Opinion: My Favorite Bike

Jun 1, 2016 at 19:01
by Richard Cunningham  

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"So, what is your favorite bike?" I should be able to breeze that question, but it's the one I dread most. Boiled down to its essence, my job is to ride bicycles and tell people which ones I like best. I field that question so often that one would assume that I could snap back a clever three-word answer with the surety of Hillary Clinton during the first month of her presidential run. I can't.

I have to think about that one for a while before I can answer truthfully. Partly because the question may have come from an industry person with a keen interest in the outcome of a review, but mostly because testing high-end mountain bikes is a lot like pubescent dating. Almost every new bike is "the one," until that lust affair peters out and the next two-wheeled sex bomb rolls into the room. My favorite bike may have been the ready-for-anything 27.5-inch trailbike that I sent home in February, or it could be the impulsive 29er enduro sled that I am descending so well upon today. Only time can tell.

Ask me why I would choose one particular bike as my favorite - that's an easy question. I like a bike that, on a good day, blurs the relationship between man and machine. The controls are intuitive and its handling is responsive, but not so sharp that I have to sort out every line on the trail. It pedals well enough to make me feel like a hero on a good day and thus eliminates any excuse for my suffering on a bad one. By far, however, the two most important attributes I look for are that the bike has an extra measure of handling in the bank to cover my mistakes - and that it can show me something new.

Such performance requires precision, which puts a premium price on the bikes I like most, but standout components or a megatech chassis are rarely selling points in my favorite bike equation. Give me a frame, a component selection, and a suspension system that works in harmony, and I won't even notice whether or not it has a 35 or a 60-millimeter stem, a reservoir shock, a B-level drivetrain, or house-brand parts until I start writing up the review. Bikes that feel like an integrated machine are rare and beautiful creatures that don't always come dressed to kill - something to consider when seeking a meaningful relationship.
Colin Meagher photo Magura Camp 2016
- Colin Meagher photo
Scoff if you want, but I learned that it is advantageous to form bonding relationships with inanimate objects. The lesson came to me from an unlikely source. I was test flying an airplane that I had designed and built. Each flight was intended to explore the limits of the aircraft and, after a half-dozen of those anxious aerial experiments, my nerves were on end. As I prepared to climb into the cockpit, my Uncle Joe noted my lack of confidence. "Talk to her," Joe advised. "She'll tell you what she needs, and you'll feel a lot better up there."

Joe, a veteran US Navy airman who flew spy and anti-submarine missions around the USSR and China during the Cold War era, explained that often meant hand-flying planes, skimming the ocean above storm swells at night for 16 hours straight, or getting tossed about like a leaf in the upper atmosphere by the wakes of Soviet fighters attempting to abort his photo-reconnaissance mission. He told me that he named his airplanes to encourage his crew to bond to them. His hand-picked officers were young and brave - not the type to be conversing with a hollow, 70-foot aluminum cigar with wings and engines, but when it appeared that they were not going to make it back to base, Joe said that even the toughest of his crewmen would tap her hull, call her name and say something like, "Ok honey, bring us home one more time." She always did.

So, in many respects, my favorite bike is my trusted friend - intuitive and easy to get along with, and it has my back in case I get in a little too far over my head. Like a good teacher, it is more capable than I am, which encourages me to try new or more technical lines. I learn to trust it, and sometimes, when I am not so sure that I can handle a particular section, you might catch me tapping its handlebar and saying something like, "We got this, little one. Bring us home safe."





144 Comments

  • + 171
 Wait...you design and fly planes too? Not only do you test bikes for a living and write about it but you.... never mind. I’ll just be over here in the corner rethinking some things.
  • + 33
 You missed Richard autobio article from last year (or 2 ago ?). I learned a lot about the Man.

