Will Shaw busts mountain biking's biggest myths
Everyone needs progressive geometry
A few years ago, a 450mm reach on a size large was considered long, a head angle of 67-degrees was slack and aggressive, and manufacturers were making the shortest chainstays possible. Fast forward a few years and we don’t bat an eyelid at large bikes with almost 500mm reaches, sub 65-degree head angles and chainstays that were ‘impossible to manual’ a few years ago.
Whilst there’s no doubt the longer, lower and slacker revolution has created more confidence inspiring bikes across the board, does a beginner or singletrack oriented rider really need borderline downhill bike geometry?
We think there’s merit in going for a slightly less aggressive geometry if you’re newer to the sport or riding more mellow singletrack than double black descents.
Take for example the Polygon Siskiu D7 we recently tested. This bike has a 465mm reach in a size large, 67.5-degree headtube angle and 436mm chainstays. Our conclusion was ‘this is a bike suited for getting out and riding trails. Whether that’s local singletrack, a fire trail or a visit to one of Australia’s epic trail locations.’
Compare this to the something like the new Norco Optic, which demands an aggressive riding style to get the most out of its progressive geometry, and we think the newer rider or singletrack focused rider may get more out of a quicker handling and less gravity-oriented bike.
Whilst modern geometry is incredibly capable, it’s worth considering what the majority of your riding is going to be, and whether a more balanced geometry might be a better option.
New technology is mostly just marketing
If all bike industry marketing was true, we’d be drifting through corners like Sam Hill and picking our lines with Nico Vouilloz precision. In reality, the majority of new products are evolutionary, not revolutionary.
Whilst most brands' flagship products are incredible compared to even 5 years ago, we think the most exciting leaps forward have been made at the entry level. This is the result of technology trickling down to more affordable price points far quicker than in the past.
Take entry level bikes for example. For around $3000, and even closer to $2000 you can get a bike with brand name suspension, a dropper post, a wide range 1x drivetrain, good brakes and modern geometry. Most of the bikes in this range have the little details sorted as well, such as through axles and clever cable routing.
One piece of new tech that’s a game changer is Shimano’s 12 speed Deore groupset. The all-new Deore has a super wide range, Shimano’s legendary durability and compatibility with its higher priced siblings. And the udpates to the 10 and 11-speed versions make an impact down to bikes at just above $1000.
So, is new tech mainly marketing? Sometimes, but the trickle down of product features suggests the entry level is really benefitting from how good products are these days.