Aunty Flow and Uncle Dug have the answers to all your MTB (and non-MTB) related queries. Each issue they pick the best questions and answer them in Spoke (names are sometimes changed to protect the innocent) and each issue if you send in a question you’ll be in the draw to win a merino riding top from Aspiring Cyclewear worth $155. Send your questions to email@example.com
Dear Aunty Flow and Uncle Dug,
Why is it that so many of the guys who work in bike shops are so snooty? It doesn’t seem to matter where the shop is located, or what sort of clientele it caters to, the staff members invariably look down their noses at the humble punter. In my experience, even when using a bit of technical jargon to make it clear that I know what I’m talking about, the bike wallahs still talk to me as though I’ve never ridden a bike in my life. I used to think they spoke to me this way because I’m female, but have since discovered that male friends have had similar experiences. I know cycling can be an elitist sport, but does that really mean that customers must be treated like idiots?
Miss T. Reated
What you have come across here is Monkeius Snobius, only outdone in self-importance by Baristius Megalomaniac. Their normal hunting grounds are glossy chain stores, but they can also be found in niche stores that have started to take a loyal customer base for granted. In bike shops, these types will know absolutely everything there is to know about bicycles, and unless you go in to ask for a scandium frame or the lightest 4-pot brake with carbon levers you will fail to raise their interest. The majority of their customers know very little about bikes, and only come in to buy inner tubes or cheap V-brake pads. After a while, this is bound to make any assistant who is truly passionate about bikes go a bit numb.
We agree that the service industry in New Zealand is lazy. We can’t tell you why, but we can assure you that the power is in your hands. Why the hell would you give your money away to someone who treats you like dirt? If you do this you’re telling them that sub-standard service is okay. Don’t give money to a shop that doesn’t give a damn! And make sure to tell the boss so he can change things before he goes bust. Kiwis hate complaining, we know, but if you don’t say something then you’re part of the problem. Let the perpetrators know so that they can up their game.
Dear Aunty Flow and Uncle Dug,
My riding buddies have been peer pressuring me into buying what I can only call the latest fad––a gravity seat dropper. Sure, I can see some benefit to this product, but do I really need one or do my friends just need to learn to ride harder?
Seat droppers have been around for a couple of decades, the first examples comprising a crude spring on the back of the seatpost. You compressed it by loosening the seat clamp, sitting down and tightening the seat clamp again. The drawback was that when you stood up and released the seat clamp, the saddle returned to the up position at a speed that could castrate the unsuspecting rider.
Today’s designs are much improved, but you’ll need to consider price, weight and convenience. You’ll be spending up to $500, which doesn’t amount to much over the life of the product. On the other hand, it could buy you 10 new tyres or a new drivetrain. And seat droppers can be hefty, so if you’re the type of person who counts grams, an extra half kilo won’t make much sense.
However, if it’s convenience you’re looking for then a seat dropper is a wise purchase. Do you lower your seat more than a couple of times per ride? If so, then this product is for you. We don’t endorse following trends like sheep, but this one may actually add to your cycling enjoyment.
Dear Aunty Flow and Uncle Dug,
I have a steel hardtail from the mid 90s and I’m getting tired of being owned by my mates on the downhills. I figure an upgrade is in order, but where do I start?
Mr R Logic
This is going to hurt we’re afraid. You are obviously very attached to this bike or you would already have retired it from mountain biking and turned it into a commuter/touring bike. We’re sorry, but it’s time to move on. As it’s from the 90s we’re guessing it has a long top tube, thin Ritchey 653 steel, V-brakes and a fork with 60 mm of travel. It’s bound to be very responsive and give a fantastically supple ride, but by today’s standards it will be a hard taskmaster.
The problem is not only that bikes have evolved since last century, but also that the trails we ride are steeper and rougher. With a short travel fork and a long top tube, which brings your weight forward, you’re more than likely spending most of the time balancing precariously over the front wheel. You could try upgrading to longer-travel suspension, but this messes with the geometry and affects the handling.
Our advice is this: take the bike to your old haunts from the 90s and shred the trails for a couple of hours. Go home and clean it. Take some photos and sell it on TradeMe. Put the cash you raise towards a modern bike with good brakes, forks and angles. Your old steed will be forever worshipped by some retro-loving gearhead with arthritic wrists and a compressed lower back.
Dear Uncle Dug and Aunty Flow,
I’ve been getting flak from my flatmates about the amount of “bike junk” that’s taking up space in the communal garage. I’ve tried educating them about why you need more than one bike, but all I get is unsympathetic frowns. Help me!
It’s okay Mani you’re not alone in your need for more than one steed. Many people have multiple bikes to choose from depending on their mood, the trail they plan to ride or the buddies they’re going to ride with. Heck, even the colour of the frame can be a reason to add another bike to the garage. Embrace the variety.
However, what you have is an unsatisfactory living situation. In their most basic form, flatmates are people who split the rent, phone and power bills and occasionally clean the toilet. They can be categorised as follows:
Level 1––This type pays their share but has nothing in common with you.
Level 2––As above, but will also be good looking or can cook.
Level 3––Has all the aforementioned features but is also loaded and has a car.
Level 4––Shares a common interest with you, eg bikes.
Level 5––A good looking mountain biker who owns the house, goes easy on the rent, can cook up a storm and keeps the toilet sparkling clean.
The short of it is, if you live with flatmates lower than level 3, you’ll always be getting on their wick with the grease on the bath towels and the bikes in the hall. Our advice is to ditch and run, and find solace with like minded people. Preferably ones who can cook up a storm.
