Yesterday, I was out riding two new lines at the freeride/downhill area of our local trail and I actually caught myself saying this line – “My fork is not big enough to do that.” Before I could grab the words and shove them back into my mouth, they were already out there with all of their stupidity. Directly after saying that little, wonderful bit of wisdom, I immediately backed up and said – “Wait…backup…the fork is fine. I don’t have the ability to make that look smooth without a big ass fork to cover up my mistakes!” Rusty looked at me – laughed – and said – “Yeah, just when you think it is the fork some kid on a rigid bmx bike is going to blow through and show you how it’s done.”
It’s The Rider…Not The Equipment
The latest and greatest in mountain bikes, components and gear have shortened the learning curve for many new riders, but when it boils down to it – it is the rider not the equipment that makes skilled riders as good as they are. I have made the joke about a thousand times – no…not Hasselhoff in the sand…I bet any pro could show us up on a Huffy on this trail. The joke is not really a joke. They really could blow the doors off of most riders with a 150 dollar Wal-Mart special because they have the skills.
I am sure you see this scene all the time. A new rider makes it to your local trailhead with a shinny new rig. He went to your LBS – which loves guys like these – and bought the best of the best of everything in search of sweet singletrack riding. So there he is…carrying around about 8 grand worth of shit that he thinks is going to make him as good as the other riders that actually know what they are doing through experience. So…with he shinny new clipless shoes and $6,000+ Giant, Trek or Cannondale…he hits the trail for 1.5 miles and comes straight back to the parking lot complaining about the rocks in the trail and how they should take those out. I guess his fancy 5.5″ travel bike just couldn’t handle them. He then proceeds to go home, rack the bike on the wall, let it collect dust for 6-8 months as we vows to take it out again and eventually sells it to another rider for an incredible deal.
This guy’s fatal flaw – among many – is that he assumed that the best mountain biking components is what made these riders look so good, so if he got even better components…he was going to be able to blast by them on the trail with all of his high dollar bling.
Let me paint another picture. You are at a local group road ride for the first time. You are an ok rider that likes to hang with the A’s but is probably more of a B rider. As you size up the crowd to see who can really drop you off the back of the pack, you probably see several different kinds of riders. However, there are two kinds that will always catch your eye. The first is a roadie without a budget. He has the the best of the best that he claims has made him faster than you could ever imagine. The only reason he is not going to lead the ride out today is because he has the bird flu, but this new import with electronic shifting is bad ass and you just wish you had one.
The second is a roadie that you do not want to even try to keep up with. He is on an old bike. He is quiet. He has been riding for longer than you have been alive and he is about to show the world how a 20 year old road bike will smoke a $8k carbon dream. For most experienced roadies, they know that guy is about to flat out leave everyone with room in the tank for more. He isn’t talk or fancy components…he just rides the wheels off of anything he is on.
Does this mean you can’t have new stuff and be fast? Of course not. I know some riders that have the best and can absolutely floor it, but we need to call it what it really is…a want – not a need. We like the latest and greatest that the cycling industry has to offer. We like to drool over carbon and big long travel monsters. While some equipment – like bigger forks – will make things easier and cover up some mistakes as your fine tune your skills, it will always be the rider – not the equipment – that gets you over that next technical trail feature or obstacle. If you think that new $1,000+ fork is going to do it or the new $250 rear derailleur…you are going to be sadly mistaken.