The Angry Singlespeeder: You’ve got too Much Bike

Opinion
So you’re new to mountain biking and just bought a full suspension bike? Bad news. That rig is way too much bike for your skill and it won’t make you a better rider.

Editor’s Note: The Angry Singlespeeder is a collection of mercurial musings from contributing editor Kurt Gensheimer. In no way do his maniacal diatribes about all things bike oriented represent the opinions of Mtbr, RoadBikeReview, or any of their employees, contractors, janitorial staff, family members, household pets, or any other creature, living or dead. You can submit questions or comments to Kurt at singlespeeder@consumerreview.com. And make sure to check out Kurt’s previous columns.

My very first mountain bike was a fully rigid Giant Rincon that I loved going “muddin’” with. Muddin’ was more about finding the biggest mud holes possible and trying to ride through them more than it was about actually mountain biking. Although my brother and I loved coming home covered head to toe in stinky Pennsylvania muck, my parents were none too pleased.

My first legitimate racing mountain bike was a pearlescent blue 1992 Diamond Back Axis made with True Temper OX II steel and full Shimano XT components, also fully rigid. As a sixteen year-old Pittsburgh kid, I cut my teeth – literally and figuratively – riding and racing that beloved Diamond Back all over the rocky, rooty, muddy and gnarly trails of Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Seven Springs, Moraine State Park, Canaan, Elkins, Babcock and Cooper’s Rock were just a few of the places that practically rattled the molars out of my skull and permanently welded my clenched, cramped and white-knuckled hands to the handlebars. Mountain biking in the early 1990s was as much a test of enduring self-inflicted physical abuse as it was a measure of one’s fitness.

Fed up with constantly feeling like I’d just been incessantly beaten over the head with a Bongo Bat, I begged and pleaded my parents for the hot, bling-bling fork of the day, a Manitou. My dad – who had no concept of or interest in mountain biking whatsoever – couldn’t grasp the concept of $350 for a glorified pogo stick with elastomers attached to a wheel and refused to help fund my first suspension fork purchase. Although I didn’t appreciate it at the time, refusing to help me get that Manitou was one of the best things pops did to build my skill as a mountain biker.

Riding a fully rigid bike forced me to learn how to ride a mountain bike properly. Picking clean lines and not allowing suspension to mask my errors were invaluable in building skill, and quickly. A couple years later I finally got a Manitou 2, which not only allowed me to take clean, safe lines faster, but also opened up doors for new lines that I could never before ride.

I have been asked numerous times by friends who are new to mountain biking what kind of bike they should get or what kind of bike would be right for their kid. My response is always the same – fully rigid. They look at me as if I have a gaping hole in the side of my head. Why in tarnation would they buy a fully rigid bike when there’s a slew of awesome 150mm travel full-suspension trail bikes that soak up bumps and make riding a pleasure?

Because those bikes won’t make you a better rider, they’ll only mask your numerous beginner shortcomings.

Who the hell wants to suffer the beatings that I took as a newcomer to the sport more than 20 years ago? Well, for one, if you’re serious about becoming a good rider who has exceptional technical skill, you’ll learn on a fully rigid bike. Not only will you understand how to read the trail and pick smart, smooth lines, but also as your skill builds and you eventually step up to front suspension or even full suspension, your likelihood of crashing will be significantly lower. The combination of good riding habits, clean lines, cornering skill and suspension will take your riding expertise to new levels.

Besides, fully rigid bikes these days are light years more stable, confident, comfortable and forgiving than the bone-jarring 26-inch rigid bikes of 20 years ago. For the past month I’ve been riding a Vassago VerHauen, a fully rigid, steel 29er singlespeed outfitted with a carbon seatpost, handlebars and Whisky Parts Co. fork along with big, fat tubeless tires. When it comes to mountain bikes, it doesn’t get any more stripped down and visceral than a fully rigid singlespeed. It’s the perfect skill-building tool.

With the front Maxxis 2.35-inch tire aired down to 20 psi, the VerHauen is incredibly smooth and comfortable, even on rocky descents. The combination of a steel frame with carbon components is like mixing chocolate and peanut butter in a bowl; the result is magical. Because of its plush and comfortable ride – especially for a fully rigid bike – the Vassago has quickly become my go-to whip for all but the rockiest of rides. The Vassago rewards me for taking smooth, clean lines and only slightly wraps me on the wrist when I take a dumbass line, whereas the Diamond Back would have sent me headlong into a ditch.

