The Campaign for Worse Bicycles – Opinion

May 29, 2017 at 8:34
by Matt Wragg  
Header for Matt s Op Ed pieces.

bigquotesYou can't be a true petrolhead if you have never owned an Alfa.

Anyone who's watched Top Gear or The Grand Tour will be familiar with this adage. It is one spread through much of the motoring press. There is something about the Italian brand, something special.

Part of that charm is that, in many ways, the cars aren't objectively that good. They are all flawed in at least one fundamental way, and it's rarely the same thing between models. They have a history of unreliability, poor build quality, and perplexing design and construction choices. But there is something about them, something that is hard to put down on paper, far less a graph or performance metric. I should know, I owned an Alfa.

If we're being candid, I owned the wrong one—the 156 Sportswagon. Essentially, it was a re-sculpted Fiat, an underpowered, front-wheel drive mess of a vehicle. I bought it from a good friend who had maintained it obsessively for around £1,500. While it, miraculously, never let go on me, never broke down in the three years I had it, there were definitely some issues. The air conditioning had a mind of its own, the plastic fascia around the gear stick was not attached to the car itself, the boot was small and difficult to fit things into, it drank fuel (the trip computer would proudly announce 40mpg, while my fuel receipts were saying half that). Biggest of all was the suspension which had the lifespan of a mayfly; in three years it needed two major repair jobs, the second being terminal. In the end, I couldn't afford to stump up the £1,500 to rebuild the suspension again and keep the car on the road. I part-exchanged it out for a princely £250.


The Campaign for Worse Bicycles
Now scrap metal, probably.


Yet none of that matters. The far-too-small 1.8L petrol engine sang at 5,000rpm, and I will never forget dropping the clutch as I queued through the tunnels of Monaco and let it reverberate off the walls. The steering was featherlight and, front wheel drive or not, you could slip it through the apexes on a mountain road. With the lightest of touches on the road down from Molini, I could rail every corner without ever feeling like I had to work the car. Somehow it was cool, too. I could park it alongside a colleague's BMW that cost many multiples as much, and my old, cheap Alfa was the car people would ask about.

Since then I have bought a pair of VWs. On any objective scale, they are better cars; faster, more powerful, more economical, more practical, more reliable. They have never let me down, they have done everything I have asked of them and more, but still, somehow, I miss the Alfa. I miss that delicacy of touch through the corners, the whine of the engine... It was a glorious, magnificent and an utterly stupid vehicle to own.

I want the same from my bicycles. A high-end bike is not a sensible purchase; there are thousands of more useful and productive things you could do with that money, so why should we accept bikes that have no sense of joy to them? And by joy, I mean being fatally flawed in some way...

More than anything else, what I want from my bikes is personality, a feeling that the bike is alive out on the trail. As bikes get better, it is getting harder and harder to find. This is something that slips through the fingers of objective reviewing—I know that I have failed to explain this in reviews a few times. For example, the Yeti SB75. That review got fairly well hammered in the comment section by people looking for a clear-cut summary of that bike, but it didn't work like that. It was, in many ways, a stupid bike; heavy, expensive, and under-specced for hard riding. It didn't make sense dropping into any of the preconceived boxes that we as reviewers try to peg bikes into, but it always put a smile on my face. The mix of stiffness and short travel made for a flyweight bulldozer. Hell, I very nearly even bought one after I reviewed it (if it weren't for the impending SB5 at the time and lack of bottle cage, I almost certainly would have).

When I think of all my bikes and the ones I have truly loved, they were all flawed in some fundamental way. Whether they weighed more than the moon, had a rear shock that refused to sit at anywhere other than 50% sag, or were a Commencal Supreme 160—all the weight and inconvenience of a DH bike without the travel to back it up. They were all wrong on some level, but I wouldn't have it any other way. The bikes I barely think about are the ones that just worked, where everything was well-thought out and planned. Sure, they were good enough to ride, but I can't form a bond with them. They were never more than two wheels and a handlebar to me.

As for the bad bikes? Well, there's no hope for them. What I am reaching for here is brilliant bikes, fine-handling trail masterpieces. Bikes that make you feel alive each and every time you throw a leg over them, where the designers were so focused on getting the things that really matter right that they forgot to cross some of the Ts and dot the Is.


Sospel France. Photo by Matt Wragg.
Perfect because it's not perfect...


If I were to tell you about my current bike, I'd tell you that the suspension kinematic is wrong—it is far too linear and the shock crashes into the end of the travel with worrying regularity. From stock, the geometry was a little off and it needed a small offset in the shock to lower the bottom bracket and sit the rider nicely behind the fork. Recently, the rear axle cap fell out on the trail, so every time I removed the rear wheel the derailleur hanger fell off. Yet none of those things matter; if anything they make me love the bike more because perfect is boring. When it comes down to it, the only thing that matters is that the bike is nothing less than sublime out on the trail. It feels like it fits like a glove, that I can put the bike wherever I want on the trail, take any line I can imagine. I'm an awkward, clumsy man, but on that bike, I can skip through the rocks and roots and feel graceful, if only for a moment.

So that is why I want to start the campaign for worse bicycles. Better is fine for racers and engineers, but I want personality. I like my VWs—they're great—but I rely on them for work, for shopping, for getting my wife to work each day. My bicycle is my escape, and for that, I would choose the hopeless, wonderful Alfa every single time.


202 Comments

  • + 127
 As someone who has never owned a brand new bike, I'll kindly swap you. This article seems very similar to the article about how bad berms are, showing that some people really do have it too good and instead of complaining, maybe accept that your resources and situation is very good and that you are very lucky to be able to complain.
  • + 50
 Agreed. I don't want a bike that I have to fuss around with. I want the VW so I can spend less time on maintenance and ride more.
  • + 25
 I've only ever owned two proper mountain bikes, and I also find it hard to relate to the opinions of an author who appears to have owned dozens of bikes, and probably reviewed hundreds. Nonetheless, as a heavy, probably aggressive rider, I break and replace parts pretty regularly, and I feel like my attitude towards part selection is the same as Wragg's attitude towards bikes. I run tires and wheels that are way too overkill for my 150/160mm Commencal Meta, which makes the thing a pig to get up a hill, but I keep them on because they absolutely sing on the way down. I have an 810mm bar that's always clipping trees, but I'd never cut it down. I could put more sensible parts on, and get a more VW-like experience out of my bike, but whenever I have, I've gone back to overkill pretty quickly afterwards. Bikes are tools with a purpose, and that means a certain level of VW-ness is good, but they're also playmates, and that calls for a bit of personality as well.
  • + 17
 @Gassymagee: will you film yourself going to Squamish in your VW tho?
  • + 9
 @Jubbylinseed: Im with you on the "heavy rider/Meta/800mm bar" thing.

PR tells us only the latest thing can satisfy you, and even though I own a 29er, I love my unpractical 26" Meta SX.
  • - 2
 @JoseBravo: this ∆∆
  • + 43
 @Gassymagee: "I want the VW so I can spend less time on maintenance and ride more."

Obviously not a car person if that's what you believe about VWs.
  • + 3
 @humoroususername: Only people who've bought an Alfa and haven't done their research or don't actually twirl a spanner occasionally use that mind numbing Clarkson line though. Bit of a giveaway to true petrolheads.
  • + 2
 @Andy-ap: I'd agree. It's a silly line but to be fair I don't think it's to be taken seriously.
  • + 7
 @Andy-ap: It's simply a useful device to hang a story around - especially one talking about whether we have an equivalent in mountain biking. I don't count myself as a particularly serious petrolhead, I don't have the patience to do the work on the cars. The fact is that story wouldn't work as well if I had replaced an Alfa with a BMW E30 or a Lancia, I also haven't owned either of them, but through dumb luck I did end up with an Alfa for a few years.
  • + 7
 @humoroususername: I owned an old GTI fun to drive, but I wore out the hinges on the hood from the thousands of times I had it open to fix stuff no more VWs for me.

