A switch flipped, and now I’m a mountain biker. I have been a mountain biker before. During long stretches of the ’90s I was on a 26-inch, 80mm travel bike that I thought was just about as good as it could get. Some time around ’98 or ’99, a switch flipped and I became a roadie, flogging a pretty generic stainless steel rig over every pothole metro-Boston could dig up.
Road mania took me. I tracked mileage, amassed bikes and bike frames and parts, and spawned that secondary hobby so many of us chase, amateur bike mechanic. I watched races and practiced sprints (to no avail). I worked on my climbing technique. I learned to ride in a paceline. Moreover, I learned the physical politics of riding a bike on the road, how to make eye contact with pedestrians, how to let drives know what I was doing. I made a lot of mistakes, none of which managed to kill me.
I commuted on a road bike, rode long miles on a road bike, took a road bike on errands, and tinkered with road bikes in my basement. It was a happy time. The mountain bike ferried me on occasional trips through the woods.
I recently built a new mountain bike, a 29er hardtail. It’s the first 29er I’ve owned, despite having ridden many over the years. I had thought it couldn’t get better for a guy my size (5’9″, 155lbs) than a 27.5″ bike with a 100mm fork and narrow bars. I am still of the mind that in the New England woods a bike’s agility is more valuable than its rolling speed or comfort. There is little I need rear suspension for, and the added weight is sort of a killer on short, punchy climbs. The wide bars that are de rigeur these days only serve to snag path-clinging trees and fling unsuspecting (though we should know better) riders on the ground. Hard.
Now I’m in the basement bleeding disc brakes and setting up tubeless tires. I’m shopping for studded tires that’ll open the icy woods to weekend meandering. And as it turns out, when I descend the stairs in the morning with my bag packed and my day in front of me, I pull out the mountain bike, even to commute (through the woods partially).
This week’s Group Ride asks, what bike are you choosing first these days? Brand? Model? Style? Do you go through phases like I do, or are you just one kind of cyclist?