Sure, I can’t bomb downhill quite as fast and carelessly as I would like, but I can still keep up with and occasionally outrun many of my friends on full suspension bikes because the Vassago forces me to ride clean, smart and smooth. The greatest part about riding a fully rigid bike is when you park it and get on a full suspension rig. You feel like a cheetah unchained, but only if you’ve learned to ride a fully rigid bike first.

So whatever you want to call it – All-Mountain, Freeride or the new-fangled Enduro™ moniker – if you’re new to mountain biking and you bought a full-suspension rig, you bought too much bike too soon, boss. It’s like learning to drive a Formula One racecar before learning to drive a go-kart.

But there’s no problem money can’t fix. Just convince your significant other that in order to be a safer, better rider who will crash and injure yourself less, you need to go and pick up a fully rigid mountain bike.

The good news is that fully rigid mountain bikes like the Vassago cost a fraction of that full-sus wünderbike you just drained your bank account with. Besides, a rigid mountain bike is far cheaper than a visit to the ER after running out of talent trying to ride something well beyond your pay grade.

The Angry Singlespeeder: You’ve got too Much Bike Gallery
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    A.S.S.

    My very first mountain bike was a fully rigid Giant Rincon.
  • ×

    A.S.S.

    First legitimate racing mountain bike was a pearlescent blue 1992 Diamond Back Axis made with True Temper OX II steel and full Shimano XT components, also fully rigid.
  • ×

    Vassago

    Fully rigid, steel 29er singlespeed outfitted with a carbon seatpost, handlebars and Whisky Parts Co. fork along with big, fat tubeless tires.
  • ×

    Vassago

    Go-to whip for all but the rockiest of rides.
(Visited 34,196 times, 5 visits today)
About the author: Kurt Gensheimer

Kurt Gensheimer thinks the bicycle is man’s most perfect invention. He firmly believes ‘singlespeed’ is a compound word. He sometimes wears a disco ball helmet. He is also known as Genshammer. He is a Gemini and sleeps outside in a hammock.


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  • Neil says:

    Just fyi, your “simple” appearing fully rigid vassago is nothing like your rigid rincon of yore. Slacker angles, butted tubing, carbon fork, volumous 29r tires (which you state you only pump to 20psi for bump absorption), all contribute to a modern bike that rides far more comfortable and controllable in the rough compared to early mountain bikes. Bike technology evolves. This quasi half retrogrouch, half professorial opinion that noobs should only ride rigids or hardtails is a relic. So what if a noob buys a full suspension? As long as they don’t buy a walmart bike and support the LBS, who cares. Maybe you can help teach these noobs by imparting your mastery of riding skill and technique upon them instead of saying “meh, you shoulda bought a hardtail”.

    • Allan says:

      Just an FYI… if you’d actually read the article you would notice he did comment on all the modern technology that has made rigids much more enjoyable than the old bikes. That’s his point.

  • paul says:

    we all started on a rigid. it also had pedal brakes. then we grew up.

    • Andy says:

      actually they are called coaster brakes not pedal brakes. so that lets me know how informed you are on any bicycling subject.

  • Nealsen Armstrong says:

    A hardtail beats me up enough on the trail. I’m not gonna kill myself on a full ridged bike on the trail. I get my full ridged practice on my roadbike. And that’s On a vibration dampining Roubaix. I’m getting a fullsuspension Specialized Camber Comp 29 FSR soon. I can’t wait to enjoy riding a comfortable mtb. I personally think a ridged mtb is more dangerous.

  • Allan says:

    Wow… Of all the ASS articles I’ve read I didn’t expect this one to get the most flack. Starting rigid is by far the best advice I could give anyone for all the reasons outlined by the author. I don’t know how anyone can even debate it. Work your way up. You will be a much better rider.

  • scott says:

    ASS, I fully agree with you. I started on a Bridgestone MB6 when I was 12, then moved up to a rock shox when I was 16 (like most non-rich kids I had a job). Learning how to ride a fully rigid or even a hardtail (with a whopping 80mm of travel) bike will make you a much better rider. If you really care about becoming a better rider then you will ride a bike that takes technique to ride.

  • django says:

    Does the ASS even read Pinkbike? Article has been done, and in better form.

  • BillyV says:

    Angry indeed. Sounds like someone has is a little jealous of bikes they can’t afford. Who cares what others are riding? They doing more than those sitting on the couch at home. What difference does it matter to you other than the occasional having to find a line to get around them. Get off your high, rigid horse.

  • Hank says:

    So what? The point is you will be a better rider for having ridden a fully rigid single speed. I couldn’t agree more! Those who disagree obviously haven’t spent anytime on a setup like this!!!

