As the Enduro hysteria is slowly calming down, a new trend in MTB is already behind the corner. It's a very weird one, you may say because it is the first time in the history of MTB where we are told that faster is not better. I am speaking of the last territory, untouched by hype - TRAIL riding and TRAIL bikes, you know stuff you were always doing on your bike, long before Enduro got cool, in fact you never thought Enduro was cool, even before it stopped being cool. You were always ahead of the times. If you feel this way then, you are probably doing something called trail riding.
The industry expects this new genre to be massive, and defines its worshippers as individualists, not caring about trends, race results or Stravados, for whom the goal is the journey through landscapes, corners, and challenges of trail features, perils of the wild, excitement of adventure - the pure joy of riding. They are intellectuals of the cycling world for whom less is more. Their weapon of choice may often be the large wheeled hard tail or a sophisticated short travel full susser, and some of them don't shy away from Plus tyres or Fat bikes. There are no borders, nobody can judge them, since they are outside of the beaten path of strive for efficiency or weight to stiffness ratios. Racers have the clocks, Trail riders have the time. Enduro riders track their rides with satellite technology, trail riders track the trail with a plethora of senses. As some of us may have heard, the great F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote once: "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function"
. And so does a true trail rider on a bike with a hard rear end. He believes that he is, good enough to handle the roughest terrain on a small bike but he is not worthy of 6" of travel as he cannot utilize it on his trails. He is not interested in cutting seconds, but he wants a better pedaling bike. He doesn't need a lot of travel, but he needs slack head angles, long wheel bases, wide bars, chain retention and fat tyres - basically everything that Enduro and DH bikes have. But he raises above it, courageously fitting it all onto a hardtail or short travel frame to get in touch with the ground for feedback, for contact with nature, something that we lost with the evolution of technology; something so precious in the advent of E-bikes. Thanks to a lack of forgiving travel (in the rear, they still have at least a 140mm fork up front
) they can squeeze all the juices off their local trails.
In this article, I present you with the products that are made just for them, for trail riders, for whom Enduro racing corrupted what was meant to be the spirit of Mountain Biking. The Idylle can continue and industry will help them keep it clock free, but still, with a big dose of style. I focused on apparel because after all, a true trail rider can rip on any bike, he could climb 300 vertical feet on a DH bike if he so wished.
First up is a company who is a complete embodiment of trail riding: WheelBase 1500, a company for riders by riders that doesn't believe in functional backpacks. Here is their prototype "Home Green"", a bike with 90mm of rear travel, ready to accommodate at least 2 future revisions of geometry and the latest school of gear carrying. We take everything out of a perfectly organized backpack and randomly tape it all over a 28lbs carbon bike, eventually stuffing it into countless zipped pockets in the trousers. I love their "Jag-Elite" line of apparel allowing you to hit the golf club straight after a ride, without looking like a misfit.
Second up is an interesting take on gear storage and protection from growing German giant PIXIES. The company takes inspiration from European cinematography and Eco/retro tendencies by using leather straps to solve the bouncing of the fanny pack and sliding of knee guards. PIXIES strongly believes in proliferating all genres of MTB with Full face helmets. Enter Schrauber nut case with the Mustacchio detachable chin system, where the alien form of the chin piece is broken up with the delicacy of a Bipiemme visor relating to the roadie swag.
Mediterranean company Purge is well known for their holistic approach to MTB helmet design, taking a hard stand against big business practices, not clearly reviewed, directly sponsored research methods, yet strongly believes in the importance of preventing head trauma from rotational forces. They also advocate reuse of resources so they introduced their own system similar to what Swedes did with MOPS. They called it BIBS and encourage riders to save their heads as well as the Earth and remove standard lining from their helmets, replacing it with the chamois part of used bib shorts. For optimum performance, this new lining should be pre-impregnated with their ointment made of organic coconut oils and banana skin extract, which will allow the helmet to slightly slide on a rider's head during a crash.
Now let me present to you, DELL helmets with their DELL Hovden. They wanted to go along with Swedish safety trends and decided to cooperate with another company from the land of meat balls and rather intense Midsummer feasting. They created this masculine looking helmet equipped with air bags which will protect the face of a successful person that has a career to run. In the case of a potential accident, the sensors in the helmet will activate micro CO2 charges inflating those face-hair alike air pockets.
Lastly, we have the well-established Try Me Designs. The legendary makers of the helmets of choice of champions think that Enduro Couture was a far-fetched concept and everyone was riding baggy MOTO stuff anyways, only the graphics changed, taking inspiration from Road work and Coast Guard uniforms. So TMD has decided they will go MOTO on Trail riding as well, after all, if it's not broken - don't fix it! Note how the riding kit graphics retain the genius of their previous artisan concepts, disguised in a seemingly nonsensical randomness of colors, shapes and patterns as if it was a pyjama, a style that Faux Head or other moto companies try to copy for its hidden beauty. Since TMD lost 90% of their signed athletes to PIXIES, they do not want to stay behind their German nemesis and are now offering Trail riders a brand new, well ventilated full face helmet, called the D1.2, styled with wide vision goggles, designed in cooperation with 50% Industries, who are really into the space fighter pilot style.
Of all those attempts at carving a new breed of Mountain Biker, the one I am most skeptical about is the one from Try Me Designs because I am not sure if MX connotations are in tune with holistic values of true trail riders, but one thing is certain: Try Me are just doing their own thing. And maybe here lays the proof of their genuine brilliance. Fashions come and go. The trend cycles are getting shorter, so if you just wait for 4 years, doing what you do, you may as well be the one who had it right from the beginning.
Wacek Kipszak WAKi / @WAKIdesigns
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This article is meant to be a satire. My very intention with it is to entertain you and eventually provide some food for reflection in case we treat our sport a bit too seriously. I honestly do not wish to insult or harm anyone or any company. The eventual resemblance to persons, names, and places might be coincidental. Professor Sigmund von Schadenfreud does not exist.