Embracing full suspension bikes and e-bikes

Lighten up, Eben

I have several large, dry, caught-in-throat bones to pick with Eben Weiss of outsideonline.com. He’s a terrific writer — smart, funny and articulate — hey, he’s the Bike Snob guy, ya know! In any case, I seem to disagree with everything in his last few posts.

A few weeks back, he went on a multi-pronged rant against e-bikes, how they were destroying biking and our lives as we know them. First he called them unethical then moved on a wider range of negatives.

He believes “recreational cyclists don’t deserve any special help,” and that e-bikes have “already transformed mountain biking into something that barely resembles cycling.” He played the role of hipster contrarian and arbitrator of taste. Weiss had some fun with his put-downs but did finally, grudgingly, admit e-bikes might to useful for getting people out of their cars and getting kids to school without a mini-van. He was even willing to admit he’d rather have his pizza delivered by e-bike than a car.

I suspect that Mr. Weiss is in his 30’s or early 40’s. Physically, he doesn’t really need an e-bike and he’s fit enough to ride his regular bike to and from work and ferry his kids around using a bike, too. Fantastic. Me, I just turned 60 and I have a Stormer ST1 X e-bike on order.

I’ll still ride my Calfee Manta road bike and my Trek Fuel 8 29er but I’m going to start doing a round trip, 36 mile, work commute into San Francisco. That’s not going to happen with me riding the Calfee — not down and back, every single day. While I’m in very good shape for my age, my body is not capable of 3 hours of medium to high intensity riding 6 days a week.

Plus, I need to cut my commute from an hour and 20 minutes to an hour or less. That’s possible on the Stromer. I also want to save a least $100 a month by avoiding all public transportation. So all that said, I don’t feel “un-ethical” or like I’m somehow cheating or not living up to a younger person’s definition of what’s appropriate for my transportation. My feeling will always be, do we want more people on bikes or less and the answer is more, no matter what kind of a bike it is.

Which brings me to his latest rant on full suspension mountain bikes. If e-bikes were unethical, Weiss hit even harder here, calling suspension “Evil.” Again, Weiss, aka Mister Rigid Fork, wants to let us know how suspension has ruined the experience.

According to him, “it’s the physical manifestation into bicycle form of everything that’s wrong with our culture, society, and humanity in general.” Well, there he goes again having fun with hyperbole. Give the man credit for overstatement and drama: “Over the long term, suspension is second only to rust in its power to render bicycles useless.”

So, again, we say to Eben Weiss, to each his own and please enjoy your hardtail mountain bike. Someday, after a few more crashes, a bad neck, a wrecked knee from skiing or running, a few degenerating disks in your back, a broken wrist, a crappy health plan, a general desire to not shatter your bones in your 50’s and 60’s — perhaps suspension will seem like a wise idea.

Basically, we had stopped mountain biking a few years ago. A few hard crashes, a chronically tight and painful neck and shoulders convinced us that we should just stick to the road bike. I was riding a titanium hardtail with a front shock way past its prime and 27 inch wheels. For a guy who is 6′ 4″ and all arms and legs, it was a bone rattling ride and without 29 inch wheels, the handling was skittish.

Thankfully, that bike was stolen and replaced with a brand new full suspension Trek Fuel 8 with seat dropper and 29 inch wheels. It was like a revelation. Now I’m happily riding every weekend. I feel safer, more stable, more confident, less beat up after rides. Like I said, I’m 60 freaking years old. Full suspension got me back on the trails, riding with my teenage daughter and loving the sport again.

Weiss ends his full-suspension diatribe with another clever line: “Sometimes it helps to be more rigid in your thinking in order to open your mind.” To which we’d reply, open your mind and stop being so rigid about e-bikes and suspension.

 

 

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