  • Full Squish says:

    So when someone says they are thinking about buying a computer you tell them to buy a typewriter first to learn how shitty it is to start with outdated technology.

  • Johnny Got Dough says:

    I would recommend a hardtail to a beginner. It’s most cost effective and does not punish as much as a rigid for mistakes. I started with rigids as a kid, took up mtb with hardtail later on, tried full suspension and hated it. My second bike now is a rigid. I would say you have to get really good at biking before attempting fully rigid though.

  • stampers says:

    Forget all the rigid noise…I’d say if ya wanna increase your skills, then ride moto and transfer those ride skills to a full sus mtb. Greg Minaar and Aaron Gwin both have moto backgrounds…

    If you can’t afford both sports, then at least get a hardtail. Takes a similar skill set as rigid but at least your arms arent turned into jackhammers…

  • Angry Singlespeeder says:

    Some of the comments here leave me speechless. Wow. Just wow. To all you haters – thank you! You make me laugh and smile.

    - ASS

  • john says:

    I too started on a rigid mtb almost 30 years ago and the skills I learned served me well when suspension bikes came around, but I completely disagree the novice rider now should start with a rigid bike. A beginner is far more likely to stick with the sport of mtbing if they are having fun. Full suspension bikes are simply more fun for the beginner. Not to mention safer and easier to learn on than a rigid bike. Roll over the bumps, less chance of crashing etc. Obviously a rigid bike requires better bike handling skills but these skills can also be learned on a full suspension rig. To all you beginners out their don’t listen to the ASS on this one. Buy a bike you will have fun and be safe with. Hint…….it’s not rigid (unless you’re into bmx).

  • Ed says:

    Complex bikes are amazing performers but they have lots of maintenance issues which are time consuming and costly to deal with. Pivots, shocks, Forks etc. Seems like every 6 months my freaking Fox loses its lockout. Lots of riders like myself don’t need to always be changing fluids and seals. Or tearing down a frame because once again the carbon needs a warranty repair or replacement. Better to just ride everyday and do less wrenching and upkeep.

  • mark says:

    I think ASS is right, so that means I’m jealous of others bikes or a snob. I’m ok with that

  • Daner says:

    Riding a rigid MTB or CX on technical singletrack is akin to running gates on telemark skis or taking a bump run on a snowboard or going after big fish using light tackle or big game using a bow instead of a rifle or riding in traffic on a fixie. It engages a higher level of craft and requires a higher level of concentration and skill. Not everybody can do it, and just because one has those skills does not mean that they need to be engaged every single time. It can often depend upon who you are with. When out on the snow with people who have had less sliding and carving experience it can be good to use tools that put the group on a more even footing, so that all can get more out of the experience together. The same goes for riding. Those who have never ridden rigid have a gaping hole in their skill set.

  • Bob McBob says:

    Lets take this a step further, if you want to get good really fast, ride your “fully rigid” uni-cycle off road. Then, try it with square wheels, that’s how I started winning championships.

  • Baltazar Franco says:

    The problem here is SS is coming across like an elitist bike snob.

    Any kind of bike that get you excited to go riding is good for learning. I get what he is saying and I learned on a rigid back in the early 90s’ myself. I own a SS 29 er and I love it, but I have alway been drawn to the sport because of my fascination with suspension design.

    Bottomline there is no one correct way for everyone. Some people come into the sport from a motorcycle background with tons of suspension underneath them, completely the opposite of SS’s history. This guy need to go enjoy his bike and stop preaching/ writing articles to people like he is the absolute authority on mtn biking. I don’t enjoy the tone of his articles at all.

  • bing! says:

    I rode full rigid back in the 80s. Got back into the sport 2008. My rigid background didn’t make me a better rider, a second bike did. A second bike that has 8 inches of travel and a summers worth of lift ticket has me riding better and having more fun on my Trek bike.
    :)

  • MDawg says:

    Interesting – i learnt and ride rigid ss, but 26″ and with fairly hard tyres. And thats where i think the differentiation needs to be made, there are people who ride such bikes for pleasure, training or masochism and then there are begginers – i thoroughly agree they shouldnt go out and buy a full on 160mm rig, but i also think a 100mm hardtail will serve much better – it gives both the comfort and confidence from a lil bit of ‘oh crap save me suspension’ and teaches correct technique!

    Furthermore you’re riding a 29er rigid (which looks a beaut!), and while what you gain in rollover makes up for what you lose in rigid – i would argue – this isnt the way to go about it for a beginner. Replace the extra rollover with some short travel and smaller wheels and BAM. you have bike that makes smaller stuff seem ‘fun’ (not everyone has access to incredible hills and mountains) and you have the 100mm of comfort/confidence!

