Monday, June 26, 2017

Whither Simplicity?

This past Friday I enjoyed a ride on a rugged all-terrain bicycle with fashionable "plus"-sized tires:




As I scampered and scurried about, it occurred to me that while it's all too easy to rail against the stratospheric cost of today's high-end bicycle-cycling machines, the truth is that from a gear perspective there's never been a better time to be a cyclist.  Sure, top-of-the-line plastic bikes easily cost $10,000 now, but a bike like the one above costs merely a tenth of that, will do anything you possibly need it to do, and requires very little in the way of maintenance.

Nevertheless, human nature being what it is, even as I was savoring my blissful cycling experience I caught myself thinking: "I could probably make this bike even better by lightening it up a bit."  That leads you to consider upgrading X, which in turn requires replacing Y, and before you know it you're saying "Fuck it" and shopping for a new bike:


I choose this bike as an example not because it's necessarily the natural progression from what I was riding that day, but because it happens to be the #1 mountain bike in the VeloNews Buyer's Guide.  And just check out these marks!
It doesn't just get a 14 out of 15 for ascending.  It gets a fourteen point one.

That's how you know they used science.

Anyway, here's what VeloNews has to say about the Yeti Whatever:

It all comes back to Yeti’s Switch Infinity, a suspension component that allows for greater tunability of the suspension kinematics. That’s a fancy way of saying it’s firm on the climbs and responsive on the descents, all the way through the suspension travel. The Switch Infinity lives just above the bottom bracket shell and works in conjunction with Fox’s Float Factory shock. Both are nearly infinitely tunable, but it was easy to find a sweet spot pretty quickly for the kind of riding I do.

Climbing is a remarkable experience: there’s nearly no noticeable bob, even when standing or pushing through a steep section. The mid-stroke feels supportive but smooth, and the bottom end feels endless, yet it doesn’t fall off into the abyss. Instead, it feels like you always have just a few more millimeters, so why not go a bit bigger? Absent too is that late-stroke buck. Whatever magic Yeti has done to make the end of the stroke sit in that sublime area between too soft and too harsh, they should keep doing it. A lot of trail bikes make claims about climbing like an XC race bike and descending like an enduro bike. The SB5c actually delivers.

Souts good, but let's look at some of the key words and phrases here:

--"tunability"
--"suspension kinematics"
--"firm" and "responsive"
--"infinitely tunable"
--"no noticeable bob"
--"why not go a bit bigger?"

Jesus.  Is this a bike or a Hyundai?  And I'm not even including "late-stroke buck," which sounds like the name of a porno actor:


(Noticeable Bob also makes a cameo.)

Granted, I doubt you could get two cyclists to agree what "mountain biking" is all about.  For some it's about being one with the outdoors, for others it's an excuse to use air compressors and shop for truck bed liners.  Still, it's remarkable the degree to which today's high-end mountain bikes are designed to provide a smooth, ultra-tuned riding experience that is essentially uncompromising in its compromise.  It's also noteworthy that whether it's a review of a road bike or a mountain bike the Princess and the Pea factor is virtually indistinguishable.  After all, should a bike meant to be ridden on a trail really be "infinitely tunable?"  Does everything need to be not only rideable, but comfortably rideable?  At a certain point should't we acknowledge the limitations of both rider and machine and surrender to the terrain, just as Late-Stroke Buck surrendered to Noticeable Bob in that steamy tire sealant scene?  And if you want smooth, shouldn't you just buy a recumbent?

Maybe yes and maybe no.  Hey, we all want something different out of riding a bike.  Some want simplicity, others are not happy unless they can tune every bump and twiddle dials and levers like an audiophile listening to Steely Dan on a tube amp.  Still, not to sound like one of those big government demmycrats, but we may have to start regulating this stuff or we could be in trouble.  Firstly, all of this has already opened the door to e-mountain bikes, because we've come too far with suspension not to add a motor, and what's one more lever, anyway?


And yes, it will take a kickstand:

The option to mount a kickstand might not win the most kudos amongst more ambitious riders, but it’s arguably an intelligent feature that many will rate.

Though I'd argue if you're shopping for an all-terrain bike that takes a kickstand what you're really looking for is a Rivendell.

Secondly, what's so wrong with e-mountain bikes?  I'll tell you what's wrong with them.  They lead to this:



You have been warned.

49 comments:

africansingle said...

Podium?

McFly said...

Hello Pard'ner....

McFly said...

What's wrong with some noticeable bob?

Dooth said...

