You may have heard about Aaron Gwin winning Leogang Downhill World Cup in 2015 – CHAINLESS After breaking chain at the start of his run… This guy is obviously a talented rider – however I cannot help but think that this win is making a mockery of the gravity fuelled sport. Downhill riding bikes have become very specialised at one thing – going downhill. They are expensive and yes you need to be talented enough not to injure yourself.
I then discovered FastasF**k riders who have been riding CHAINLESS since 2013…. The FAF guys chose Chainless to reduce their bike spend so they could spend their cash on youth lifestyle. With the FAF guys the emphasis is not about sponsorship it is about doing what they want and having fun.
HAVE FUN AGAIN
We all loose focus on enjoying ourselves. Both of the chainless examples above show that the bicycle industry has also lost focus. Derailleurs and chains are clearly not needed for the DH circuit. Bikes and bike design evolves with where people ride them. I am just saying that not everyone can afford to ride a bike that will get them onto the podium and therefore collectively the bike industry is loosing out… What if we were all given the same bike and told to ride it on a multi-stage event? Trails and Downhill one day and Cross Country the next? This was the format of Mountain Biking in the 1990’s and competition was both skill and fitness.
WHAT WOULD YOU LOOSE?
At one stage my bike weighed in at 15Kg with weight creep… I realised that I was “following” my mates in the pursuit of more grip and fun on downhill UK trail centres. I then worked on reducing the weight without loosing grip or speed of the bike… However to really loose some weight or save some cash what could or should we be looking at??
RIDING ON A BUDGET
On a concept level you can build a cheap bike that is missing significant parts of a “showroom” bike build. Or you can start with the “showroom” bike and replace – (or not) the parts that are surplus to your “concept”. Some lateral thinking might be needed here… “What would you “give up” if you were only riding in an area with bike lifts of ski chairlift? Would you be happy to push? What weight bike would you be prepared to push?
WHAT GEARS & MAINTENANCE
Like the FAF guy and Mr Gwin discovered, there is a lot of savings to be made on removing the drivetrain. I fell into the trap of thinking that more gears were better, but I stopped at 21 speed when a plague of mechanicals lead me to single speed. I have ridden single speed with 150mm forks around Les Gets and Morzine on a Hardtail. It was a lot of fun and I could get up the small slopes that I needed while the Full-suspension bikes suffered from climbing induced “bob”. I have seen some Welsh Local lads shred Cwmcarn on 26inch single speed dirt-jump hardtails. If the FAF guys rode hardtails then I am sure they would be on single speeds steads.
You may have guessed that I am not completely convinced by the big S brands pursuit of 12speed. Thin chains are wearing out fast and for most riders this is 2-3 chains a year. Every 3 chains means a cassette change – this all costs money… We are testing BOX Components as they have a good range of 8 & 9speed derailleur drivetrains which have the same gear range as 1x12 speed, but with larger steps between each gear. The “step” between each gear is not an issue for most riders. BOX is using the kind of “hang-on-a-minute” logic, which is refreshing in this faster faster world.
I remember in the 90’s choosing EITHER 25mm (1inch) front suspension or clipless pedals. The idea was that both help one keep their feet on the pedals and braking control. Front suspension has come a long way and 150mm will easily, allow you to do drops and jumps. Front will help you rail around berms and hold on for dare life. A Full suspension Enduro bike does all that, I hear you say?? – however you are now paying for servicing a rear shock as well as front suspension. You never see a bike with rear suspension only – because the fork does more for rider control, wrist comfort and braking.
GIVE ME A BRAKE
Brakes are needed for stopping and speed control… If I was to choose one, I would choose the front because 80% of the power is on the front. It can be a bit sketchy, but you learn to brake less or in a straight line. Others will choose the rear brake for skid cornering. We have just liberated a brake to use on another bike!
SOMETHINGS ARE ONLY NEW ONCE
The Frame should be the heart of this concept. There are some items that are easy or able to be serviced. Forks and Brakes have serviceable components, so will work like new after servicing. However derailleurs, chains, jockey wheels, cassettes and tyres, are consumable items. Derailleur drivetrains are cheap and look good in the showroom on the marketing spec. Gearboxes, internal hub gears, single speed and belt-drive are slowly gaining ground on the big S brands… but ultimately it depends on how much disposable income, what your friends are riding and how much fun you want to have. As the FAF guys have demonstrated, it is more about what you NEED to make things fun. I am not going to ride chainless, but I have stripped my bike down to the essentials a few times… What would you loose??