  • Jeff says:

    The problem with this piece is that it assumes that the newb is going to continue riding even if he/she is being beated up on every single ride. Who is going to enjoy that? Who would want to keep biking if they don’t have any fun, are in physical pain, and can’t keep up with their friends with more skill? This is besides the point that someone new to biking won’t have the skill and just end up riding into dangerous lines that are likely to get them hurt. This coming from someone who rides rigid SS. Rigid is good for refining skill, not learning it.

  • hank says:

    I couldn’t agree more with ASS. I’ve witnessed dudes on titatium duallys that have very marginal skills. Riding with suspension doesn’t teach a newer rider how to anticipate and react to the position of the wheels relative to the trail on more technical trails.

  • Scott says:

    The ASS has a very harsh and know-it-all approach to writing and it came off as if you have a full suspension bike then you suck at riding.

    At first I thought that the ASS was just saying, “you suck at riding and you have too much bike”. Which maybe I am that person, but it is all relative. I am far from the fastest mountain biker, but amongst the general mountain bike population in my area I am super fast. He also has a lot of truths. I have my two main mountain bikes. My rigid single speed and my 100mm XC racer. I bought the SS first after riding a hardtail. I bought it because it shines light on what you need work with. It teaches you which lines are actually smoother and which lines just look smoother. It teaches you how to keep momentum. It also teaches you to just stand up and mash every once in a while instead of just always bailing out to the next easier gear until you are out of gears.

    However, I think a point that was only briefly touched on that he missed was that a FS will make you a better rider as well. I have so much more confidence on my fully and that transfers back over to the single speed, which then makes me even more confident on my fully. So I do a technical section with my fully and then think, hey that wasn’t so bad, then do it on the rigid, and then I am like…well this is super easy on the fully. Without ever having the full suspension I may not have ever tried it.

    A full suspension bike will really open your eyes and limits.

    So I believe there is a ying and a yang. A rigid single speed will develop good riding habits, a full suspension will open your eyes. I like both.

    • Jeff O'Hara says:

      Yes, I remember that feeling now. Going from a Dually to a HT and realizing that I could ride things I couldn’t before on a HT. Like skimming the tops of instead of falling in every gap. And maybe it isFull suspension attitude. I used to say and have recently said Beginners should start out on a rigid bike. But I may amend that to say those looking to improve, could learn some skills better on a rigid bike. and maybe visa versa.

  • Slohr says:

    If you need a 6″ travel bike to learn to enjoy MTB, why not just stick with Playstation??

  • Pat McCloskey says:

    Just ride men!!! Hi Kurt- check out my blog. http://chroniclesofmccloskey.com You will have a few laughs along the way.

  • KLP says:

    1. I was repeatedly told when I bought my first bike that I was terrible, so I needed full suspension. 2. Gears and shocks render terrain irrelevant. So what? 3. Enjoyment is defined by the rider, not the observer. 4. Singlespeed hardtail taught me to beg the dirt for momentum, but speed is speed whether it comes from legs or a chair lift. 5. I didn’t get legs from that first bike.

  • BKM says:

    Eh….. I would never tell a beginner to get a rigid mainly because it wouldn’t be fun for them. Sure it would make them better, but only if they have a massive amount of determination to improve. They’re gonna have to walk like 90% of the interesting lines starting out and they’ll badly slow down any group they’re with, which isn’t fun for anyone. IMO the progression should be hardtail, then rigid, then (maybe) full sus. Hardtail to get some trail familiarity and enough flow to enjoy the ride and get stoked on the sport, then rigid to build skills the hard way, then full sus to completely rip and be unchained. A guy I know bought a full rigid fatbike as his first mountain bike and ended up with more frustration than skill, and it sucked for him to be out there with us because he knew he was making us wait. It doesn’t help that all the trails close by are pretty technical. I look at a rigid as a nice training/skill-building accessory, but I would never tell someone to get one as their first/only mtb.

  • Will says:

    I mostly agree with the article. I’d probably recommend a lower end hardtail for a newcomer, but definitely not a full suspension.

  • ORVILLE WRIGHT says:

    GET A PENNY FARTHING, WANKER

  • jim says:

    Interesting article; I also cut/rattled my teeth on a fully rigid bike in the late ’80s. I learned good lines riding a Honda CT70 on technical trails in the ’70s (horrible handling and begging-dog riding position, with bad suspension), -there’s lots of ways to learn good lines, nothing beats seat-time no matter what sort or number of wheels. Race cyclocross, have several different bikes, ride motorcycles on dirt if you can.

