Come the onset of winter, I decided to attempt to ‘weather-proof’ my bike and, in turn, this has led me to drastically re-evaluate the way I ‘review’ product.
As a trade mag, BikeBiz doesn’t often rate product, as such. Though like any other rider, from personal interest, I’m always a fan of thinking about how a certain product alters the overall ride, whether it be in performance, comfort or coming to a conclusion on any number of critieria to which the PR blurb claims the product can conquer.
A few months back, when the ground was hard-packed and the twigs and leaves still up in the trees, the greatest threat to any mountain bike was a light dusting slowly clogging up the derailleur cogs. However, the threat level changes in an instant with a little cold weather and rain.
Naturally, when visiting retailers I ogle the bikes on show and increasingly I’m noticing that – given the 50/50 split of sun to rain in this country – there are too many builds showing up on UK shores that are ill-specced to withstand the duration and typical terrain offered by a British autumn and winter.
I recently bought a set of tyres which are commonly specced on mid-to-high-end hardtails across many well known brands, many of which claim to be ‘tailored’ to UK riding.
Having tackled a small ford on a ride not long ago, the tyre failed miserably and slid from under me with very little encouragement. Fair enough, I thought. I had put it through a test at the extreme end of handling. But when the same thing happens while turfing up small, damp logs at a steady pace through the woods, you’ve got to conclude the product definitely shouldn’t be featuring as standard on bikes geared toward the UK consumer.
A common gripe with retailers on the BikeBiz Forum is cheaply specced hubs on complete bikes. Any unsealed unit on a mid-priced bike could perhaps now be seen as a cut corner. On full suspension builds the spec problem is aggravated further with the aim of keeping costs achievable.
Suspension itself is yet another sore spot, as winter muck can easily force a consumer in for a costly suspension service. Obviously the pressure is on for designers to optimise performance, but if we’re to keep cyclists aboard bikes for life, this should be a long-term thing, not based around what works in summer in the mountains of Europe.
It’s all too easy to be put off cycling by a winter in the UK. However, it’s not just the weather alone, there’s the fact that once creaking under the strain, it’s all too easy for the non-enthusiast to retire a bike to the shed for months at a time.
There are upsides, of course, especially for those with a large workshop – you’ll be busy. Do you charge extra for dirty bikes?