For some reason I’ve been following this housing trend around small houses. Only have what you need and everything else is noise. I like this. My house now isn’t big––about 100 square metres. For a family with two growing boys in this day and age this could be considered small. Nothing like the 25–30m² houses that are being touted for small houses, but small all the same. I moved to Wellington after living in a new suburb of 200m² houses on 300m² sections. To me, that was a place where youthful desire went to die in middle-aged complacency. When I consider my current house, every time the conversation turns to more space, I argue we don’t need more space; we need less stuff.
So, six months in, what does my hardtail have to do with the footprint of 21st century houses? Physically, nothing. Philosophically, everything.
I often recall my favourite bike of all time. It wasn’t the best, the fastest, the nicest or the most expensive––quite the opposite. It was a simple Marin Pine Mountain. It gave me the same freedom as a Morrison Comet BMX had 20 years earlier. When I moved to London I sold everything. For the next three and a half years I was going to be living in the centre of one of the world’s largest cities—hardly a mountain biker’s paradise. But after a few months a bike was unavoidable. I had little money and less space. I had no tools and didn’t want to do maintenance. So singlespeed it was. This bike, or minor variants of it, was my bike of choice for the following three years. I rode to and from work every day. I hit up Epping Forest in the weekend and rode events whenever I could—the famous London Beastway series, 24 hour races, 100km events. I travelled near and far. I had to carry it four flights of stairs to my flat every day. There was no garden hose and we had cream-coloured carpet. I had to stand it upright on a landing with the front wheel off; there was simply nowhere else to put it. I loved that bike. It was everything to me. Space and money had dictated our union, but it was a happy marriage.
On my return to New Zealand there have been more bikes through my shed than I care to count. The choices endless. Satisfaction only temporary. Again it’s taken an external factor for me to focus. My public announcement to ride a hardtail for a year forced my hand. When everyone else sees a stupid decision, I see a simple love affair. The Yelli Screamy and I have bonded. I ride her for everything; there is no indecision, no rued choices. She’s not without her faults. An unusual chainline means I can’t run the largest cog in the rear cassette without the chain rolling off the front chainring. A limiter screw solves the problem, but it’s still stupid. I’m forgiving though; it’s a perfect imperfection. In fact, I’ve become so accustomed to the virtues of a well-handling hardtail that the thought of a full suspension bike is making me nervous. Look at all those linkages. All that wear. That energy-sapping travel. Surely it’s not efficient. I’m even turning my nose up at test bikes. I don’t want to pollute the experience. I’m talking in short sentences. I must be going mad.
As for the Pine Mountain, she was cast aside not long after my return home when choices were so abundant. I had some money and space—full suss was calling me again. She did however still hold a special place in my heart. Her odd-shaped tubes, triple butted Columbus goodness was too good to go to the highest bidder. Surely no one could love her like I do, and now (after seven years) she lives again as my daily commuter. We’re right back where we started: riding into the sunset.
And back to small houses. I have a small shed and no longer is it clogged to the gills with bikes. I always wanted a bigger shed, but instead I now have less stuff. And you’d never guess that in simplicity you can find satisfaction. So six months in, I guess that’s what I am. Oddly satisfied.
Here is an oldie (2009) but still a great lesson on how to ride smooth. Hardtail at Whistler.
So what’s the bike you’ll always remember and the one you can’t wait to forget?
Great story Mark, and great photos….You looked quite happy before you got a small house and a tiny shed.I’m so glad you’re happy but that chainline thing is getting me mad. I’m bringing my Dremel on our next ride. Say byebye to a pristine chainstay yoke.
Im surprised no one wants to play your game. Ok, my 1992 manitou FS i wish i could forget. The elastomer rear suspension spilt the bumpers almost every ride and i had to carry spare ones and a spoke with a hook on the end to fish them out so i could put new ones in mid-ride. There was no other options at the time which sucked for a $12,000 bike.And it was a size too small so i had to run a 150mm stem which was just GREAT for the Karapoti Eliminator. My one to remember is my 2nd bike, a Giant Iquana from 1989? Suntuor gears with no ramps on front or rear rings so you couldn’t change gear under load. I had handlebars cut down to 530mm and a shoulder strap in the frame, a hite-rite for post uppy-downy and toe clips. It was SHIT but i didnt know any better and rode Wainui to DaysBay and Belmont trig on it at least 1-2 times a week for over a year. Living the dream i was with my mullet and rugby socks with shin pads jammed in them…….
“I want a mullet too”…..said no one…ever. But seriously…where’s all the quality hardtails at? I see lots of overseas bling in these article and bugger all local product outside of the “sell my first born” category…hook up the punters!