Modern Mountain Bikes

Modern Mountain Bikes are Amazing! Let The Good Times Roll!

As I mentioned in my last post, I love what 30 years of practice and modern mountain bikes allow me to do!

So what exactly do modern bikes allow us to do? Well, one of my readers summed it up well,

“Hi Gene!

Enjoyed your musing on old vs. new mountain bikes. I’m 47 and my first bike was a 1991 Bridgestone MB-Zip which I raced in the 90’s NORBA Expert Class.

I tend to not be overly nostalgic about those old bikes, particularly about the reliability, maintenance, and number of crashes. My steel Bridgestone frame literally snapped in half and had me walking 4 miles out of the woods. Hubs would freeze, spokes would break, and headsets would get gritty. You literally were replacing parts constantly and working on your bike several times per week. These days I ride my mountain bike for months, with nothing more than cleaning, lubing, and pressure adjustments. And I beat the BAG out of it, repeatedly smashing down trails at ludicrous speeds that would definitely break any of my 90’s bikes.

I guess my point is this: I enjoy riding my mountain bike, not working on it. And that is what the modern trail bikes allow!


Jude nailed that! I was on a group ride in Moab last summer and we were laughing at how light our packs were! We used to carry two tubes, derailers, spare spokes, duct tape, a real chain tool, etc. Yes, modern bikes don’t break near as much!

Modern Mountain Bikes

Scott Ransom, Modern Mountain Bike Geometry , 170mm of travel and it weighs less than 30 pounds! Very capable bike.

Modern mountain bike geometry is so much safer too! The long, low and slack geometry I have been preaching about since 1999 is finally available for mtbs designed for all purposes. There are now cross country race bikes with slack head angles, making descending much more fun and less scary while having no affect on most climbs (especially when combined with steep seat tube angles).

In the 90’s we would say it isn’t a great ride if you aren’t bleeding. We crashed a lot. Endos were super common, even among pros! Why? Because bikes were short, with long stems (110mm to 150mm were standard equipment) and steep head angles (70.5 degrees was slack in the 90’s, some bikes were as steep as steep 72 degrees) all of which set you up to endo almost any time your bike came to sudden and unexpected stop. (because the short reach measurement had us standing straight up, the long stem put our weight over the front axle and straightened out our arms while that steep head angle put the front wheel under us instead out in front of us)

Now it is easy to find longer bikes with 67 degree or slacker head angles that not only allow you to descend with more confidence and control but climb fine too! On a bike with a longer reach measurement with a short stem and wider bars we can stay centered and hinged in a lower, more stable and more dymanimic position. This allows us to be able to soak up compressions and drops better and not get yanked forward.

How does a bike with a 64-67 degree head angle and 35 to 50mm stem climb so well? Because riders have gotten smarter about body position (they have learned to slide forward on the saddle and hinge forward at the hips which puts the weight of their chest further forward), gotten smarter about saddle placement (slamming the saddle forward on it’s rails) and many bike companies are starting to produce bikes with much steeper seat tube angles (centering our weight over the BB instead of over the rear axle). More detail on these climbing tips:

We also didn’t have dropper posts in the 1990’s so we either stopped and lowered our seats for the descents, used a Hite-rite which allowed 60mm or 75mm of drop using a coil spring and a quick release or we simply put our butts on the rear tire with the seat smashing into our chest on descents (the position I call the flying catapult). Again, endos were common place!

Mountain bike tires have come a long way too! With thin sidewalls and tubes we had to run 40-50 psi in our skinny 2.1 by 26 inch tires so we wouldn’t flat. This gives the rider no traction and a very harsh ride. Just for fun put 45 pounds of pressure in your tires and go ride a rocky trail! It will rattle your fillings out. 2.5 by 27.5 or 29 inch tubeless tires run with 13-22 psi really smooth things out and give us more traction!

In short, newer bikes with long reach measurements (390mm+, XSmall, 415mm+, Small, 440mm+, Med,  465+, L, 490mm+,XL) steeper seat tube angles (75.5-77), slacker head tube angles (64-67), wider, larger diameter tires (2.4 to 3.0) with low tire pressure (sub 20 psi) and dropper posts have made mountain biking so much safer, more fun and more dependable. If your old bike (more than five years old) is getting a bit worn or you are sick of going over the bars look in to a more modern bike, they won’t turn you into a better rider but they will stack the odds more in your favor!

They aren’t cheap but there are some amazing lower cost options out there. My favorite bike of all time was my Kona Process 153, I had the aluminum model with least expensive build they offered, around $2,600 I seem to recall (review here)

Me, Mike and my trusty Kona Process 153 on Top The World in Whistler, 2015.

