By Sal Ruibal
Sh*t Bikes I have owned but not loved
The Bike Sh*tbike is probably the ugliest piece o’ crap bike ever to have dipped its tires into dirt, but at least it is loved by many because it is so ugly.
I have had many bikes in my life, including a Softride cousin of Sh*tbike, that were not only sh*tty, they were no fun to ride. And that’s the ugliest type of bike.
Being in the bike biz and all, I get to ride some pretty cool bikes. But I also have had to ride some really, really bad ones. Double** bad.
When I first started riding mountain bikes, I didn’t know sh*t from Shinola. I still don’t really know what Shinola is (shoe polish, maybe?), but I now know that some of the bikes made in the early years were, indeed, sh*t.
The Softride was a classic case of coming up with the right solution to the wrong problem. The Softride was a soft ride, no doubt. But it was like riding a diving board while pedaling a bike. It was so soft, I bounced even when the trail was as flat as Twiggy’s training bra (sh*tty archaic cultural reference). Instead of mitigating the impact of hitting a rock or pothole, the ‘Softbeam’ actually amplified the vertical forces, launching the rider up and off the saddle, unless you weighed more than 200 pounds, in which case your butt was already dragging on the back wheel.
In 1999, Cannondale came up with an inventive, but ultimately sh*tty solution with the Raven, a complicated dual suspension bike that isolated the rear wheel, which was attached to a small shock which was below a seatpost clamped to, well, it was just way too much. It looked cool in a fin de sicel sort of way (it was the end of the millenium unless you’re one of those people who insist there was no year zero. But I digress.
Before he was designing wunderbikes for Ibis, John Castellano came up with the Unified Rear Triangle design, which I had on a very nice Schwinn 2.0. Like the Raven, it isolated the rear triangle from the rest of the frame with a small shock. Not really sh*t, but it was a lot of weight for just a smidgen of suspension.
The rise of titanium bikes was also happening, which also coincided with a rise in the price of sh*t to put on these bikes. Ti was lighter than steel but not lighter on your wallet. You could have built a bike out of pure cocaine that cost less.
Castellano came up with a sweet URT for the Ibis SilkTi, which was a classic double-triangle frame but with a small elastomer shock absorber housed in a huge rubber gasket that looked like a toilet-paper cover. Ti chainstays completed the triangle. Those elastomers had a tendency to dry out and replacing them was a chore. Not sh*t, but closely related.
It was about this time that the economy was slipping, so Ti went the way of Sno-Seals and cognac.
For a few years, sh*t bikes went BMX and everyone from Kmart to Walmart to 7-Eleven was selling X-Games bikes that helped turn the local woods where you used to drink beer after high school to local woods where your kids drank beer and jumped bikes after junior high school. Lots of sh*t bikes got broken, but China was standing by with shiploads of sh*t bikes.
(During this period, Lance Armstrong began winning the Tour de France and the nation turned its lonely eyes to Madison, Wisconsin and sh*t bikes were replaced with OCLV carbon bikes and your dad shaved his legs even though he wasn’t riding, he just wanted to LookStrong. This period is also known as the Dark Ages. During this time, Lance also won the 1999 U.S. National Mountain Bike Championship.)
These days, I’m not impressed by the latest sh*t. I gave away most of my bikes to people who need a bike for transportation. I gave my beloved Cannondale one-legged Scalpel to a Mexican immigrant who rides it to his sh*tty job. It makes him happy.
The bike I love and ride the most is a rigid steel 29er made in Ohio. No sh*t.