_52A8869-2

Ignorance, Meet Bliss

Don't let the pursuit of the perfect mountain bike spoil mountain biking

We have just left our local bike shop with a brand new Pivot Mach 429 Trail in tow. A size Small of a 2016 vintage, found where most bike shops hide their best deals: on the ceiling.

She's out of her shoes with excitement. So am I. At least for the next hour. This purchase was a long time coming. It followed years of waffling--whether or not she even wanted to mountain bike, first, then a while for me to get over her indecision and come to terms with the fact that she'd never know she wanted to ride until she had her own bike and could do so regularly, and then a bit longer for us to get to a place where we could actually buy one.

When it comes to bikes, she knows what you and I consider the basics: She doesn't call forks "shocks" or shocks "rear forks." She knows brakes are hydraulic and that drivetrains use cables. She knows that she likes 29ers.

Quickly after our purchase, which, despite being years in the making, still felt like an impulse buy, I came to the realization that there's really not much room left for dropper-post travel on tiny 29ers, especially at the end of the wheel path. Thus concluded my excitement for the purchase, and commenced the feverish search for a 75-ish-millimeter-drop seatpost with a minimum height of 160 millimeters or fewer, a 30.9 diameter and internal routing. Harder than you might think. Harder than I thought.

I watched her excitement temper with mine. Mired in the technicalities. More complication in the way of actually riding the bike.

I resolved the dropper issue (Giant Contact Switch SL--eBay; $98, open box, hardware not included). But that's not the only asterisk I see hovering above her bike. There's the two-by-ten drivetrain that I'd like to make one-by-at-least-eleven. There's the wheelset that could be swapped for something lighter, the brakes that Shimano decided only deserved a number. All of it will be on my mind until it's solved, which would be a great day for me, when I can look upon her bike without offending my pretentiousness. Without seeing any asterisks. To be not at all bothered by it because finally, there's nothing on it that I think would bother me if it was mine.

None of it, of course, bothers her. She's ridden expensive bikes--a Santa Cruz that was just shy of the $10k mark comes to mind--and she's cohabitated with flashy, Kashima-coated test bikes for the past several years. But she doesn't innately know how any of that top-dollar stuff feels. She won't be mentally comparing the beginning-stroke suppleness of her mid-level suspension with the barely butterier parts that cost hundreds more. She'll probably appreciate the antediluvian front derailleur that I've spent minutes twitching at and imagining what would be, if only it wasn't.

We'll get her totally adequate suspension set right. Her tires will be tubeless and tacky and each knob will conform to the trail and give her every last durometer of confidence it can. I'll ask about her controls and make sure she's comfortable.

And after that, I'm going to try really damn hard to keep my spoiled mouth shut. Because I didn't know squat about mountain bikes when I started riding, so I just got to ride--not think about anything but accelerating and decelerating through the forest, cuts stinging and bruises throbbing, lungs and legs feeling pulled from a kiln.

She deserves that same tech-free bliss, for as long as she wants it. To perceive those sensations that we try and fail to capture with bro-ey adjectives solely as functions of her and the woods and physics, and not at all hindered by that clunky 10-speed XT derailleur, or worse, desire for something ‘better.’