I love mountain biking. It’s ‘my sport’.
At 13 years old, I remember looking with fascination at my neighbour’s bike when I went round to feed the cats – a guy called Paul. Mountain biking seemed glamorous and Californian, and the shiny metal and the expensive parts no doubt contributed to my eventual selection of Industrial Design as a career. I don’t quite remember the turn of events, but somehow I was lucky enough to be bought that very bike – an 18 speed Holdsworth Montana, featuring first-generation Shimano Deore XT shifters and a mud-sucking U-Brake. Clearly, it attracted my Dad too, as he picked up a trashed Saracen Tufftrax frame and built up his own bike.
And so the riding started. Dad and I jaunted off along local lanes, up into the French Alps and all the way to the home of mountain biking in Marin, California.
I upgraded that bike as far as I could, but managed to save up enough money at age 16 to buy myself an Orange Clockwork – featuring 21 speeds from Shimano XT II, Zoom components and tasty Dia-Comp cantilever brakes. That bike, finished in matte black with orange decals was my love affair for endless summers, and was the steed of choice for Britain’s amateur cross-country racers. Indeed, I still ride that bike when I return to the UK – it might even be appreciating in value, based on it’s retro parts.
Then University happened, and while I did ride when I was home, I decided other things took priority while studying. It’s a shame, as there is no doubt that more riding in Scotland would have been fantastic, but you can’t have it all.
It was landing in Taiwan that ignited the flame again. Home of global, high-end bike production, it was inevitable that I would buy something for exploring the hills. I ended up with a Giant NRS, finished in matte black again, and furnished with all the components that I could afford. Most of the guys I was riding with had various descriptions of NRS, and serious skill-building commenced. The rocks and roots and slippery, off-camber cornering call for a certain style of riding, and the NRS gave me a good start – and trip to hospital with a broken wrist. 80mm of travel initially did not fit with my philosophical ‘ideal’ of completely rigid bikes, but the terrain called for shock absorption – and starting off on rigid bikes probably helped my skills, vision and ability to pick lines.
But 80mm was not enough. When the opportunity came along to pick up a Giant Trance 0 at cost (direct from the R&D Director of Giant, no less), I jumped at the offer. Decked in XTR and XT, and with a 100mm Fox fork it provided a great platform for more adventurous riding, and I soon upgraded the fork to an adjustable 100-140 Fox Talas unit. Serious fun.
But the market for 4″ trail bikes was being usurped by competitors, finding a ‘sweet spot’ of 5″ bikes; companies like Santa Cruz refining bikes that really can ‘do it all’.
And this is what I just bought myself.
The arc of my story just delivered 140mm front and back. Full XTR. Fox Talas. 26.5 lb. This baby is going to form the basis of the next few years of entertainment for myself. It’s the bike way above my abilities, if the Trance wasn’t already. It’s had several excursions into the hills and mountains, and getting better every ride. What I am really looking forward to, though, is a weekend of mountain biking in HK in August … still some time to tune and fettle before I leave!