The Trail Snob: When Bad Ideas Are a Good Thing

The Trail Snob presents the periodic, ill-informed opinions, malformed thoughts, and inappropriate convictions of a certain Web Content Editor. Art’s Cyclery disavows all knowledge of, responsibility for, and concordance with anything that comes out of their keyboard.

As any observer of bike-related websites understands, there are only two things cyclists like better than riding bikes: making fun of other people who ride bikes, and spewing hate about new cycling products. Some people, like a recently decanonized road pro, deserve every drop of hate they garner. When it comes to new products, however, most of the vitriol is a result of cyclist’s, actually humanity’s, fear of anything different. At first glance, many of the new product ideas published on bikerumor.com are slightly ridiculous, but upon closer inspection, many of these bad ideas tend to show some upside as well. After all, innovation has to start somewhere, right?

The Giro Switchblade, common ancestor to all things Enduro.

The Giro Switchblade, common ancestor to all things Enduro.

Take the Giro Switchblade, for example. Not only did the thing look ridiculous—like Pac-Man’s WWE bad guy twin—but it was a pain-in-the-arse to use. First of all, where were you supposed to put it when not connected to the helmet? Strap it on your back? Hang it like cod piece? Wearing it to the top not only made you look like a praying mantis, but air flow was surprisingly compromised considering how minimal the attachment was. Once at the top of the hill, installing the “chin bar” required tightening six bolts and snapping a couple straps. If you sneezed, there was a good chance the whole thing would fall off. If you fell and impacted the ground, there was an even better chance it would either a) snap in half, or b) catch on a rock and pry the entire helmet off your head as if the ground was a lighter and you were a bottle of stout. As hideous as the Switchblade was in its execution, there was something to its concept: that a piece of mountain biking gear could be light and comfortable enough to climb with, yet (allegedly) beefy enough to allow you to charge descents like a downhiller. Eventually this ethos was applied to bikes, and the trail/all-mountain category began to pick-up steam until The Enduro was spawned, which nobody can deny is a good thing. Thanks to the Giro Switchblade, we now have modern mountain biking.

Power Post!

Power Post!

Another product that would have garnered more than its fair share of message board ridicule was the Power Post (ca. 1996), a boat anchor of a seatpost featuring four positions to “optimize” your riding orientation. In its two rearward settings, which ostensibly assisted with descending, the parallelogram design moved backwards and down a couple of inches, which did nothing to prevent the bucking bronco effect on any obstacle less than an inch high. Additionally, since the saddle was moved back as it was lowered, attempts to hang your butt over the rear wheel for steep sections were blocked, keeping your weight well forward of where it should be for safe navigation of near-vertical sections of trail. In it’s lowest position, the Power Post folded forward, perpendicular to the ground, slamming its height but placing the saddle in a most inopportune area for bike control—you would have been better off with an Azonic Love Seat between your knees. About the only thing the Power Post had going for it was its handlebar-mounted remote. However, a few riders realized that the concept behind the power post was golden, it was the execution that was limiting. Eventually, the Speedball, Gravity Dropper, and Command Post improved on the adjustable height seatpost—something no mountain biker should be without—which has found its current zenith in the Rock Shox Reverb and Kind Shock Lev products.

Thank goodness some more engineers took an interest in suspension.

Thank goodness some more engineers took an interest in suspension.

Something once laughed at, but now an integral part of off-road cycling, is suspension. Believe it or not, there was a time when mountain bikers—hardcore, cutting-edge mountain bikers—thought that suspension was a bad idea. Back in the late ’80s/early ’90s, suspension actually was a bad idea. Heavy, flexy forks, with under two inches of “travel” provided little more than a false sense of security to riders who wanted to push the limits of control. Early elastomer-sprung suspension forks required constant maintenance and barely worked when temperatures fell below 45 degrees. Heck, they barely worked in a dust-free, mild Mediterranean climate even after a thorough cleaning and lubrication. Not heeding the hue and cry of the populace denouncing suspension as unnecessary and ineffective, engineers pushed forward, eventually creating  suspension components that would enable your average trail rider to climb like a roadie and descend like Stevie Smith.

The Bone Collector jersey from Primal Wear couldn't die fast enough.

The Bone Collector jersey from Primal Wear couldn’t die fast enough.

Finally, who didn’t once think that Primal Wear jerseys were the most embarrassing thing to ever be associated with cycling? And now look… Oh, wait. Those were horrible, and still remain a black eye on the visage of cycling style. What the heck were they thinking with those!? Unbelievable…

Tribal Tough? Please... How about Donkey Stuff?

Tribal Tough? Please… 

Special thanks to Geoff N. at Sram for his esoteric knowledge of half-baked ideas.

2014-02-25T16:47:41-08:00