I'm sure they have improved, but I still have bad dreams.
  • + 7
 @mattwragg: I think the psychology of why you think this way about cars and bikes is you want to obsess about them by constantly needing to tinker with them to make them better- an angleset here, an offset bushing there, etc. If the bike just works and all you think about is the trail, you're not really happy. You're a gearhead. You also work for Pinkbike and shitty bikes are generally not being sent to you to review, so you are thinking that they all are too perfect.
  • + 2
 @mattwragg: I owned an E30 and still miss that little car. It had such a small-dog attitude. Now drive a WRX, and while it's superior in every way, it definitely doesn't have the same charm. I get where you're coming from.

Oddly, I find myself keep coming back to a solid hardtail as my go-to. Why? Heck, I dont know, but my 'wonder bikes' are fun and fast, but not quite the same for some reason I can't put my finger on.
  • + 3
 jaha222- 100% agree to you. Since I read that article I ride my trails calling people who liked that post " spoilt brats".
Now, people can send me their perfect bikes if they want, I wouldn't complain.
  • + 5
 Each can get what they want from this article, though, for me, I do not think it's about 'privilege', as a few people have suggested. Quite the opposite. I see this as a breath of fresh air that responds to the overwhelming surfeit of articles that constantly bombard us with how important minuscule details are, and weight, and 0.5 degree changes in angles, and so on - and that we must purchase whatever it is that corrects it. Does nobody else get tired feeling like PB is the third arm of the bike industry pushing stuff down our throats all the time, though in the form of reviews.This article I see stands against all that nonsense to remind us that flaws are fine, they can even be fun. It's the rational voice that PB rarely has to tell us that our non-10k+ rig is fine, or rather we are fine to still enjoy them when most of the articles we read suggest otherwise. To those who suggest that this article 'complains'.... is that not exactly what we are doing when we eat up all the articles that remind us of the constant state of inferiority of our bikes?
  • + 3
 @grahamlockett: After reading over comments i see that they're are two interpretations of this article, the first, my original comment that this article is a bit silly and someone complaining in favour of flawed and breaking bikes. On the other hand as a viewpoint of that bikes don't have to have all the extras to be fun and that maybe we're following too close to the racers and we should be taking a more casual, 'fun' route in development, it's kind of a subtle dig at the 29" downhill scene right now in that, normal riders shouldn't care and the industry shouldn't be pushing them since we don't need a bike that's 1.6 seconds faster but less fun to ride.
  • + 2
 @Jubbylinseed: i'm with you 100℅ mate ! My V4 has 63.5° HA, 780mm handlebar and 2.5 tyres. Only once all that has been done I started to love that bike. I'd say issue is not perfect bike, issue is bikes designed with some compromises.
  • + 1
 @lake-st: No, they haven't been improved.
  • + 3
 Some of the best bikes I've ever rode in my life where second-hand rebuilds that I have done myself with limited funds and secondhand parts. You definitely don't need state-of-the-art carbon super boost titanium 29er 27 5 mixer electronic shifting hydraulic mechanical Wireless dropper to have a good day out on the trail. Just a nice Dependable ride that gets you out n back.
  • + 2
 @humoroususername: mine hasn't been terrible. it's had its issues, and continues to have issues (like headlights that dim when you put the window up).

but really, for a car creeping up on 300,000miles, i can't complain
  • + 1
 @Balgaroth: Hate the compromises. Always pennies destroying something wonderful.

Which I find fkn hilarious given the profits and prices in recent years. Just stick the bit on.
  • + 79
 Love this article, as a car guy and rider/mechanic. Not all of us can afford the brand new bike that are only mm different than the versions from a few years ago. And the best feeling ever is showing up to the trails on your "flawed" bike out riding the $4k+ bikes because money can't buy skill.
  • + 62
 "And the best feeling ever is showing up to the trails on your "flawed" bike out riding the $4k+ bikes because money can't buy skill."

I see this sentiment quite a bit in the "retails for $8999" reviews but...really? Isn't the best feeling finally clearing those rock stairs or cleaning the wrong line because because? If Mr Dentistrider is being an ass, sure run over their foot but I don't think I've ever had to worry about what someone else was riding to gauge my own fun. But hey, whatever floats your boat!
  • + 6
 @Sardine: Yea dude, well said. @will-jj is in it for all the wrong reasons. shit $4k is bottom of the barrel these days. Its better tio stuff the shit talkert than the guy on an expensive bike. Its like beating a guy in a porsche from the stoplight in your honda. But hes still driving a porsche and your still in a honda.
  • + 5
 When I do up my YOLO build, an Antidote Darkmatter (build cost well over $10K) there will be plenty of people getting that "best feeling ever" as they call out "on your left" whilst I'm deathgripping and touching fabric...

lol
  • - 14
flag will-jj (Jun 1, 2017 at 20:52) (Below Threshold)
 @Sardine: I don't give a $hit what anyone else rides, I ride alone 90% of the time. But it says a lot when my pass a $4k+ bike on a climb or decent with my $1k-ish builds
  • - 31
flag will-jj (Jun 1, 2017 at 20:54) (Below Threshold)
 y'all complaining about my comment but I still have the most upvotes. hahahahaha #26forlyfe
  • + 41
 @will-jj: I get passed by a 12yo on $200 'Toyz-R-Us' bikes.... The first thing you learn as a "born again MTBer" is humility.
  • + 0
 1000 x this.
  • - 3
 Although I've not owned an Alfa, one is on the list. Each time I've been offered, the equivalent BMW has more bhp and rear wheel drive, so I'm a BMW guy!
  • + 8
 Recently up at Lady Cannings I followed two guys onto the trail with their amazing expensive bikes. I gave them a little headroom then began the chase.

I pumped the trail and worked every feature for extra speed and slowly but surely I closed them down. I had done it! Me on my shitty bike can show these guys how it is done.

Then I looked down upon my Nukeproof and realised the days of me riding shitty bikes was behind me about 5 years ago. This bike would have been about £3k new and is only two years old itself.
  • + 7
 @will-jj @Sardine

The feeling you get when you clean that techy bastard of a climb, or perfectly clear that little double with some style, is what it's all about, truly.

But c'mon, everyone's going to have that smug grin on their face when they go a little faster or clean a section on their steel hardtail wearing box-store-brand athletic clothes, and their buddy can't on his carbon speed machine decked out in mtb-specific gear.
  • + 12
 I got passed by a 12 y/o on a hardtail with rim brakes during an XC race this week and I couldnt have been more happy for him. Makes me happy knowing that kid is going to be an amazing rider once hes on a better bike. I was on my $6k carbon Lapierre Zesty and was too tired to chase him.
  • + 5
 Agreed, money can't buy skill, but a good/modern suspension will allow more human errors and hence making people ride faster/better. The R35 GTR is one of those cars if you put a complete idiot behind the wheel on the track can still turn out decent lap time simply because for the lack of better words, the car drives itself.
  • + 4
 mtb is a sport that will always make you humble in a way or other, ( probably all the ways ) always proving to you that you are wrong about some stuff and are not as good as you believe you are. Never bragging about any single aspect of it ( bike build, skills, strength....) is one of the secrets to happiness in this sport.
  • + 1
 @Sardine: Glory vs personal

Nobody wants a bike that does everything for them, thats not fun.
Hate feeling too floaty out there.
  • + 43
 Nope. Not buying the premise. Crap is simply crap, flaws are just poor design or shoddy R&D, not an attraction.
  • + 6
 writes article on manual typewriter sitting in a coffee shop... telegraphs the copy to his editor... uses HAM radio to discuss the notes... makes job 10x harder for no reason, but gives the article more character.
  • + 1
 Loved my old Saracen s2000 hardtail, early mechanical disk brakes were deathtraps, poor quality components. But it felt right all the way (apart from the stopping.).