  • James S says:

    I love single speeds (but with front suspension) and I also think that most mountain bikers have terrible riding skills, but A.S.S. is completely wrong on this. It’s really the other way around – start on a full suspension bike and after a few years on that, then switch to a rigid ride to improve your skills. Most people tend to ride in groups, and if you really want that beginner to give up, put him on a rigid single speed while the rest of the group has geared FS bikes. That’s a recipe for failure.

  • Jeff says:

    What’s offensive is all the rigid snobs and their self proclaimed holier than you attitude about rigid vs. squish. Just shut the BLEEP up and ride. Fact is rigid will teach you more skills, but DON’T cheat and get a rigid 29′r. Get a cross bike. Skinny tires, rigid frame and unforgiving tires will teach you more than the comfy ride the ASS is rocking. I love my carbon dual 29r and candidly my cross bike isn’t getting much dirt time these days. I learned much form the experiences and it was alot fun, but what I’m experiencing now with my squish is putting a bigger smile on my face and at my age far more sustainable on the body.

  • snipes1 says:

    Get a bike and ride it! Who cares if its ridgid or fs, 26, 27.5, 29. Spend time on abike and you’ll get better.

  • expertcrasher says:

    By this logic you shouldn’t have 29 inch wheels.

    Or disc brakes

    or indexed shifting

    etc..

    Just ride your bike and enjoy it. When I’m flying through the woods I’m not thinking about whether or not anyone else is “masking thier errors” I’m just having fun. That’s the point of it all.

    Ride on bros.

  • Jeff says:

    I went from a 26′er Specialized Epic Marathon with full XT to a Steel rigid, carbon fork single speed 29er and think the new ride is vastly more fun. But much of this depends on what your ridding buddies run, your terrain, and your goals. I ride a ton on my own, I go my own pace and enjoy the huge pleasure of just rubber on gravel noise my SS rigid produces. My FS squeaked, rattled (gears), and made for a comfortable ride, albeit with a lot more racket. If I did not already have 4 bikes, I would probably add a current 29er FS Epic back into my stable for the few times I need to keep up with my buddies on really rocky ascents/descents…. but for single track, I tend to take up the front because I carry more speed and momentum. Its a blast to ride MTB’s…. nobody needs to pooh pooh anyone’s other choices…. even if the bike they ride is way more then they need. “Need” is a term that seems to have a unique meaning to us Americans.

  • Mike says:

    I got a 5″ travel full suspension Mtn bike so I can be lazy, not have to pick lines carefully and enjoy the ride. Im also old and fat, have 2 blown disks in my neck. The suspension helps take the edge off the abuse my body takes. Ive been cycling for 43 years, todays FS bikes were what we dreamed about when I was a kid. So buy a FS bike if you want to and let the biking snobs argue about these ridiculous details.

  • bing! says:

    Btw, earlier this year, I had a kona unit full rigid 29er. I took it on an AM ride. I hurt for 3 days. Full rigids are not for chunk and gnar. No fun in that environment at all.

  • Mary Dopson says:

    There’s something to riding a rigid bike, it does make good form and line choice painfully intuitive. I agree that every beginner should spend some time on one, because it does cure bad habits. It’s also a fun way to ride in general. I disagree with the idea that learning to pick your way through every little bump in the trail is what makes a good rider. Suspension gives the confidence to rail rutted corners, jump, and proceed down the trail at a speed that actually makes it a challenge, and these are the things that make fast riders. Suspension should not be used to compensate for poor riding, but in the real world it makes it much easier to learn the full set of skills that makes riders fast.

  • Ric says:

    The best mountain bikers do not come from a history of riding fully rigid bikes. The best riders come from bmx and moto. Learning to ride a bike on a fully rigid mountain bike (fun hater) sounds like the second worst possible way to learn how to ride. But I understand your argument. People who ride fun haters often argue that way, but they are wrong.

  • Elsie says:

    I like my Rigid SS 29er.

  • Rumblefish Rider says:

    I think the author makes a good point. However, it’s fairly hard to find a decent fully rigid bike at most LBS’s (at least where I am). I grew up riding MBX bikes in the same boonies, that 10 years later stumbled across some ridiculously sick and fairly well maintained MTB trails. I bought a lower end Front Suspension 29er(Trek Wahoo), rode the shit out of it for a year and a half and upgraded to a Trek Rumblefish (fulll suspension). Did i miss out on some sort of epic training, by not riding a Full Rigid MTB first?

