This past weekend, I did something that I have not done in a long time…brought out the rigid 29er single speed to the mountains.
Let me preface this by saying, I love suspension. The more the better. What modern day suspension designs have done for the sport of mountain biking is amazing. We are able to ride terrain with speed and control that just wasn’t possible in the early years. Fast, technical riding has been brought to a larger audience and this means more technical, fast trails for the rest of us as efficient suspension designs bring this riding to the mass market.
However, there is one glaring negative to suspension that no one thinks about…
Modern day dual suspension designs make you incredibly lazy and hide your mistakes amongst the travel. It’s true. How many times have you thought to yourself, “holy crap my bike pulled me out of that one”? Over time, you become completely reliant on the suspension of the bike completely forgetting about your most important suspension component…your body.
Your arms and legs are the most important suspension component in mountain biking that you could ever tune. With the built in crutch of increased travel on more climbable suspension mountain bikes, riders today are forgetting that all of their control, skill and ability to become a better mountain biker is actually controlled in their arms and legs…not the bike.
Back in the day, that is the only suspension we had anyway! Before the widespread adoption of suspension forks (and even a little while afterwards as the first runs didn’t work that well. The elastomers in my RockShox Quadra 21R didn’t even move in temps below about 50 degrees), riding a rigid mountain bike was our only option. If you wanted to ride technical, rocky, rooty terrain, you had to figure out how to get your body to soak up the hits to maintain speed…not just plow and go.
Ah…the golden days of getting beat to crap on a daily basis. So why would we want to sign up for that abuse again?!
Why you need to ride rigid every now and then…
So why do I think you need to get off the squish and onto a suspension-less rig from time to time? Let’s get into some bullet points on how riding a rigid mountain bike can help your riding.
- No room for error – When I get back on the rigid bike after weeks of riding suspension, it is painfully obvious how lazy and sloppy I have gotten on the bike. The full suspension mountain bike covers up a lot of mistakes while you ride. I am a firm believer in increasing skill level and challenging yourself to become a better mountain biker, and when you get on a rigid mountain bike…you quickly realize the mistakes you have been making. There is no suspension to suck it up…you get instant feedback and have to make adjustments on the fly. When you get back on the suspension bike…you are much faster and smoother just from the experience
- It makes old trails new – Are you getting bored of hitting your same local trail day in and day out? Sure you are…even the best local trail systems start to get boring after you already know where every single rock is placed. By jumping on a rigid bike, you are able to change the entire dynamic of the trail to the point it almost feels like something new!
- Variety is a good thing – There is no “best mountain bike”. I will ride anything from 10 inches of suspension travel all the way to a rigid bike because there is more than one way to enjoy the sport. The more variety you bring to your riding, the better rider you will be in the long run and the more people you will meet. Do not limit yourself to one way of riding.
- It is super cheap to get into – A steel 29er single speed rigid mountain bike is CHEAP (in mountain biking terms)! If you are looking to expand your quiver and need to do it on a budget, your second ride should be a steel SS (if you are really tight on budget) or geared mountain bike. You can find brand new examples for at a max of around 600 bucks…and many of those have front suspension if you really want it.
- It is a challenge – When you strip away the gears and suspension, “easy” trails are made harder. By increasing the difficulty of the trail, you increase your abilities.
- You learn how to use your most important suspension component correctly – If you have only ridden dual suspension bikes, you are not using your arms and legs correctly while riding. By going rigid, you will be forced to use the most important element of you body correctly…including weight distribution…and this will make you much faster and more controlled when you go back to riding suspension. Your technical abilities on any bike will increase dramatically.
My rigid SS 29er is my litmus test on how I am doing in my riding. If I get on the bike and feel like I have two left feet and 2 inch arms, I know I have let the suspension on my other bikes do too much of the work, so it was time for a refresher course. After putting in the miles on rocky terrain on the rigid bike, I am able to take the couch out for some of the fastest runs that are controlled that I can remember.
Open your possibilities and start becoming a better mountain biker by bringing mountain biking back to its routes…steel rigid…