Compliance Junction, What’s Your Function?

When you think “boring bikes,” you often think about hybrids, but I am of the opinion that the most boring type of bicycle by far is the full-suspension mountain bike:

Please note that I don’t mean they’re boring to ride–obviously people get up to all sorts of shred-o-riffic gnar-tastic douchery on these things and give us incessant adrenaline facials via their many, many videos. I also admit that they make certain types of riding easier, and therefore faster, which in turn means they’re technically “better” according to the criteria used by the cycling media in particular and by shallow people with no souls in general. And yes, obviously, I completely understand that you might find them endlessly fascinating and marvels of modern engineering. Still, every time I look at one of these things–me personally, curator of this blog and the last word on everything in it–all I can think of is “BO-ring!!!,” and I find them about as inspiring as this office chair:

I have no doubt that, like its two-wheeled counterpart, this Editor’s Choice winner is “better” than regular chairs. It has adjustable arms, and advanced headrest technology, and wheels, and you can even move it up and down which means that technically it has a dropper post. But it’s not any less boring for any of those things, and I’d argue there’s nothing contradictory about acknowledging its technical features while simultaneously admitting that nobody goes to Staples to drool over the office furniture. Because it’s boring. Boring, boring, boring.

Recently I noted my feelings about modern full-suspension mountain bikes on Twitter, mostly because I enjoy upsetting mountain bikers, who are extremely touchy, especially when you make fun of their equipment. This prompted one user to share this in response:

The thing they call “mountain biking” today is many things, but accessible is not one of them. Consider this video, which YouTube happened to serve me at around the same time, probably because the algorithms are trying to brainwash me into compliance:

Granted, I did not watch the whole thing, but what is accessible about trails with “no room for error,” or riding across a weightlifting belt?

Is it fun? Exciting? Exhilarating? Absolutely, if that’s the sort of thing you enjoy doing. It’s sure it’s also sick, and rad, and gnarly, and all the other things people named Tyler say it is. But it ain’t “accessible.” Riding over obstacle courses on high-tech equipment is the exact opposite of accessible. In fact, whenever I criticize full-suspension mountain bikes, I can count on people suspension-splaining to me how I can’t possibly be a “real” mountain biker or properly enjoy the activity if I don’t use one of these things, and that clearly the type of riding I must be doing doesn’t count. And there’s nothing accessible about that.

Still, I figured I’d give the Twitter thread the benefit of the doubt, but I had to bail after it claimed that mountain biking had become more accessible because of…crabon frames, which somehow make you climb better:

I don’t even think Bicycle pretends crabon helps you climb anymore. This person must be reading some very old propaganda.

But what I find most amusing about the “accesibility” argument is that mountain biking went from a handful of proto-brahs bombing hills in Marin to a full-blown worldwide cycling craze before almost any of the stuff we’re now told we must have in order to participate in it was even available, at least to the average person. By 1989, mountain bikes were so popular that, for the first time, Trek put them before the road bikes in their catalog:

And what was their most advanced mountain bike in 1989? This:

Did mountain biking “evolve?” Did riders keep pushing limits, and did bike companies provide them with equipment that allowed them to push those limits further? Am I doing that thing where I keep asking rhetorical questions again? The answer to all these questions is: “Bruuuh.” But that doesn’t make it “accessible,” it just makes it more technical. If mountain biking had remained genuinely accessible then gravel wouldn’t be a thing and they wouldn’t be reinventing the pre-suspension mountain bike:

See, people like stable, robust bikes, and they like to ride on dirt trails where there are no cars, which is why mountain bikes went mainstream in the first place. But mountain biking left them behind and became an adrenaline sport that’s only tangentially related to cycling, and so the industry had to go back in time, retrieve it, and call it “gravel.”

Speaking of being left behind, the front derailleur is already dead, but Specialized is making damn sure it never comes back:

Upside-down Softride? Certainly not! This is the “Compliance Junction”–which is incidentally what they also call their legal department:

Yes, like hacking off a gangrenous limb, Specialized have excised the lower half of the seat tube so that the hated front derailleur may find no purchase–all in the name of “comfort.” Meanwhile you’ve got SRAM doing essentially the same thing at the rear end of the bike to make sure you can no longer use a traditional rear derailleur. Don’t you see what’s going on here???

That’s right: cycling is about to get a lot more “accessible.”

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