Mountain Bike Action

It’s not a stretch at all to say I wouldn’t be where I was today with mountain bikes had it not been for Mountain Bike Action.  I read it for months without really understanding what was going on, but it was so exciting.  Every other month there would be a bike you’ve never heard of, that they just raved about.

January 1988 MBA

January 1988 MBA

Where I lived at the time, you’d see Specializeds, Nishikis, Treks, maybe a Rocky Mountain.  Which were all good bikes to be sure, but they weren’t exotic.  Not like Yetis, or Kleins, or Serottas, or Savage Terminators.  Learning that bikes like this existed showed me that something really cool was going on.

I think you can attribute a lot of it’s coolness to editor Zapata Espinoza, because after he left in 1993, things really went downhill.

(See what I did there?)

Taking Zap’s spot was famed bike builder Richard Cunningham. Famous for Mantis bikes as well as designs for Nishiki and Fisher, one wonders why the publisher thought he could edit a magazine. There’s no question he was a heavy hitter in the MTB world – Mantis bikes were innovative as hell, and the Pro-Floater was probably the first proper full suspension bike.

But at MBA, Cunningham ended up being famous for censoring ads for Jamis’ Diablo, and the Iron Horse G-Spot, as well as outright rejecting ads for VooDoo bikes. It’s a good thing he left before Cove really got going (Peeler, Hummer, Stifee, and they make a G-Spot too). He was ok as a writer, but things definitely slipped.

That brings us to today.

I still buy it because I still like to see what’s going on. I’ve already trashed a lot of the new school developments in mountain biking, but I still want to know about them. The modern 120mm “trail” bike with 650b wheels, tiny little 60mm stem, 780mm wide bars, and 68 degree head angle is the polar opposite of the vintage bikes in my garage, but I don’t doubt it’s a fun bike to ride.

The problem is the writing. Or maybe the editing. I’m not sure which is to blame, but far too often, trying to read it just makes you hurt. It’s the feeling you get from reading something like 2 + 2 = 5. So blatantly wrong that you simply can’t understand how it got printed.

In the November 2014 issue, in the review of the Ellsworth Epiphany 275 Enduro SST.2e (solid name), this appears;

Ellsworth’s Instant Center Tracking (ICT) takes into account the three principles that make bicycles the most efficient human-powered machines and translates them into full-suspension design.

I have no idea what principles they are referring to here.  And nowhere in the article are they explained. This has to fall on the editor, right? If a writer is getting all technicial, he/she better explain the tech, or you’re going to lose the reader. It’s of the of the three principles that make a writer so effective!

A good editor should have caught that and asked the writer to explain it better.

Nor do I understand what ICT is supposed to do.  Ellsworth has been using that acronym since the late 90’s, and I’ve never known what it means, so part of the blame here could lie with them, but still – what the hell are you talking about??

You can find something like this in virtually every issue. Their quality standards are simply not that high. But, this next example, is truly something special. It illustrates what the bike industry in general thinks about MBA, and it’s a beauty.

2015 Specialized Demo

2015 Specialized Demo

In that same November 2014 issue, there is a story on the 2015 Specialized Demo DH bike, with it’s asymmetric carbon frame. Rather than have the shock connect through a hole in the down tube, the down tube now runs around the shock on the right of the bike, and the shock is offset to the left.

2015 Specialized Demo

2015 Specialized Demo

The more I look at this, the more I like it. I don’t really see a major functional benefit to this design, other than easier access to the shock, but it’s cool. Ducati-cool in fact.

In the MBA article, they asked Sean Estes of Specialized why this was done. I don’t know who Sean Estes is, but this is probably a very important name drop here. His answer; “it makes the frame thinner, which is an advantage for riding between rocks and trees.”

The frame of the bike will fit easier between rocks and trees.

The frame.

This is Aaron Gwin riding the ’15 Demo at the Mont Saint Anne World Cup event.  Notice how he is completely surrounding the frame. This is, of course, how every bicycle is ridden – the rider straddles the bike.  Also notice the crazy-wide DH bars he’s using. Just to hammer home the point here, both Aaron, and the handlebars, are much wider than the bike frame.

The frame of the bike will fit easier between rocks and trees.

Presumably, Gwin will have to stop, get off the bike, and take the handlebars off, so he can fit that wonderfully slim frame through the rocks and trees.

I took that picture from an article, where the writer was told by Specialized that the design allows easier access to the shock, and better handling.

Sean Estes of Specialized trolled MBA, and they bought it – hook, line, and sinker.

I hope he won a decent bottle of beer on that bet, because he sure deserves it.


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