Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Why Did I Start MTBing ?

Way back in the days when I was at school and college, I used to ride everywhere on a variety of steeds. Mainly them 'orrible stretched out racer things that give you chronic back ache ! Then I started work and quickly passed my driving test which then meant bikes were a thing of the past. Is there any wonder, as they were uncomfortable, were hard work and kept getting nicked...

Until, many years later when I wandered past a local bike shop and thought I'd kill a few minutes browsing. I was surprised at how much bikes had changed, with common acceptance of new technology such as indexed gears (no more "hunting" for that sweet spot"), 27 or even 30 gears (whatever happened to Sturmey Archer 3 speeds ? - OMG, they're still going !), aluminium frames and then there were these bikes they called "Mountain Bikes".

A few weeks passed while I thumbed a few bike mag's and caught up on the latest gear and I also started to recall how much fun it'd been to ride all those years back. Needless to say it wasn't long before I went back to the shop and bought a basic MTB, a Claud Butler, Stone River hardtail with elastomer front forks, 21 gears and little else worthy of note.

The important thing was that it re-inspired me to get cycling again, to keep on riding and to keep fit. It also allowed me to explore parts of the local town and countryside that you just don't see while cacooned in a tin can on wheels.

After a couple of years Chipmunk started to join me on local rides which was great. But we soon learnt that if we rode anything remotely bumpy and away from the smooth hardpack, that it badly aggravate her previously slipped disc(s). After a few trips to the people who "bend you into funny shapes" they set the seed of an idea that if she must ride then it really should be comfortable, so why not try a full suspension bike ?

Ok, lets see what's available as the local bike shop. Unfortunately, they didn't have much to offer so we travelled up to Daventry and visited Leisure Lakes which had a much wider range of steeds and also offered them to try. After a few discussions with the staff, we had two full suspension MTB's booked for a demo wkend on a Trek Fuel 80 and a Marin Rock Springs.

A few wks later, we collected these damn fangled MTB's and set off around our local trails on 'em. Immediately we were impressed with the ride quality and how the rough trails were transformed and felt so much smoother. Not only that but the gear changes were slick / rapid and they both had disc brakes which didn't just slow you down, they actually stopped you ! We rode the same "test" section repeatedly, swapping bikes and trying different settings to see how they compared. The demo bikes were returned and over Xmas we discussed the bikes, recalling different attributes that we liked or disliked. All good fun but also quite confusing.

Chipmunk was initially more interested in the women's specific version of the Trek after reading a magazine article about the excellent female fit. But she both found that the ride was much so much smoother on the Marin and untimately more enjoyable.

I was undecided as the Trek was lightening fast and very nimble but the Marin was more comfortable and also had three different suspension settings (4, 5 or 6inces of travel using the TARA link) which appealed as it was almost like having 3 bikes in one.

In the New Year, we visited LLakes in Nottingham for Chipmunk to test ride a smaller 15.5" Marin as the 17" demo seemed a little tall for her. This clinched it and we both ordered Rock Springs (click for bike info) for collection in a few weeks time, once stock of the latest model had arrived.

For the next three years, these beasts were ridden all over the country on various terrain and performed admirably. Chipmunk no longer suffered with a bad back and I found that my riding ability improved as the Marin coaxed me into riding things I wouldn't previously have considered.

As you'll gather, we're now big fan's of full suspension MTB's and while we no longer ride our Marin's we still regularly hit the off road trails and still ride full suspension. See you around...