Hidden in the Internet-Tardis that represents my many years of dead-electron drivel is a post which raises mirth and incredulation in equal quantities. Gasts have been flabbered on bike forums patrolled by hardcore keyboard warriors who curmudgeonly confuse cost and value. And yet hidden somewhere in the ‘more bikes don’t make you happy‘ dogma nestles an unhappy truth.
Lots and lots of bikes HAVE made me happy. They didn’t make me any better. They do however represent my view of the mountain biking world and my place within in. That place being a somewhat chaotic meeting of real geography and the rather more impressionist landscape of my mind. For the Chilterns, lots of twitching eyebrow lock-to-lock steering short travel hardtails seems just the ticket. But that ticket gainstayed any entry to the new world of bike parks where riding was more short-and-mental rather than long-and-unthreatening.
And then there were the blind alleys, the drunken eBay purchases, the niche chasing nonsense all seasoned with a heavy whiff of nostalgia. Somewhere out there was the perfect shed of dreams. I just needed to keep on looking. And buying.
But let’s not look for reasons or even excuses to my revolving door approach to bike ownership. Instead it’s time to bring the story up to date where I hoped to show a new found maturity and laser like focus on a bare minimum of bikes which were well ridden, much treasured, carefully maintained and obsessively retained. This didn’t quite happen. Okay it didn’t happen at all.
Right then? Kettle on? Biscuits ready? Then we shall begin. This isn’t quite chronological. I did the best I could with fading grey matter and Flickr EXIF data, but when there have been so many, owned for so few months, it’s always going to be more of a jigsaw than a timeline.
Summer of 2007 saw Roger joining the fray via a half price fire sale at Sideways Cycles. It was a lovely colour. Manly purple with a bit of sparkle. Jealous sorts refused to accept it was really any colour other than a sexually ambivalent pink, which I think we can all agree is green-eyed blindness. Sadly my ever more desperate denials were merely displacement activity for a frame that was about 2 inches too short in the top tube. The only riding style for my gibbon like frame was that of a praying mantis attacking a purple (okay pink) frame shaped fish. It wasn’t pretty and it didn’t last.
Clearly it was time to move on. Which begs the question of exactly why buying another singlespeed seemed like a good idea. Especially from the same manufacturer who were on some kind of metal saving top-tube reduction vibe. I rode it exactly once which I think we can all agree fits perfectly in the envelope of long term bike ownership. Then we moved to somewhere hilly, rocky and significantly more like proper mountain biking. Good excuse for some more bikes then.
So abandoning singlespeeds for the last time, I emerged like a man from rehab stating that suspension and gears are a victimless crime. And what a statement the Cove Hummer was. Just a brilliant bike ridden anywhere and everywhere for four years. FOUR years, that’s a bloody lifetime in my riding pantheon, The bloody thing should have been awarded some kind of gold clock for long service. I don’t have it anymore having decided the top tube was a bit short (honestly why didn’t I just chop a couple of inches from my arms? Bloodied stumps would represent a rationale fiscal alternative to just setting fire to tenners which is pretty much my bike buying/selling approach).
But this one has many memories that make me smile. I don’t miss it, but I cherish the time we had together. It was a great bike and I should have chucked fiscal prudence out the door and hung it on the wall.
I accept it’s getting on the dull side of repetitive blaming my transient bike collection on a single measurement. Especially when I actually test rode this and declared it ‘the one’, And it was for a while being campaigned both right here and all over the country including a fantastic day on the Cwmcarn downhill course, multiple presentations at Scottish and Welsh trail centres and some awesome natural riding in the peaks and the lakes. Then I rode the ST4 and that was pretty much it for the Pace.
Which didn’t in any way persuade me that collecting more bicycles that really didn’t make any sense at all was anything other than the logical progression of a rationale mind. Firstly there was clearly a hole in my riding life where a cyclocross should be.
I absolutely convinced myself I needed a cross bike. I’ve yet to convince myself otherwise, although what wasn’t apparent to me on purchasing this rather lovely older example was the simple fact that the brakes are merely bar mounted accoutrements to tick some legal boxes. It was fun off road until any retardation of speed was required, after which I would either a) fall off or b) nut a tree. Reduced to commuting duties for a while, the writing was on the wall once I’d decided – for the standard period of ‘al-time’ (i.e. not very much) I liked road bikes. First tho, we headed off in yet another direction.
