The Times They Are A Changing. MTB Standards And Other Such Problems

In the pursuit of something called progress, things have got a little bonkers in the last few years. One upon a time, everything was all the same. If you wanted a headset the only question you had to ask yourself was, What quality? Same with hubs. Now i’m not knocking any of this, progress is good, bikes are getting better because of it, so are trails, if you like that sort of thing. But in the interests of non-conformity and simplicity i decided to ignore it all and stick with the old fashioned standards.
In my head i imagine a scenario: it’s 2053, a young lad goes into his grandad’s shed at th bottom of the garden and finds an old bike. wow. he wants to rebuild it, takes it to the bike shop and to his eternal surprise he gets a headset off the shelf, and some wheels, etc etc.
There’s something beautiful about a steel frame that adheres to the old standards. An elegance that oversize this and oversize that obliterates. To my mind, hydroformed alloy looks cheap and mass-produced, no matter how much you’ve paid for it. Carbon fibre even more so. My frames are made in a factory, but they’re hand made by craftsmen who are bloody good at what they do. The Stooge was designed on paper with a good pen, a calculator and a draughtmans’ set from WH Smith. I downloaded a CAD program to help me design my frames but it wanted to do all the work for me and i didn’t like that. I wanted to have to really think about it.
The choices we have to day are bigger and wider than ever before. Boost 148. Headsets. BB widths. Wheel sizes. 29+. B+. Fatbikes. All of it is great, and some of it has found its way onto the Stooge, but a lot of it, in the real world makes next to no difference at all.
One of the most common questions i get asked is when will my frame be 29+compatible on the rear? This is now changing to when will my frame be 650B+ compatible on the rear. It already is, but why would you want to hack around with a stodgy rear end? One of the things i learnt from BMX is that a skinnier and lighter rear tyre really makes a difference you can feel. It spins up faster, your legs don’t get bogged down, you can really fling it into corners, in short it just feels ‘right’.
I’ve had my share of suspension bikes over the years and they do amazing things for how fast you can go and what you can ride off. But since when was 5K for a mountain bike acceptable? Mountain biking was never meant to be so financially elitist,it was invented by young men in ripped jeans with no money, and if you read the magazines that spirit has all but died. And yet we’re out there and we’re growing, people who want to ride a simple, well engineered bike on dirt, whether a bike-packing trip into the wilderness or an evening hack on the local trails. More and more riders are beginning to feel ostracized by the hype and marketing and pricing from the big players and their smaller cousins. Of course, you could argue that it’s just another subculture, bu meet the riders in question and you’ll discover something more – a love of life and experience, a passion for cycling and bikes that goes way back, and an amazing ability to outrun the big boys on their big bikes.

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