Two 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.
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.