Tracklocross: In Praise of a Simple Bike

squid so-ez tracklocross in the woods

The other day at work, I built up a wheelie bike for a new project. It struck me that this bike is so simple. The wheelie bike has stripped away what you don’t need, and you have a bike that is just simply a bike. It is a bike that will work, and you don’t need any bike trade marketing to dictate the features on the bike. The kid pulling wheelies down your road is who the bike is designed around, not marketing. In short, this is why I also love tracklocross.

A bicycle is a simple object at heart, but we are always trying to complicate it. To illustrate, let us look at gravel bikes. The gravel niche was originally people recycling bikes or spare parts build. We now have a gravel racing scene, and bike companies are building bikes for the racing and not for the man on the street. People are still treating gravel this way, but most gravel bros wouldn’t even think of doing that now the bike trade has stuck its teeth in and is currently sucking the niche dry.

The marketing of cycling

Again, cycling has gone down its simple way to market. It is faster, lighter, and more aero. It seems to be the only way the cycling marketers can sell something. Unless they have a gimmick, it will all then be about the soulful side of cycling and less about speed. Think of suspension on gravel bikes. Ignoring that suspension is about keeping your wheels on the ground and using a selective emotional response. It should be about speed here, but they went to comfort.

With most of these suspension systems on a gravel bike, you can get the same effect by letting some air out of your tyres. That was why you went tubeless. The problem here is that it is a free solution. So, the bike trade needs to develop a complicated system to take a few more of your hard-earned pennies.

Similarly, the mountain bikers have done this with dropper posts. The number of people I hear saying they can’t ride a bike without a dropper is incredible. It is an entirely self-defeating point of hyperbole. We get bikes that have dropper posts, and to get them on at the price point, you’ll see specification changes that will make your bike less reliable or less fun to ride. It has to have the dropper post though, or you can’t possibly ride it.

The dropper post marketing is all about making you faster. Dropping a seat with a quick-release lever was never really that hard. Importantly the top of a climb is an excellent place to get your breath back. Maybe I get cycling wrong and using the top of a climb to talk to the friends I’m riding with or take in the views. Perhaps I should conquer that climb and drop straight into the downhill?

Tracklocross love

surly steamroller tracklocross build
The Surly Steamroller might be the quintessential tracklocross bike

Therefore I love tracklocross because there is not really any marketing. It is unlikely that the bike trade will try and make tracklocross mainstream. During the fixie boom, many mainstream brands got their fingers burnt. Similarly to mainstream cycling, some brands sell you Taiwan catalogue models at inflated prices due to marketing or making you feel cool.

You can build a functional, utilitarian tracklocross build or a full-on “cool” brand wagon, and you’ll get as many favourable comments. No one will give you shit for finding a bike in the trash and building your tracklocross rig out of it. Try that with your local road or mountain bike club. The gatekeepers will be apoplectic.

As honourable as it is, upsetting gatekeepers is not the main reason to build a tracklocross. In the end, the best reason to build a tracklocross is that it is a simple bike. A tracklocross bike doesn’t have a lot to go wrong. Secondly, you can put one together pretty quickly and cheaply. Finally, you can pull awesome skids on one. Skids are always fantastic fun.

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