The mountain biking world is full of people with strong opinions. The optimist in me would like to believe that this is because people find passion in the sport, that the physical challenges, the immersion in nature, the intersection of skill and difficulty, and the clarity of thought mountain biking brings to the rider produce such a profound experience that it cannot be helped but to proselytize a little. The pessimist in me believes that sometimes people have nothing more to cling to than their opinion.
Wheel size is a notable example. There’s always some False Prophet with some-other-wheelsize than you to extol the virtues of his wheel diameter in an unsolicited manner. False Prophets actually believe that they are doing you a favor. Perhaps you haven’t heard about the the new wheelsize. Maybe you have never experienced the purity of a singlespeed.
It’s likely you are not versed in the kinematics of the newest suspension design. They want to educate you. They NEED to.
A sighting at a trailhead. A chance meeting at the coffee shop before a ride. They will work their way into your head like a vacuum cleaner salesman with his foot in the door. Typically they might present some sort of false credentials. A local. A club racer. The casual mention in a familiar way of some pseudo-famous person of whom you may have heard. You are expected to recognize their worthiness and defer to them arbitrarily. Their “advice” is gospel.
Uninvited they intrude on an overheard conversation. “I’ve ridden that trail…. Once”. Passive-aggressively baiting for the follow-up question. Barely able to contain the torrent of obviously invaluable trail knowledge they are about to unleash. False Prophets are immune to whatever knowledge, skills, or experience you might have. They deploy their benevolence upon you as an obviously naïve specimen who apparently Knows No Better. Who somehow made it thus far in live despite their own incompetence.
I have learned to chuckle internally. The joke is on them. I smile and make polite conversation as I quickly divert in an opposing direction. No one can tell you how to mountain bike correctly. This sport is vast in scope, diverse in application. Anyone who believes that they know the Right Way is patently wrong.
My three-year-old riding the dirt surface covering a fresh sprinkler trench in our local park that he thinks is a “trail” is just as much a mountain biker as the fastest world cup racer. The guy on the Wal-Mart special is doing “it” every bit as well as the guy on the $8,000 super bike. Coaster-braked Klunkers and Custom-valved Commencal’s. Carbon fiber to High-ten steel. The best wheel size is the funnest wheel size. The purest experience is the smile of the rider. Don’t let anyone tell you how to have your Mountain Bike Life. Just go ride it.