Here it is :
www.pinkbike.com/news/living-stories-collective-richard-cunningham-2015.html
  • + 14
 Honestly would love to follow RC around for a week and just see what his life is like. I bet he's doing it right.
  • + 7
 @speed10: That guy has some stories! His dad was an engineer and some of the things I've heard him share are simply amazing.
  • + 5
 If you ever get a chance to strike up a conversation with RC, you'll be surprised. .
  • + 13
 you've seen the mustache correct? OF COURSE the guy can fly planes! c
  • + 4
 I did a photo shoot with him many many years ago for MBA, when finished we went to his house and ate tortillas hot off the burner. that memory will last forever. RC is the man!
  • + 3
 @FarmerJohn: How funny... I've done that with him too!
  • + 83
 My favourite bike is always the one that I'm actually riding. Doesn't matter if I take my freeride bike to ride in hills, or hardtail to go to the pub, or I'm just moving somewhere on a borrowed one. Just to keep wheels rolling, that is all I need.
  • + 8
 When I was a little kid, my parents bought me a second-hand full sus bike from a car boot sale, and I loved it. None of my friends' bikes came even close to it, I spent hours dialling in the V brakes and painted my road black with the back tyre. It didn't matter to me what brand it was, that it was a ridiculously heavy steel frame, or that the suspension was absolutely awful, because it was my bike. Now I've just got back into riding, bought myself a hardtail, and I love it just like I loved the first bike. I'm riding more, riding harder and loving life. My favourite bike is still the one that I'm riding now, the one that I invest time into maintaining, into cleaning and caring for, and then smashing down a trail or a road. Plus, if any bike takes me somewhere that sells a decent pie, that's the best bike in the world.
  • + 3
 The one i'm riding too,but.. You know when you're building a dream machine and knowing that you're won't have that much money to spend on a bike. And suddenly someone is selling that bike almost new for a fraction of the price 'cause it's not the newest greatest shit anymore. It was not new,but still my dream bike. And to these day, ride like a dream too.????
  • + 69
 So you're basically a slut....
  • + 25
 A carbon whore, yes indeed.
  • + 32
 Nothing wrong with going around the block a few times. Doing the rounds. Being ridden like a bus stop. Its called experience. And its FUN.
  • + 21
 @Boardlife69: just remember to use protection...you know, helmet and pads and stuff...
  • + 5
 @Boardlife69: yup. Sluts are totally having all the Fun. :-)
  • + 3
 you'd be surprised what a guy would do for the newest and greatest products.......lol
  • + 7
 @ecologist: kneepads are mandatory.....
  • + 7
 @killerb09: Especially with how far into the gutter we've taken this.
  • + 48
 I havn't ridden that many bikes cause im still young, (16) but my favourite bike has got to be the one I currently own.
Ok i admit, its not the best thing on the market, but the fact is that i have saved up for something i really wanted makes it special to me and bypasses all the flaws Smile
It a 2016 Norco Fluid 7.2
  • + 16
 Yeah, there nothing like the feeling of being a kid, saving up for what feels like forever, walking into the local bike shop and pointing out the bike you want and saying "that one".
  • + 4
 Awesome! Nice work, man! Ride it well, and remember that very few people ever own the best thing on the market anyway (certainly not me!) and nothing is the best thing on the market for very long.
  • + 3
 The Fluid seems like a properly shreddable piece of kit and I'm sure it tastes even sweeter when you saved up for it yourself. I got my first real mtb at 16 after having a couple bike-shaped objects. It was a black steel kona hahanna - love at first sight as soon as I saw it. Rolling it out of the shop as my own was the best feeling ever.
  • + 9
 what a great feeling @LucasGauci! I've been there too.

My two other favourite bike experiences were when I went downstairs on my 40th birthday and my wife had put in our family room a blanket over top of a bike shaped object - I uncovered a Rocky ETSX-70. It was used, but what we could afford, and it was awesome! My 17 yr old son is now riding it.