Haven't enjoyed any of my more up to date/upgraded bikes as much as that thing. Including all its flaws.
  • + 35
 I disagree. I think the best bike is the one you forget is there when you're riding it, the one that convinces you that you aren't just a two legged human who's always limited by what your body can't do, but that you can glide over the dirt as trees and scenery blur in your periphery, and you're going so fast you had better not start thinking because you'll remember that you shouldn't be doing this; it's against your biology; you're breaking rules right now. If you start to believe that you'll wreck, maybe not this time but you will eventually.

In the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams says the trick to flying is to throw yourself at the ground and miss, and you miss by forgetting that you're falling. I like bikes that help me forget.
  • + 3
 Oh yes, +1 for throwing yourself at the ground and missing, but isn't that the point of the article? To forget you're falling you want the bike that puts the biggest grin on your face - whether that's the fastest or the funnest doesn't matter.
  • + 2
 @kepaso: Great comment!
  • + 20
 This is one of the best articles I’ve read read on PB.

Top Gear is a worldwide phenomenon precisely because those guys, especially Jeremy, know how to communicate what it is, the emotion, the connection to the road, and the freedom that comes with driving a great car. There are plenty of places one can read about the safety of a Volvo.

This article totally nails what’s great about bikes; the emotion, the connection to the trail (nature) and freedom that comes with riding a great bike which is, I hate to say, not my current bike. Sure it’s more modern, faster, more efficient, etc. But my previous 26” (‘flawed’) bike was a masterpiece of a bike that was a telepathic extension of my MTB brain.

Thanks for such a great article. I’ll be forwarding this for sure.
  • + 21
 If you want a bike with personality you have to build it. Pick your frame then Cherry Pick Your Parts and get exactly what you want. I have no sympathy for people who buy a stock offering and then complain about it.
  • + 6
 This is what I've done with my last bike. This is my first carbon mountain bike and it clearly feels dead. I wish I went with another AL frame...
  • + 3
 i tried to upvote this 56 times but pinkbike only lets me do one..... bummer....
  • + 1
 @WECustomizeBikes: every custom-build I have ever done has always came out cheaper than a stock offering. I take my time and score sales and clearance deals and end up with a way better bike for way less money.
  • + 5
 @lRaphl: add some compression and try speeding up your rebound. Maybe that'll give it some life.
  • + 14
 Matt you fool, of course you bought the wrong car, you bought an Alfa in a colour that wasn't red, you bought a 1.8 too! I adored my 156 sportwagon, 2.4jtd in blood red (no other colour is allowed). I agree the boot was crap, didn't fit a bike even with the seats down, it was a bit thirsty and the flywheel wore out too fast. But my God that car could haul ass, the seats were comfy and all the electrics in mine worked. It was fun just to commute in that thing. I covered 125'000 miles in it before some berk in a Range Rooney turned it into a big red banana (I might have cried when it was written off, a lot). Flawed car yes, but so much fun to just drive around.
.
Can't say I agree with you on bikes though. The first bike I owned with no real vices was a Prophet MX, I loved that bike, 160mm travel, 35lbs, 9 gears, anywhere I took it just rode nicely through everything. No weird shocks, no kickback, nice geometry, reliable for six years until I snapped it against a tree (and might have cried, again). On a bike I need all the help I can get, so a flawless bike is more than welcome, it should only be the trail that's trying to kill me.
  • + 1
 Yeap. JTD one of the best diesel engines ever made.. so good that FIAT even sold the technology to... Bosch! Guess what, no more TDIs for VW, Mercedes and so on, only common rails are around. Ohh the poor 156, multiple touring car winner, car of the year and still hanging around for miles and miles while others keep shut and don't complain about the mishaps of they're socially accepted cars. I guess the Alfa topic is the go to subject when you wanna give the impression you know a lot about cars but you're still stuck in daddy's jokes about the 70s/80s model, that rusted ALOT, and gave tons of electric problems yeah, just like everything made those days. I find it funny cause most of those "experts" still do it to day with the same jokes, even though most of the car parts are shared between auto-makers because they're built in the same place. It's hilarious. But hey, you will never hear someone joke about Mercedes burning down everyday on motorways. Never.

PS proud owner of a Alfa and a VW. They're both brilliant.
  • + 3
 Yes I must say as the owner of two 156s, a 159 and a 166 I find this article tedious. I get that it's not anti Alfa but what I have always found is that people whinge about every little fault in an Alfa that they would completely ignore in another car. A lot of these problems are completely in their heads.

My 1.8 156 which is the same as the one the writer had was a wonderful car which never let me down. It handled like a go kart and I certainly wouldn't call 140bhp in a car that size under powered.

My v6 156 is 20 years old and everything works perfectly and it has the greatest engine of any car I've ever owned. The sound, throttle response and eagerness to rev make it feel like a mini Ferrari.

My 166 has 200,000 miles on it and aside from an appetite for oil every thing works and there are tons of electronics in it. It has never left me or the one previous owner down.

But an old colleague bought a 156 and he had a small problem after a month, his immediate reaction was "I should never have bought an Alfa" and never stopped cursing it. Nothing else went wrong with it but in his head it was now scrap. A neighbours VW Touareg gave endless (very expensive) problems while he had it but talking with him about it recently he claims it was a great car. It's all brand perception.

Anyway, I don't ever get the same feeling about a bike that I would with a car. I want a bike to work and do what it's supposed to. I don't find bicycles all that characterful compared to cars.
  • + 1
 @Fix-the-Spade I would agree that red would have been better, but it was a happy chance that I ended up with the Alfa in the first place, I urgently needed a car as I'd just returned to the UK and landed a good job, and I knew the guy selling it was as reliable as they come. However, the 1.8 is, arguably, the best of the engines in that car. The diesels and the 3.0 V6 petrol are all a lot heavier, the 2.0 petrol only has 5 bhp over the 1.8 and, again, weighs more. God only knows why they made the 1.6 version...
  • + 3
 @mattwragg: as someone who has owned the 1.8 and the v6 I can't possibly agree with you.

The V6 makes it better in every way. It's definitely more nose heavy so it loses the go kart like handling somewhat and it really needed the limited slip diff I fitted but it really makes the car feel much more special. As Jeremy Clarkson himself said it makes the best noise ever in the world. And it's is so much smoother and under stressed. I don't think 4 cylinders ever compare really.
  • + 1
 @humoroususername: (here's my upvote) wow, I couldn't put to words what you've just did, I wish I had. Yap, I fully agree, anything in an Alfa is a curse or a huge storm of epic proportions, while on other brands people take it lightly like it was nothing. Timing belt on VW petrol engines? Mercedes burning up?
With my 156 I also had at the same time a Seat Leon, and it had a tons of problems (common to that model) that my 156 never had, but guess what, other owners never even mention those (we're talking about major engine problems), but always pointed to my crappy Alfa. Yeah, almost 188.000 km and apart from some a bulb or two, never ever it let me down. The Seat on the other hand....
  • + 3
 @mattwragg: I had the 1.6. It sounded ace when flooring it in 3rd to join a motorway - which you had to do as it only had 120bhp I think. Not really enough in the sportwagon.

I also had a 1.8, then the JTD. The 1.8 never felt as raw and fun as the 1.6 and the diesel was the biggest car mistake I ever made. I still get shudders when I catch a whiff of diesel at a filling station.

Agreed on the suspension issues though - it was like it was made of cheese and considered to be a consumable like, you know, brake pads or fuel.

I still miss each and every one of them.
  • + 9
 Santa Cruz 5010 V1 embodies the same feeling for me.

I get out of control (often losing it completely) on that bike more than any other I've owned, and I love every single second of it.

