Friday Group Ride #388

Friday Group Ride #388

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?

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  1. Gummee!

    I’ve never been a true ‘1 kind of rider’ I enjoyed dirt roads before ‘gravel grinding’ was a thing. I was mtn biking thru college till my 87 Rockhopper got stolen. I’ve raced track. I race CX. I train on the roads because I have an allergy to driving to go riding.

    …but what started it all was that 87 Rockhopper. Rode that bike all over. Beat it up. Acquired tools and learned how to take care of it. Upgraded it past my skill level. Learned that Farmer John tires go really well straight ahead, but can’t hold the edge of a rut. etc etc etc

    I still miss the original Ground Control tires.

    I DON’T miss Manitou 2 forks.

    IF I lived where I could ride to the trails, ride the trails, then ride home, I doubt I’d spend much time on the road. …but I don’t so road riding it is!

  2. Tom

    Rode single speed for a long time, first on a converted Schwinn Continental, then on an IRO Rob Roy, which I still have. Commuting, some social rides with friends, rides to the ballpark. Picked up a Bob Jackson with Campy Ergo shifters on Craigslist. Loved the shifting, thought the fit was good, liked the bike okay. Converted it to 650b and haven’t looked back. Wider tires handle the potholes and lower center of gravity keeps me planted. But the best rides our on our tandem, with 29er wheels and 2.35″ tires. Even if it’s overkill for the bike path, it makes us feel good.

  3. AG

    Definitely phases but I just replaced my 6 year old Epic 26 with a Santa Cruz Tallboy 29’r which is really great, so I have been dedicated to the mountain trails these days. I find getting out into the dirt much more fun, relaxing and better for my soul. In soCal road riding can be brutal with traffic, so getting into the mountains is a far better experience. Also, it’s less embarrassing to my kids if I am more MAMIB (middle aged man in baggies) than MAMIL.

  4. Kayce

    I bought my first mountain bike this summer. The fancy roadie version of a MTB (22lb carbon hard tail) was the bike I grabbed every ride to lunch. But now that I am settled into doing 3-5 hours in the woods every weekend, I am tinkering with how to bring my fixed gear back to my main hop on and ride everywhere bike. Its been two years since the road bike too that spot.

  5. Dave

    These days I ride an 8 year old Lynskey R330 road bike. I don’t train but like to log long fun miles…..usually alone wandering on the country roads of North Texas – because that’s what’s most available to me now. I’f I lived near accessible trails it might be different.

  6. Winky

    New custom Ti disc-braked all-road/gravel/CX bike. Currently just using for (very wet) commuting, but have just entered the DK200 lottery, and will use the same bike there if I get in (but with different wheels). The C59 will probably get a lot less use this coming summer.

  7. Aar

    I’m a roadie. This winter, I’m riding my Specialized Roubaix to keep the miles off my new Specialized Tarmac.

    I had a ~5 year phase during which I split time on a mountain bike but eventually sold it. Now I’m comfortably back to being just a roadie. If I worked outside my home, I’d likely be a bike commuter as long as I could get cleaned up before work.

    While I’m on the bike commuter topic, yesterday, I was in our city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning Committee meeting when the bike commuter contingent trickled in. Each of them was late, underdressed, sweaty, dirty (on a gorgeous day) and smelly (most seemed unbathed). What gives?

    Whenever I take the opportunity to ride instead of drive, I allow ample time, take an appropriate change of clothes, moist towelettes and a small microfiber towel. Not having proper decorum is disrespectful to others, yourself and the bike commuter community you represent.

    Sorry for the off topic rant. Robot, I know you’re a bike commuter and apologize for any offense. Maybe this could be a topic for a future Group Ride.

  8. saltz

    I too ride on the east coast where wide bars are death. Have an Evil The Following with Edge AM Wheels but it only sees duty at Pisgah. My daily ride is an aluminum Niner One 9 with stan’s crest wheels. It’s slow going riding to the trail but great when I get there.

  9. Winky

    Mountain bikes have become comically oversized. Bars so wide the grips can barely be reached and suspension, wheels and tyres from a monster truck.

  10. David B.

    You know it’s pretty easy to take a few inches off the ends of the bars and there’s no law against it. They make them that long so the people with really wide shoulders will still fit, and some people lust love the “I need a hug” position and probably also love the “sit up and beg” position. You adjusted the seat when you first bought the bike, didn’t you? If not, go try it right now.

