On the joys of retro biking

17th July 2005

I am so hyped I had to write! Now I remember why I got so into mountain biking.

So, I've spent the week moaning about my broken forks and how impossible it is to find any thing that will replace them. I've also moaned about how fashion-led the MTB industry has become; everything is black and built to descend vertical rock faces. There are no decent XC bikes out there from major manufacturers - well certainly not for less than about £700. How is it possible to take aluminium, which is a third of the weight of steel, and make a bike that weighs 32 LBs?

There is something good out of all this; there are now loads of niche builders producing steel and titanium hard-tail frames (and even single-speed MTB frames) which look to be fantastic value for money.

Anyway, to get out tonight I borrowed Mark's Kona Cinder Cone which takes "old-school" to the point of absurdity. This is the same bike that we gave to Kav last week for his first ever MTB ride, and as soon as I got on it I thought "oh my god this is rough". But then I started to ride it and it got worse! The brakes are apalling - they have no stopping power at all and all the feel of a block of wood wrapped in a condom. The thumbshifters have never been something I like but, hey, they did actually work - mostly. I haven't used clips in about 10 years and now I remember why! And of course the bike is fully rigid, I'd forgotten how much the front end "chatters" when you're hammering on singletrack. I'd also forgotten how it feels to have your fillings shaken out. I couldn't believe we put a total novice on it last week. However, after a few minutes I started to grin and the grin just kept getting bigger. Then I remembered that this is where we all started back in 1990. And I started to realise that back-to-basics mountain biking is unbelievably good. I've done the suspension stuff, even had a full sus' for a day but really when you're out to have fun, as opposed to racing, you want the most fun and this rigid piece of archaeology gave it to me in spades. The crap brakes made me attempt stuff I'd have bailed out of on the P7 (there was no way to bail on this bike, by the time you stopped you were through the hazard). The rigid forks went where I pointed them, not roughly in the direction I wanted. The lack of suspension may have made me slower but it felt faster. And I love the way a rigid bike hammers down a fast singletrack - absolute bliss.

So to end this, far too long, rave I have just come home and ordered all the kit to resurrect my old Kona Lava Dome. It will have Project 2 forks just like original but Aheadset instead of quill. I've also ordered some lightweight bars and carbon fibre bar-ends - I'm not a total luddite. This bike should have all the good points of Mark's but with the sort of refinements you need for the real world - like brakes that will stop you!

If you've got this far then thanks for letting me ramble on - I guess I owe you a pint for listening (Sharon just looked bored :-) ). Hopefully the bits will arrive in time for me to assemble it all on Saturday ready to hammer on Sunday.


Update - 22nd July: I've finished building the Lava Dome. This time last week I had a frame without forks and a bag full of bits that I hoped was a groupset. I had to buy a whole new front end: Project 2 forks, Easton EA70 bars, FSA UF headset, FSA stem and some quite pretty carbon bar-ends. The bag of bits did contain enough stuff to build the rest of the bike up and it is now a sweet-handling fully rigid that weighs in around 23Lbs (10.5 Kgs). I haven't ridden it hard yet but first impressions are good and the brakes (Shimano V) are scarily powerful. Kona Lava Dome

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