Noticeable Bob: "The mid-stroke feels supportive but smooth, and the bottom end feels endless, yet it doesn’t fall off into the abyss. Instead, it feels like you always have just a few more millimeters, so why not go a bit bigger?"

Late Stroke Buck: "ok"

Old Timer said...

Huh? What?

MolassesChamois said...

Sixty nine dude!

Anonymous said...

I listen to Steely Dan on tube amps. And I'm not embarrassed to admit it in public.

Now if they can just get those steel vacuum tubes in the amp replaced with ones made from crabon, we will be on our way to the most glorious future imaginable.

Late Stroke Buck said...

Noticeable Bob
Mid stroke
Late stroke
Yep, it's a porno

Die free said...

Top ten?

bcstractor said...

OOoooh - they invented the motorbike again.

holdsworth said...

"No noticeable bob", WTF!?!

Bob

Freddy Murcks said...

7.5 inch tires and up to 30 miles of range. Pshah! My Hyundai has 10 inch tires and an power storage transport system that provides 100s of miles of range and that can easily be refueled and any number of conveniently located refueling stations.

(I don't really own a Hyundai and I only stated the above to try and point out the stupidity of the xStrada's marketing video. I keep thinking that we have reached peak-stupid for fat bikes and/or ebikes, but we keep surpassing it - the xStrada blows it out of the fucking water. By the way - I am pretty certain that the xStrada is merely an electric tote goat. Innovation? Pshah!)

Vend403 said...

xStrada? Why stop there when the Zero FX is just around the corner.
http://www.zeromotorcycles.com/zero-fx/

cdinvb said...

Whew! Hot out there. Just got in from an impoundment area ride on the Trek I bought at a yard sale. End of the day, and they were taking less. Lot of bike for $50.

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to finding the sweet spot with Late Stroke Buck

Anonymous said...

Rode the Discover the Mid-Hudson Valley Fondo yesterday. Because hey, I live in the Hudson Valley, and I might as well discover it with 1000's of citidiots. Never before have I seen so many kitted out guts rocking $10K rigs flailing on their clip-ons in the aero position going uphill. One Fred just missed getting nailed by a truck flying through a red light, major Cat6 crash on the Walkway Over the Hudson, and had to put another dope on blast for shouting at other riders to get out of her way. Funs times were had by all!

dan said...

From the yeti review:

"The Race Face Turbine dropper post is smooth as butter, but it needed to be topped off with air fairly frequently. That involves removing your saddle to access the Schrader valve beneath the seat clamp. It’s not an ideal setup, though it wouldn’t be much more than an annoyance if the post held air better."

I don't want a seatpost that I have to disassemble and inflate before I can ride my bike. That does not seem like a good thing.

hellbelly said...

Another Rube Goldbergian suspension design and a ridiculous eBike? Everyday is indeed exactly the same. I actually happen to like full suspension bikes and in fact demoed the aforementioned Yeti. I was duly unimpressed, but Yeti does a great job marketing.

Uncle Chainwhip said...

some of your best yet........TDF form!

NHcycler said...

@Dooth -- By Lob, that was funny!

McFly said...

XStrada?

As someone that has owned many off road dirt bikes, let me tell you....that is a dirt bike.

Lieutenant Oblivious said...

Can I get an old steel road bike, convert the drivetrain to a 1 by on the big ring and mount that add on electric motor? I have to start thinking about my senior years!

JLRB said...

"Merely". $1,000

That's how they get us - lots of $10k bikes make $1,000 bike cheap

Coworker keeps telling me how his so. Bought a new $1,000 bike like it's a ton of cash - I told him to read the latest bicycling rag ....

dancesonpedals said...

Tube amps & Steely Dan? Last tube amp I saw was in the apartment of an audiophile who reviewed stereos for the shiny magazines. He lived downstairs from my us & we thought about buying his apartment.

He had big hunks of foam rubber glued to the ceiling, to improve the acoustics. He had us sit in the best seat & listen while he cranked the complex harmonies of the roches (casino royale was an alternative, but his copy was scratched).

Oh, and he was a sex therapist, with one room of the apartment painted black & upholstered in black (also black sheets). And he smoked on the way to the equinox gym. He was selling the apartment, because he and his (fourth) wife were moving to NJ. I think love was real, because they bought his & her Bianchi's.

Great acoustics, but we bought our own roches album & moved to Westchester.

Blade_Rockwall said...

"Maybe yes and maybe no. Hey, we all want something different out of riding a bike. Some want simplicity, others are not happy unless they can tune every bump and twiddle dials and levers like an audiophile listening to Steely Dan on a tube amp. " Still. The. Champ.