  • I Hate Everyone Younger Than Me says:

    “Back in the early ’10′s, we learned to ride with our old-school 6″ carbon-fiber AM bikes with 27.5 wheels. These n00bs today with their 1050b fusion-assist hover-bikes are developing all sorts of bad habits. Look at the way they straight huck a simple 200′ gap — no finesse at all.”

  • roger says:

    This is only the author’s opinion. Should we really give a shit what someone’s opinion what to ride? Too big, too small, 26, 27, 29?

  • Dennis says:

    I too grew up riding the same area of the country as the writer, first on a rigid, than I graduated to front suspension and later to a full-suspension. Over the years I’ve gone from a full-free ride to single speed front-end suspension. Raced, mt. bike and been around long enough to hear the terms free ride, turn into enduro and all mountain. While I developed the fundamentals of mt. biking by graduating bikes it was a labor of love. I recently (against my purist beliefs) got a full-suspension 29 incher! Gasp! I jumped the shark, sold out and realize something. Almost all the fundamentals you learn along the way don’t matter anymore. Point the bike where you want to go and ride. Mt. Bike has officially gone the way of shaped skiis, oversized golf clubs and tennis racquets. Next year I will switch over to 27.5, it seems more reasonable, however maybe this will help drive more people to the sport opening up more trails and help drive more adoption to lower the cost of bikes! And maybe the beauty of the sport lies in the fact it’s really no one’s to define!

  • Tom says:

    Hogwash. Most rigid riders I see “improve” their skills by riding around trail features (rocks, roots, small forest gnomes) by riding around them, making the trail much wider.

  • dthmnky says:

    if you really wanna be honest with your bike skills ride bmx again. track, trail, street. cheaper still and translates even quicker.

  • Julie says:

    Picking your way down the smoothest line is not what I’d call learning good technical skills as a rider…. what Gene Hamilton says. Word.

  • Fleas says:

    I USED to tell everyone that they should try rigid. That’s my go-to bike.
    But over time – and after developing that “smooth line” seek-and-find technique – I tried a 5″ FS bike. I was suddenly going so fast I scared myself. “I need some body armor!” I exclaimed out loud the first time I unleashed that 5″ bike on a rocky downhill. So I changed my advice: “If you go FS, you better get some body armor ’cause you will be going faster than your skills should allow.”
    So, FS is not bad, but it helps you get in over your head much faster than rigid will. Get a FF helmet while you’re at it. ;-)

  • luis says:

    Riding MTBs well is far more complex than just line selection or Trail feel. Its a set of numerous skills which can be improved on by practice in many different ways. Although I do agree that more suspension makes you lazy, there’s just much more to it than that!

  • Kris says:

    I’m sorry but i have to disagree with that article for the most part. I believe i’ve had a more diverse mountainbike history than most. I’ve been riding for roughly 11 years, starting on bmx, then getting a hardtail front sus, then going fully rigid by riding trials bikes (seatless not time trials) then onto full suspension downhill, mtb dirt jumping, then downhill again.

    I think riding a specific bike for too long ingrains habits, these habits then cross over to the other disciplines, which is sometimes helpful and sometimes isn’t. I’ve seen an amazing trials rider hit dirt jumps for a few weeks and constantly drop the rear wheel down first, weight fully back as opposed to landing cleanly and being able to pump a landing to gain speed. I’ve seen bmx riders with a downhill bike go around rooty sections and avoid rocks because that’s what they’re used to doing to avoid wiping out on tyres with little grip. I myself have been saved from some fairly big wipeouts on the downhill bike because i have a greater bike control due to trials biking. At the same time, i probably wouldn’t have nearly wiped out if i’d trusted the suspension would do it’s job and hadn’t slowed down at the top of a drop with the intention of bailing out. Ultimately i didn’t brake enough and ended up going off the drop in a nose manual but managed to wheelswap in the air and land rear wheel first to flat like a trials bike drop.

    This article is both narrow minded and short sighted in its approach, as while you may gain certain skills in some areas of your biking by going fully rigid, you gain other bad habits as well. You need to practice doing the right things on the right bike, plain and simple. No amount of riding a different bike will help you become a better rider in another discipline without introducing a few flaws as well.

    If you want to see the most impressive biking skills have a look at brakeless trials biking.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llOEjpI0kL0

    The level of balance is phenomenal and the bike control and awareness is far beyond anything you’ll see by riding a highly spec’d rigid trail bike.

    The only way i think i could compete with the over-embellished, blanket statement of an article would be to announce that you won’t be a good rider until you’ve ridden for a few weeks without your brakes on.

