In 1991, when I was 21, after thrashing around in the woods of Marysville and Fredericton Junction for years riding whatever bike was going, I rode my first ‘mountain bike’. A friend worked at the local bike shop and on the weekends we’d go in and take rigs out for unsanctioned rips in Odell — Gary Fishers and Diamond Backs mostly, souped up clunkers, rigid frames with 26″ knobbly tires. It was great fun — we wiped out a lot and learned a huge amount about balance and control, speed versus inertia, torque, balance, thresholds of risk.
For years I rode hard and uncontrolled, trying as much as I could get better, be more supple, lean into the bike, let it be; but as those years and bikes went by, I never really got much better. I couldn’t get the “feel” for it — I was always so stiff and constantly in a battle with the bike. I bought carbon frames, fat bikes, dual suspension; I clipped in and rode flats; I raced and rode casual, bombed down hills, hit the gnar; I tried riding with groups and listening to folks who seemed to know what they were talking about. But still I sucked. After about 25 years worth of REALLY trying, I just gave up. No more. Sold the bikes.
But, somewhere inside I knew that it was more than just me — like on road bikes and gravel rigs, the RIGHT beast makes all the difference. I hadn’t really given up; I was just trying to convince myself that it was ok because, just maybe, I was never going to find the right one. Literally from the moment I saw this bike, I could already kind of sense that maybe, juuuuuuust maybe this was The One. The evening it was dropped off to me, I was in my converse, helmet strapped on and down the road towards the woodlot before the dude had barely left my neighbourhood. I stopped on the corner to adjust the seat height — and even now, I’m convinced that that is the only adjustment I’ll ever need to make.
I rounded into the woods and felt the familiar rough of the roots and rocks, but there was no resistance; I pushed a little harder and the bike picked up the slack. Rolling into the trails, I was off like a shot; soon I was hitting trails harder than ever; pushing fast and seated up steep hills, taking quick corners with little effort, letting the rocks bounce under me instead of being deeply rattled by them. The sweat started to drip off the brim of my cap, some rain fell, I narrowly escaped the fucking goshawk that nests on one of the trails every year. Full tilt adventure.
It’s more than the geometry of the bike — it’s the quiet of the singlespeed; like the clattering of the derailleur on every other mountain bike I’ve ever ridden had addled my nerves, making me anxious and bothered. Like the chain smacking around down there was actually the bike smack talking my shitty form. But this night I could hear the birds, could feel the rocks and roots without being distracted by changing gears; this night I finally came to know what it feels like to Ride The One Mountain Bike. I won’t bullshit you — I got it dirty. Really dirty. And then I only kind of cleaned it and that because first thing the next morning I’m went back to do it again.
Truth is, I think I’ve finally hit the pay dirt; this rig, in all her quiet and strength, in the stout tires and wide bars, the superior components and cool geometry, is exactly the right MTB for me. But I kind of knew it was already. Sometimes you just see a photo and know; and then all these weird pieces fall into place and that seals the deal. Might seem silly to you, I don’t know, but the world needs poets too. And all cyclists are cool people.