Dear Uncle Dug and Aunty Flow
I’ve just read in a glossy mountain bike magazine that all bikes should be made of carbon because they use carbon on the space shuttle or something like that. While all the photos depicted shaven legged riders doing awesome skids, I’m still sceptical. What do you think, old timers?
P.S. If I buy a carbon bike, do I have to shave my legs?
Now listen here young fellow, every year someone comes up with something that’s going to be the best thing since the creation of the pie, which, let’s face it, is impossible. Such developments include: flexi stems (stems with rubber bushings for suspension), power grips (toe straps that act like Chinese foot torture), Biopace chain rings (like pedalling square wheels) and 20 mm thru-axles––no wait, you should have these already. But you get the picture; you shouldn’t believe everything you read.
The latest must have is carbon, but before you rush out to empty your wallet let’s dispel a few myths. Everyone thinks that a good carbon bike should be super light. In fact, you’ll have more chances of finding a unicorn on a unicycle than a bike salesman who doesn’t try to sell carbon on its weight. The problem is that any light mountain bike will break given enough abuse. We could give specific examples, but it would mean having to move to another country and changing our names. Done properly, carbon frames are very stiff and quite forgiving, due to the pliant nature of the material, which is made up of lots of little fibres absorbing lots of little impacts. A light carbon bike has lots of tight layers formed into tubes that are glued or lugged together to make a complete frame. The downside is that this style of construction is prone to impact breaks. If you can find a bike that has thick woven carbon cured in a single mould (i.e. not tubes glued together) then you have something to get excited about. Unless our theory is totally wrong, of course. Our advice is buy steel and stay hairy.
Dear Uncle Dug and Aunty Flow
For years I’ve been riding the same make of tyres, as they’re light and have served me well, but I’m now venturing further afield and the old treads don’t seem to cut the mustard. I’ve finally caved and decided to try something new. There seems to be such a variety: fat, knobbly, skinny, slick, heavy, light, UST etc. With your experience, what would you recommend?
F. J. Cousins
Most mountain bikers tend to kick off using nice light tyres, only to continually miss corners and slip off roots and rocks. The laws of physics dictate that a smaller and smoother tyre will provide less rolling resistance––no disagreements there––but it does come at the cost of traction.
You need to ask yourself why you ride your bike. Surely it’s for the enjoyment of railing a trail. And if those trails are anything more challenging than what you find at a groomed mountain bike park, a light, thin tyre is going to give you grip issues.
Fat doesn’t always mean slow. The speed of a tyre is controlled by its volume (how round it is), how much air is in it, how angular the knobs are, how big they are and how they’re positioned. Start off by buying 2.2 to 2.35 inch tyres with high but closely spaced knobs and run about 30 to 35 psi depending on your weight. It will feel like pedalling water-filled balloons and your bike will be slightly sluggish, but to steal an old adage: don’t wish they were lighter; wish you were stronger. In a month or so you won’t even notice the weight. Plus they look better, and that helps too. Really, it’s okay to get fat.
I can’t get my head around shuttling. I want the fun, but not the lazy-arse tag. Can you give me a justification to make shuttling morally right?
Shuttling is a bit like a night on the town with your credit card: a whole lot of fun for minimal effort. Everyone deserves a splurge now and then. Just don’t forget that you always have to pay the credit card bill before the bank owns your arse. There’s only one way to stay fit, and that’s by climbing up before you get to come down.
The best way to get some guilt free shuttling time is to earn it first. If you’ve been hauling your heavy rig up hills for weeks, it’s probably time to treat yourself. It’ll give you a chance to sharpen your skills and have a bunch of laughs with your mates.
You’ve got to ask yourself though: isn’t cycling supposed to be an escape from motorised transport? Just a thought.
I’ve let winter get the better of me and am now being punished by mates with greater willpower. How do I redeem myself quickly?
If it’s only fitness you have lost then your only option is to get on your bike and ride. But we’re guessing you might also have gained some extra insulation. I wouldn’t be too harsh on yourself; world famous pie eater Jan Ullrich took time off from the World Pie Eating Champs, dropped some kilos and managed to race the Tour de France. It can be done.
Some people we know have been running a spreadsheet that calculates the cheapest way to lower the overall weight for both rider and bike. This includes fancy diets and bling componentry, all calculated in dollars and kilos. The end result is this: the best way to lose weight fast is to eat week-old chicken. Bear in mind that we aren’t health professionals, and that you’ll need to stay really close to a toilet for a while.
Once you’re back on the bike, do become conscious of what you eat and drink, especially during and after riding. Don’t hit the riding too hard to start with––easy does it, cowboy. Like Rachel Hunter said, “It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen.”
I watched the Tour de France. Does this make me a brain-dead roadie? I’m so full of self hate right now.
You had better lie down and go to your happy place. You’ve done well by admitting to your roadie fetish, but there’s no need to be ashamed.
Despite the drug taking, leg shaving and the arms like pencils, the Tour riders are hardcore. We bet you don’t know many people who could ride for three weeks straight, for 160–240 km a day, at speeds of up to 60 km per hour. Just to get into one of the teams means they are the hardest of the hard.
To put it into context, an ex Tour de France pro once told us that the best amateur racer in New Zealand––one who climbs off the front at the Nationals and smashes everyone––would only be as fast as a Tour de France sprinter. You know, the ones who ride at the very rear on anything more than flat and make the other riders look fast.
That said, anyone who rides in the Tour is an amazing athlete. Watch them in awe, and don’t confuse them with the guys on the Sunday road rides who don’t say gidday when they pass. They are not the same beast; they are just snobs.