Poor Kids, Too Many Standards /Rant

poorbikefitTwo topics today.  Shauna and I were walking on the rail trail yesterday and encountered a large group of boys out for an “official” ride.  I’m guessing Boyscouts.  I knew it was official because everyone had a backpack and a helmet. It’s awesome to see an event like this, since so few people ride, but something kind of bothered me.  Now I know my opinion on helmets is out of the mainstream, and I’m not saying that wearing helmets is wrong, but the stupid, insane and damaging standard that everyone should be wearing a helmet at all times on a bike is a farce.  These boys were moving slower then most runners and they were on gravel rail trail with no vehicle traffic.  I’m certain they are in more danger of head injuries when they are on the playground.

What really made me sad was the fact that just about everyone I saw on the group had their saddles inches to low.  Everyone was on some kind of geared mountain bike, mostly Wal-mart bikes, and most of them looked brand new.  I’d also be willing to bet many of them won’t be ridden again.  Riding a bike with the saddle inches to low is an exercise in frustration, it’s so much harder to generate and keep momentum.  It’s not only slower but painful.

I think that there is some kind of general rule that people are taught that says correct saddle height for a bike is where you can comfortably put a foot flat on the ground when you come to a stop.  This is a guaranteed way to have a saddle far to low for decent pedaling power.  So why is “real” cycling such a niche activity?  It’s so dangerous you need to wear a helmet and yet the average person doesn’t have enough experience to ride fast enough to make it dangerous.


Cycling in Copenhagen, don’t see too many helmets?

My second topic is the silly number of standards that have been developed by the bike industry.  I’ve been shopping around for a new suspension fork for the SCUD.  The Reba that I’ve been using is trashed, the stanchion tubes and bushing are so worn that it will no longer hold oil.

So what kind of options do you have when buying a fork.  Well you’ve got 3 wheel sizes, 26, 27.5 and 29, though I can’t imagine to many people still buying 26 inch forks, they are out there.  Then you’ve got 3 different ways to attach a wheel, the old standby 9mm QR, and they new fangled 15mm and 20mm thru axles.  But wait there’s more, does your frame use a standard 1.125 steer tube, or does it need the fancy pants, tapered steer tube.  That’s 18 different options for a single fork model.  Now of course every model doesn’t come in every variation, but take the Rockshox REBA, it is available in every option except 20mm thru axle.  That’s alot of REBAs.

Mountain biking places far greater demands on equipment, especially the guys riding off ledges, I know that many people benefit from thru axles and stiffer head tubes, though my guess is that most of us don’t.  Road biking on the other hand, I just don’t see it. You may notice I’m not even delving into the truly crazy world of bottom bracket standards. Sure it’s nice to have options, its good that they are trying to make better stuff, but the retro grouch in me thinks that most of these new standards, and disc brakes on road bikes has alot more to do with selling new bikes then it does with making better bikes.



About Matt Gholson

Cycling, school teaching, husband.
This entry was posted in Barn Door Cycling, Bikes and components, lifestyle, Mountain BIking, Rants, Stories, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Poor Kids, Too Many Standards /Rant

  1. drtlmyers says:

    After working with kids for years and raising one, I think they probably all need to wear helmets and eye goggles 24/7; LOL. I never used to wear a helmet on the trail. Lately, I’ve started doing so. It has just become part of my routine and then I am prepared if we decide to leave the trail. I definitely agree about the seat height. The young boys are probably spry enough to overcome it, but I hate when I see adult women with an improper bike fit because they will probably give up cycling because it is so uncomfortable for them. I was recently asked what obstacles I saw to getting more women involved in cycling and I answered getting them on better bikes with a proper bike fit would do wonders to get more women cycling. Thanks again for a great blog post!

    • Matt Gholson says:

      Yeah, it was the same when I got Shauna into riding years ago. When I finally got her to ride with a good saddle position she enjoyed it. She struggled her wrists and hands unless sitting bolt upright, and while she developed to the point where she did some metric centuries, she always had issues with her hands going numb and ultimately quit riding.

  2. brad bolin says:

    Bike fit is everything. Of course, this works in conjunction with saddle height. Without getting a saddle dialed in to a position that is close to where it should be, it is impossible to know whether the reach will be right or the bar height as well. Saddle height is also so closely connected to a rider’s flexibility,as well as technique and individual physiology. I hate to see so many people not really give cycling a fair shot due to a bike that is not properly set-up, a saddle that is the wrong type, or too low. Some people set the saddle at a height so they can mount and dismount quickly, but they are not doing it correctly. I have been a cyclist all my life but began taking it truly seriously and investing in it about 4 years ago. It is possible for a saddle to be too high as well, and this can be extremely painful and can cause serious physical issues. Although I only ride road bikes, the industry has also continued to evolve at a rapid rate, and I too am a traditionalist in some mechanical aspects. I am glad that I do not have to deal with the changes that have happened in the mountain bike industry, disc brakes, full suspension, thru axles…this stuff has all gotten very complicated and expensive. It’s also from everything I have researched and my own experience that all bicycle bought in big-box stores cost a lot more to maintain, rarely fit right, and weigh a lot more. They are inexpensive to acquire, but very expensive to maintain. Good article, I always wear a helmet, but then again, I ride on pavement and do so at a fast pace. I do believe, however, that some of the most serious cycling injuries can happen at very low speed or even when mounting and dismounting.Good article!

  3. Matt Gholson says:

    Hey Brad, nice to see another area rider. Where’s your usual riding at? We could meet up for a ride sometime.

    In regards to accidents, I would say that a majority of falls happen at slow speeds, especially when mountain and dismounting, but that these are rarely ever serious. Of course a head injury can occur anywhere, anytime, and there is no reason not to wear a helmet.

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