Thursday, November 10, 2022

Are These The "Real" Mountain Bikes?

These are billed as "adventure bikes", but isn't that what an MTB is supposed to be?
 Today Wilde Bikes of Minnesota is announcing a new bike called the "Supertramp", a bike which they bill as being ".....our bike packing, trekking, and all terrain bicycle platform."

Wait.......did they mention "all terrain"? Yes! And as we who have been around a while know, that's just code for "mountain bike".  A brief history, if I may....

The term "mountain bike" was once actually a brand name for a bicycle company that made "all-terrain" bicycles. Bicycles meant for mountains, fire roads, and yes......gravel roads too. Anything that was not paved was game for an all-terrain bicycle. Of course, what we know as mountain bikes now are completely different than this idea, and the term, "all-terrain" is pretty much meaningless these days. 

In today's parlance, a mountain bike is a pretty niche device for tackling extreme, mountainous terrain only. Yes- you can ride one on lame-o, flattish single track, or in the Mid-West, or on gravel roads, but they are really focused on a lot rougher and gravity oriented terrain than that. That wasn't the case early on into the all-terrain phase of off-roading in the early 1980's. 

 Troy on a Schwinn Voyager (L), me on a 1984 Mongoose All-Terrain Pro

In 1994, things had already changed for mountain bikes. Anything you bought in those days had a heavy influence from XC racing and it showed. Gone were all the accoutrements of touring, or as we call them today, "adventure warts". Gone was the stable geometry, the all-day riding comfort, the wide, capable rims, and the fat, poofy tires. 

In 1994 I went on a tour. A self-supported tour with panniers and bags. Today it would have been fashionable to call what I did "bikepacking", but that wasn't a term to choose from to describe what it was I did back then. I also did not use a modern MTB for the tour. Instead, I purchased a ten year old Mongoose All-Mountain Pro, a bike from the "all-terrain" era of 26" wheeled off road bicycling. 

A similar sutuation exists today. If you were to go on a bikepacking tour now, would you choose a bicycle with a long, slack, and low geometry fitted with a 130-160mm travel suspension fork? could, or you could use a Ghost Grappler, as shown up top, or this new Wilde Bikes Supertramp bike. 

Wilde Bikes Supertramp. An "all-terrain", off-road touring bike.

Not that there are not a lot of other bikes that could be categorized in this "all-terrain", adventure bike niche, but the idea here is that, as Wilde Bikes states about their Supertramp: "It's designed to take
you anywhere in the world you care to go in comfort and style. From month-long backcountry tours
to trips to the corner store and everything in between, it is an incredibly versatile platform for living
your life via bicycle.

Sounds a lot like what the intentions were for "all terrain" bikes from the likes of MounatinBike, Ritchey, and others back when the modern day all-terrain movement got started. Where did we get off the rails?

Marketing based upon an unhealthy focus on racing got that started. Then it was niche-creating, to sell more product. Before we knew what happened, the "incredibly versatile platform for living your life by bicycle" became a down hill bike, a free-ride bike, a dual-suspension bike, a back-country bike, a down-country bike, an enduro bike......... You get the picture. 

But there was a void. A place for a "real mountain bike" to emerge and capture that wanderlust, that sense of adventure that was lacking in the bikes which catered to a certain look and lifestyle. Bikes that could be personalized and molded into that bike you'd ride anywhere for anything. For some of us that became the "gravel bike", (an unfortunate name if there ever was one). But in terms of fat-tired fun times, these bikepacking/adventure rigs? In my opinion, these are the "real mountain bikes". 


MG said...

I love the resurgence of the modern ATB. I also love the evolution of the modern mountain bike, but you’re right, today they’re vastly different creatures. Depending on whether I want drop or flat bars, my BWNN (a Salsa Ti Fargo prototype) and my Trek 1120 are my ATBs, and not ironically they see the majority of my miles, regardless of where I’m riding.

This ATB trend is real, man… I’m tellin’ ya!

Guitar Ted said...

@MG - I hear ya, and I'm here for it.

teamdarb said...

This use of ATB is causing all kinds of pricing issues in the relm of used bike. It used to be a Mongoose ATB, Scott ATB/Adventure, or similar with ATB on the name were dirt cheap cause it did not say mountain bike or some other naming that made you say "ooh ahhh" i.e. High Sierra. Now those vintage bikes with ATB attached are going for way more money over the normal MTB.

Spiff said...

The folks have been talking ATBs for a while:

I, for one, love versatile bikes. And ATBs are, by definition, versatile!