  11. Tominalbany

    I’ve been a roadie all my life in that, I’ve ridden primarliy on the road. In the late 90s and early 00s, I did quite a bit of mtn biking and even took Mtn Bike vacations to moan, Tahoe, Monarch Crest. And so many more. I got married and had kids and road biking just became more convenient becuase I get all of my miles commuting. I can’t wait to get back to mtn biking, though.

  12. Ron Reed

    From way back in the 90s I was a diehard mountain biker, but toward the end of the 90s, after attending a few races, I started to become more and more interested in cyclocross. As the new century hit I found myself on a cross bike, riding around for fun, crashing heavily when I tried to race, and commuting to work. Then I got a job out of bike commute range and cycling activity died down. A few years ago I was once again on a 27.5 hardtail, riding occasionally but then I got a job within a (long, hilly, hard) bike commute distance from home and started bike commuting on a daily basis. The hardtail was soon replaced by the old cross bike. At this time I had been fantasizing about an old-fashioned road bike, one that had great brakes and rode on fatter tires, more of a high-performance all-round bike. Voila! The gravel thing started and I got a Salsa warbird. This launched me on the most intense phase of cycling in my life, daily commuting, long rides… lots of fun and miles. The warbird was nice, but not nearly as nice as the new Scott Addict CX10 that I got for half price on ebay. Man, I love that bike and that is all that I ride now. Will I leave the 1x drivetrain on there or switch to a Campy H11 setup? Will I get a Scott Addict RC disc bike or Allied All Road as a second bike?
    Who knows!

  13. Jeff Dieffenbach

    Cambridge-dweller here.. I started riding seriously in 2007 as a roadie. While I’d been riding CX since 2012 and a bit of MTB around the edges, my switch-flip year was 2015 (I’ve got a photo essay of that year called “The Road Not Taken” with apologies …).

    Now, I’m mostly dirt (plus a 1-mile-each-way paved commute). Sure, I’ll drag the road bike out (if I can find it behind the spare fat bike tires) on occasion in the summer for <25 mile weekday morning club fitness rides, but that's mostly just for the coffee social after the ride.

  14. Ryan m

    Back in the mid-90’s I was a mountain biker and city commuter riding the same mtb. I had a Fuji something or other mtb which I then got stolen and I picked up a Specialized Stumpjumper; 26″ wheels and a RockShox Judy fork. Great bike which I still have in sort of riding condition.

    Then I got out of riding completely until ten years ago when I picked up a Rivendell and road the snot out of it. I rode a lot of miles on that Rivendell which was basically set up like a gravel bike. So versatile. Switched to the roadie thing doing group rides, pace lines, got to be a strava junkie for a few years but it never really got me excited. So, I turned back to the mountain bike. Man, I’m so glad I did. I love riding in the woods so much…so good.

    Currently I’m riding a Santa Cruz Hightower 29’er and a Kona Hei Hei 29’er for midwest riding. I also have a cyclocross bike to actually race…cyclocross has turned into my one outlet for competitive riding. I prefer to keep competition out of the woods for me, just because I love to stop and chat with other riders and check out the sites. Pretty much off the road now…too much dirt to shred.

    1. Gummee!

      i can relate to the ‘keep the competition out of the woods’ thing. I ride mtn bikes as relief from ‘training.’ I’m basically ‘going for a hike in the woods with buddies that just happens to be on bicycles.’

      Adding off-road intervals and etc would just take the joy out of it.


  15. Brad King

    I’m a roadie. Mid fall I change from the Cervelo R3 back to my ’99 Litespeed Tuscany. This spring when I change back to the Cervelo, I’m going to do a total rebuild of the Tuscany. It still have the original Shimano Ultegra 6500 gruppo on it. The shifters rattle due to a couple crashes, the 53/39 chainring is harder to push now than it was for my 28 year old self, I want to clean up the cockpit with handlebar routed cables. I’ll be looking for a deal on a 105 take-off group (Ultegra if there’s a really good deal) on E-Bay this winter. Never rebuilt a bike from scratch before, just the onesie-twosie regular maintenance jobs, and am looking forward to it. I’ll see how long the bike mechanic bug lasts.

  16. Jay

    I hibernate my Spectrum steel framed bike from November through early April. In the interim I will ride either my Specialized Roubaix or my more sedate, and mundane, Trek 7.3 with added fenders. I probably ride the Trek more because the rides are shorter and it has platform pedals (by choice) so I don’t worry about changing into a proper cycling kit before hopping on for an impromptu ride. Oh, and it handles dirt, gravel, or pavement equally well except after the most inclement of weather.

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