When walking through the forest I regularly cross mountain bike routes. On these crossings one has to be wide awake as they sometimes seem to appear from thin air. You look left, you listen right: all clear. One step forward and there they are, like white bikers silently whirring along and scaring the shit out of my pants.
At a leisure point, a tavern where walkers and bikers can recuperate, I sometimes observed the bikes that are parked there. In essence they all look the same to me. I have no idea which bikes are good or bad, cheap or expensive and which brands are popular (let alone why). Sure, some have the image of being expensive or exclusive design, but it will be like any other hobby-universe: only when you’re in, you know the outs.
But the lack of one feature was especially intriguing. Ninety-nine percent of the bikes did not have a mudguard on front or back wheel. As the climate in the Netherlands can be pretty wet I couldn’t understand why this was the case. You cannot convince me it’s fun to have a spray of cold, watery mud on your back when cycling through the rain. So, I asked one of the guys - mostly guys - why such an obvious vital part was absent. The answer was even more stunning. It was because of the weight. The weight?! Let’s say two hundred grams extra on an average of eighty k’s of flesh the bike has to carry is a problem?
‘Well’, he said, ‘OK, it is really to avoid mud clogging between guard and wheel. That gives a lot of resistance’.
Say what!? The one or two bikes of owners with sense I saw, the distance between guard and tire was approximately 20 centimetres! No way that fills up with solid mud.
After this Q&A battle the final word was said. It's just not cool to have a mudguard. You’re not a real biker. It’s for sissies.
I don’t want to elaborate on the apparent macho culture in bikers country, but on the phenomenon of material used. And that starts with the question I asked several bikers after the former encounter: ‘Why do you cycle on a mountain bike in the first place?’. The answers were fairly predictable. In most cases it was to enhance the physical condition. My return question was: ‘What are the main parameters to get a better condition as fast as possible?’. Working out hard, they said. Bring your body to the limits. Stretch your abilities. I understand that, but don’t get it. Why then do you buy lighter bikes, use up to twenty gears in stead of buying an old bike with two mudguards, half inflated tyres and no gears? Won't that give the same effect in a much faster and cheaper way? The sport can still be exercised in the forest.
Is it about speed? Being faster than the previous time? To be able to show-off with expensive material?
So, my CSPE question is: What is the real reason (mountain) bikers want bikes that weigh less and less and even give up gadgets that make life more pleasant?