the dan milner photography blog: tales of an adventuring photo chimp

August 17, 2009

It’s all about the weight…

Filed under: bike — danmilner @ 12:02 pm


Bikes used to be heavy. We put up with that. That’s all there was and we knew no better. That was back in the 80’s, back when 15 gears was a revolution and rear axles broke almost weekly. To have a 32 Ib (rigid) mountain bike was Okay. You just got on the thing and rode it, pushing feet into toeclips and marvelling at the miracle that was riding a bike off road. You even thought about donning the lycra-covered lump of polystyrene that was called a bike helmet. 

But the 80’s are long gone. That was a different era, a different world. So it amazes me that 30+ lb bikes are again considered all-day trail suitable rides by people who should know better. Heavy bikes don’t make great all-day rides, no matter how much suspension travel they boast. So I have a problem with the concept of heavy bikes for regular trail use (the kind of riding we used to call XC), but it’s not causing me as much angst as knowing that my own bike is gaining weight by the season: my once gangly pubescent is maturing into a big-boned, lumberjack of an adult.

The root cause of my angst is the fact that aside from shooting photos of beautiful people doing beautiful things on bikes, I also review kit for What Mountain Bike magazine, drawing on my own 24 years of mountain bike experience to evaluate it. That means I get to try new gear that’s intended to make the whole riding experience better, putting it to the test and photographing it here in the Alps. Nice job, if you can get it, I hear you say. Well, yes. The problem, if you can call it that, is that every new bit of “trail” orientated kit  -the sort of stuff that makes riding rocky alpine singletrack a bit more enjoyable, does exactly that: it makes it that bit more enjoyable. And it adds a few grams more to my bike’s weight. Remote-operated droppable seatposts that make technical descents less life-threatening? Tick. Add 350g. Bigger, wider riser bars to keep control when it all gets edgy ? Tick. Add 60g. Bigger platform pedals to find a footing on long rocky stepped descents? Tick. Add 180g. Bigger volume, 2.35-wide tyres? Tick.. you see what I mean.

For years and years I’ve been shaving grams off my bikes, always searching for lighter componentry to make peddling my pride-and-joy uphill as rewarding as riding it back down again. The “light bikes are good bikes” theme nimbly skipped into the still-fledgling mountain bike world in the early 90’s, adding a splash of purple-anodised, machined-aluminium offerings that punished every XC racer’s wallet while elbowing out heavy-bike acceptance. These new offerings to the god of XC riding made sense.. after all why pedal a heavier bike than you need to? Heavy just isn’t fun.

But that was the 90’s. They did things different then too. But having lived and ridden my way through it, I’m still struggling, at least a little, with the whole weight thing. My 140-mm travel Yeti 575 has gained a pound or so over the last couple of months and it’s tearing at my old-school psyche. But the extra weight on the climbs is more than compensated by better control and better comfort on the downs, and after ten years living in the Alps I’m seeing perhaps the biggest change to my own riding style since the first day I turned my back on my Dawes racing bike to embrace the off-road joys of a Raleigh Maverick 15-speed “All Terrain Bike” (or ATB as they were called for a spell). 

For a couple of pounds extra weight, I’ll live with that. Now all I’ve got to do is work out what the hell to do with the pile of lightweight bits that’s accumulating in the corner of my shed. Hey wait a minute… anodised purple is coming back in fashion….


bigger cages and chunky rubber: playtime

bigger cages and chunky rubber: playtime


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