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25th September 2017 / Comments (1)

Can’t See the Wood for the Trees

Forest View

It’s not you, it’s me. I still love you, Mountain Bike. Rocky descents that get the adrenaline flowing, a technical climb, a flowy singletrack section… But, I’ve changed…

But sometimes, I feel a little restricted. Mountain biking has somehow become corralled into little corners of commercial forests (ghetto-ised) and riders now follow little red signs as they traverse a man-made course through the pine trees. Ironically, MTB erupted on the scene in the 1980’s as the true escape vehicle; a bicycle that could take you anywhere you fancied. See that mountain? Yeah, ride up it and then down the other side. Rad!

Growing Pains

Growing up, previous generations of kids would be gifted a road bike. They’d ride the roads and explore the countryside on tarmac. 80’s Kidz like me, were handed a mountain bike as it was the New Thing. So, my peers and I grew up offroad; exploring forests and dirt tracks. Trail Centres just didn’t exist back then and riding a mountain bike was all about exploring the network of bridleways and (cheeky) footpaths. Occasionally we’d see some roadies and sneer at them. Because they were different. Not a lot has changed.

Klein Attitude Mountain Bike

Klein Attitude – Growing up, this was my Dream Bike

Fast forward a fair few years from those Halcyon Days and I’ve raced Cross Country, I’ve explored vast areas of this fair isle we call home and I have visited quite a few Trail Centres. Yes, they are fun and they save people from having to load a backpack with enough stuff to survive whatever the elements should throw at them out on a moorland hillside somewhere. The arrows guarantee that no one will get lost and there’s the promise of hot food back at the car park. But oddly, must trail centre riders still carry with them a backpack large enough for a week-long expedition…

Mountain Bike Evolution

As Trail Centres have become the norm, the humble mountain bike has evolved from what once appeared to be little more than a road bike with flat bars and knobbly tyres, into a pedal powered motor-cross bike. What was once a challenge on a hardtail is now barely noticeable on a 150mm trail bike.

I’m impressed by the progression of the technology and the way suspension has evolved from laughable pogo-stick springs to beautifully damped, air suspension.

But it’s this technology race that has essentially separated the MTB from it’s original concept; take a modern trail bike into most parts of the English countryside and you’ll find it’s akin to choosing to drive a Monster Truck to work because the roads are a little bumpy. The growth in travel now means that the trail centre is the only place where these bikes actually make any sense.

Santa Cruz Nomad Mountain Bike

The modern MTB. Dilute your adventure experience in one, easy hit

It’s all riding though, right?

If folks are happy to pedal away around a little ghetto in the trees then that’s great.

But I’d encourage any ‘Enduro’ rider to just stop a minute and take a look at the latest breed of off-road bicycle: The Adventure, or Gravel, Bike as our American cousins like to call it, doesn’t do the breed any favours.

Sure, you can ride them on unpaved roads. You can ride them on tarmac and hook up off-road sections at far greater speed than any MTB ever could. Spin along the road, spot an interesting bridleway and head down and explore.

But they’re much more than just a posh hybrid.

Dropped Bars, More Fun

Having fun in the Yorkshire Moors on the Aggregate 100. Fun Factor doubled on drop bars!

Take one up to the Peak District and ride it along some trails that you’ve ridden a mountain bike. Go on, don’t be afraid Mr Enduro, this bike can do it. And you know what? You’ll find it makes things interesting again… a lot more interesting. Being Over Biked isn’t cool. Under Biked however, that’ll grab attention! Looking for that adrenaline rush? You’ll get it in spades on an adventure bike and all without having to throw yourself down the nearest quarry.

But let me go back a step, to when I was a kid on my old Raleigh, getting a kick out of riding at speed in the countryside. The Adventure bike has revived that feeling. Now I simply look at hillside, see a trail and set off to explore where hardly anybody visits. The perfect playground for adventure bikes.

Last modified: 25th September 2017