Check out this super fun sounding 120mm travel trail bike from Norco, starting at $1,649.00! 66 degree head angle and 76 degree seat tube angle with an XL with a 500mm reach measurement on a 120mm travel bike, finally! Love seeing bikes like this!,3/Norco/Fluid-FS-1-29,24434#product-reviews/3465

Those are just a few of many great, modern bikes, do your research there are so many bikes coming out with this confidence inducing geometery in all categories (xc, trail, all-mountain, enduro and what ever categories the industry has created!).

Most of all, ride your bike and have fun! If you enjoyed this article feel free to share with your riding buddies or anyone you feel might enjoy it.


Challenging mountain bike Trails

Challenging Mountain Bike Trails Should be Ridden with Skills, Not Balls MTB Video

Challenging Mountain Bike Trails Should be Ridden with Skills, Not Balls

Sorry for the use of the term “Balls” but this a common comment on some of my riding videos and I wanted to address this comment (that is often thought or said as a compliment). I will replace “balls” with “nerve” as to not offend those offended by that use of the word.

Does it take nerve to do anything you are 100% confident that you can do easily? Does it take nerve to walk down a crowded sidewalk in the city you live in? For me, things I have great confidence in do not take nerve.

How do you gain confidence without taking risks? Work on your skills in a safe environment. Once you feel you are consistently riding in balance and in control slowly, using baby steps start tackling tougher or slightly more exposed sections of trail.

Things I lack confidence in doing which have consequences that might involve a trip to the emergency room(or worse), would take a lot of nerve and at 52 I choose not to do them. This video demonstrates both of my points. You will see me ride one exposed section of trail with confidence then see me stop right after a little white sign because I am not 100% confident on the next short section of trail.

While I must be on my A-game to ride this section of trail I know I possess the skills to ride this trail. Well, most of it, notice where I stop, the section I stop at I have ridden once but I was following a friend and he made it look easy so I took his line. Having ridden this section of the Portal Trail once before, I know I have the skill to ride it. I am, however not 100% confident I could do it 10 out of 10 times. Therefore, I chose to walk this section because I lack the nerve to do it.

Then there is Darkfest and Redbull Rampage, those events take great skill and a great deal of nerve!

Nothing good comes from riding over your head, if you make it, you feel lucky (not that your skill has increased). If you don’t make it, that can really set you back, physically and mentally. No amount of peer pressure is going to get me to ride something that is dangerous and I am not confident doing.

The Portal Trail is a great example. On that ride I was riding with a rider is both more skilled than me and quite a bit younger than me (and I was hoping to follow him!) but he was tired and not feeling it that day and let me go by. When I stopped and looked back he was walking sections I have seen him ride cleanly. Smart man, as Dave Weins once said in an interview, “sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t.”

I Don’t Love My Mountain Bike, I Love Riding It

I Don’t Love My Mountain Bike, I Love Riding It

Over the past few years, I have been really puzzled by social media in the mountain biking universe. It seems like people love their bikes, their bike brand and photos of their bike more than actually riding their bike! This is beyond scary to me.

I love what modern bikes and 30 years of practice allow me to do! But, no one needs the latest and greatest to have fun. In the late ’90s at the end of my downhill racing season, I would go for a ride on my fully rigid Rockhopper with cantilever brakes and 40 pounds of pressure in the flimsy old tires and I would have a blast, on a beginner trail.

Two years ago we were climbing up Porcupine Rim from the river (because the top of the trail was covered in snow) and we encountered a smiling guy coming down the trail. He was on an old rigid bike with V-brakes and an elastomer fork. He was grinning ear to ear and told us the snow wasn’t that bad, only 6″ in places! That guy made our day, that is a great attitude!

The marketing in the mountain bike industry is over the top and like most marketing, it is designed to play on your insecurities and your desire to be part of a community. It really saddens me to see riders hashtagging #iamspecialized, especially when Specialized isn’t sponsoring them! You are you, a unique individual who may own a Specialized bike but please don’t let your bike brand define you. (not a knock on Specialized bikes, I just dislike their slogan)

On that note, don’t let any “thing” you own define you. Let your integrity, personality, and love define you! Yes, I love mountain biking and yes, when I was younger I had moments when I let mountain biking define me. How sad, there is so much more to me than my love for mountain biking and my love of coaching. I love live music, learning, traveling, getting to know people from other cultures, making friends, spending time with friends, getting my mind blown Neil deGrasse Tyson, helping to raise my girlfriend’s children and so much more.

Love yourself, not some company. My degree was in business with a focus on marketing and entrepreneurship and it quickly became obvious that the goal of most marketing was to get you (the consumer) to feel that you aren’t worthy (worthy of love, worthy of respect) unless you own the product being marketed. Marketing is powerful and it affects all of us, including me.

