Especially expensive stuff. Especially expensive stuff that I've been convincing myself DOES work despite repeated experience clearly informing me otherwise.
As you can probably tell, I’ve just come back from a particularly disastrous ride. A whole litany of things went wrong with my equipment. Nothing went catastrophically wrong. No one died. Nothing totally ceased to function. It’s just that a lot of it just didn’t quite measure up in real world performance to my fantasy world expectations.
To be fair, I’m being something of a Naomi Campbell diva about it all really. Maybe it’s the fact that so much bike equipment is so-very-nearly perfect that it makes the tiny aspect of imperfection stand out even more glaringly. Back when the majority of a mountain bike was made up of an ill-functioning flakey load of toss I was simply glad to be able to get around a ride in one piece (the less could be said for my bike that usually ended up with a piece smashed off it or zip-tied in place).
So what modern equipment was it that irked me so on my last ride? Almost all of it. And almost all of my annoyance was petty, borderline illusory. I was in a bad – no, doomy – mood. I was waiting for something to go wrong so I could spit the dummy. I possibly even deliberately caused (or failed to prevent) some of the malfunctions.
The first victim of my petulance was my drivetrain. The bike I was on was a single-ring 1×11 setup. An amazing bit of technology. Quiet, secure, slick, reliable, cool looking and with an impressively wide gearing range. But my inner weak-legged brat decided the gearing wasn’t quite enough. “Mountain bikes need granny rings or they’re just so much poseur crap!” I shouted (in my head anyway). I calmed down a bit and pedalled onwards and upwards.
The next candidate for my unfair critique was my expensive waterproof jacket. I was sweating to death inside it as I winched my way up the godforsaken climb. Properly boil in the bag. The rational thing would have been to pause and undo the zip. I knew the climb was approaching so I could in fact have unzipped before it started as I also knew about the sweatfest that would ensue. But I was spoiling for a fight wasn’t I? I wanted to bitch out. “There’s no such thing as a genuinely breathable jacket is there? It’s all b*ll*cks!” I bellowed (once again, to myself).
Once at the top of the hill I decided it would be a good idea to (pointlessly) adjust the angle of my saddle. Two things went awry with this plan. Firstly, I couldn’t unfurl the correct Allen key from my multitool because I had gloves on and the tool is a bit fiddly. Secondly, I couldn’t undo the far-too-tight seatpost clamp bolt with the multitool due to it being too small to offer sufficient leverage. “Argh! All multitools are sh*t! We should just carry individual tools around that actually bl**dy work!”
I set off down the descent and the tyres that had felt far too draggy on the way up suddenly felt dangerously sketchy on the way down. “Why can nobody design an all-rounder tyre that works? Rubbish!”
My brakes were pretty much brilliant and several light years ahead of braking performance compared to stuff only a few years ago BUT the levers had a microscopically different biting point and as such my whole ride/day/life was ruined. “How am I supposed to control my bike if the brakes are so massively different to each other? Ridiculous for stuff that costs so much!”
I’ve calmed down. I’ve got it out of my system. Website column-writing as therapy, it’s the future. Mountain bikes are 99% perfect now. I must stop concentrating on the 1% – that’s someone else’s job.
Bike designers, it’s over to you now.