Start Here: Best Enemies

By Joe Parkin
Photo by Reuben Krabbe

I have a very passionate love-hate relationship with bicycles and bicycle parts. On the one hand, it is the industry behind these bicycles and parts that has put food on my table for the majority of my adult life. And let's face it, without bicycles and bicycle parts, there would be no rides and, hence, no good stories about riding.

But then there's the incessant analyzing and arguing, a near-deafening din that's created when people decide to voice their opinion. Even in this age of voiced-opinion instant gratification via social media and internet forums, the inbox here at Bike never goes too many days without receiving an angry letter—or several—about some bicycle or bicycle part that we've either undeservingly praised or undeservingly neglected.

I've been told that mountain bikers are passionate about their sport, and that all the chatter is an expression of that passion. But from my limited and, admittedly, self-serving perspective, passion seems better served in the doing of a sport rather than the talking about the trappings of that sport.

So, when companies that make bicycles or bicycle parts extend invitations to product launches, I'm hit with almost equal parts anticipation and trepidation. On the one hand, attending the launch usually equals a chance to ride some new-and-improved somethingorother before most other people do. But, on the other hand, more widget write-ups add to the ever-increasing, global mountain-bike community's 'conversation' about bicycle products–undoubtedly at the expense of actual mountain-bike riding.

Nevertheless, I recently made my way to one of these 'media camps', prepared with all sorts of note-taking and photographic devices. I paid close attention to the company's presentation, endeavoring as I watched and listened to come up with some cool, alternative angle with which to present the new-and-improved-parts story. I was laser focused on the task at hand. But then they brought out one of the new products, and the task at hand went on holiday.
That new product is a refined re-release of something that, once upon a time, helped me win races, make money and, most importantly, have fun on my mountain bike.

After the presentation wrapped up, we climbed onto bikes equipped with the new product, and went for a ride. For a brief period of time while I was out there in the woods, it was like time stood still. I was hit by a flood of good memories about old friends, teammates, trips, trails and racecourses from years gone by. And though the word fast no longer really applies to what I
do on a mountain bike, I felt, well, good. And I remembered what fast felt like.

What part am I talking about? What is it made of? It doesn't really matter in this case, does it? This product, like everything else that makes good memories, is pretty special. I have a love-hate relationship with bicycles and bicycle parts. Right now, it's mostly love.