  • Mike says:

    Everybody Love Everybody

  • partlan says:

    A related topic: Does the Angry singlespeeder have an opinion as to what wheel size is better to learn on. Personally, I’ve only been riding for 6 months or so. Started on a HT 29er, and quickly jumped on to a FS 26.

    If the idea of a rigid bike making you work harder, thus learning more about riding, I think the 26er would be better for learning on. my 29er seems to just roll over everything. Not much line picking going on with it.

  • Happy Bill says:

    Not buying it. Over 25 years i have heard many variations of this same argument. Your not a real road rider unless you ride steel, or have down tube shift levers, or whatever.

    Things change, bikes change. You want to rattle your teeth out of your skull, have at it. But many of us enjoy riding what we ride, how we ride.

    Finally is your car using parts and ideas from a model T ford? Nope, you enjoy all the comforts of what technolgy has provided. WHy make riding bikes harder then it has to be, unless you want to, but tell us we are all wrong is just plain silly.

    Bill

  • Tyrebyter says:

    Easy folks. This guy is a professional instigator, not a riding expert. Picking flaws out in his logic is like shooting fish in a barrel. Just calm down and get a chuckle out of his poke-the-bear drivel.

  • shawndh says:

    I don’t know about putting a noob on a fully rigid bike for their 1st experience, but I do agree a rigid bike will help you develop skill. I come from old school 80s BMX and freestyle and the skills I developed back then give me the finess that I have today. I love my FS bike but the HT is by far the most fun for those with skill. But you have to grow to appreciate that. If you’re just starting out, a full rigid bike on the trails might scare them away from the sport. But a HT with 100mm fork with lock out would be a good bike to learn on. For those with experience, it’s good to have a rigid and a FS bike so you don’t forget your body English and get lazy.

  • Van says:

    The intended message is a good one, Learn to ride a clean, fast, and smooth line. But does that require a fully rigid bike? No. You can learn that on any bike if you pay attention to what you’re feeling and doing; because while a front or full suspension can dampen the ride, it doesn’t completely remove the feedback.

    The real problem with the article, are the moments where the author just sounds like a pretentious douche espousing about all the great skills he has that others did not…all because he started on a old rigid frame.

    The fact is that some people are inevitably going to spend the money on a top of the line bike and the only way for the cheap, full-rigid guy to curb his jealousy is to insult those people by telling them that they’ll never learn to ride correctly because they didn’t do what he did. This is false…but it’s going to be something that will be held into by the diehards.

    There’s always more than one way to skin a cat. Always. And while I agree that riding a full rigid will inevitably teach you (the hard way) about riding lines that are smooth, that is in no way the only way.

  • mattthemuppet says:

    I think ASS didn’t go far enough – what about learning braking and traction skills? New riders should not only ride rigid singlespeeds, but also ones with canti or U brakes (especially with Koolstop “never stop in the rain” pads) and bald brown wall tires. That way they can learn to plan their braking points and develop the sublime feel for traction that marks a truly great rider.

  • Shawn says:

    This author is basically a professional troll. The ‘Linda Richman’ of MTBR, so to speak. ‘The Specialized Epic is neither Special nor Epic, discuss.’ I suppose you could say his lazy, extremely biased and poorly considered points and positions prompt interesting debates, but any extreme or black and white statement can fire off internet verbal barages. That’s what the forums section is for. An article posted prominently on the main page of this site should be able to stand alone for being informative and helpful to the general mountain biking community, which this one clearly does not as already documented in the plethora of comments that point out obvious and logical holes holes in its entire premise. Even worse, I highly suspect he is a bit of a fraud – that he doesn’t really believe what he is saying (at least not in the extreme way he says it), he just is looking to pump his own tires and get a reaction, because he thinks its funny to stir the pot and generate backlash. I really wonder whether he would give this advice universally to anyone he PERSONALLY knows looking to get into mountain biking, regardless of circumstance. Unless he’s a particularly bad friend, my guess would be no.

  • MM says:

    Mid teens, 5’8″ on a 20″ fully rigid cannondale, numerous mt. snow races (XC and DH). That’s how you learn to ride ;)

  • Wayne says:

    I just got my first squish bike (Tallboy LTc) after 37 years of no back squishy (20 years on a mountain bike) last week.

    For the past 5 years I have been SS29 only. Matter of fact I just got another new bike about 2 months ago, it is the same Vassago Verhauen the same one the Agree SS is riding! Super fun bike, but it has a 120mm squishy up front…

    Anyway, I do believe that a ridged SS will make you a much better and stronger rider.

    But I cannot tell you how much fun this bouncy bike is down in Sedona!!!! Yaaaaaaaaaa!

    Yaaaa Bikes!!

