Attention Pinkbike: This is not a headline for an opinion piece

Here’s a fun game: Below are two examples of actual opinion headlines from the New York Times today, and one example of an opinion headline from RC and the team at Pinkbike. See if you can guess which one is which.

  1. “It’s time for Congress to fix loopholes in a gun control law meant to save women’s lives”
  2. “The Great American Tax Heist”
  3. “I went on a bike trip once and some stuff happened”

Tough game, I know.

Now, to RC’s credit, there was an actual argument buried deep in his article. Yes, after 10 winding expository paragraphs to introduce his themes and characters, he finally got around to the totally uncontroversial and uninteresting truth claim of “I like natural resource preservation.” After that, he even said he disagreed with the president regarding policy. Groundbreaking stuff, to be sure.

But I had to spend almost 1000 words scratching my head, checking and rereading the headline and byline, and trudging through a seemingly pointless narrative before reaching any discernible thesis. Maybe this was a sort of bold, experimental style that was wasted on my untrained eyes, a sort of gonzo journalism by RC, where the writer puts me in his shoes, seeing and feeling the turn of events in real time from his perspective before arriving at a jolting, contentious, in-your-face indictment of the status quo.

But probably not. It’s an editorial on Pinkbike, after all, and Pinkbike editorials are as interesting and controversial as a discussion about file cabinets:

 

 

“Most people use a bigger file cabinet than they need. They’d have more fun with a smaller file cabinet, because they’d have to be more creative with the space.” -Mike Levy

 

“I use the biggest file cabinet I can find, and you should to, no matter how many files you have.” -Paul Aston

 

“File cabinets should be more inclusive to women.” -Pinkbike editorial board, at least once a year

 

“I made a file cabinet once in my backyard, like 30 years ago, and I know Jeff Steber.” -RC

 

 

While we’re on the topic of things I hate, I hate this:

 

Is it, Ross? Is it THE interview? Just for fun, here are four other Greg Minnaar interviews I found on Pinkbike in a few seconds of browsing:

So Ross Bell’s Minnaar interview isn’t THE only Minnaar interview. Is it THE most special? Apparently not, because two of the other interviewers had the stones to claim the title of “THE Greg Minnaar interview.” So that means three different Minnaar interviews each claimed to be THE definitive Minnaar interview.

Well, at least no one else on Pinkbike uses this trope.

Oh… wait… never mind.

 

Attention Pinkbike: not every article needs to be THE most important article in the world. In fact, only one article gets to hold that distinction at any given time. Most of the time, it’s just an article, and you know what? That’s okay. How about this for a headline:

 

An interview with Greg Minnaar

 

or

Pinkbike Interviews: Greg Minnaar

 

or

2017 Recap: an Interview with Greg Minnaar

 

or go with a more honest title

You can’t get him to say anything bad about anyone, and yeah this interview is kinda boring: Greg Minnaar

 

I would call “THE interview” THE most tired trope in mountain biking, but in reality it’s just a tired trope. Among the many tired tropes, it’s podium material at best, and that’s only if we’re talking a five-deep regular season podium. In a sea of overused journalism tropes, it’s realistically not World Champs material. Maybe on a good day.

“THE interview” is like the Troy Brosnan of annoying MTB tropes. It’s always there, ever present and in the mix, but it’s never really at the top of the list.

425mm chainstays still suck

Canyon just debuted their sick new Park Bro bike, and like every Park Bro bike before, it features a 425mm chainstay length on all the sizes. Checking around the industry, this has become the standard freeride Bro Brah size since the original Demo 9. The Kona Process 167? 425 chainstay. Rocky Slayer? 425 chainstay. Commencal Supreme SX? 425 chainstay. Literally every pedal bike from Transition, the ultimate Park Bro brand has 425 chainstays.

In the Canyon Torque lineup, from the smallest bike to the largest front center grows 96 mm, or 9.6 cm, or 3.8 in, or 0.11 yds, or 0.00006313 miles, or 14%.

For those same bikes, rear center grows 0 mm.

And the front center is at no risk of being called “short.”