My second favourite bike experience was last year when my we ran into a bit of extra cash and my wife told me to grab 1K of it to put to my bike fund! I walked in to a LBS and grabbed my Norco Sight 7.1 much earlier than expected. That was amazing.
  • + 2
 It took me a year of saving and the sale of my old bike to upgrade to my current ride. Best bike I've ever had
  • + 46
 So what's your favourite bike?
  • + 4
 Thats the main question
  • + 85
 RC just does not want to admit that it is Ellsworth with no Shimano brakes
  • + 3
 @richardcunningham you should have just said what your favorable bikes are at the moment. Which 27.5 bike performs better than others and what 29er performs great as well. Just basically your to-go 27.5 or 29 bike if you had to buy one right now, in June 2016. It would probably help a few riders out there who are looking to upgrade.
  • + 4
 @pigit77: But that obviously wont happen, if its a Trek "Insert Name Here" 9.9... Then Ibis will get pissed. If said bike has a GX 1x11, SRAM will get pissed that its not an Eagle 1x12. RC a great dude no doubt, but I just wish we would not be subjected to this constant we are the world mountain bike experts but will never paint ourselves into a corner to jeopardize press events.
  • + 1
 @pigit77: what about 26
  • + 1
 The article was just getting good then it just ends! What is your favorite bike or the one you are currently riding!!??
  • + 2
 @Torrey23: I heard they were unrideable;-)
  • + 1
 Asking RC what his fav ride is about as subjective as asking Hefner, Casanova, or iblesias (snr) the same question
  • + 19
 get the most expensive latest carbon trend follower and ride it like you stole it!
or do like me: get the cheapest second hand klunker wrap it in helitape so it wont get scratched, if it was possible. hoping to keep any resell value in this progammed obsolesence marketing bullshit world and ride the hell out of it!
  • + 18
 Yes, but what is your favourite bike!! Mr. Levy nailed his colours to the Patrol, your turn Mr. Cunningham.
  • + 11
 My favorite bike is the one that takes me beyond cellular reception, breaks the nagging feeling of work, stress, and life commitments and returns the goofy smile and contentment back. Its why I ride, and ride 90% of the time solo without music, enjoy the life around you, hear the woods, feel the air, breath it in remember how it was to be a kid.
  • + 2
 Yep, I agree with that!
  • + 2
 I like you
  • + 6
 My favorite bike is the one that I'm riding and is letting me have fun. Whether it's plowing through a walking path on a DH sled or shitting my pants going down a rock garden that even a DH sled would have a tough time with on a XC hardtail.
  • + 6
 Am i the only one that stoped reading this article alternative, let say, four senteces but enjoying and waiting eagerly all those funny comments.
My favorite also depends on the conditions and now it probably will be a "Pédalo" according the conditions here...
  • + 8
 Kona Process 153 deluxe 2015 (the green one)... Never felt such a sensation ... Pure awesomess
  • + 42
 "Never felt such a sensation"