Marketing preys on our insecurities, our idea that if we just had something more we would be happier. Things don’t make us happy, happiness is a choice. Instagram doesn’t make you happy, living your life as joyfully, as challenging and as fulfilling as possible makes you happy.

Speaking of Instagram, does anyone else feel it is sad that the photos I post that get the most likes aren’t the ones of me riding or the ones with incredibly beautiful views?  The photos that get the most likes are photos of my bike! My bike, just sitting there, how sad.

Be happy, be a good person and if it doesn’t drain your bank account buy a great bike and ride it! Post Instagram photos of you riding that bike and having a blast! Here is one of me from 1989:

BetterRide founder Gene Hamilton's first mountain bike

Gene Mountain Biking in 1989, When Bandannas Were Helmets!


Mountain Bikers, Open Your Minds

Mountain bikers have become the most close-minded people I have ever met! What happened to trying something before forming a negative opinion? I realize there has been a lot of change recently, 29r, 27.5, plus size tires, fat bikes, enduro racing, gravel grinders (is that mountain biking?), the rise of carbon fiber frames, ebikes, longer reach measurements, shorter stems, wider bars, slacker head angles, steeper seat tube angles carbon fiber rims, wider rims, oval chainrings, boost spacing and super boost spacing.

Yes, there has been enough change to make your head spin! However, most of those changes do add to your enjoyment of riding and many greatly affect your control and safety while riding.

Where does all the hate come from? As humans, we are wired to leery of change as back in our hunter-gatherer days change often meant death! It’s 2018 and though change might be harmful to your wallet it isn’t life-threatening. 

I have heard that the only thing permanent in life is change. Since that seems to be the case, why don’t we embrace change and experiment to see if the latest change is good for us? Have you tried any of the innovations I listed above? Have you formed an opinion based on emotion on any of the above? Take the emotion out and test things objectively! 

For years the industry has fought change for some reason (probably because it is expensive and risky for them) but finally, they are embracing things that I have pushed for years (I didn’t invent them, just stumbled upon them then embraced them). Since 2001 I have been pushing for longer reach measurements and slacker head angles (thank you Yeti and Mert Lawwill (designers of my Yeti/Lawwill dh bikes which were so long and slack my friends and competitors would joke, “how to do your turn that aircraft carrier of a bike).

Since I turned pro in 1995 I have been preaching the control of shorter stems (thank you, Zach White). The pushback I got against dropper posts (thank Wayne from Gravity Dropper) from 2002 until just a few years ago was massive. Now, finally, even World Cup Cross Country racers are using them.

Everyone laughed at my slow rolling 3” wide Gazzaloddi tires, even as I earn a bronze medal in the 1999 World Masters Championships (and the winner, Pistol Pete Loncarevich was running them too!). Now they are back 20 years later in the form of plus-sized tires!

When I got my first set of 32” (812mm) handlebars (thank you Chris Van Dine) the whole crew at All Mountain Cyclery at Boulder laughed at me. Don’t they feel weird they asked? And they did but every ride they felt a little bit better but it took a week before I decided I wasn’t going to cut them down a bit.

Even Greg Minnaar was closed minded when I suggested 32″ wide bars in one of my camps with him in 2011? He said, “nobody needs bars wider than 30″, now his signature bars are 31.8”!

Riders also laughed at forward I push my saddle on its rails and now the early adopters love steeper seat tube angled bikes (thank you Canfield brothers) as they climb better (because you are more centered and don’t have to slide as for forward on the saddle when climbing).

Before saying, that bike won’t climb, those tires roll slow, that stem is too short, I don’t need a dropper post, plus sizes tires are dumb,  experiment! And no, one ride is not an experiment, change will always feel weird! Experiment for a few days, one pound of pressure too little or too much makes plus sized tires ride weird, riding with a dropper post for the first time feels really odd, as do wider handlebars. Give a change six to seven rides then form your opinion!

Quick edit the day after I wrote this. Wow, “the I am looking to find something that offends me” crowd has their undies in a bunch over this article. I never said, “all mountain bikers are closed minded” and I never said, “all change is good”. This article was just encouraging riders with closed minds to open their minds and try something (thoroughly!) before forming an opinion. If you already do that sweet! This article wasn’t written for you, you are already experimenting. Please point out where I attacked someone for being closed minded.

Edit two: We all tend to be closed minded on somethings, World Champ Loic Bruni laughed at 29er downhill bikes and openly made fun of them, now he is racing one. I wrote an article titled 29ers just aren’t as much fun, and at the point for me, they weren’t as much fun (after spending two years on 29rs and then returning to 27.5. Now, thanks to better geometry I think 29ers are more fun! Greg Minnaar, said a 435mm reach was fine for him and now he rides a 500mm reach bike.