Back before a beer fuelled sabbatical of a few years, one of my first mountain bikes was a Kona Kilaueu which somehow I survived some real off road rides in the peak district. But soon it lost its lustre and was consigned deeper and deeper into dusty sheds before being abandoned in a house move around the turn of the century. Always regretted that which gave me an ample excuse to buy a rather fine example off eBay one drunken evening. Being just a frame and fork, time and money were thrown at recreating a facsimile of my long abandoned bike,.
And it rode great. Lovely. Just like the old one. Right up until the point of pointing it off road where, after only a couple of rides, it was clear that I wasn’t close enough to a man to ride fully rigid off endless roots and rocky steps. So I sold it to a man who thought he was and moved on. Lesson learned? What do you think?
So back to that ST4 then, remember the one perfect bike – but before we talk about that, let us bring out our dead and prostrate ourselves apologetically in a desperate attempt to avoid censure. Okay, here goes, road bikes. Two of them. For commuting and, well, commuting. I tried road riding and frankly it was slightly more dirty than the darker arts of animal husbandry. Somehow I managed a few 100k sportive’s with a scary bunch of chest-toast-racked billboard-lycra-wearing aliens but it’s not my world. Not even a little bit.
The latter commuted me to my office over nine months and a thousand miles saving me/the planet/randoms on the trains I would likely have killed until I decided that job was about as much fun as a 24 hour testicle slamming in sharpened drawer and moved on. As did the bike. I hesitate to admit this but I sort of liked it; sure it was heavy and unsophisticated and a bit ordinary but that fitted me pretty damn well on all sorts of levels and we grinned our way through some truly epic commutes full of rain, wind and snow.
I still have the boardman. One day I’ll ride it again. I expect I’ll be about 84.
Right back to the good stuff. We’re not done yet, but we’re making damn good progress. I finally found a bike I really loved which was heavy, flawed, flexy but otherwise perfect. Rode it, rode it, rode it and finally bonded with something that suited my riding and strange dimensions. Lavished love and cash making it perfect and then the ungrateful fucker exploded into un-fixable pieces after a Pyrenees trip.
Orange were great and sent me a brand new one that was significantly modified, considerably less flexy and somehow less fun.
This one didn’t break at all and rolled 2000 kilometeres under my ownership before being moved on. By this time I’d got a pretty good handle on what I wanted to ride and a plan of sorts was formed. Not before this happened tho.
On selling the Cove, I decided a long travel carbon hardtail was missing from my life. The gap was filled by this on-one Carbon 456 which was essentially blameless if a little crude. Had lots of fun riding it which was far better than having to look at it.
About the same time, it became clear i’d failed to fully mine that niche that was cyclocross. At no time did I consider myself close to adequate enough to complete – instead I felt it would be an ideal companion to speed into the local woods and explore the myriad of tracks discovered through years of dog walking. Assuming I could buy one with some real brakes.
And in a spooky realisation of some random thought process, that’s exactly what’s happened. I absolutely love riding this bike and it keep me more than honest in rooty singletrack 10 minutes ride from our house. I’ve changed exactly nothing in over a year making this something rather unique in the shed of dreams. A bike that’s ridden and not modified? It’ll never catch on. Because…
Since that photo was taken in December 2012 (Mount Tide in Tenerife if you’re interested), it’s had a new fork, mech, tyres and bars. An astonishing bike that takes me so far out of my comfort zone I’ll near to get a taxi back. Fast – oh so very fast – composed, carve-y and on at me all the time to be a whole lot better rider. I love it like addicts love crack-cocaine. It’s probably going to hurt me quite badly but what a way to go.
And being a fanboi, I had to have another Cotic.
Having dismissed 29ers as a fad that not even a niche-chaser like me would ever be interested in, my position softened a little bit after riding one. The Solaris is fast and fun. Belying its little 100mm fork, stuff just gets rolled over at silly speeds until the terrain goes the other way at which point it just eats that up as well.
So that’s it. I think. There may be a few missing but that feels about right. For those not paying attention, I’m left with the Rocket, Solaris, Boardman CX, Boardman Road and long serving DMR Trailstar LT. So of the thirty or so once owned – however transitory – we’re left with just five.
I’d like to say that’s absolutely it. But of course, it absolutely isn’t. The bloody industry is throwing every more diversive platforms at us – long travel 29ers and 650b for a start, while writing off the 26inch wheels size that’s served us so well. An intelligent rider would declare ‘stop the world, I’m getting off’,
Honestly, I wish I was than man. But realistically I’m not. See you in a year with an update 😉