I'm even thinking about buying an extra V1 frame since the V2 has only gotten more Enduro-er, with "stability improving geometry."

The whole reason I bought it was because Bike Mag's Bible just gushed about the bike's personality more than anything.

I'm scratching my head on the VW thing though... those cars are NOTHING but trouble in my experience and in that of anyone I know who's had the misfortune of owning one. But hey, to each his own!

I'll stick with my used Lexus' and used Santa Cruz 5010s!
  • + 4
 i owned a passat bought new for 11 frustrating years, i honestly lost count of how many times it was in the shop. occasionally i'd get a recall notice from VW and get a 4+ year old repair comp'd if i could dig up the receipt.

happily sold it, then changed my phone number and moved 500 miles south.
  • + 3
 I run my rear shock pressure wayyy lower than I should. It climbs worse, it's squirrelly when things get moving real fast, and it kinda makes the bike suck a little on the uninspiring parts of the trail. BUT, when things are just right it lets me ride the rear wheel and do stupid shit that's mega fun. Slower in every way, pain in the ass most of the time, mega fun when it's just right.
  • + 2
 You are in the US so you would be used to Mexican made VWs instead of German ones. We've had German ones and South African ones at various times here in Aus and the German ones are much better!
  • + 2
 @JamesR2026: If you have a good eye there are some German ones here and they are better. Just the bolts alone are higher quality.
  • + 2
 @JamesR2026: 10 yrs with my Mexican one and no issues. Same faulty electrics but the big stuff is all good
  • + 3
 @JamesR2026: I don't really buy that. VW mechanical are just weak in general. I've a friend with a 1997 passat and it's comical how much goes wrong with it even considering it's age. My 13 year old Alfa 166 with similar mileage is considerably more robust.

We had a 1996 Passat and it was a dreadful car, windows would go down for no reason in a rain storm, doors wouldn't close at all in cold weather, seats were harder than granite, paint quality was abysmal and it was beyond ugly. It also had a whopping 90bhp. It took weeks to reach 100kph. No redeeming qualities whatsoever.

If Alfa ever made a car even 1/10th as bad as that piece of shit then I'd agree with some of the stereotypes about them.
  • + 7
 Lol.. I love it...
Riding last week and some guy was like "is...is that a 26" mate?"
I laughed and said "f*cking hell man give it a rest" "it's a 2011 frame" and you should have seen his face!
Needless to say his 2017 SantaCruz wasn't quite as fast as old Mojo Jo Jo uphill or DH.. Was a good day Big Grin
  • + 8
 Best car I've ever owned was an 84 Alfa GTV6 that I bought on ebay for 1700. Worst car I've ever owned was an Alfa GTV6 that I bought on ebay for 1700.
  • + 6
 The author assumes that having an awesome, modern, efficient bike means that you can't feel connected to the trail. They do not have to be exclusive to each other, seems more like you bought the wrong bike!
  • + 4
 Awesome read Matt. I think it comes down to the fact that flaws are liberating. That itch, be it bad suspension setup, non matching tyres, brake that needs bleeding but still stops you, bent der hanger, it releases us from perfection, we suddenly don't need to live up to the status of that beast. My first long wheelie was done in mocassins on clipless pedals while in hurry to work. Perfection is a crutch. I had a perfect bike for a few months and I swear it was saying to me: every ride you have something to live up to. These days I have a fantastic bike but components aren't all top notch, and some of them were given to me (no way Jose I'd buy anything with XTR on it... again) and sometimes I sit munching a Snickers in the middle of a ride and I think to myself: I'm so fkng fortunate, what a bike, whaaat a bike. And it doesn't say anything back about living up to something. But I had my share of time on crappy hardtail, I eventually ride a similar one without holding back. I will never own a perfect bike again though... The shitty bikes let us appreciate the great ones. But when you sit on a shitty one every once in a while you can appreciate your own riding skill.
  • + 5
 Here here!
...plus there's extra security in having a custom/shonk derailleur setup that only the owner/rider knows how to use. eg to use 3rd click through to 10th and go 8 back...
  • + 5
 I agree with this wholeheartedly. Bikes with personality, made to bring fun and good feels, are infinitely better than the perfectly straight-shooting bikes that are made to ride, and just ride.
  • + 3
 What do people tend to do when they are trying to defend something that is objectively worse? If they can't find a reason that their point of argument is correct, then they'll appeal to your emotions. Your thing may be better in every measurable way, but my thing has *soul*. It has *emotion*. It has *character*. And the only way to have character is to have flaws.

Alright then I'll hit the better design with a hammer. Does it have character now?
  • + 3
 Along the lines of a Karpiel, circa Y2K.

The Alfa Romeo 1900 C52 "Disco Volante",[4] commonly known simply as Alfa Romeo Disco Volante (Italian for "Flying Saucer"), is a series of experimental sports racing cars produced between 1952 and 1953 by Italian car manufacturer Alfa Romeo in collaboration with Milanese coachbuilder Carrozzeria Touring. The car was distinguished by streamlined, wind tunnel tested bodywork.

Three spiders were made in 1952, with a 2-litre all-alloy four-cylinder engine; a year later one was modified into a coupé, and another one into a more conventional-looking spider. Two more examples were built fitted with a six-cylinder 3.5-litre engine from the Alfa Romeo 6C 3000 CM racing car. Four of the five cars built in total survive today.
  • + 3
 Please not another ignorant, moronic 'Your not a true petrol head until you've owned an Alfa' Clarkson Regurgitation. There are a thousand(s) other vehicles out there that can give you a petrol head moniker without having to step anywhere near Milan/Turin's finest GM rehash. That being said my next car will be an Alfa 159 Ti estate, just because look at it. It's gorgeous (plus its a Saab 9-5 underneath).

As for the bikes though totally agree, My favourite bike is also my cheapest and heaviest but i love it i can abuse it for hours on end and it keeps reassuring me, boosting my confidence and coming back for more. But my most 'Accomplished' bike is the one i ride the least. Sure against the clock it's fastest probably but its a little too easy.
  • + 3
 My "Alfa Romeo" bike is a 1999 Schwinn 4 Banger 21". The rear end rises on the brakes, but the Bass Boat Gold Metallic Flake Paint is to die for. I have to ride a size large to get the reach I want and thankfully a Gravity Dropper 3" post for the 28.6 seat post will work. Riding the 4B is transformative, and at the same time, it seems to laugh at me-full commitment is required for any trail.

My "VW" is a 2013 Niner RIP 9 18" with 27.5 Plus wheels. It is the monster truck of MTBs-goes every where, does anything; it will cash every check I write with no money in the bank. It is a perfect bike to ride any trail.

But the 4 Banger is that special ride. Never fails to make me smile. I might not ride it as often as the RIP 9, but I will never let it go.
  • + 3
 this is why i ride hard tails. i have been saying this from the start of the sheel size increases and geometry changes over the past 5 years.