 

I’ll extend an olive branch here, and concede that 425mm chainstays can be fun in certain circumstances, like if you’re building a dirt jump bike, or you’re 5’4″, or you suck at riding, or some combination of the three. But if you’re riding somewhere above walking pace, and are at or above global average height, and we’re talking about a full suspension for trail riding, 425 chainstays suck.

For the most part, bikes suck less than they used to. Suspension, tires, brakes, and (for the most part) geometry have all converged around some quality numbers that make sense for most riders. Chainstay length, however, is still determined with a dart board, or by monkeys with typewriters.

Your front center/rear center ratio determines your weight balance on the bike. Changing one number directly affects how the other number feels when you’re on the bike. You should probably change both numbers at the same time. This could be the next REVOLUTION!!! in geometry:

XS/SM: 425mm

MED: 430mm

LG: 435mm

XL: 445mm

XXL: Whatever Greg Minnaar is running this week

How to build trails that suck: #1 Don’t use dirt

After moving 20 yards of dirt for your landing, who has time to build a proper dirt lip? You sure as hell don’t. No, you have to get to work ASAP cranking boneriffic hands-up tuck no-handers. You need to wrap this project up so you can catch the last golden leaves of fall in your nicely framed photograph, highlighting your cute hammock and lack of creativity. Sure, there’s a gently sloping hill in the background, full of easy to mine dirt just waiting to help you build out a good lip, or where you could have routed the jump line to ad some natural contours and a dash of originality.

But no, you don’t want to do that. You want to go straight through the middle of a flat ass, boring ass yard, hack together a pallet and what I assume is old plywood from a deconstructed mini ramp, and build a lip that’s guaranteed to dry out and crack immediately when the sun comes out, crumble at the top where you only built the dirt 5 inches thick, and disintegrate when the wood rots from the inside out and rapidly looks like shit. But trick jumps are sick, right, bro?!?

There’s a difference between digging dirt jumps and digging trails. Trails are art, and they’re a labor of love year after year. Dirt jumps are built quickly, ugly, and in the most obvious, boring way possible by tank top wearing meatheads so they can huck shit “training” for contests. Cool dude.

But hey, this isn’t just a tip for little-bike jump builders. You can lower the quality of any jump anywhere by framing it in with found materials instead of using more dirt and building it the right way. And remember, it’s not just ugly, it’s also dangerous if someone finds themselves off line. So you’re not just being lazy, you’re also an asshole.

 

 

You can make small jumps worse.

 

You can make big jumps worse.

 

And everything in between.

 

This one isn’t finished, but it’s particularly egregious. This is the KILL LIST in jump form.

 

 

Ask TEAM ROBOT

“What’s worse – Brakes that squeal or gum wall tires?”

Gum wall tires. Squealing brakes may or may not be your fault, but the same isn’t true about your decision to buy gum walls. I’ll use this borderline unforgivable example from one of my favorite people in the world, someone who, unlike you, is on the DO NOT KILL list. He took what would have been a wonderful, tasteful build and did… this:

Et Tu, Brute?

 

To review:

  • The correct number of colored anything on your bike is two, and that includes frame and fork lowers.
  • Stanchion color doesn’t count. It’s like blue jeans: at some point, for some indeterminate reason, everyone agreed it’s okay to pair with anything.
  • Color-matched anodized components are a flag that says “packfill.”
  • The correct color for stems, handlebars, seatposts, rims, spokes, and tires is always black.

 

“Santa Cruz Hightower or Specialized Enduro 29? I like a really progressive, almost impossible to bottom out feel.”

Neither?

The good news is you probably have no idea what you’re talking about, so you might very well be happy with either bike. There are dozens of variables in bike feel, and most riders haven’t ridden enough bikes with enough different setups to actually tease out which variables affect what, beyond the basic ones like frame size, spring rate, BB height, etc. Most riders that get really descriptive about suspension curves, anti-squat percentages, or high speed compression tunes are really saying “I rode a bike once that felt good, and I’ve also ridden bikes that didn’t feel good.” I guarantee you 75% of TR readers and 95% of Pinkbike readers couldn’t take the Pepsi Challenge and tell me the difference between a 66 or 64 head angle on the trail, a Lyric or a 36 on the trail, or small variations in rear suspension leverage rate.

