a perfectly fine thing to do.
    For the suspension fork issue, I’m not sure I really agree. Any ‘real’ mountain bike, will have a fork that is good enough to be worth it. Most ‘cheap’ forks on mountain bikes are now hydraulically controlled even if they have minimal adjustment. If you are talking department store ‘mountain bikes’ I agree, but those bikes aren’t meant to be ridden off-road to begin with. Even fat bike tires don’t have the same sort of impact absorption as a basic 4 inch travel hydraulic fork.
    Totally agree with the ‘shredit’ thing. Especially lately it seems like they are intentionally trying just to destroy the berms to throw as much dirt as possible. Not a good optic at all.

    @km79 We don’t knowingly or intentionally use any imagery that uses footpaths or trails that are ‘cheeky’, and regularly turn down content we know to be on unsanctioned trails. We don’t know every inch of the country however, so if you spot something that’s slipped through the net then feel free to email us and let us know.

    SID is an acronym, it stands for Superlight Integrated Design.

    A short disclaimer first. Yes, I know the environmental impacts of mountain biking can’t be compared to lots of other human activity (at least, until we start burning down forests instead of just building jumps in them). But it seems to have become mandatory lately for every marketing video to feature riders hitting every trail like it’s a purpose-built DH track, with sharts of dirt firing out from every turn. Whether it’s carving bloody great ruts through nice woodland, discouraging folk who just want to mountain bike as a way to explore the countryside, spilling the beans on secret trails, or just the overall lack of originality, there are plenty of reasons why shredits should stop. –

    Just go road riding then.

    Ball bearings? Fanny! Agree with the rest of it.

    Can I write a “10 annoying things MTB magazines should stop doing” article?

    Shredits…looks cool but I bet 99% of forum riders, like me, can’t ride like that!

    Well said STW tower overlord, brilliant piece to showcase annoyances.

    Rachel ;d

    Re, cheeky/secret trails. ST are pretty good about this, far better than some other mags.
    I emailed MBUK a while ago to have a moan about them publishing a route local to me that was about 50% cheeky footpaths.
    The email I got back was the digital equivalent of someone shrugging and saying ‘yeah, well, but.’.

    “standards” should be another one.

    Pick ONE Heatset STANDARD.

    If they must, STANDARDIZE per discipline, but FFS…,STANDARDIZED something for more than 8 mins.

    “Why does the bike industry always think stiffer is better?”

    Because on a full suspension bike it is. The stiffer the frame, the more the efficiently the suspension elements themselves can be tuned. EG If the frame is a jelly, stiffening your shock has little effect.

    As long as the extra stiffness has no downsides, which generally it doesn’t, then i can’t see the problem??

    Can I write a “10 annoying things MTB magazines should stop doing” article?

    Yes, yes you can cynic-al… My email is chipps@etc and we’ll be delighted/amused to see the list.

    12. Stop making baggies with 9 different pockets and zips.

    Completely agree, spot on 🙂

    I guess we have to understand that marketing is aimed at people that are a lot younger then we are ie under 40 years old (at least) , we are just old and cynical which is how it should be.

    Mesh toes!!!

    Mine usually get a liberal smothering of black bath sealant within weeks of them being bought!

    Ditching model years and rigid MTBs under £500 ‘cos cheap forks are crap – agreed and as a product manager I’ve done both and watched sales drop. People like us see why a cheap fork isn’t good. The majority of people buying sub-£500 bikes want sus forks – it’s part of what makes it a mountain bike. A good £500 rigid MTB is a nice thing to have in the range but keeping it there isn’t easy.

    Model years are different but the issue is bikes getting ‘stale’ vs all-new from other brands, that and Shimano, SRAM etc continually releasing new kit that means some bikes need a re-jig. If some do, may as well do most /all of them .. The people that can change this are the component and fork makers. It’s also easier for frame brands than complete bike brands.
    Market demand and ‘the industry’ – it’s a complex relationship : )

    RE stiffness, more is not better. ‘Just right’ is better. Your just right as a (eg) 16st powerhouse is different to an 11st silk-smooth rider’s just right and you could both be on the same size of bike. But ‘More = better’ is an easy sales message. People like to believe that there is a linear relationship between bike numbers and performance or handling as it’s easier to understand or sell, but it’s rarely true. Not even ‘lighter’ is always better imo.

    Agree with STWhannah – there was a time when ST definitely had bike tests and articles with pictures of identifiable local ‘cheeky’ trails – but last few years have a responsible attitude to this. Although at least one video has home paged here with less responsibility. I’m looking forward to cynic-al’s article !

    There is good evidence to suggest that the human appendix serves as a reservoir for beneficial gut bacteria, rather than a simple vestigial organ. The benefit of diversification of component standards remains disputed amongst many cyclists however, particularly when such components require purchasing of specific tools to undertake maintenance.

    point 5 “shreditz”
    wasn’t so long ago when you actually sold magazines that you had a cover shot of a rider donning big baggies shorts and a garish team jersey ripping a natural trail corner to bits with slate and rocks flying everywhere, I recognised the hard to reach trail in the LAKES as id been playing that way the week before,i thought at the time and still feel the same:
    what a T_AT.

    How about:
    – bike lights that cost more than a small family hatchback? it’s a torch mate, you can get a Maglite for a tenner!
    – the stiffer the better? then in the next breath spout the “Steel is real” BS praising how compliant and with “just the right amount of give” a steel frame has….
    – and then the complete and utter shambles that tubeless tyres are…. ditch your tube to save weight and then add half a gallon of smeg in your tyre, some tape, bigger valves and 18 hours of your life to set one tyre up only to have to pump it up every time you want to ride. a run you rtyres at 3 psi becuase who doesn’t want to ride their super stiff carbon frame on two hoops of wobbly jelly?
    – bike mags article about bike holidays riding down a volcano in Indonesia or crossing the Andes… most of us can’t afford a week holidays at Butlins or have more than an hour a week free to ride along the same local trail we always do. Give us a break.

    Im fortunate to live in Spain now & If you ever ride in a hot climate the wind blowing through your shoes is very welcome.

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