Thursday, August 26, 2010

You Can't Buy Speed

I'm on vacation this week and enjoying the time away from work. After returning from our camping adventure yesterday, entire family slept in this morning. Experiencing some sleeping bag action always makes your own bed feel especially comfortable. The rainy morning added another excuse to sleep in, we haven't had rain for weeks. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn't rain daily here in the Seattle area.

Late in the afternoon, I head out for a quick solo mountain bike ride in our local woods. I'm still tired from our trip and was dragging a bit. After a few miles I loosen up and feel better. While buzzing my familiar singletrack, come across a dude riding a 'cross bike. Riding a 'cross bike on singletrack qualifies as cool in most people's book, especially if you can embarrass people riding mountain bikes.

With the pinball maze of singletrack our paths crossed occasionally. Of course when I hear him behind me, I crank it a bit. I'm on the 29er and try to lose him. I'm not killing myself and from the looks of the guy - he appears to be a real 'cross racer - he could probably drop me at will. We're moving at nice clip, not race speeds, but fast enough to be fun. I can hear his rear hub buzzing behind me - catching up, then falling back at times.

At one point, where the singletrack crosses a street, I hesitate on purpose so he crosses first and I jump in behind. He's moving pretty quick, but I hang on without a problem. My familiarity with these trails is a bonus for me. At a double log crossing, dude pulls off a smooth running 'cross dismount and remount. Sweet. I wheelie and hop the 29er over the logs as usual.

I follow for a bit longer and he gains some time on a tricky uphill rooted out section - riding the whole time. Nice. Riding a 'cross bike on trails with skinny 35c knobbies, drop bars, and no suspension takes some skill. I've done it a few times on my own 'cross bike and appreciate the dude's skill. Riding a mountain bike complete with suspension fork and fatter tires makes things easier for sure. I catch back up to him shortly, then he peels off onto a different trail. Fun little diversion, my intent not to stalk 'cross dude, so I continue on my own way.

Cool thing about bikes, no matter what you're riding, it's still 95% you. A talented rider on a 'cross bike can drop many mountain bikers on terrain far more technical then you'd imagine. One exception would be full downhill racing, equipment in that arena is a factor. Those bikes now resemble motorcycles, minus the motor. Suspension is king for that sport. You can add freeride riding to that mix as well. You won't be sticking many 10 foot drops on a 'cross bike. That would be fun to witness however.

Otherwise, for general XC riding, the majority of the performance depends on the connection between the seat and the handlebars. It doesn't really matter if you're on a 4" travel bike, 6" travel rig, hardtail, or even a 'cross bike - the better rider will always win and/or outride you.

Same deal with road riding. Put slow dude on the $10,000 carbon fiber wonder bike, complete with Di2 and the zillion dollar wheelset. Place fast dude (or dudette) on the $1500 rig with Shimano 105. Guess who wins or gets to the top of the climb first? Wanna place your bet now?

Bikes are tools and certain tools are better suited for specific jobs. However, the skilled craftsman can make do with any tool better then someone less skilled. That's the fact. You can't buy speed, you can't buy talent - no matter what the glossy bike mags tell you.

Agree or disagree?

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