Anonymous said...

Did he say "SWAM"?

Whick made me think "sham" when I double checked I wasn't crazy but alas it is SRAM...

Anon said...

My 14 year old kid would totally dig that xstrada.
And I wouldn't blame him for that.
(the battery seems .......... like it won't last long? a bunch of rechargeable double As wired together?)

Cat 404 e-Racer said...

MMM: What does your MTB truck say about you http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2015/04/28/what-does-your-work-truck-say-about-you/

-

Victor Kaminski said...

vsk said ...

The original mountain bikes were Schwinn Hornets, Wasps, or Corvettes with the 3 speeds or coaster branches with the fenders and chainguards removed. The big Mesinger spring saddle made you a woosie though...


vsk

Victor Kaminski said...

... coaster breaks...

Hee Haw the Barista's opinionated uncle Joe. said...

XXX Straddle looks like a minibike/moped shitshow.

bieks said...

God, now I want a Yeti Whatever. Hope you're getting a commission.

Heck, I want a bed liner now and I've never even owned and never plan to buy a pick up.

leroy said...

Mr. BSNYC's post has been up for more than an hour and no one has suggested that improperly tuned suspension may lead to Broke Back Mountain Biking?

My dog informs me he is disappointed.

But he's also disappointed I refuse to post his comment that NYC has a vibrant mountain biking scene as evidenced by the signs on our bridge paths advising "Cyclists Must Mount Dis."

I tried explaining he's misreading the signs, but he got all offended and gave me a lecture on dyslexia.

Hmmph. Dyslexia my ssa.

Grump said...

A good way to own an inexpensive bike was to buy a "good" bike every 15 years and "upgrade" it as little as possible. I didn't run out and buy another hardtail mountain bike (that I don't use very often anyway) when 8 speeds and 26" wheels became obsolete. Same goes for my road bike. 10 speed 7800 works good enough for me.

McFly said...

Victor,
I've used COASTER BRANCHES before. They will stop you. They leave a mark, but will stop you.

Anonymous said...

A few months back, I offered to donate a 26" race hardtail from my glory days to our desperate local HS team. Meticulously maintained, full XTR, King headset & hubs, Thomson post & stem, blah blah blah. Coach said, "Sorry, all we're taking is full suspension 29ers."

Victor Kaminski said...

vsk said ...

They used coaster pumps in Breaking Away ...


vsk

N/A said...

Ahahaha: "At a certain point should't we acknowledge the limitations of both rider and machine and surrender to the terrain, just as Late-Stroke Buck surrendered to Noticeable Bob in that steamy tire sealant scene?"

If that line alone doesn't win the blogoshpere for the day, I'll eat my cycling cap!

Pathetic Old Cyclist said...

At a certain point should't we acknowledge the limitations of both rider and machine and surrender to the terrain, just as Late-Stroke Buck surrendered to Noticeable Bob in that steamy tire sealant scene?

Maybe your best line ever.

Anonymous said...

Fred meltdown:
https://www.strava.com/challenges/10th-rider-challenge

1904 Cadardi said...

Wildcat,

When will your softcore porn books (assuming the working title is "Fifty Shades of Fred") be released?

Anonymous said...

America's Cup won by pedal power!
Cat Snob Bermuda

Anonymous said...

Agreed about regulation. Pedal assist motors ought to be limited to bikes with 16", maybe 20", wheels. So they are useful for people who need/want that assistance to commute, but are not good (or cool, because that is almost always a factor in buying too) for recreational riding, like road and mountain.
Lastly, is Noticeable Bob related to Silent Bob?

Anonymous said...

"Some want simplicity, others are not happy unless they can tune every bump and twiddle dials and levers like an audiophile listening to Steely Dan on a tube amp."

Jeebus, Eben. You're the king of metaphors. Or similes. Or whatever.

Anonymous said...

Great commentary on the Yeti. When you put a motor on a bicycle frame and can still pedal it, it's a moped and there's nothing wrong with that.

Alan said...

What about Late Sroke Bob? Great stuff today-esp the LOL lines about brokeback and his very full suspension..

Crosspalms said...

I made two tube amps from kits when I was a silly young man. I'd probably do it again as a silly old man if they made such things. Then I'd look at it and say "where's the headphone jack?" I used to listen to music on speakers all the time. Now, hardly ever. Does this mean I need to digitize my bikes?

Ze Cherman said...

I'd be surprised if any of those granny-ring-only bikes of today did anything but suck.

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