cycling utah September 1999


Full suspension is not just for downhillers and yuppies

By David R. Ward


"I bought a new bike." No words fan the fires of a cyclist's emotions quite like these. A good part of the reason we get hooked on this pedal-pushing sport is the allure of the equipment itself. The synergy of man and machine is addicting. Besides, there is nothing quite like new stuff.

This last spring, I bought a new bike. A full-suspension Jamis Dakar Pro mountain bike. I have nay-said full-suspension for years, relegating it to the realms of dimly-witted downhill racers and yuppies with money popping out of their pockets. But the trap of new technology final caught me, and I broke down. Breakdowns like this I can use more often.

You see, when I got my new bike off road, I finally realized how nice dual-suspension is. Believe it or not, I had never even ridden a dual-suspension bike. So this was a real revelation. I felt like I was driving a Cadillac for the first time.

My first introduction to mountain bikes was in about '85. My brother was visiting, and had a friend from the San Francisco area along. This guy was proudly showing off his custom-made mountain bike. Frankly, it looked liked a poorly-designed road bike. I remember thinking I would never waste my money on one of those.

Four years later, I wasted my money on two of them, one for me and one for my wife. Leading technology at the time, they were heavy with no suspension. But they were fun. They opened a whole new world of off-road riding to me.

As age began to take its toll, however, I found myself popping more and more ibuprofen after a good mountain bike ride. "Natural suspension" was not what it was cracked up to be, and I recall one particularly memorable day in Moab when my wrists and shoulders ached so bad that I was not certain I had even had fun.

That experience led to shelling out more than a few bucks for front shocks. What an amazing difference. I probably paid for those shocks with the money I saved on ibuprofen.

At this point, a thief did me a favor. Moving rapidly, technology was now spitting out mountain bikes several pounds lighter than mine. One day, some low-life swiped my bike right out of my garage. With thousands of dollars more in road bikes hanging off the walls, this idiot stole a badly outdated mountain bike. I took my insurance proceeds and smiled all the way to the bike shop. (Lesson: Make certain your homeowner's policy has a "replacement" provision so that the entire cost of a new bike, less your deductible, is covered.)

A new, aluminum GT Zaskar was my choice. Light weight with front suspension, top-of-the-line components and a cool-looking blue anodized finish, made this bike a beauty and a pleasure. In fact, I was so content with this particular bike, that I never really considered getting a new one. Like I said, I considered dual-suspension as something for fully-padded downhillers and yuppies with money to fritter away on fancy frivolities.

So why the new bike? Well, my son, who is now as big as I am, was spending too much time arguing with me over who was going to use my Zaskar. Having been intrigued with dual suspension, but too proud to admit it, this became a convenient excuse to move up.

Now, not only do my wrists and shoulders no longer ache, but my maturing rear and lower back are being properly pampered. Gravelly washboard roads no longer shake me to my bones. On top of that, I can bomb the downhills better than ever.

Dual-suspension is not a necessity. But then, for most of us, cycling is less about need and more about having fun. And why should yuppies have all the fun? We owppies ("old weary professionals") deserve a good measure of fun ourselves. And for the age-challenged, dual-suspension throws in a measure of relief as well.

Besides, there is nothing quite like new stuff.

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