I have always had the attitude that more speed means less fun, im talking about more travel and longer slacker geo as what those bikes do is iron out the trail so that you can go faster and in turn you have to go faster to have the same amount of fun.

so by getting that shiny 160/160 travel 29er you have spent more money to have the same amount of fun and worse crashes. as you can see by my little flag im a brit, our trails are not like the ones in canada and the alps. for our trails a little hard tail is truly the most fun thing you can own.

even then my mate had a XTRed and Hoped out ti slackline and it still didnt really seem very alive btu it was fun. i remember my old DJ bike, i wanted a 25t front ring and so for the right ratio i had to squeeze an old 11t from a cassette onto a single speed kit, it skipped if you pedaled too hard but i learned to ride it and it was truly my bike. i liked this article a lot. it was one that spoke to me directly not to the community as a whole
  • + 3
 My favorite car ever was my Alfa 164. Loved that car even though it had many quirks. And my Fiat Spiders, nothing can compare. Even though they suck for reliability or practicality, I've never had such a strong emotional connection with any vehicle. As for bikes, definitely Cove bikes have had that same feeling. Too bad they aren't doing much these days.
  • + 3
 My Norco 4X (the original candy apple red version). Short travel, short stem, lowest BB ever and cornered like a cat on carpet. My first 1x bike. Heavy, flexy chain guide, terrible cable disc brakes. I woke up in the hospital spewing cornflakes into an aluminium tray after being hit by a car to learn she was gone.
  • + 1
 I had that bike in the VPS option. Yea good memories
  • + 2
 @leelau: yeah. It was my first Horst link.
  • + 2
 @iamamodel: mine climbed like a constipated dachsund. But it was so low and built so burly. Ironically i cracked the downtube - probably by casing stuff
  • + 3
 I get it. I had a rockhopper, 26' wheels, no dropper post, frankly appalling front suspension and crossmark tyres. I used it as a winter bike for three years, through everything. Probably the most fun I've ever had, the fittest I've ever been and I sold it. Moved on through numerous high end bikes but nothing since has made me feel like that bike made me feel.
  • + 3
 Meow meow meow bikes are too good. A great bike is reliable and a great ride. The myth that you had to choose reliability or driving passion was killed by the Acura (Honda) NSX, a car with soul (the final calibrations were done with no less then Senna himself) yet stone reliable and comfortable as a daily driver.

Modern drivetrains and brakes (well, at least if you go Shimano with those brakes) are stone reliable, with a satisfying tactility to the shift action (at least on nicer stuff). However, modern frames break......ALL of them break if ridden vigorously on advanced trails.The Honda-grade reliable pedal bike is still a dream as far as I'm concerned.

Final thought. If your frame's shock rate is that flat, there are several ways to firm up the end of the stroke. Don't call it an endearing quirk and praise/whine about it. Try some volume spacers. Send it to a tuner to tweak the rate. Maybe even put a different unit in there. Parts falling off also indicate a hack pilot more than an endearingly flawed bike.
  • + 2
 oh dude, I"m just considering finally buying a 147 156 or 159 for exactly the same reasons Smile
And my Formula 35 is good but really far from perfect, I"m running it for 3 months but I still f...g love it because it gives me so many good thrills and unpredictability. I had a Pike before and it was so.... boring, reliable but boring Smile
  • + 3
 Its been 7 years since I had to sell my Alfa 159 Sportswagon when I moved to HK, still think about it, one of the few things I miss. What is the bike equivalent for an Alfista?
  • + 2
 I get what the author is putting down. I believe that would come with the bike industry realigning with the consumer. The price of enduro bikes these days is just laughable to those of us blue collar riders, with a wife, kids, mortgage. You tell your spouse you want to drop north of $5 and closer to $10k for a trail bike. You'd be better off asking for a weekend with a hooker in Vegas. God knows it will cost less.

But what I am getting at is make bikes affordable, and that Alfa character will shine through. At the current price point bikes are Ferraris at best and Konigseggegegegegggs when it looks like a Trek. Give us bikes we can afford, make them fun to ride, but in the cost savings, the flaws will be there. I'd be happier with a flawed bike for $2~3k than I'd ever be in the dog house or being served papers for $5~10k.
  • + 2
 Had 5 Alfas. 2 Suds, 33, 75 turbo evo, 146. All very reliable, some quirks, the Suds were really fun to drive. Now I drive a 54 Chevy 3100 everyday after I gifted my 2007 Sierra 1500. Sofar no lust for a new pickup. Same with bikes. Toomuch dooda nd hype on something thats essentially unchanged in 50 years.
  • + 4
 Going back a few decades but this article inspires reminiscence of the old Cannondale SuperV3000 with Zzyxx forks I had. So wrong, yet loved it....
  • + 2
 The Super V will always be one of the best bikes of all time in my book.
  • + 2
 Wow. That would have looked awesome!

I had a Zzyzx fork on an Avanti 6" Dually. That thing had bigger legs than my CR250. It rode like shit but looked soooo cool!
  • + 2
 @NickBit: Looked awesome, Zzyxx required a huge pre ride greasing or else they'd stick like sheet on a blanket. The Super V I had, I originally had Z1s on her, that were way too soft and bottomed out on everything. Once the Zzyxx were on her, a whole new bike. Chattery on the small stuff (fork stick) but I was able to 'huck' it some what... Oh and the that near vertical head angle lol.

Posting about it now, makes me want that bike back.
  • + 1
 @NickBit: Avanti Moto Pro or Comp?
  • + 1
 @iamamodel: ummm. It was blue?
Probably a comp knowing what my budget would have been.
  • + 3
 Such a good day on PB today. Great articles, videos, upcoming World Cup talk with all the 29-er controversy and spy shots....

Did you really need to post up this filler article today too PB???
  • + 2
 I find it humorous that the author uses VW as a barometer for reliability. As the owner of a Westy I work on that thing relentlessly. But it is all worth it once I get to drive it.
That being said I do agree with the article. Todays bikes are great but just far too forgiving. Going back to HT/SS.
  • + 2
 Describes perfectly my old 2011 Rocky Mountain Element 70 MSL. It has flaws: pedal strike prone, and solid enough to race enduro but with a ridiculous 69.5 degree head angle (both remedied somewhat by installing an external lower headset cup), front derailleur set-up that can't be adjusted to stop rubbing the chain, and a shoddy seatpost clamp that in essence gives me a dropper post at half the weight. But puts a dirt eating grin on my face every time I ride it; it is such a blast. So fast, and usually gets me in trouble that the limited mm of suspension barely gets me out of. Always lots of adrenalin going on this bike. Every year or so I plan on getting a new bike; they are always more logical and technologically advanced, but when I demo them alongside my old MSL 70 they don't put the same smile on my face.
  • + 1
 I'm the same way with my 2010 Trek Fuel EX. It rattles, the shock has almost no adjustability, the geometry is a bit off, the 26" wheels look comically small, the parts have all been swapped so it's a total Frankenstein but damnit the thing makes me smile. I may get a new bike soon but you can have that one when you pry it from my cold dead hands!
  • + 2
 Easily the best text I've read about bicycles in a long, long, time. I've had a Brooklyn Machine Works Race Link and boy was that an expensive piece of furniture (In the 7 year I've owned it I've ride it less than 30 times and really ride it in conditions for what it was designed to less than 5 times. I've decided to sell it a year ago and, even though I almost not rode it at all, it is the bike I miss the most from all the bikes I've had. It was like those special cars rich guys have on their garage just to look at them and think about how great it is to ride. I don't have the money though to be able to have these type of "furniture" so it had to go. Another great bike I've had that I miss was a Nicolai Ufo-DS with a Shiver SC. Even being a little to long for me (german frames tend to be a little on the longer side of the measurements) it was a great bike and one of the bikes in which I've learn the most of my cycling.
  • + 2
 I'm working on a theory about what makes a bike especially fun to ride (beyond simply being a bicycle). It's long, but the PB-comment-friendly version goes like this: most of us won't admit it, but what we actually want is a bike that is fun to ride close to its limits. I think that is what endears a bike to us. Most new bikes are way more capable than the riders buying them.
  • + 1
 Gotta agree, I have a modern low consumption diesel car that... is just boring. It gets me anywhere for pennies but in the end it is...boring! On the other hand, every time I get to drive my fathers R4 gtl (he bought it last year for fun), 1.1 petrol engine with 25kW power, super soft suspension, tight space inside, it jut puts the smile on my face in every corner, that is really a car with personality!
  • + 1
 my old 2010 cadabra. its to short (came with a 90mm stem!) and to steep at the front has a thirst for bearings which it has lots off and has led to more broken bones than any other thing iv ridden mx and superbikes inc. but its different to anything else and i love it.
  • + 1
 Hmmm... I once owned an Alfa, too. A 75, which still had the rear wheel drive and was balanced like a sports car. It handled great, and it was full of innovative technology (two spark plugs per cylinder for better ignition, the first "onboard computer" I ever saw in a car, and so on).

