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Book by Nicky Crowther
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Nicky Crowther is an active mountain biker, experienced writer and former editor of Mountain Biker International magazine. She competed in the 1991 World Championships.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
The Introduction to Chapter One: Bikes and Equipment
Mountain bikes have introduced a new language to cycling -- one that takes a little practice to understand. This chapter translates the technical jargon and teaches the principles of the equipment. It will help you to find the right bike, and the ultimate gear to go with it. Once fluent in mountain bike-speak, you should be able to read and assess reviews and pieces of equipment on your own. You should have the confidence to keep the bike and yourself going, and the ability to realize the right time to upgrade. You'll be able to avoid the clothing mistakes that can ruin a winter ride, and, with luck, you'll even learn enough about mechanics to save yourself huge maintenance bills.
The idea mountain bikes are slow in design is long dead. With frames built from high-tech metals such as titanium, aluminum, steel and carbon fiber, and with specialized shock absorbers, the top off-road models can match the speed of the fastest road-racing bikes. But, you don't need to be rich to ride off-road. At the other end of the price scale, even the simplest MTB, with a solid frame, over two dozen gears, powerful brakes and of course the fat tires, is ready for a day's trail action.
A lot of mountain bikers get hooked on the sport after having had a ride on a friend's MTB. They then go on to develop their own taste in equipment. Restricted by cost, most cyclists equip themselves with the basics -- a decent bike, helmet, shorts and perhaps SPD pedals, upgrading or customizing when significant advances in materials, safety or mechanics roll off the production lines. After all, riding just once a week will get the bike dirty enough and cause enough breakdowns to keep you busy maintaining it, never mind keeping up with all the upgrades that appear on the market.
It's not necessary to use the latest equipment, but the rate of production is so high that you could, if you really wanted to, upgrade your gear and the bike's components annually for style, and to take advantage of any small improvements in performance. Bikes and equipment are improving, although not as the speed that advertisers would like us to believe.
Eventually, though, the advances trickle down to even the most basic models and equipment. Watch out for advances in materials and technology that will form the mountain bike of the future. New applications are being obsessively explored as you read this, like the continued use of computer-aided metallurgy, the development of bigger, stronger, lighter suspension and the weaves and dyeing processes in sports textiles.
But without human energy to transform it into an adventure tool, the mountain bike is a lifeless hunk of metal leaning against a wall. It's a cliché, but however flashy the equipment, it's the thighs that count.
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