Choices… Life is filled with them. Some big, some small, some with unintended consequences and many that take up way too much time to work through, especially if you’re prone to analysis paralysis. Thanks to the cycling industry, as riders we are now faced with what seems to be a plethora of choices in the market across a whole range of topics and categories.
But, like a bar rammed with people on a Friday night, once you start to apply a quality lens or overlay your criteria (assuming you’re not too wankered to do so), at times the field can start to narrow dramatically. Carbon wheels are a good example of this – At first glance, there are tonnes of Hotties out there that are just gagging for it, but once you start to work through possible
crazy cat reliability issues, looks, warranty and then of course the big one; availability, you soon learn that perhaps the market isn’t as plentiful as you thought it was.
From time to time (once every 6 months) I get asked which would I go for out of two options… I’m clearly quite bashful with my opinions, but I decided to collect some of the most common of these below for consideration and low levels of bemusement… Yes, we are that desperate for material.
So, if you live in the first world and complain about the price of coffee, then these are probably some of the most pressing issues for you right now in the cycling world, something in here for everyone:
1. Rapha or Assos bibshorts?
For roadies, this is perhaps up there with the debate over which was the best TDF of all time. Or sock length… Or any number of other anal comparisons that come about due to 4 hour training ride discussions. Either way, its alarming how often this question is asked: Which one is a better short?
Given how contentious this is, I’m on roadie thin ice even bringing it up, but my usual response is that Assos still retains a slight edge over Rapha in terms of massaging your bits. Usually when you see someone who has their shit together, they’ll be rolling the Assos short & Rapha top combo. Rapha still an awesome short and are absolutely needed for the FULL Rapha rides, but I’ve had to send mine back recently for re-stitching, whereas my Assos shorts annoyingly show no sign of any wear or tear, even after 4 fucking years! Extremely annoying if you want to try and self justify getting a new pair (#consumelikeacunt).
Then again, for some of us it really doesn’t matter if we’re rocking the Assos or the Rapha bib, same outcome…
2. 29er or 27.5 MTB?
Ah, the MTB wheel size debate has essentially been thinned down from 3 to 2, with it harder to find 26 anything than it is to find condoms in the Pharmacy (or anything in a pharmacy for that matter). So, whilst its getting easier to have this conversation, its surprising how many people still ask this question when either changing bikes or entering the sport. Ultimately, playing into the hands of the industries marketers, the answer is: Both.
It kind of defeats the purpose of saying ‘this or that’, but this is about full spectrum capability. Ok, so if you’re new to the sport or just want to ride around and shit on some trails, then get a 29er Dawg, which FYI, are words you’d have to get out of me with a power drill into the knee only a few years ago. But, with the Crimea like annexing of 26 and the improvements in the 29er design, its pretty much where the bulk of people will end up. If you’re new to the sport, then 29er is probably the best platform initially, unless you’re slightly more hobbit in nature of course.
If you want to dose up on Radness, then 27.5 is the ticket and all of the hottest machines coming out right now, DH bikes included, are falling into this bucket. Yes, I’m broad brushing here, but its 80% roughly right when you look at the specs and designs hitting us in 2015. Ultimately, if you are doing a LOT of MTB, then both is the ticket, which essentially prepares you for full spectrum dirt warfare:
3. 23mm or 25mm road tires?
Man, this one seems to get people strangely fired up! For years this one was a no brainer… It was 23 or even smaller… So a slam dunk. However, somewhere along the line, in the last year at least, the 25 has ambushed its skinny brother and has been busy cock slapping it into submission. Oddly now when you canvas riders or mechanics, the 25 has got an upper hand, even for uptight racers.
If you live somewhere with rough cunty chip seal roads, then the 25 is of marked benefit and actually noticeable. If you live in sweet asphalt land, then 23’s probably still a good option. Yes, I am blanking all the stuff about contact patch and aerodynamics between the two as I can’t be fucked reading it. I’ve switched to 25’s and don’t think I will be going back, which may suggest I’m getting softer.
4. Santa Cruz or… Or…???
Seriously…. Yes, seriously there are question marks. Ok, so I appreciate that from a budgetary perspective this debate may not have as much sway, but from a radness, capability and general hotness standpoint there is little to be debated: Santa Cruz are dominating shit right now MTB wise. To the point where Pinkbike even announced them as producing the Trailbike of the Year for the Nomad 3 and the DH bike of the year for that super hot V10c…
Yes, I am one eyed as fuck here, but a quick look at Industry stats seems to back me up a bit… The new offerings from Yeti in the SB5 and 6 are cool, no question, but its hard to ignore that SC are a company on the UP at the moment. They seem to have entered a golden period where all things you need to be successful are in alignment, matched with a strong dose of authenticity (their refusal to not go pressfit BB’s a good example) and its hard not to want to buy their bikes.
5. Mavic Ksyrium SLR or Fulcrum Racing Zero Nite?
If you’re in the market for a pair of reliable and high performing Alu Clincher road wheels, oh, and aren’t a total cheap cunt, then your research will ultimately draw you to these two light heavyweights that like to face off against one another.
