Words Charlie the Bikemonger
Every issue we highlight some of those niggly aspects of being a mountain biker. Our resident judge considers the evidence for and against each case. Often a part of mountain biking which we’ve never noticed can be quite infuriating is brought into focus, then judged and cast into Room 101 along with top tube frame pads, purple anodising and mountain bike aero bars. And other times, the plaintiff is simply told to get a life and stop whining…
Our guest judge this issue is once again that saviour of steel, singlespeeds and anything quirky: Charlie the Bikemonger.
Gates that don’t close properly behind you, necessitating the undignified ‘reversing hobby-horse’ manoeuvre.
I’d like to submit gates with non-functional latches, catches and hardware to Room 101.
Specifically, ones that look like they’d shut with a satisfying clunk, but then, for whatever reason, just bounce open, or don’t quite engage. You know the situation – you courteously wave your riding buddies through before mounting up and doing the one-handed behind-the-back slam. But then you have to stop, reverse, and try to either bump it closed with your back wheel, or work your flexibility and twist round to do it manually, or admit defeat, get off, squelch through the inevitable mud-lake and ‘do it properly’. At which point your riding buddies are well away, or slow-pedalling while they wait for you to stop faffing around.
Obviously the dream is bar-mounted electric gate openers (like posh garage doors), but until then, can we please consign annoying and inelegant gate-closure-faff to Room 101.
Yeah, that is pretty annoying for sure. I can’t believe there’s even a single reader of Singletrack who would not agree with you… but then there is me.
As British mountain bikers we are exposed to a lot of gates – shedloads of them, in fact – and I’ve found myself becoming quite a gate nerd. There are so many different styles of gate, designs, materials, fastenings, etc., why is there not an ‘I-Spy book of gates’? What I love best are the Heath Robinson DIY bodged gates. There have been two wonderful bikey examples round my way. The first was a single scaffold bar spring-loaded with a bunch of knotted inner tubes – it was like a bloody trebuchet and could probably cut a carbon frame in two if you got it wrong. Then there was the one with a crashed and bent rigid fork bolted to the post, where you grab the steerer to lower the fork over the gate. I like the idea that the gate had claimed the fork; the gate was just tucked round the corner at the bottom of a sketchy descent so the fork ended up there one way or another.
We also have pretty good rights of way in the UK since Prime Minister Gladstone made a speech on Snowdon in 1892. This is an excellent freedom with no price tag. The landowners, however… what’s in it for them? A bunch of red-socked Herberts wandering across their fields doesn’t help them milk cows or grow crops, but they still have to maintain the gates. So what if a few are a bit shit? Take a look around and you will see that most things are a bit shit. Friday night TV is a bit shit. That kebab was entirely shit and indeed it also necessitated an undignified ‘reversing hobby-horse’ manoeuvre. Have you ever driven a hire car in Africa? That there is dangerous shit.
So while it would be very convenient if all gates were perfect, life ain’t convenient. Deal with it, it’s fun, it’s variety, it’s colour.
Can we take something OUT of Room 101?
I would like to do something positive and take something out of Room 101, something we are all guilty of putting in there – the bike bell.
Since retrieving my bike bell from Room 101 five years ago I cannot recall a harsh word from my fellow trail users. Who could be cross with a cheery ‘ding ding’? So let’s stop being negative, go into Room 101 and retrieve our bells.
Hell yeah, I’m with you brother. Done deal.
Allow me to explain.
1: The fastest bike is the bike with the bell. Nothing screws a Strava segment like a bunch of people happily strolling in the countryside. Nothing clears a trail of ramblers better than a bell. Hell, it doesn’t matter how polite you are, you will always piss them off if you just chirp out ‘Excuse me’.
2: If you think you are too cool to put a minimalist small black bell on your bars, then you are a dick.
3: Letting people know of your arrival makes life easy. If you disagree, please remove the horn from your car, mute the ringer on your phone, get everyone you know to set your calls to ‘No ringer’, and then throw away your doorbell. And, when you arrive at a bar, say nothing, and see what happens…
4: And check out the Timber Bell. Chipps reviewed this in issue 110. It’s a small cattle bell that can be turned on and off with the flip of a thumb. Ramblers hear you 200m out and you keep both hands fully on the bars as you roll pass their smiling jolly rambly faces.
5: Bells are rad!
Want to get something off your chest and consigned to Room 101 forever?
Email email@example.com and we’ll see if our resident grumpy judge agrees…