I've noticed a growing trend in mountain biking over the last decade; a shift that has been aided in part by a new breed of bicycle: the all-mountain bike. Manufacturers have been working overtime to create the perfect do anything bike, each one claiming to have a bike that can make both climbing and descending fun. As with most industry driven trends, the consumers' ideas about what is fun evolve as well. Not that they are wrong. Many people actually do enjoy pedaling their bike to the top of their local hill in order to enjoy the goods on the way down. More time in the saddle and more connection with their bike. I get that. Maybe this trend isn't industry driven, maybe the industry saw a void, a bike that riders needed, and have thus sought to fill that void. Whichever it is, it is here to stay and mountain biking is better for it. It no longer has to be XC or DH, now people can comfortably do both if they so choose. There really is something for everyone in cycling these day and this diversity can only help our sport reach more people. This change has brought with it some negative unintended consequences though. The friction that existed between the XC and DH crowds is now being felt in other areas. Many local riders I know have an all-mountain bike for trail riding and a DH rig for the bike park or for shuttling. It's a great idea, but what they forget is that it's not for everyone. This is where the conflict begins.
Some of us are content pushing our big bikes to the top of the mountain. So what if it's more bike than necessary for the trails on the way down. I've been told multiple times by other riders on the trail that I NEED an all-mountain bike, that I DON'T NEED a DH bike for the majority of my local trails. People I don't know have actually stopped me to inform me of this. I've noticed the judgmental looks where it's obvious the person is thinking, "that's way too much bike for this mountain." I've been told by salespeople at shops that if I want to get the most out of my ride, I should buy a trail bike.
I know it's human nature for many people to think that the way they do something is the way everyone should do it. I mean, if I have fun in the way I experience mountain biking, then everyone should experience it exactly the way I do, right? Here's the thing. I do have an all-mountain bike. It's sitting in my garage collecting dust. Don't get me wrong, it's a very capable bike. But the fact of the matter is I love my DH bike, I feel at home on it. It truly gets me stoked to ride even if it is heavy, even if it is more bike than I need, and even if I do have to push it to the top. For me, that is mountain biking, that's what I love to do.
If someone chooses to ride an all-mountain bike, which is a better option on paper, that's awesome. If we're all out on our bikes, regardless of which category they fall under, enjoying nature, then everyone wins. I was watching the film ROAM the other night. My favorite scene has always been the Sun Valley segment. Steve Peat and Andrew Shandro absolutely shredding the buff Idaho singletrack on dual crown bikes wearing full-face helmets. Did they need those bikes and those helmets? Of course not. Those trails can be ridden with a completely rigid mountain bike and an XC lid. But there are few riding experiences I can think of that I enjoy more than endless, flowing 30+mph singletrack on the one bike I like most in the world, my Demo.