DW Link creator explains why there's nothing like riding a bike to learn how to tune in the ride characteristics
Despite having spent his life intruiged by tweaking the efficiencies of a bicycle on the drawing board and in the workshop, creator of the now widely used DW-Link suspension system, Dave Weagle, maintains that he’s learned the most on the trail…
"Ahh, the good old days… Back when mountain biking was new to me, things seemed a little simpler than they do today.
Through my college years (the mid-90s), I became infatuated with bicycles, specifically mountain bikes. As a mechanical engineer in training, I gravitated toward the technological revolution that was happening in cycling. Full-suspension MTBs were finally becoming a reality for the everyday rider. Downhill seemed like it was going to become the next big sport in the United States, with the US national series regarded as the biggest and most sought-after title in the world—even more so than the World Cup. That's hard to imagine now.
I have some good friends that got really into mountain biking during college. They all had relatively high-paying co-op jobs, so they bought themselves nice mountain bikes and started riding in the famous Lynn Woods and Vietnam trails around the Boston area. As soon as I graduated from college, literally the day that I got my first job, I went to the bank to get a loan. With that loan, I bought the most tricked out mountain bike available. I'm sure the guys at International in Allston who built it still remember. This was one of the first mountain bikes that any of us had ever seen using hydraulic disc brakes. It was basically a very lightweight 100-mm-travel cross-country bike built up with every trick new part possible to be a killer slalom race bike.
I remember the first day that I brought that bike to Lynn Woods to ride with my friends. Coming into that experience, I viewed myself as a pretty talented rider. I could ride a wheelie, manual for a short distance, J hop over a good-sized log, heck, I had ridden motocross bikes for my whole life. How hard could this be? Boy, was I in for a surprise. The fire road in was no problem, and the little twisty offshoot climb had some embedded rocks, but it wasn't too bad. Then we got to the real trail, the famous “Bow Ridge Trail” (RIP). I had no idea what I was getting into when I started that ride. The entire trail was made up of huge boulders, drops that were over my head, short bursts of climbs that can only be started by J-hopping two feet up to the trail head. It was a nightmare. I was so pissed with my buddies. They were clearing the stuff for the most part I was walking. I distinctly remember yelling to my friend John, “What the hell is this? How could you come close to even thinking about riding this terrain?” I thought to myself, here I have a $7,000 bicycle with every piece of technology – every bell and whistle possible – and I’m carrying it, not riding it over the trail. There's something wrong here.
After that ride, my confidence was shattered, but like many times that followed, we all went out for a post ride beer and burger and laughed about it. It’s that support network and camaraderie that got me going back to Lynn Woods, and by the end of the summer, I was cleaning every bit of those trails with style. I was learning to push my limits, and I was ready for some new challenges. That's when I got into racing and really learned some important life lessons.
Almost anyone who remembers the “Trail 66” series has fond memories. At the time, the only place you were going to ride your bike on a mountain was at a race. There was no Whistler; there was no freeride; it was either race or don't ride. So naturally, I wanted to ride downhill and I began racing. I didn’t have a proper DH bike, so I use my slalom bike for downhill and slalom at the time. It was tiring – man, it was tiring – but so much fun. One of my fondest memories was a local race in the early 2000s where my old friend Lars Tribus was duking it out for the top downhill podium spot with a couple of our other friends. There was a particularly gnarly tree section with a drop about 150 yards from the finish line. Lars came through at what seemed about Mach 20, blazed to the finish line, then immediately ripped a 180 and started hammering up the hill on his downhill bike. Back then, pedalling a downhill bike up a hill was a lot more of a chore than it is today. In less than a minute, Lars was up in the woods section with us, out of breath, but screaming to cheer on his buddies – in truth, cheering for them to go and beat his time.
This is when it all clicked for me. I originally got into bikes because of technology. I still have a huge passion for understanding, dissecting, and developing the latest and greatest. But this really has very little to do with what it's all about. When I'm old and telling my grandkids stories, those stories will be about the people that I've met, the friends that I've made, the stories that capture those timeless memories. Telling jokes around the fire at Haystack, the time I did an unintentional superman off an eight foot drop in my race run, the infamous ‘meat catapult’ at Mt. Snow, the many, many times we did something stupid with fireworks… I'm sure I won't even remember what type of bike widget I had during my first race – that stuff doesn't matter.
It doesn't matter what type of bike or parts you are riding, or what new, latest and greatest technology you are using. All that really matters is if you are having ...