Monday, June 04, 2012

Still Trying To Figure It Out

My latest trip to Northfield, Minnesota, (which I talked about in the post previous to this one), was an interesting reminder about wheels for off road bicycles. Mike of Mike's Bikes up there was right at the epicenter of the Marin developments as he wrenched at another Mike's Bikes out in Marin County. Mike has some great stories about what went down with the riders and the scene back in the day, right down to some personal nitty-gritty stuff, that would be best left to lie, but is definitely interesting to hear.

It coulda been you....
But leaving the personal tidbits aside, (which may or may not be true anyway), it always comes out in the conversations I have with Mike about the early days of mtb that nothing was "sacred" as far as "standards" as we learned them for mountain biking. What it was about, and this is paramount, was what would work best.

As an example, I give you this anecdote from my latest conversation with Mike. Now Mike isn't one to hang out on internet forums and whatnot. (Which is something I think we all could do less of so we could ride more.) So, I knew he probably hadn't heard that one of the 10 original Breezer bikes, the first purpose built for off road, batch produced bike series, had come up for sale recently. Mike was astounded. He was familiar with the first series, and had seen them back in the day.

Mike wanted to know if it had aluminum rims on it, or the originally spec'ed Schwinn S-2 steel rims. See, the S-2 rims were horrid for braking, since the chrome plated finish was so slippery. When aluminum rims became readily available, all the original Breezer owners had their wheels re-laced to them in what Mike referred to as a "wheel building frenzy". Oddly enough, all the rims that came in were of one anodized color, which wasn't the case later on. Ukai and a few others did several different anodized hues. So anyway, all the rims were a gold ano color on the re-laced set ups for all the Breezer bikes of the day. But what did that matter? The thing was, the aluminum rims worked better. Much better.

And the whole rim deal came down to the tires necessary to do "proper off roading" with, which were all 26" kids ballooner tires from Schwinn cruiser bikes. If those tires had been, say 650B- well then we'd be talking about a whole 'nuther story now. They could have been 700c based as well. Just like the wheels from the late 19th Century were.

But they weren't, and now, with all the available choices, we're still trying to figure out what is best for mountain bikes. In fact, if you think about it, we are still trying to figure out what a mountain bike is in the first place. Whatever it is, I don't think it will ever be as simple as it was in 1977, nor as technologically deficient as it was then. Obviously, a mountain bike is going to have multiple definitions depending upon who you talk to these days.

Maybe we'll never really figure it out!

1 comment:

Captain Bob said...

My oldest daughter and I walked Faribault a year ago while doing some Milltown business. Great town. Not much better than experiencing a community and all it has to offer by foot. Glad you had a nice weekend.