Wednesday, February 22, 2017

What Is A Mountain Bike?

This is the only geared MTB I have now. The Singular Buzzard
I rode my Singular Buzzard to work and back yesterday. It is massive overkill for a commuter bike, but you have to love how that 140mm travel fork erases curbs. You have to try it to understand. There is no bump sensation at the bars at all.


I got to thinking, I don't have a "real mountain bike" except for this Buzzard. Sure, I have the Fat Fargo, and I have a few single speeds, but when it comes to rough and tumble off roading, well....."you need a real mountain bike". That is what I was thinking. Then the very next thought was, "What is a "real mountain bike" anyway? I bet you could get six different answers from ten people if you asked ten folks that question.

Probably the only thing you could get everybody to agree on is that the tires need to have volume and knobs. That said, I seriously feel that the rest of it is up for grabs when you try to define the quintessential mountain bike. Basically, the real answer is, there isn't such a beast anymore. There are just too many permutations of what is used off-road now that to say that one of those many variations is a "real mountain bike" is just not possible, nor  wise to even try to do.

Years ago this was your only choice for a mountain bike.
Once upon a time, from about 1980 until around 1990 or so, the name "mountain bike" meant a hard tail, 26 inch wheeled, rigid forked, multi-speed, fat tired, knobby machine. Heck, around 1980 the term was a brand name. 

That's right. The very first brand to actively market these off roading bicycles was a company dubbed "Mountain Bikes" and was owned by Charlie Kelly and another fella by the name of Gary Fisher. Yes......that Gary Fisher. 

However; after 1990 the term started to mean more than a simple hard tail with gears and knobby tires. That kept evolving and now anything goes. Fat bikes, down hill bikes, enduro bikes, single speeds, 29"ers, 27.5"ers, front suspended, and fully rigid. Even "e-mtb's", with motors on 'em, are dubbed "mountain bikes".

So, what the heck is the definitive mountain bike? That's like asking what is the definitive dog breed. There isn't one. They are all just "dogs". You cannot really say which breed is best, or preeminent, or a "real" dog. I say this has happened to mountain bikes. Heck, some folks say road bikes are mountain bikes. But don't listen to those folks. They are crazy.

So, anyway, back to my Singular Buzzard. It isn't really a mountain bike, it is a super commuter bike! At least that is what it was yesterday. And in the end, it worked, I had fun, and that is all that matters. No matter whatcha callit! 


Miran said...

French have a much better word for mountain bike VTT - vélo tout terrain or ATB - all terrain bike.

Smithhammer said...

We seem to have some innate need to categorize everything - to say that a particular bike, for example, is "this" or "that" type of bike. And this has only gotten worse over time in the bike world, with so many sub-niches these days that it's hard to keep up with, if not the cause for much eye-rolling. The most interesting, and often the most versatile and capable bikes, imo, are those that blend categories, or defy them altogether. The currently fertile region that lies somewhere between "gravel bike" and "mountain bike" is one such example...

Irishtsunami said...

I agree, I almost didn't go for a ride the other day because I didn't have right category of bike. The area I went to advertised trails but they were more like gravel roads and very improved jeep track and I brought my Blackborow instead of my gravel rig. In ended up riding anyway and prevailed, who knew........

Repack Rider said...

The lawyer that Gary and I paid to trademark the name MountainBikes took our money, but the trademark was denied for a technical reason that the lawyer should have been able to avoid.

We bluffed the industry for a couple of years that we had a trademark. Meanwhile, Bicycling Magazine had a contest to name this new form of bicycle that could not be called a "mountain bike." The winner? "All Terrain Bicycle." Which is why we have been using that clumsy term ever since.


Eventually somebody looked it up and found out we didn't own the term, which then went generic. Little known fact: I also came up with the name "Unicrown" to be used as a brand name for forks we planned to make, planned to stamp a little unicorn on it. Right about then, Gary bought me out of the company and failed to trademark another pretty good name, which is also generic now.

MICHAEL said...

I wholly concur. "what is a mountain bike" depends on your expectations and where you ride. This usually means at least front suspension if you are in a 'mountainous' environment. I've ridden a couple of full sus bikes that totally rock, but given the trade off between price and maintenance and such, I prefer a hard tail with front suspension. That being said, I do not like 'some' of the 'lag' a sus fork gives. Fully rigid makes one fully engaged in the trail and ride, which I love. Then strip it down to a rigid, SS, and there, you have something that a small group of us LOVE that is truly Mountain Biking.