You've clearly never had a man on man spooning session.
  • + 23
 @mikeep: to be fair.... All of us who rode downhill on hardtails in the early 90s basically got the same treatment
  • + 4
 @RedBurn The wife is on this machine too. She has upped her descending confidence and speed, and her climbing ability hasn't suffered in the least. Kona knocked it out of the park with this one. Well spec'ed, excellent price for what you get.
  • + 3
 +1 on the Kona Process153. Most fun bike I've ever ridden.
  • + 10
 26 is not dead ! Smile
  • + 4
 Alive and well
  • + 4
 Alive and well
  • + 5
 Alive and well
  • + 5
 Alive and well
  • + 4
 Alive and kicking
  • + 3
 Alive and well
  • + 2
 Alive and well
  • + 3
 Alive and rolling
  • + 3
 A&W
  • + 3
 @Ronworth: rootbeer?
  • + 1
 @rlucky82: Alive and well and no where near needing a defibrillator :-)
  • + 4
 At one time I could claim my favorite, a 1993 Specialized M2. Metal Matrix frame. 1" steer tube. It was my 3rd mtb. Preceded by a 1990 Klein Attitude (square fork) and a 1992 Trek 9000. There was something about that M2. I used it for everything, XC, DS and downhill. Even road training. Packed on 30,000 miles. Stood on podiums Friday, Saturday and Sunday with that one bike. I bought a few other bikes in the late 90's and early 00's, but I always fell back on that M2. I bought a 2001 Santa Cruz Chameleon, the last year of the USA made frames with a 125mm fork and it was fun, but I kept creeping back to that M2 for some reason. From 04 to 09, I got distracted with kids and animals and work and took time off of the bike. When the need to ride came back, I couldn't ride that M2 for the life of me. I rode the SC, but even that couldn't get me comfortable. I'm getting close to that favorite bike again, but I really wonder if I will have another favorite. Maybe it's the "first love" issue, no bike will measure up to it and the first love today will not work because it's not meant to be..
  • + 3
 To date I had many bikes, but like girls, only few remain in my mind. At the moment my Suprem V4 is by far my favorite fr faster than any other bike I owned, but my Sunday will always stay in my heart for what I've done with it. My Nicolai Ion ST mk1 to be my first proper DH race bike and my old Sunn 24" on which I started to grow my love for MTB as a kid. The current is always the best but along your life some will leave their mark forever ...
  • + 2
 it matters not of the bike but the rider that rides the bike. Most high end bikes or mid range bikes will do plenty for what they are designed to do. It all boils down to personal feel. Kinda like picking up a guitar. Some guitars just feel better than others yet to each individual.
  • + 2
 My bike doesn't have a name, but it does have plenty of character. A few chips, many scratches, the shiny section of chainstay that my heel rubbed to raw and that dent on the side of the top tube.... I see it like an old buddy that you can always rely on, and doesn't mind if it gets neglected at times. There are far more capable bikes out there, but after 8 yrs of fun there is some kind of bonding. I'm about to get a modern trail ht and don't want to keep two overlaping bikes but I don't want to sell it for the peanuts it's worth. Maybe I'll give it to a friend, someone who will appreciate it.
  • + 2
 Favourite Bike, I'm torn between my 1998 Sunn Xcircuit Max and My 1999 Sunn Bmix as these were the bikes I learnt to really ride on. I have ridden many different bikes as a consumer and as part of my job from XC Carbon Rockets to modern DH bikes (and everything inbetween) and yet I still come back to my 2 oldest and trusted steeds, they may not be the lightest, quickest or most modern but from an emotive point of you they have to be may favourite bikes after all favourite dosn't not have to mean best.
  • + 1
 That's the way I feel about my ten year old Turner.. 5 spot... and my 97 Dagger Elite hardtail... Thanks for your comment.. we are simpatico
  • + 2
 I love my Specialized Enduro, blasting down the trail. Then I ride my Felt Single Speed on the road, for a long fitness ride, and love it. Then I hit the BMX track on my NS Cap and love it. Then I cruise the hood on my Big Ripper and love it...Wait, I guess my favorite bike is the one I am riding at the moment.
  • + 2
 I think the best bike is kinda like your dream Girl..by this I mean...
Not be good at everything, loves the outdoors, deals well with criticism and can laugh at her own jokes(not presuming that my fav bike is a Girl)
But mine is the Giant Reign
*ridelife*ridegiant
  • + 3
 Honestly speaking, your dream don´t have to be good at everything for sure, sometimes it even should suck on something...
  • + 1
 Give me a frame, a component selection, and a suspension system that works in harmony, and I won't even notice whether or not it has a 35 or a 60-millimeter stem, a reservoir shock, a B-level drivetrain, or house-brand parts until I start writing up the review. But the head angle - always measure that and use it to determine the bikes intended use...
  • + 3
 He doesn't say what his favorite bike is because the whole article is just another way of saying "all bikes have their pluses and negatives blah blah".
  • + 1
 1999(?) Norco 4X. Low BB, 4" of FSR suspension and a beautiful candy apple red frame. Cornered like a cat on rails. I rode it as an XC bike but treated every corner like a dual slalom race. I've had probably twenty bikes since and perhaps it might suck if I was to compare it to today's bikes, but in my heart it comes out on top.
  • + 2
 Great read!