  • duder says:

    God you suck at writing articles. Your logic is full of holes and your tone is always one of condescension.
    A rigid may be a good 2nd or 3rd bike, for skill advancement, but is the worst bike for a newb, its a perfect way to scare them off.

  • Pepe LePau says:

    All of you bitchin up about the article and Rigid SS, FS hardtail, BMX and all the rest, please do me a favor and GO F!@$% RIDE

  • Adrian says:

    completely disagree….

  • Satch says:

    no thanks. like my squishy. it’s just way more fun.

  • Brent says:

    I completely agree that learning on a rigid bike, or maybe even a short travel front suspension bike is the best way to learn. It forces the rider to pick good lines and you really get a feel for what the bicycle is doing.

  • pqken says:

    Something to think about. I agree that there are benefits in skill building riding a rigid, (as there are with a fs and ht), absolutely. Only way they’ll be zero benefit is if you refuse to learn anything from it. What in life is b&w so get over it, stop complaining, and make an effort to see the other side of the issue. It’ll help your riding.

  • PGH says:

    Is that a Dirty Harry’s jersey?

  • t.j. says:

    i have found that a lot of times peoples outlook on things depends on their back ground. Logically to someone that is a natural at riding bikes, getting them on something like a full-rigid bike will make them a better rider.
    Now for someone that is not a natural and still has to basically learn how to ride a bike at all, then a fully rigid will more than likely take away from the experience more than it will help them to want to learn.

  • B5280high says:

    I get his point and mostly agree with him. I started in 1988 on a Rock Hopper rigid (although I cant remember if it was fully or partially rigid…I’ll have to review my ride logs). Moved to a GT Avalanche and put on a RockShox fork which made the whole riding experience much better/funner (sp?). A rigid (fully or otherwise) or even a hard tail you have to learn balance (traction on hills, etc) and picking lines more carefully…all good skills to have.

    The other side (as many have explained) of the coin…if you’re destine for a FS and learn to ride safe (don’t kill yourself or others) and don’t hack up trails, I see the logic of starting with the type (not grade/$$$) of bike you’ll end up with.

    Off topic- I firmly believe if you’re spending less than $2k for a bike, go hard tail. I don’t think you could get a frame worth upgrading components as they break…and if you did find a decent frame, your components would absolutely suck.

  • EpicAndy says:

    The ASS has too much editorial space

  • Adrian says:

    100 % agree here on this article. Learning on rigids means to learn good style. Good on hardtails, even better on BMX. Using full suspension only bikes is comparable to eating fast food only.

  • ginsu says:

    Just to add to the debate. I fully agree with the ‘rigid for beginners’…and if you’re really serious about learning bike skills you should also remove the brakes and use your shoe wedged between the seatstay and the tire for a rear brake! That’s how I rode my first bike….learned a lot about friction and heat and balancing/shifting your weight, and of course, how to brake early. Talk about hardcore, throw some good ‘ole rain in there too!

  • Robert MTB Robertson says:

    Okay let me make this pure and simple for all of us to understand. We are all mountain bikers that either grew up in the 60s,70s,80s,90s, or more recently. Technology has evolved while more unfortunate we as humans are degressing and are becoming bigger assholes with nothing more to do than bash each other over what fels good and what doesnt. You ball less sissy mary’s, get out of your cubicles and come ride with me in Colorado Springs on my Surly Krampus or my Salsa El Mariachi and you will understand that it is all about what you ride and the spiritual boogie of throwing down on the trail. Boy or girl we ride with all skill levels with the Colorado Springs Mountain bike club(meet up), and with my buddies at the HUB bike shop on our tallboy rides on friday nights. I ride a single speed geared in 32×22 for the Krampus and 32×21 for the Mariachi, but when we ride with Wounded Warriors they ride on fa tire bikes, Trek Remedy 7s, and Surly Karate Monkey single speeds. My point is ride what you have and enjoy it, watch videos on skills riding, read about it, go ride with people more experienced and have fun ya damn Sallys!!

  • DavidK says:

    I rode hartails for years and eventually FS. Not until I picked up a rigid SS about 6 years ago did I really learn to ride AND I got faster to boot! I recently picked up another FS, but the rigid SS is still my go-to fun bike… always will be. Thanks ASS!

  • Mike says:

    Awesome read! I started mountain biking in Pittsburgh 7 years ago on a Rocky Mountain element. After 2 years of bobbing up and down, I switched to a hardtail. I couldn’t believe how much faster I was after only a year on this bike. I had to relearn all the local trails, finding new lines that weren’t as harsh on my body. Best decision I’ve made in a while

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