Still, it was simply a bad car. Said computer never worked correctly, all eight spark plugs had to be changed in increasingly short intervals, the gear box felt like someone had dropped some nuts and bolts in there during assembly, and in the end became so bad, that in the end it didn't matter if you pressed the clutch, or not... and half of the time I couldn't get in the thing through the driver's door, because the lock wouldn't open.

Yeah, it was fun to drive. And it was the only "sporty" car I could afford at the time.

But I would have gladly exchanged it for a Porsche, that would have handled much better still and would have worked flawlessly in every respect.

A lot of people will never be able to afford a Porsche, even a used one, but even with top bikes now having five figure prices, many people will be able to afford that used Santa Cruz, Ibis, or Intense (fill in your preference), and have a bike that is not flawed in any way. To me, that's (still) one of the great thing about bikes, if you have a job, and really want to, you can afford something that is on par with what is used in the world cup. Imagine being able to buy a Formula 1 or World Rallye Car... Why would you go for that flawed old Alfa?
  • + 1
 My Alfa was much worse than yours. A 1.5 Alfa Sud hatch. Rusted to shit. Inboard front disk brakes and the handbrake working on the front wheel. Shot flat four engine that drank oil. Beyond ratty interior. But, when it worked it was a hoot to drive in the bends and more than capable on dirt roads.
  • + 1
 I'm a Mnt. Biker; riding '3stage' since '86. I'm also an Industrial Millwright. I've been wrenching on bikes since I was 10 yrs old. I've had a lot of great bikes over the years, and each one is far better than the one that came b4 it. (All useless info for most). "I love 2 B the guy doing More, with Less". My current ride is a 2014 Trance Advanced 1. MSRP was 5000CAD, I got it for $3500; I was thrilled. After one season I swapped out the 2x10 for M8000 1x11 & I love it! Yes, it has a stupid OD2 HS & fork, and I'm jonsin' for a Pike or 34; but this bike rocks! I've been beating it since Oct 14 and it has never complained once. (other than a Fox Rr rebuild, under warranty). This thing climbs & descends as your #Trailbike should! I read about all the new shtuff; 150-160mm, Boost Yada, yada... and I drool over some of it. Now, the important bit; Giant has nailed it with the Trance/Maestro! So 'Kudos' 2 U Giant, keep up the good work! I'll be enjoying this whip 4 yrs to come... until I buy another Tranny!
  • + 1
 Oh. This was "Worse bike"...
  • + 1
 As someone who owned a Audi A4 Avant (B5) 1.8T I complete understand what your talking about. Constant issues with the oil pressure and turbo and the check engine light was usual lit. On top of that the rear suspension was not very robust. However when you went about fixing the frequent turbo > oil pressure problems and verified the rear springs weren't cracked again it was such a pleasure to drive. My current Nissan Xterra is a model in reliability and does fantastic off road - however everytime I'm on some twisty asphalt I'm yearning of my little A4
  • + 1
 it seems like he's talking about wanting that "honeymoon period" of is relationship with bikes back! I remember what it was like to put 8" rotors and a helicoiled frankensteined boxxer on a hard tail. The rotors made a huge racket through any turns or at the wrong speed, EVERYTHING creaked, but it looked and rode cooler than it did before! Just walk out to your garage and pretend your last bike was a lot less nice than your current one and get stoked on it! And when you're riding and nothing is creaking, rubbing, or squeaking, remember how riding it was after servicing your older ride and then riding it problem free!
  • + 1
 I don't know, shitty design flaws are apparent on every bike if you look for them. I went to post secondary for architectural technologies, and you learn from that how bad a lot of things actually are, and people just choose the best option out of bad things.
  • + 1
 Maybe you could even call, "shitty design flaws", "compromises", and acknowledge that everything is compromised in a different way. While your car's inconceivably fast, luxurious, and expensive, certain groups may seem out of place, and you'd be happier with a Ford Taurus in your neighborhood. There's always a compromise.
  • + 1
 I don't know how I landed on this article, but I'm sitting here reading it, and across from me is the most fun bike I've ever ridden, a decade old custom Yeti team frame with an insane mix of components on it, its shock resting comfortably at 50%.
The best car I've ever owned, a 1979 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce. I put 4x what I paid for it into every kind of service. 3/4 of the time I owned it it was in the shop, and it didn't even really matter, somehow. My new Surbaru, a million times nicer in every way, but damn if every time I get in it I don't wish I was strapping myself into that ridiculous Alfa instead.
  • + 1
 @mattwragg I feel you.
Every time I think about how I love my 2014 S. Enduro, I remember that I hate it too. And vice versa.

It has too short geo for size L, and I should really by looking for an XL. It has silly shock mount, wrong cable routing, a hub that keeps loosening up no matter the locktite. Vorsprung corset fixed the kinematics but I have to run 300psi. OE brake failed on me. First Upgraded tubeless wheels and rims got all smashed on the first trip. It's getting hard to get new technologies on 26 wheels as well. It's a constant headache.

But. Anytime I look at it, I just want to shred the living soul out of it. While I fell faster straight away on newer, longer bikes I have yet to find a bike that feels so fun in such a unique way. While they shine 80% of the time, my bike only does in rare 20% but then, it makes for a lighthouse! It's the ultimate worn out shoe that your girlfriend can't stand and you friends make fun off, but it just feels so right to wear it.

I will ride it till the wheels fall off, and then I'm hanging the frame on my wall. With all that beeing said (pondering on recent puncture article) I still think modern bikes are extremely imperfect.
  • + 1
 This makes me think of my beloved Devinci Hectik. The thing weighted a tonne and didn't like pedaling uphill... hell it didn't like pedaling on flat ground either, and if you ever stood up while pedaling you were going nowhere fast. But you didn't have to worry about line choice or skill, just point the bike down and keep it up right, the bike will sort everything else out. Yes my Altitude Rally Edition is a better all arounder but I still miss my Hectik.
  • + 1
 There will forever be two sides to this ideology. To each his own.

Yes, there will always be the guys who have toe $4k+ bikes and cant clear that tech climd that you may be able to on your 2009 stumpy.

If you had the money and cost was not a concern, i think its safe to assume we would all be buying these bikes.

Do I have bikes that are above my ability? yes, probably so and I will be the first one to admit it. Do a large sum of MTB riders have bikes that are above their abilities? Probably so.

Am i having just as much fun as everyone else? yes. absolutely.