Brings back fond memories of touring on sport bikes. When you are 300 miles from home at 9/10th's on twisty mountain roads and logging trucks in the other lane, you start whispering too "your girl"!
  • + 1
 "What is your favorite bike?" is a little like asking a drug addict which is their favorite hit. It's always the next one - the next bike that could be the all-purpose wonderbike, or the next upgrade to your current ride that could fix everything you don't like about it.
  • + 1
 One person's favorite bike might be another's worst bike. I had Turner 5Spot DW once and hated it. I could not get to terms with that bike. It might have been too small, or the handlebars too wide. I don't know. Lots of Homers think it was the best bike on the market, but for me. Meh. I think it all comes down to your body proportions.
  • + 1
 Did the same exact thing, I thought I was going to love the DW spot , from all the articles I read about it and the Geo numbers
  • + 1
 The first bike I ever had! Red junker with rat trap pedals, quill stem, and a coaster brake. But getting set free to go All the way around the block?!? That day changed my world forever! Yup, Red rat trap quill stemmed coasterbraked junker, all time favorite! All the others are just improvements.( I still don't know how I used to jump trash cans with a coaster brake!)
  • + 1
 I always name things, it does format a bond, sometimes not always a good thing! I have cried real tears of sorrow when trading in past cars! Only two of them to be fair, Big Mama and Seb, loved them both dearly Frown My bikes are Tango and The Green Machine, unsurprisingly named because of their colour. Love them both Smile
  • + 5
 My SX Trail with Totem solo air DH is my favorite bike. 26 still rock.
  • + 5
 Totem could make a any rig float like a dream
  • + 2
 The Totem Solo Air was an amazing fork. Easy to setup and felt so good!
  • + 1
 @CaptainBLT: Was? Im still rocking mine DH! It just won't die.
  • + 1
 @properp: I sold it a few years ago as part of a complete build, I'd like to think its still out there ripping!
  • + 3
 The question is not which one is your favourite, the question is which one do you own!
If you own one of course...! Smile
@richardcunningham
  • + 1
 I'm lucky enough to have a couple of bikes in my shed and also had the opportunity to ride some very nice bikes on various test days. What's my favourite bike? All of them!
From the latest carbon virtual pivot points to, at a recent event in Kent, a Marin Bolinas Ridge, I find something to love in all of them. Marveling at the seemingly bottomless suspension of the latest trail bikes to nostalgia trips on the Marin that took me back to days of my youth, long stems and twitchy handling.
I like bikes and I guess I couldn't pick a favourite. Through rose tinted spectacles I can fondly recall ultimately flawed bikes from my past but I still loved riding them.
  • + 1
 My favourite bike is whatever I can ride at the time, the bike doesn't matter a huge deal if you love riding. Sure it can make it more fun but going for a spin on my old clapped out steel road bike can be just as enjoyable as my mountain bike that's probably worth many times more.
Shred bikes and have fun Salute
  • + 1
 Much as I love my current bikes, and previous bikes I've ridden, my favourite hands-down was a Mosso DH Intense M1 knockoff, back around 2004 - not because it was the best bike or my first DH bike, but because of what it did for me and my riding, and the personal input into the finished build. It was a bit long, bit flexy, and initially had only 7" travel with a cheap shock, but it was the first bike to perform like a high-end DH bike should - to run with the big boys at a fraction of the cost. (And it was also my first foray into Boxxer ownership which no doubt helped!) Slashed a massive 1m30s off my Innerleithen times compared to the previous bike, set my fastest ever time down Fort William (ok, it was smoother back then!), made me more excited and confident about DH. And then I designed my own link combined with a Fifth Element shock for 9" of travel and made it feel bottomless! Razz

