Does a better bike make you a better rider?I often wonder if I need to change bikes, and I always ask myself: will this bike improve my riding, or will I merely prefer looking at it?
This is a question that I ask myself far more often when I take too much time reading bike tests on the internet. Seeing all these new shiny bikes with the latest and greatest tech is enticing. But how much will any of it improve my riding?
I ride bikes that are about two years old at the moment, and when I chose these bikes, it was for their modern geometry at the time. And this made quite a difference for me on the trails. I am 186cm tall, and I always felt my bikes were too small, so now that I am riding a bike that fits me, I feel a lot more confident riding it.
But most bikes brands today are still quite shy about adopting more extended reach and shorter top tubes, and although these are far from being the only numbers to look at when you buy a bike, for me, they are some of the most important ones to know if I will be comfortable on the bike. A longer reach, around 490mm, is perfect for me. This is a good balance for me as a taller rider. Add a shorter top tube, between 620 and 640, and I know I won't suffer too much back pain when pedalling back up.
As long as the geometry of my bikes is adequate, this won't be a reason for changing bikes.
Ok, but what about parts? New suspension products come out every year... That's true, and forks and shocks will make the most significant difference on a bike if your frame sizing is sorted out. Changing every year doesn't make sense. Although the marketing departments like to make us believe that all their changes are radical every year, the truth is that most changes are just small incremental steps to better products.
Your fork and shock will last many years before it is worth changing. Maintenance will be the best way to keep everything running smoothly, and a well-maintained fork and shock will keep you happy on the trails for a very long time.
The same goes for brakes. If you buy a good set of brakes, you will be set for a long, long time. Make sure you bleed them regularly, put some good pads in, and you are good to go.
A good pair of wheels, especially a good set of hubs, will make a difference too, but once you have them, there is no need to change them yearly. It won't make a difference on the trails. Change only if you want a certain change in performance or feel. You will feel a big difference between aluminium and carbon rims, but do you need this difference? Do you need an increase in performance and a decrease in comfort? That's up to you to decide.
What I am saying is simple, your bike is good enough. Some changes will make a difference, but do you need them to be faster or jump higher? And is that really your goal?
For example, I ride a Commencal Meta AM29. On this bike, Cecile Ravanel won the EWS. It's great. It's on the heavy side, but it feels great. So what would a rational argument be to change bikes? I am no EWS champion, so changing bikes won't make me any faster.
If I want to improve, it is about me, not my gear.
Instead of changing bikes, think about taking some extra time off to ride some more. Or take classes that improve your riding or a trip with your friends to a new bike park or trail centre.
Anyway, do as you please, as long as you are happy on your bike. That is all that matters, after all.
What bike do you ride and why? Let us know in the comments below!