The following is another on of my Dirt Magazine Whistler Diaries column. This one was scribbled in 2010 so some of the references are a little obsolete – which kinda works with the subject matter, actually – but I was reading Cam McRae’s piece about standards and built-in obsolescence in the bike industry on NSMB.com and I was realized things have gotten worse, not better, in the last five years. Bugger.
I want you to imagine something for a moment – imagine that you are a woman. A woman who lived a couple hundred years ago. Imagine your place in the home, and limits within society. Your freedoms and rights being so utterly suppressed.
Now imagine yourself as a black man. A black man who is living in the United States in the 1950s. You are racially segregated. Imposed by law, as a racial group you are disenfranchised from the voting process to make changes, and violence against you and others like you were mushrooming.
Now stop imagining and think. Think about the struggle that both these groups went through to fight against their discrimination and work towards establishing irrevocable rights and freedoms. Empathise with the incredible mountain of struggle that must have seemed insurmountable. Feel what it would be like to swim against a raging current that seemed hopeless. Or feel the self-flagellation of spray and stench from pissing into the wind. What kept people fighting for what they believed in may have been that they knew it was worth it and it was right and just.
So with a human history of such strength, resilience, and fortitude, why oh why is it that we as a community of mountain bikers won’t fight for a set of genuine industry standards?
It seems the pace is picking up in the worlds of new standards. It seems like every week some company introduces a brand new standard with much fan fare and bell ringing.
I don’t think I could possibly make a complete list of the myriad of different options or standards, but there’s no harm in trying…
That a lot of choice right there, but I don’t want that much choice. I want women to be able to have the right to choose, I want choice of toppings at lunch, and I want a choice of tequila or beer, but this much choice in standards for a bloody bicycle? I just want one that works and will continue to work tomorrow, the day after tomorrow and in years to come.
Yeah, sure there are different requirements for different applications. I’m not going to go running a 10mm QR on my downhill bike and I don’t need to run 1.5 on my carbon XC bike (Or do I?), but I just want stuff that works, is easy to fix and maintain without a hockey bag of specialist tools, and will not be defunct in six months time when I come to look for replacements or spares. But most of all I just want standards that will make life better when I’m out on the trail and not just better for Mr. and Mrs. Park-Pedros.
I have a friend called Travis Engel and he is far wiser than I ever will be. Whilst ruminating on this sorry subject with several other friends he put forth one perspective that illuminated it and another amusing anecdote that tickled me pink.
Throughout all the hullabaloo and shrieking of our agave fortified forthright deliberations he simply silently waited for his time. Then as we became exhausted with our ramblings over this topic he politely coughed to make his presence known. We turned to hear what he was going to say, as it is very rarely fool’s talk. (I’ll paraphrase what he said because I was too drunk to remember it verbatim). “This talk of industry standards is all too true, friends. It is the work of the devil himself that we must carry a bag of tools heavier than our bike when out for a ride, or that this years standards are obsolete next year. However, is it fair to hope to get things right first time? Chris, what about you? You made a right mess of that kitchen plumbing the first time you but your spanner to it didn’t you? Bruce, didn’t you loose to the intern first time? And Seb, you were the first of four children to be born to your mother and father. I believe we can all testify that they didn’t get that right first time.”
He knew our alcohol-pickled brains needed time to process what he said so he paused to let us keep pace. “Mountain biking is a new born child. It has its issues to iron out before everything will be as it should be. Give it time.”
The hum went around the room as we considered this. Fair point. Mountain bikes are just going through a teething phase perhaps.
Travis continued, “As for these midway compromise standards like 15mm, 141mm, or maybe at a long stretch 650b wheels, these are just like Goldilocks dilemma.” He stopped there and sat back in his chair. He knew we were questioning what he meant but he wasn’t going to make it easy for us and so waited for us to beg for the punch line.
“Err, sorry I don’t get it” one soul slurred. Travis continued, “Well, it’s like Goldilocks and the porridge. The first bowl she tries is too sweet. This is like a 10mm QR axle. So she tries the second bowl but that one is far too salty. This is like the 20mm bolt thru axle. So she tries the third bowl and that one is perfect. Not too sweet, not too salty. This is the 15mm Bolt thru QR. We can’t always expect to get it right first time. We need to experiment with the parameters until we know between where our boundaries lie.”
Well Dog damn if that didn’t make a heap of sense to us. Oh how we all roared with laughter too. We patted Travis on the back for making the sense out of the senseless for us yet again. We damn near carried him on our shoulders out the door and marched to the Big House and gave him a seat of the mayor right then and there. But just as were toasting each other, Travis, and his logic for the fourth or fifth time we came to our senses right enough and we dropped him to the floor.
Travis is right we could just except it and keep waiting. We could hang around the bike shop cash register paying to be guinea pigs. We could keep letting the market place be swamped with lame donkeys, but that wouldn’t be right. We don’t need to take this. We can band together and fight for what is right. We can chase the troublemakers out of the village and have this status quo changed.
The crowd of assembled boozers became unruly again. Fired up and hopped up we started baying for blood again. And that’s when Morgadeth stood up on the table tore off his liquor stained shirt and war cried the words “What do we want? INDUSTRY STANDARDS NOW!”
We looked up at him and he continued, “WHAT DO WE WANT?” and we replied like howling animals “INDUSTRY STANDARDS NOW!!!
He lead the charge and we replied with all our lungs. “WHAT DO WE WANT? INDUSTRY STANDARDS NOW!!! WHAT DO WE WANT? INDUSTRY STANDARDS NOW!!! WHAT DO WE WANT? INDUSTRY STANDARDS NOW!!! WHAT DO WE WANT? INDUSTRY STANDARDS NOW!!!” WHAT DO WE WANT? INDUSTRY STANDARDS NOW!!!”
And then something happened to distract us – perhaps someone farted or a lady with a nice bottom strolled past – and we just went back to being feckless followers, drunk on whatever we were being fed.