This is a real life first world conundrum that I recently faced and in the end, opted for the new Fulcrum Nite Racing Zero’s. It was a close call though, France vs. Italy… about the same weight and price, super hot looking hoops… Gaaaaaaa…
What tipped me over the edge? Ultimately it was an impeccable record with my last two pairs of Fulcrums I owned, as well as the reports of Brake screeching on the Mavic’s that sealed the deal. I do love the look of those Mavics though, they’re hard to go past in person. In all honesty, I don’t think you can go wrong with either option, but buyer beware: Make sure the shop has the right brake pads you need for either of these options… Speaking from experience…
6. 1 x or 2 x MTB drive train
This is another evolution question… Especially if you lived through the extinction of 3 x whatever. Yes, although Shimano refuses to admit its demise, its about either going with the single chain ring or a double these days in the Dirt world.
No one saw it coming really when Santa Cruz dropped the Nomad 3 on us without the ability to run a front D, so for the first time in my life I was herded down the 1 x route, whilst I’m still adjusting to this, which includes me hitting the dropper post button and dropping the seat instead of changing to an easier gear, loser, but ultimately its all GOOD. Not only do you ditch a whole lot of shit you don’t need, but the bike just looks a whole lot cleaner, which is awesome.
Ultimately it depends on where you live and how/what you ride? If you’re one of those all day epic trail types, there is probably a case in your life to still rock a 2 x set up to give a little more margin in your life. For those of you XC racing, or into Radness packaged as ENDURO, then no excuse not to be rolling the single ring action.
Follow up – This will then raise the inevitable question: SHAM XX1 or Shimano XTR? My natural response is of course Shimano, BUT, begrudgingly and semi against my rubbery will I note that the XX1 gear ratio range is better, so have a think about how strong you are and then go from here. I suspect that I will have moments on TP in June where I will look at my 32 x 40 and think “Hmmmm… Wish I had a 42 on the back”, not that I will ever admit that shit here of course.
7. Clincher or Tubs?
This is a little bit more Tradition vs. Convenience, but lets face it – The sheer amount of fucking around makes this an instant no brainer in favour of the Clincher. Yet, when people are about to lay down some cash on high end wheels, its still a question that gets tossed around like Bill Clinton during interim orientation week.
The thing with tubulars is its more about WHO is putting them on than anything else. Yes, its a lighter wheel and yes, its a silky sweet ride that gets a little bit additive and yes, there is something traditionally correct about it that makes you feel good. But ultimately, can you be bothered with the faffing? If you live in a city that has good mechanics and you race a lot, assuming its not a cunt hole you’re racing in, then tubs are still viable. If you hate faffing, stay with clinchers, and Alu ones at that please if you’re eyeing the alps.
As an aside, whilst Carbon Clinchers still remain as trustworthy as a drunk HR manager on big alpine descents, just hold out for when we’re all on road bikes with disc brakes, as they’re going to be able to make some seriously epic Carbon Clincher road wheels in the next few years! Basically a big shank into the ribcage of Tubs I suspect.
8. Local Bike Shop or On-line?
Ohhhh… This one is a real test of the loyalty, assuming your bike shop isn’t run by fuck heads and you actually like them, then this can be a hard equation. Yes, you have seen the new Dura Ace gruppo for $2,300 in the local shop and then you get that e-mail from CRC with it for something like $1700… OUCH. Bike Bug are particularly good at this, but CRC and Wiggle remain the kings of sucking the life out of your local shop that is giving you quotes that make you say “Ah, dude, I didn’t ask for 2, just 1?“.
I’ve talked about this factor before, its hard for shops to compete on price and in a lot of cases the battle is already lost, but don’t forget – When it breaks, or needs maintenance or you can’t seem to set it up, who you gonna call? So balance that out in your mind when making this decision. Also, if you love your shop, go and be honest with them about what you can get it for, see what they will say/do, you never know they may match that shit, or at least meet you part way. Its better sometimes to have a good relationship with your shop than save a few bucks.
My advice is if you feel something will need support or warranty action at some stage, like wheels, then try and keep it local, assuming you’re shown some love. If you get cuntish responses when you head into the shop (like; fuck, a customer, how inconvenient is this?!), then hellllllo CRC! Also applicable for those ‘hard to source items’ that you see on-line and want, but the local shop shrugs their shoulders on:
9. Regular or Compact chainset?
Another hotly debated Roadie topic that is tossed back and forth over espressos by people who would rather have milk in their coffee but don’t want to mess with etiquette that was slapped into them. When they first came out, compacts (50/34) were for people who wanted to confirm they had tiny raisin sized balls.
But, like all these things, as soon as a few PRO’s used them and then most of us woke up to the benefits, which include not zig zagging on big climbs, not fucking your knees and generally being authentic about your ability. So I think this debate breaks down like this:
- If you’re under 35 or live somewhere flat, plus like to race a lot – Standard chainset 53/39 is your weapon of choice still
- If you’re over the 30 something age range, not racing as much or live somewhere hilly – Then compact is your friend and its worth a try, chances are if you give it 3 months, theres no going back
*when I say racing this is a bit of a misnomer – As you can easily get a compact/cassette ratio that will give you the same top gear as a standard. Further complicating this is the new 52/36, which smells like a possible goldilocks set up for those on the fence about changing, so worth a sniff.
If someone still wants to tough guy you out about it, ask them to climb either the Mortirolo or Angliru with you on their Standard chain set and see whats up. Unless they’re the Welsh Assassin or Hawk, more than likely they’ll make you sniff butt on that challenge.
10. Buy a new bike or travel with your current one?
Travel. End of.
Did I miss any pressing issues? Feel free to leave your conundrum in the comments section and see what abuse and cyber bullying you get back from the Global Network.