If you’ve followed Greg’s riding, you’re probably used to seeing him gobbling up the off-road miles, probably wearing lycra, possibly sleeping in a ditch. So when we saw him hopping around on a trials bike, we weren’t sure whether this was just a side to him we’d not previously seen, or whether he was having a midlife crisis. What could possibly take a rider from one end of the bike spectrum to the other? Greg tells us what’s in it for him – and maybe what could be in it for you.
I’m not a naturally talented rider. Not when it comes my bike handling skills at any rate. Point me up a steep hill and ask me to ride up it with only one gear, breathing out of whatever orifice I can get air in through, sure, I can do that. You want me to that for a day, no problem, which hill? Ride from Banff to Mexico as quick as I can, sure, no issue. Point me down a steep descent with lots of drops, rocks, roots and gaps. Well I’ll get down it, it just won’t be the next shredit to grace your glowing screen of unsustainably high stoke. However, put me in front of something that requires balance, finesse, or co-ordinated timing and I’m done for. To be short, I’m an endurance rider, and while I like to endure, I’ve endured a lot of low speed crashes. So I really should know better than to buy a trials bike.
Unlike many of you, I didn’t spend my childhood ragging a bike around the woods emulating the BMX Bandits (kids, ask your parents) so I never got used to crashing for fun. I spent my time in a pool doing endless lengths and pretending I wasn’t looking at the girls. Which I was. What riding I did was mostly to and from the pool and it wasn’t until my 20s that I started to ride bikes, let alone mountain bikes. Not that mountain biking passed me by. Far from it. I certainly saw all the other kids out, having fun, playing on the dirt jumps. But I was a swimmer, I swam. Sort of like a goldfish, but with a paler complexion. But, there was this one guy in our town, with a yellow and blue Specialized, who I secretly idolised. I’d always see him at the back of the woods I cut through to get to the pool. He’d be bouncing about, hopping from this to that, face-planting, then getting up and doing it again. This was the start of the MTB trials era and I had no idea what he was doing.
These days I envy the new generation of riders. Names like Ot Pi and Hans Ray; Martin Hawyes and Martyn Ashton; Jeff Lenosky and Ryan Leech were people I’d not hear about until much later in life and after spending a good chunk of my pocket money on print back issues (again, kids ask your parents). Now it is different. It’s all there, at the touch of our fingers, instant gratification. Let’s put this into context – it’s nine years since that Danny McAskill film that 34 million of you have watched. Let that sink in. Nine. Years.
Had you heard of Inspired as a bike brand before? We’re you aware that people could ride like that? More so, were those non-bike folk around you aware of it? They are now. Never has there been a better time than to pick up a low geared bike with fecky little wheels (anything less than a 29er in my opinion) and go ride some things you’ll probably fall off. Trials may for the first time in its history may be seen as normal.
So why, at 37, which is middle aged for the males of our family judging by when the older ones keep dying (stroke, stroke, heart attack), why have I bought myself a trials bike? Not just a trials bike, but as Barney of this parish said ‘a kid’s bike’ with 24 inch wheels and a dayglow yellow paint job. Well because I have a severe lack of time due to having had a child and I still want to ride my bike. As an aside, it appears that 2,800 miles in 20 days down the spine of the USA and the years of training before are not adequate contraception. So when I have a chance, between washing/feeding/amusing a baby, endless cleaning and tidying, working a job, and trying to remember to eat; the act of grabbing a simple bike. Pulling on some flats and a lid and literally riding for 10 minutes on the road in front of my house, is bliss. It’s not that my days of 8 hour training rides are gone, they’re on hiatus, and I’m ok with that. But I still need to ride my bike. Yes I get embarrassed when my peers see me failing repeatedly at something simple. Yes I feel a bit odd on these tiny wheels. But let me tell you this, I don’t care. I’m having fun, on my toy, in the sun, and that is all that matters. At the end of the day, it’s just bikes.