Remember, we are all here for the same reasons. To ride our bikes.
  • + 1
 A pleasure to read. Although I currently race and want perfection from my bike, I still long for my 2005 Cannonade Prophet and the joy's (and heartache) it brought me. Matt Wragg was able to artfully explain it to me in this article.
  • + 1
 Great article. I can relate. Got my wife a Bronson V2 for Christmas this past year. We both ride the same frame size. Every time I ride it I marvel at what a piece of engineering it is. It's about as perfect for its designed intention as it gets I think. My old Bedford made C-dale is currently in pieces because I literally rode the wheels off. I'm rebuilding it. I can't wait to get back on it. It's all wrong by today's standards. Single pivot, wrong wheel size, wrong geo, etc. but I've got it customized with really nice components ands it's a flickable little romp of a bike! I get plenty of comments on it " Which Mtb museum did you steal that out of?", "why are you riding that?" Etc. I didn't steal it, I built it up, it's wrong and it's a blast to ride!
  • + 1
 For me a bad bike is one who can´t handle enduro/DH and it intended use as enduro/DH bike. My boss Scott 27,5 150 mm bike was a lose of money and time,the bike rides well but it can´t handle big stuff whit no losing parts involved,the bike fall in pieces on the trail...
Bad bike=broken bike
  • + 4
 the only way I can relate to this is my refusal to buy a Giant for no logical reason
  • + 1
 £100 steel frame (and probably wheeled) giant lasted at least a decade of abuse, poorly treated by my dad (hes a big lump and the bike was left to rot in all weather).and acquired by myself and my friends for teenage shenanigans..it did really well for a long time.
So many curb slams, never a pinch flat, never a dent. Good wheels on them giants.
  • + 1
 I love this article and completely agree with what you're saying, my favorite bike I own is a 2011 Giant Reign with 26in wheels, cool rear shock and a modified Lyrik the bike is heavy, and climbs horribly. But holy crap it descends like no other and that's where I want the bike to come alive the most so I love it.
  • + 1
 Great bikes can take you up to mount everest and down. You will experience that kind of "amagical mystery ride" with it.
As for the "worse bicycle," you just gotta give your bike some love by perfectly loving its imperfections. Then you'll realize that It may not be worse afterall. Mediocre perhaps. There is indeed an element of "emotion" involved in a review.... and how come John Legend knew about this? Is he even a biker? Lol...
  • + 1
 Featherlight steering in a car in my experience usually also equals little to no feedback from the front end through the wheel. Same could be said for bikes as well, only bars vs. wheel. I can't stand that lack of feedback. Perhaps the Alfa was different, but I've never experienced a car that had both light steering, and good feedback.
  • + 1
 Test drive a Miata! Light steering and good feedback.
  • + 1
 @ryan77777: I honestly don't like light steering, even if there is good feedback. I like the wheel to have some weight to it, harder to give too much input or over correct that way. My favorite all time car was an '89 RX7 with rack and pinion steering, no power assist. That car had amazing steering and feedback!
  • + 1
 Balfa two step, stiffest bike ever, only came in two sizes, 26inch, big ass headset gussets, the funnest bike i have ever owned...needed to change the upper shock bolt once a month cause I would bend it with lightest of hard riding..leave it for two months and it would snap...amazingly i could manage to ride the bike home after....Balfa 2Step
  • + 5
 Alfa Romeo! The car of 2 joys: When you buy it,and when you sell it.
  • + 1
 Hey I had a Commencal Supreme Mini DH - 160 mm travel and you are bang on! All the inconvenience of a DH bike but cheaper and without the travel. I still have the pics on my buy/sell but it went ages ago to a fellow PBer. I loved that bike and learned a lot of my DH skills on it.
  • + 3
 Incidentally, on seeing the new Nomad I immediately thought "I had that bike nearly 10 years ago".
  • + 1
 I've got an SB75 sitting in the garage I'll gladly let go, now my "wrong" niner WFO? I love that one.

Favorite bike? Titus El Guapo V2. Then they made a new one and screwed it up with V3. I think that's what killed titus. One bad bike after another, FTM, rockstar, then the V3 El guapo debacle. And here you are asking for more bad bikes?

I'd rather they made more fun bikes and less race bikes.
  • + 2
 2003 Specialized Big Hit Comp, 130mm rear travel, Nokian Gazzaloddi 24"x3.0" rear tire, 40lbs. Loved that thing, it just wouldn't break! If you've not owned one, I feel for you!
  • + 2
 This article really hits home.... I've built my bikes for one particular aspect of riding that I enjoy; usually at the expense of making them "good". They've never been nice, well rounded machines, but they have been a blast
  • + 1
 Yes!!! This sport is about putting a smile on your face, not striving for that new KOM. I put a new build together for myself this year. For around $1000 I threw together a motley of used, NOS and outdated clearanced components to build a bike that fits me and my riding. Aluminum, 26", Titus (an all but dead brand), 1x10, outdated geometry, can't fit a dropper bigger than 100mm, 80mm stem, quick release, 135x10...all the things that the articles and reviews have long since forgotten about. But boy does it make me smile. You can have your new $8000 Yeti with the reach 4mm longer than last year. I've got a beautiful bike that's got many flaws, and I love it more for them.
  • + 1
 Love this story. Most rewarding car that I have owned = 1979 Alfa Romeo Alfetta 2.0 sedan, despite inherent rust issues and dodgy electrics. The strengths (engine note, engine performance, handling, charisma) more than compensated. Now into Subarus. Bike favs are Santa Cruz and Transition. Great performance but huge personalities.
  • + 1
 but.. do you know any 70s/80s car that wasn't a bucket of rust? maybe a trabant? ;P
  • + 1
 I can relate to the practical (impractical?) nostalgia here, and I think it's worth talking about. The bespoke shows don't get a lot of views, but that's where you can find some of these gems, and I think as the industry as a whole gets bigger, the bespoke guys/gals will in turn sell more bikes, and these will hopefully become a bit more popular. There are bigger companies, as well, with cool bikes that aren't perfect but are perfect companions, I could never name them all, but coming to mind are the older konas and the newer process series, most devincis up until recently that were all asymmetrical in one insane way or another with weird things like solid metal skid plates you'd be more likely to find on a jeep, and certainly knolly owners are pretty dedicated customers ; ) Loved the article @mattwragg, I would have also liked to see it look into something such as addressing the realities of a company like specialized producing such a bike (their name suggests they either SHOULD or NEVER WILL), how a company with a number of iconic imperfect bikes like transition are building bikes that are becoming increasingly more polished, and maybe just some examples past and present for customers like myself to look at. Cheers and keep it comin!
  • + 0
 Can we just have shitty derailleur again? I love tinkering with my bike, tuning deraileilurs is the most stress relieving task there is, but I never get to do it anymore. All I ever seem to do anymore is change brake pads and tires.

That and a little personality in how a bike rides and I'm a happy camper. Different strokes for different folks, but I dig a bike that's a bit shit on paper, but puts a smile on my face.
  • + 1
 I had a Kirk Revolution cast magnesium bike back in the 90's, it was heavy and flexy, however I just loved the way it looked and it had some cool things about it. Ultimately it was just shit though!
  • + 1
 I lusted through the window at one of those.
  • + 1
 Mike, I might not agree totally with you, but that was a great little read. Nice to just have the romantic notion in the head associated with the sport and the escape of it all. Good Job!
  • + 2
 Transition Bottlerocket for me. Way overbuilt, not the greatest on the climbs or descents, but I've yet to have a bike that put such a stupid grin on my face.
  • + 1
 I drive a Honda Pilot (2005 still rolling strong) and ride a steel hardtail with 26 inch big High Roller 2's (tubeless) so I don't have to worry. More time riding, less time "fixing"
  • + 1
 i once owned an ancilotti dh bike (branded as kaestle) -the seatmast was obviously not straight, the bearings(bushings) were shity and there was no adjuster on the custom ancilotti shock.but man that bike ripped
  • + 1
 I dig this article. My daily driver is an '84 Toyota 4Runner, my ride is a Chromag Gypsy. Both perfectly flawed, and grin-inducing.
  • + 2
 I am proud to ride the Alfa of Alfas in the bicycle world,

The (old) Santa Cruz Jackal
  • + 1
 I enjoy riding DH bikes everywhere... Dirt Jumps, pumptrack, down to the shop for milk, "enduro". Riding a DH bike just feels more awesome even though it's slow and tiring...
  • + 2
 buy and aircooled beetle and rewrite this article after driving(fixing) it for a few years. alfa shmalfa.
  • + 1
 Yep ! Nothing for better than my inherited C'dale Rize. 760mm bar, 80 mm stem. Shorty upfront, Ikon rear. COuld go for ages ; it's a Frankenbike. But, hey, it's fun to ride !
  • + 2
 I'm reading this, and I get to the bottom, and my only thought is "how are there no comments on this already?"
  • + 4
 Rip Lancia #offtopic
  • + 1
 The Lancia Episode was great.
  • + 3
 Oh great. Now I want an Alfa.
  • + 2
 Anyone else notice 3 of the 6 Must Read articles after this are New Bike Reviews lol
  • + 1
 Best article I've read on here in ages!