Rear suspension designs are all incredibly similar now. In 2017 we’ve ruled out most of the really wacky shit, and most rear suspension designs these days are, ceteris paribus, rideable (recent phallic monoshock carbon DH bikes excepted). I’m not saying I want to ride a Cube, I’m just saying suspension curves aren’t the reason Cubes are unrideable. Modern suspension designs aren’t homogenous, but every design in 2017 is converging on some very similar characteristics. They’re shooting for a steady falling rate, they’re typically optimized around a 32 chainring for fairly similar anti-squat numbers, axle paths are pretty similar (with the exception of a few high-pivot designs), and overall progression and leverage rates are pretty similar from bike to bike. For instance, we don’t see rising rate designs, we don’t see 2:1 shock rates anymore, and with the advent of trunnion mounts, you’re not going to see many teeny shocks, either. Things are better now.

“It kinda felt like humping an exercise ball, or like someone used a soft-close drawer slide as the damper against this 800-pound spring. AIDS? Can it feel like AIDS? I haven’t had AIDS, but I think that’s what it’s gotta feel like.”

 

Having said that, you picked two notable exceptions. Santa Cruz VPP trail bikes have had a very distinct regressive/flat/progressive curve since… forever? But don’t trust me, ask Uncle Joe about VPP rates throughout history. The new Nomad would be the only SC trail bike that fits your bill because it borrows its linkage from the V10.

Specialized has always had a painfully flat leverage rate, from the Demo 9 to the alloy Demo 8, right up to the current spaceship-seatmast Demos and fancy 2018 Enduro 29er’s. The reason Troy, Aaron, Loris, Loic, Finn, and Miranda all ran custom links is because… drumroll please… the bike is designed by midpack engineers who think Gypsy at Northstar is THE testing ground for DH bikes. They literally *just* changed the leverage rate on the 2018 Enduro, but only for 27.5, because apparently 29er riders don’t hit jumps.

Every team rider has a custom link to get away from the stock configuration. This should inform you about Specialized’s design goals and ideal customer.

 

The fact that you cited either one of those bikes and then asked about “impossible to bottom out feel” leads me to believe you have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m not saying small differences between suspension designs don’t matter- they do. The whole premise of this site is that, no matter what engineers, tech writers, or marketers tell you, everything matters. I’m just saying that, based on what little I know about you, you’re probably not the princess and the pea. If you want a good bike, you should buy the one with the amount of travel and wheel size you need, that fits best based on the geo chart, and then play with air pressure and reducers til it rides like a bike. Seriously, I defy you, stick some volume reducers in the Hightower or Enduro, then take some volume reducers out of a YT Jeffsy, and tell me with a straight face you can feel a difference in progression. (Hint: you can’t)

 

“The 5010’s alright I guess, but the top end of the leverage curve just isn’t giving me enough support.”

 

If you really can’t decide between the LT or the Enduro, you should buy the Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz isn’t perfect as a brand, but they’ve always let you run whatever shock you want, they never went to press fit BB’s on their mountain bikes, they gave the world Ratboy and five years of Rennie, their marketing manager just won whip off worlds, they never made an awkward break up vid for Sam Hill, and (as a percentage of revenue) they’ve poured more money into World Cup downhill than anyone. If you’re ever choosing between two fairly equal products, buy from the brand that makes mountain biking better. If you had to take hard-earned money out of your pocket and give it to either Roskopp or Sinyard… hmmm… tough choice.

 

None of those were scrubs

 

Eliot’s a smart guy. He knows a lot of things. I think he knows his rear tire wasn’t sliding up the jump face on any of those “scrubs.”

 

 

 

Shut up, James. You’re not helping.

 

Whatever man, I’ve been on this “scrub” thing for years now. Just let me have my grudge in peace, James. You make me wish I’d never even found the “word bubble” feature in Preview.