ep1.pinkbike.org/p4pb5646497/p4pb5646497.jpg
  • + 1
 Great article! I named my bike Blue Thunder and I love her so much! I also love it when you forget about everything and just hit the flow and ride, almost like the bike is just an extension of yourself. makes me feel alive and like a kid again.
  • + 1
 I do actual have a favorite bike - It's still my .243 Racing hardtail I purchased in 2003. I still am amazed by it and what is possible with it even in this age of uber awesome suspension bikes everywhere
  • + 3
 Nomad mk1.5..... was everything modern bikes are trying to be and was beautiful as well.
  • + 4
 You lost me at Hillary Clinton.. In.. 1... 2... 3...
  • + 1
 My friend names his bikes, and it made me realize that I never had that sort of connection with one of my bikes. I guess it's endearing though, so I am trying to think of names for them now.
  • + 4
 My late 90''s Nishiki Alien... designed by Richard Cunningham!
  • + 2
 no chainslap with that rig!
  • + 2
 Transition TR250. No matter how fast or confidence inspiring the TR500 is, the 250 is always just that tiny little bit more fun Smile
  • + 2
 I agree. Sometimes less is more.
  • + 1
 No fave bike here. Only passion and the love of the sport. Whatever I can ride as long as I'm having fun like a child and enjoying my ride I will be fine!
  • + 2
 Out of all past bikes it would be a Santa Cruz Bullit. Now its a Cotic bFe 27.5. Simplicity!
  • + 2
 Can imagine what you mean. I am married with my Turner Flux and the OnOne 456 is my mistress. Two totally different but amazing bikes, dunno which is my favorite.
  • + 2
 Great thoughts which bring together tech and emotion, that's mountain biking, thank you.
  • + 1
 05 Turner 5 spot WITH the Horst link... fabulous bike, created the trail bike category, way ahead of it's time... still stands tall today
  • + 1
 I once had a 2003 a-line with monster t's and it was 53 pounds. Once it got going it was abeautiful thing, you could just huck it to flat and no biggie
  • + 1
 Agreed! For me, it was the 2008 Demo 7 with a 888RC2X. Happily, it has been re-produced but can pedal its way back up as the 2015 Devinci Spartan.
  • + 1
 i also like when the bike and equipment bonds together.
just happens to be only eagle xx1 with superlight-strong wheels and so on bonds well together for me ;P
  • + 1
 i have no chance to ride many bikes as you do, man. so may favorite bike is what i have today, simple.
  • + 2
 My 1989 Shogun Team issue - nice and stiff Smile
  • + 1
 Now THAT was a bike
  • + 1
 @RedBurn: how would one know?
  • + 1
 By the picture, it seems his favorite bike is a Carbon Intense, either a Carbine or Tracer. Good choice!
  • + 2
 The one I'm riding today.
  • + 1
 First love...schwinn scrambler 36/36....many, many others since those golden days.
  • + 1
 My favorite bike is one that does not crap out when I beat it like a rented mule.
  • + 1
 Came here hoping it to be some 80's bike that you would now find in a local pawn shop
  • + 1
 I like my women to have a megatech chassis and standout components as well.
  • + 1
 My favourite bike looks like a session
  • + 1
 Off Road Toad hanging on my wall. Art
  • + 1
 Hmm favorite bike?... send me a couple dozen and i'll get back to you.
  • + 1
 Is this about wheel size again?
  • + 1
 Spec Enduro 29 and Kona 153
  • + 1
 Santa Cruz chameleon , i love it
  • + 1
 No, wait - Gary Fisher CR-7
  • + 2
 Santa Cruz Bullit
  • + 1
 too much color to talk about 2 wheels…
  • + 1
 My old Cortina DHE-8 (Google it). Still got it, weighs about 50lbs.
  • + 1
 I wanted a Cortina so bad back then, and I came close - but they kept putting out new models (Europa DS), confusing me, until they faded out of the DH scene. Cool family doing it their way! That thing is art.
  • + 1
 Trek Session!!
  • + 2
 yeah, or one who looks like a Session
  • + 1
 Thank you Uncle Joe
  • + 1
 Intense M9
  • + 1
 Sometimes i hug my fork.
  • + 0
 My old hardtail...
  • - 1
 After....not alternative fu..ing corrector
  • - 2
 The question nobody asks is our bikes learning.
  • + 1
 I'm not sure how many people have the memory or attention span for that joke, but I laugedSmile Thank you, Waki!
  • + 3
 I think you should not be misunderestimating your fellow pinkbikers...
  • + 0
 @g-42: You're right. It's not like they're all Grecians or something. My bad.
  • + 1
 On the case of German brands like Canyon and YT, I wish to say this to bike shop owners worried about direct sales ruining their business: A lot of our imports already come from other countries.
  • + 1
 @g-42: Strategery..
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