I talked previously about how the bike trade wants you to consume and how it looks at cycling genres where people don’t consume as much. I thought more about this, and I want to pitch the idea of underbiking.
I’m going to start my thinking by talking about dropper posts. A dropper post is a seat post that you can drop the height of by using a switch. It can be useful in mountain biking by making it easier for you to get your weight over the back of the bike.
The bike magazines (online and in print) have spent a while saying how life-changing these are, how you’ll never want to ride without one after using one. The principal place it comes into its own is during a race. You can have your saddle at the correct height for climbing and then flick a switch, and it will drop for descending, and vice versa.
Great. The majority of us don’t race though, and we tend to ride trails with our friends, admittedly not as much at the moment. What then happens is we climb a hill. Then we all stop and wait for others to catch up and then we have a quick natter and then drop down a trail. We could easily drop our seat posts while talking.
Usually, people do, but they now do it with a switch.
I’m not saying dropper posts are bad, but I am saying you don’t need one. A piece of technology that can help save you some time in a race has its place. Do you need to add an extra thing to break on your ride and add another servicing cost on your bike when there are cheaper and simpler solutions?
The bike hire problem
The reason droppers really annoy me is that I help with an active travel charity. We use action sports to make people realise that active travel is fun. We use mountain bikes as part of that and now try and find a mountain bike around £1000 without a dropper.
You can’t, and the issue here is that by putting the dropper on, the manufacturers have cut costs elsewhere. They usually do this in places you might not notice as much on the spec sheet but which make a big difference to ride quality.
One of the common ones is a cheaper headset. The first ride in wet or muddy conditions and you need new bearings. The other one is cheaper wheels, we have £1000 bikes and see the wheels fold on their first or second ride out.
These will affect your riding more than not having a dropper will. The case of the wheels could even be dangerous. You’ve been sold an over-equipped bike that has to live up to marketing expectations all because everyone and their dog has told you that you need a part that you really don’t.
I might now seem like some retro grouch but I’d rather people got bikes that are fun out the box and don’t need upgrades straight away because you decided to fit a marketing device rather than a bike that just works. I get that some cheaper bikes will need upgrades, that unfortunately is the nature of the beast.
A 1 grand bike though should not need upgrades as a manufacturer fitted parts that are not required by a recreational rider.
That is why underbiking is cool
Think of underbiking from a marketing perspective. It doesn’t make sense, and you’ll be running a bike that works, and you don’t need to consume more parts. It doesn’t have to work for everyone, just for you. It isn’t fitted with parts you don’t need, upgrades you don’t need, and it might not even be in this season’s colour.
Think of underbiking from the average rider’s perspective. It makes sense. You have a bike that works and isn’t just a money pit. You have all you need and don’t need upgrades. Cycling has become too exclusive, and we need to start making it inclusive, especially if we want to use it as a tool to help save the environment or help cure obesity.
If we look at the cycling media from a more realistic point, we can see that all the advertorials they run (this includes reviews) put many people off. They make people feel that their £500 bike from Halfords is not good enough. It is, and until the cycling media starts to portray cycling properly, then we’ll never expand upon the cycling base.