We could have waited another year and a half to start re-running the infamous Sh*tbike Challenge. March 2018 marks 10 years since the Softride first graced the pages of Bike, but celebrating an eight-and-a-half year anniversary just seems, well, quite a bit shittier. So, without further ado, here is Sh*tbike Challenge, Part I–straight from our March 2008 issue.
She has been ridiculed, she’s been scorned. She’s been called the worst mountain bike ever made. And for the past three years, this misshapen mass of maroon frame tubes, this Softride Bully, has hung from a rusty nail in my garage, waiting for revenge.
I inherited her years ago, when I was young and in desperate need of a bike. She was a queer duck, her seat supported by what looked to be some gangrenous appendage rising from the frame; her bars connected to a yellow agent of death–the Softride suspension stem.
The stem was quickly traded for a SID fork, but even that couldn’t make up for the ridiculous beam–part plastic, part rubber and completely wrong. The bike bounced and bobbed across the hills and arroyos of New Mexico for less than a month before it was vanquished to a dark storage closet.
She followed me through several moves, eventually coming to rest on a sheetrock wall in suburban Southern California. For whatever reason, I couldn’t abandon this bike. But I’m glad I’ve hung on to her.
Lately, it seems like we’re getting a little spoiled. New bikes, disc brakes, suspension that actually improves the ride, all in a package that weighs a fraction of what it did a decade ago. And the trails…they’re better than ever. As mountain bikers, we’ve got it good. And we’re getting soft.
The Softride’s time has come. In the sprit of putting a little toughness back into the sport, we’re going to pass this beastly bike on to seven riders, each with their own mission. Some will race it, others will enter endurance events and a few of us will suffer long rides on good trails mounted to this hoary beast. This is the Sh*tbike Challenge.
The real test is not whether the bike will survive, but whether the riders will last. Are they tough enough to ride this bike? Will emaciated fingers, pampered by disc brakes, have the strength to pull V-brakes? Will knees and elbows be strong enough to withstand the shock? Will egos survive the sideways stares?
The Challenge begins in earnest next issue. First up is our XC speed-freak intern. We pried him off his carbon hardtail and sent him out to race 24 Hours of Moab–solo. That should toughen up the little punk. –Lou Mazzante
Look for Part II next Saturday. Until then, stay sh*tty.