 

Okay, fine: http://www.eliotjackson.com/

The Rules: Keep filming

If you’re ever filming a friend hit a jump for the first time, and he overshoots the jump by 30 feet, mid-nosedive, headed for an immediate ambulance ride, TEAM ROBOT has a friendly reminder for you:

Hold that phone or camera steady and keep filming. Please. You might feel pangs of guilt and a sense of responsibility, but in this moment you have a higher calling than even your sacred bond of friendship: millions of people the world over want to see a complete clip of your friend eating shit, and you owe them that. I want to see your friend eating shit. Later you’ll want to see your friend eating shit. Provided he doesn’t die on impact*, your friend will definitely want to see an uninterrupted, unshaky video of him eating shit. Don’t blow it.

It’s tough, but you have a duty here. You need to put on your big boy pants, hold the camera steady, and stand firm like the stoic, emotionless documentarian we need you to be.

 

*or on the ambulance ride, or from complications in the hospital, or after a multiyear coma like Steven Seagal in Hard to Kill, or any other sort of crash-related death that would prevent him from watching a cell phone video of them eating shit before going up to the Jerry Hall of Fame in the sky.

 

Handlebars

Truvativ is now offering 35mm handlebars. What exciting times we live in.

 

I have limited experience on 35mm handlebars. I spent a season on Gravity’s 35mm Grid aluminum bar on my trail bike, and while the bar did feel a little like a broomstick compared to the normal (and more expensive) Gravity Light bar I’ve ridden for years, the Grid bar wasn’t unrideable. I didn’t love the straighter, flatter angles of the new bar, and it was a little rougher than the 31.8 bar, but the additional stiffness wasn’t a love it or hate it thing, it was just kinda there. Blind test, I’m not sure I would have noticed the additional stiffness. Maybe?

Apparently though, alloy bars aren’t really the point of the new interface, just a bonus option and a way to sell more NewCoolShit. TEAM ROBOT might be irrelevant and half-dead, but we’ve still got people, and our people indicated that the real reason 35mm exists is to create a safer BCD for plastic bars to save ham-fisted home mechanics. The previous pattern was apparently:

  1. Home mechanic over-tightens stem on new carbon bars.
  2. Breaks their face off when their new 800mm handlebar turns into two 400mm handlebars.
  3. Home mechanic then funnels cash to the dentists of the world to fix his shit.
  4. Dentists spend that cool facial reconstruction cash on carbon bars and other lightweight components for themselves in a nasty pattern known as ‘The Dentist Cycle,’ to be covered more extensively in a later post.

So plastic handlebar safety is the first argument, which is valid, and the second argument typically revolves around plastic handlebar stiffness. This also seems valid, because I’ve personally felt some ridiculously flexy 31.8 carbon bars. During a parking lot test on one of the first generation Enve DH Bars, I got the bars to make a frowny face. I did the same with a set of Crankbrothers 710mm plastic bars while standing over the bike with both feet on the ground. I don’t have stiffness test values for those bars, but I’d guess they’re somewhere in the zero to shitty range.

[Editor’s Note: Sure, I guess the third argument for carbon bars would be vibration damping, as noted by one of our commenters. But that idea is stupid on many levels, so I didn’t mention it. To be addressed in a future article)

But it’s worth asking: what would drive someone to run carbon handlebars in the first place? Why does this seem like the place to save weight? I can’t think of any component that’s worse to break, and I can’t think of a single 800mm bar that weighs more than 400g, meaning your max *potential* weight savings is less than half a pound. to review, the cost to save less than a half a pound with carbon handlebars is:

  • $130-225
  • Maybe your face

Sure, I can justify the $130. Even on the high side, you can still rationalize $225 to save half a pound, especially compared to a fancy set of wheels or Ti spring. But maybe your face seems like a pretty steep price for a marginally lighter cockpit. A friend of mine makes a practice of taking off his old bars every two years and sawing them in half so no one ever rides them again, and while that’s a little dramatic, it illustrates a point- handlebars will not be friendly if they break.

 

And you thought those bars were expensive.

 

Of course, from a materials standpoint, carbon can be stronger than aluminum. As long as you don’t over-tighten your clamps, score the interface with twisting brake levers or controls on the bar, allow your bike to bump into others during transport, take your bars off and on repeatedly, accidentally hit the surface with sharp tools or rocks, drop your bike, or crash. As long as you don’t do that, you’re fine.