Perfectly sums up why I own the bikes I do instead of going out and buying some "perfect" 650b Enduro racer.
  • + 3
 Did Matt choose a picture of an Orbea Occam on purpose?
  • + 2
 my guess would be that its his current bike, i own the exact same bike and have made the exact same mods plus a couple more. put a 160mm airshaft in the 34's offset bush in the shock largest but 1 volume reducer in the shock. 40mm stem. hey presto a 27lb bike with 425mm stays, 65deg head angle. fairly low BB. and handling that is incredibly precise. plus a lifetime warranty on a carbon frame, something very very few manufacturers offer.
  • + 1
 @b45her: I own the 29 occam and also made similar changes! I replaced the 130mm 32 fork with a 140 Pike to slack it out a little, added air volume spacers in the fox float as I bottom the thing out too frequently, and put some stiff wheels on it. It's a bike that gives me absolute grin and it can ride any situation but it has this little bit of wildness to the ride, where as if I hop on a real "enduro" bike it can just straight line confidently through things. The Occam makes me pick lines, but will bail me out if I REALLY need it to. It reminds me of when I owned a Mazda RX-7. It was kind of a headache at times, but I smiled every time I sat behind the wheel. I know there are 100% better bikes for how I ride out there, but I love the hell out of this one, especially after putting in the time and parts to make it "mine".

long story short- My Occam TR is not the best bike for how I ride nor is it necessarily an amazing bike, but god damn it makes me smile when I ride it up hill or down.
  • + 3
 I own both a Commencal Supreme 160 and a Yeti SB75 Frown
  • + 1
 Maybe if some bike is too perfect, so to get that edgy feeling you should push it harder? Until it stops feeling so perfect...
  • + 2
 Or trimble mountain bike.
  • + 3
 PinkBlog?
  • + 0
 PinkSlime?
  • + 1
 @endlessblockades: that's called bacteria
  • + 1
 I disconcur. I don't need some irritating design flaw to distract me for my whole ride. And I'll take the VW over the Alpha.
  • + 2
 Honda crf230f...just put gas in it...goes...always.
  • + 1
 I prefer the xr250 r going down the old low tech high reliability road. I'm also 6'4 so the bigger chassis suits me, and the suspension and engine do better for me. Neither of those create the heartfelt bond of wanting to ride like a 250 2 stroke for me though.
  • + 2
 Remember those alpinestar bikes.
  • + 1
 Hey, I rode one of those up until two years ago Smile Then I snagged a Craigslist deal for a 2003 Giant NRS 2 for $125.00, which felt plush by comparison (for at least a while). Interesting to note that most of the folks who reminisce about the joys of "old" bikes also have the new expensive version sitting in the garage - it's a little different for those of us who ride the old machines out of financial necessity Smile Not to complain though, as that 03 Giant sure makes me grin from ear to ear Smile
  • + 2
 Alfa for cars = BALFA for bikes .. irony.
  • + 1
 LOL owned two alfas and got two balfas ...bb7 and 2step.
  • + 1
 i get what he means but i dont think i bike needs to be flawed to have character or personality
  • + 1
 lol
want worse bicycles?
go work in a shop.
there's plenty of them.
  • + 1
 Pinkbike: now offering automotive blogs!
  • + 1
 I'm still riding a Sunday, so I guess I just have to agree.
  • + 1
 I was thinking of my Sunday as I was reading this article
  • + 1
 Anything made by GM(Government Motors) is crap
  • + 1
 Wait just a minute. Back it up to anything made after the 90s by GM is crap or even anything made after 72 by GM is crap and I'll buy that. Don't condemn an era of wonderful muscle cars made by GM because of what are stupid government has done to the company.
  • + 0
 Alfa = Kona

I could add a lengthy explanation, but I really don't think it's necessary.
  • + 1
 Buy an intense. You'll be sorted.
  • + 1
 I dont drive a car, i drive Volvo Smile
  • + 2
 Hey, it rolls.
  • + 1
 I had a khs dj with a 26 in the back and a 27.5 up front
  • + 1
 Scratch that 26 up front 24 in the back
  • - 3
 Most (if not all) Alfa's are complete piles of shit, with ZERO redeeming value. If owning one makes you feel superior in some way, then all the power to you.
I'll take a Porsche(pretty much any). They have more character in one of their lug nuts than Alfa Romeo has in its entire factory.
Yet Porsche's character shows itself in the way it needs to be driven. If driven properly it wins races. If driven poorly, it punishes the driver by doing a 180 and backing in to the inside wall.
The fact that their trim pieces fit precisely, or their suspension pieces last forever doesn't detract from them in any way, shape, or form. To the contrary, it allows you to concentrate on driving the f*cking thing instead of spending 5 hours working on the POS for every 10 minutes spent behind the wheel.
I like the same qualities in my mountain bikes.
Needing to modify or constantly repair a POS bike because it was a piss-poor excuse from the get-go doesn't make me feel any 'closer' to it in the slightest.
What makes me connect with a bike is when I somehow find myself on a run that's way over my head, yet the bike feels as if it's responding to my thoughts, turning my initial fear into euphoria.
I've owned several bikes that fit this description. What made me happy off the trail, was the fact that I simply have/had to wash them regularly, and properly maintain them.
  • + 1
 You are comparing an Alfa (156?) to a Porsche. Aware about the price levels? This is like comparing the carbon high spec nomad to a base Kona Process 111.
  • + 0
 My friend, who owned a '69 911 at the time, told me the only problems with Porsches are the drivers.
  • + 4
 You're American...the likelihood of you ever having seen an Alfa, not to mind even driven one is close to zero. So it's safe to say your opinion is completely irrelevant bollocks.

The 156 was the only car to ever beat the e36 in head to head tests in Autocar magazine (it won plenty of other head to head tests upon its release), European car of the year 1998, awarded wards best engine 2001 for the 2.5 V6, world's first common rail diesel engine(the technology that underpins ALL modern diesel engines), awarded most beautiful car in the world 1998, won 5 straight European Touring Car titles, etc. I could go on....
  • + 3
 @endlessblockades: I know they are back for sale now and funnily enough it's ranked number one in its class by almost all American publications. I was talking historically as they have never sold in large numbers there and weren't on sale at all since 1994.

Also, YoKev should google "Porsche scored bores" for some fantastic reading on an issue which affects almost every single piece 6 cylinder engine made since the mid 00s.

www.6speedonline.com/forums/996/366325-thinking-about-c4s-scored-bores-concern.html

3rd post down: over $25,000 of servicing in 4 years of ownership. Yeah Porsche's are just so well engineered and so reasonable to fix ????
  • + 3
 @humoroususername:

Yeah I knew they just reentered the US market -just stirring it up a bit. The older Alfas are still everywhere where I live, but you're correct that we have nearly zero experience with the 95 and newer models.
  • + 1
 Porsches always were a hotchpot of cheap VW, Audi partshelves and that is stuff made to last the warranty period only. 1 year in Jermany. Todays partscount is almost 95% VW. The very few topend 911 are usually overweight and underpowered small displacement cars with the engine in the worst possible place. Compared to a proper midengine car - they really suck. Properly driven Porsche B6 will last 15000 miles between major overhauls. They pound themselves to death.
  • + 1
 @wakaba: and unsurprisingly the idiot who made the first post doesn't respond.

Most German cars are pretty poor in terms of reliability. I'm just reading about the horror show that is the e60 BMW m5. What a pile of shit. Which is a pity because I think they are pretty cool.
  • + 0
 Christa McAuliffe had a great response to this article, but things didn't quite pan out...
  • + 1
 Great read!
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