As a rider, I’m pretty set in my ways. For the most part, I know what I want in a bike; at least in terms of geometry…I can rattle off my ideal numbers on a trail, enduro or DH bike like friggin Rainman. After all, that facet of a modern mountain bicycle can spark a great deal of discussion as the options are endless and quite subject to opinion. As someone who tests bikes, I need to be open minded and avoid favoring things that work for me personally. It’s important to take an unselfish approach and think about riders of all shapes, sizes and ability levels on varying terrain.
At the moment I have two downhill bikes and from both a geometry (and suspension) standpoint, they couldn’t be more diametrically opposed. One is a GT Fury and the other is my Rocky Mountain Maiden Dream Bike. Although it’s probably not that hard to guess the favorite, I actually like them both quite a bit and bouncing back and forth between the two has been a cool experience. The Fury is aluminum, has a super linear suspension rate and it’s not that low but is very long, especially out back. The Maiden is carbon fiber, has a progressive suspension rate curve and it’s quite low but not that long. The Maiden is snappy, playful and fun; on jumpy, flowy bike park trails it’s perfect. The Fury is meant for hauling ass and just hanging on in rough terrain; it is most comfortable when other bikes feel most nervous.
Anyhow, after building the Maiden up I’ve spent more time on it as it’s tailor made for the terrain and trails in Santa Cruz…at least the ones that I typically ride. The other day I jumped back on the Fury and was expecting it to feel a bit hard to manage after spending so much time on the Maiden. To much surprise, it didn’t feel all that sluggish; it felt really good. That got me thinking about how we analyze geometry, get hung up on preconceived notions and preferences, etc. I thought to myself “this bike is a full 50mm longer and the chainstays are 20mm longer than I prefer…how am I having this much fun on this bike?”. At that point I probably should’ve just slapped myself, and not everyone is guilty of these thoughts but a lot of riders (like myself ) think we have it all figured out when in reality, we don’t.
So much of riding a bike is just spending time on one particular bike and adapting. If you spend enough time on a bike that doesn’t necessarily suit you, you’ll still get really good at riding that bike. However, make no mistake – riding loads of different bikes with varying geometries and suspensions does make you more comfortable and adept. We’ve all got those friends who can just jump on any bike and slay it. Take Olly Wilkins for example pictured below. He doesn’t ride downhill bikes…at all. So he just sends jumps like this on trail bikes and makes the rest of us look like squids. Shit, Olly probably couldn’t even tell you a single geometry measurement on his bike…because he’s too busy having fun and riding it.
So, while it is my job as an editor to nitpick over millimeters and .1º increments in head tube angles, don’t read into it too much and take it all with a grain of salt. These days we’re living in amazing times with incredible brands battling it out to win us over, all the while offering us the luxury of choice. It’s hard to buy a bad bike these day, and for that we should all be grateful. Most of us know what we like, or at least we think we do; but it’s refreshing to realize that maybe it’s not worth while to get too hung up on ten millimeters or half a degree…If you’re spend enough time riding and having fun, you can get used to just about anything.