Top 10 Test Trip Observations:
Moab Utah. Aah, what can you say. A forsaken patch of barren rock and desert where vegetation is scraggly, and only the scorpions seem to thrive. Where winters are harsh and summers bake . . . a piece of heaven . . . a mountain bike mecca.
Certainly an awesome test ground. 2016. Another year, more broken bikes, damaged bodies, bigger smiles, and a HUGE Thanks to the trail builders giving ever more to enjoy. Thank you, MOAB !!
The Test Trip
The big news this year is what we didn’t see — especially as a contrast to current advertising. This post is a focus on Reality versus Hype — because what you see in the news isn’t completely translating to cycling reality. You can’t argue that Media and Industry news doesn’t affect customers and sales, it does, but based on our observations, the industry may want to take notice: Not all cyclists are following.
Top TEN Observations (Relating to Bicycle Drivetrain Trends):
- Like last year, we counted drivetrain configurations of other cyclists. We think people who travel to Moab as a destination for mountain biking are more than suburban sidewalk crawlers — hence, they represent a portion of our sport worth noticing — especially those that venture to the more remote and/or difficult trails. This year:
- We saw less than 30% of riders on 1x — though an increase from last year.
- We saw a large number of riders on triples — more than on 1x.
- We did NOT see any single speed riders.
- Most riders seemed pretty fit (that’s normal) — though we observed some amazing riding by a rather chubby boy that you wouldn’t expect to see at the top of Amasa Back. Goes to show you just can’t judge.
- The riders we saw on 1x generally seemed more fit than average — a little different than who we normally see on 1x near home, so that leaves some interesting question marks.
- In contrast to the note above, we also saw a rather funny scene where 3 riders (one on a triple, two on doubles) were riding up a long steepish section, and a fourth (with 1x) was running up after them. The 4th rider appeared quite fit, and we asked if everything was alright … the reply … “42 isn’t low enough.” (Not sure what ring was in front, the conversation was short as we were stopped (headed down, waiting for them) and they just kept running up. Interesting, nonetheless, the friends rode it with lower gears augmented by 2x and 3x.
- Many 1x bikes appeared to have 30t or smaller front chainrings. I rode a 32t, which proved hard going up some of the steep rock faces that Moab is famous for. A 30, or even a 28 would have been nice for those sections.
- The WickWerks Z-rings — our offering for 1x — performed wonderfully. Moab has wonderful rough and rocky descents that can shake a root canal loose — but OH so much FUN !!! The Z-Rings performed all week without a hitch. 🙂 Design verification. Actually, so did the 2x and 3x.
- In a couple impromptu conversations discussing 1x, one pro observed “just because you can push the gear doesn’t mean you should.” And another rider “I love it, but right now I hate it.” Similar sentiments were shared by others too. The one conversation that made me pause most was a guy riding a Santa Cruz (bike looked to be a couple years old). He said he wanted a new bike, mentioned a few, and said he was not going to buy because the ones he’s most interested in don’t offer multiple front rings. Pay attention OEM’s. That’s the customer voice.
- In Moab many of the ride areas are close enough to pedal. We always see riders pedaling out or coming back — we do it too, it’s part of the experience. This year we saw only 1, 1x rider pedaling out to ride. What does this mean? This is unscientific, of course, and we reject the first supposition that 1x is making mountain bikers into pansies. The second — that 1x has stimulated some behavior change — may be more true: Observation and conversation suggest riding flat, particularly pavement, is a pain when you’re spun-out — so people opt to drive instead? Not sure, but it’s plausible.
- The industry has made a substantial push toward 1x, and, as noted by the Eulogy from SRAM, some think front shifting should go away. That’s not what our impromptu interviews indicate, and it’s not what we observed.
- My own experience and observations also enter into this discussion — highlighted by the rides we did. Yeah, I like the simplicity, etc. (read my full opinion), and most of the time, especially in the technical, 1x is awesome, but I’m generally with the guy that said “I love it, but right now I hate it”. Slick Rock Trail, the perfect 1st day warm-up, for instance, was much harder on the 1x bike than on the 3x. AND, though I loved the steep challenges (which I did ride, by the way), it certainly was not as enjoyable. Moreover, riding flat streets on 1X sucks. And, probably the thing most aggravating — when the trail points down, spinning out is a given, and I couldn’t power into the speed and adrenaline I crave.
So there you have it. Our top 10 observations about drivetrain configurations from Moab, spring 2016. Overall the weather was awesome — a little windy, a little cool, but awesome. The Jeeps were again an enjoyable side show — so cool to watch.
I guess the take-away is this: These observations strongly support the assertion that failure to make good front shifting (by others), and the resulting product push via vast marketing has swayed the industry. Yet, those who resist the propaganda, realize the trend is not a complete solution. We believe 1x is awesome — so are 2x, 3x, single speed, geared hubs, CVT’s, belt drives, etc.. Each for a different rider. There is not a One-Size-Fits-All as some have implied.
In Moab I felt the antithesis of current advertising, which cements the opinion: “Maybe the simpler things aren’t always better? — I can’t imagine giving up my smart phone for a land line again.”
I hope you have an open mind.
I hope you ride what’s best for you in spite of pressure to the contrary.
I hope you never belittle others for choosing something different.
A last note — these observations are an informal take in a few wonderful days. It’s not scientific, and you’ll probably see it quite different at your local trails (we do), so don’t make this as more than it is. The meaning comes simply because people who travel to ride are, we believe, a little more into it, perhaps a little more self aware, than the average. It’s OK to ride what works for you, even if it’s not trendy.