Comfing

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By Lukas Brinkerhoff — Imagine, if you can, a group of grown men fully kitted out in the latest pastel colored lycra riding quickly down some single track, probably a section of single track that isn’t considered easy. They’re in a pace line, or at least as much of a pace line as the trail will allow. Everything about their attire screams “serious” cyclist, but everything else about them screams “we have no idea what we are doing.” And that’s kind of by design. The one thing you would probably be the most confused about is why they can’t stop giggling.

The crew after a good comfing session. Photo by Lukas Brinkerhoff
The crew after a good comfing session. Photo by Lukas Brinkerhoff

A few weeks ago, probably about six of them, Judd Freeman approached me at work with an idea. I could tell by the excitement in his eyes that this was probably going to be big. He said, “Let’s buy some Rolls.” Referring to the Specialized Roll which is by definition a comfort bike. I was confused, but he let it set in before continuing with, “and ride them on single track.” Ok. I’m listening. He continued to more or less describe the same scenario to me as I did in that previous paragraph. And ended it with we’re going to ride the Goose.

I was in. Full stop.

Trent Stallard on the horizon enjoying the last rays of the evening. Photo by Lukas Brinkerhoff
Trent Stallard on the horizon enjoying the last rays of the evening. Photo by Lukas Brinkerhoff

We spent the next couple of days pitching the idea to everyone who would give us more than a couple of minutes of their time. Slowly the momentum began to grow. Three, seven, ten, sixteen. Sixteen sounds like a good number and it corresponds to how many Rolls we ordered. We waited. Lord Byron of the Specialized Kingdom hooked us up with some sweet pricing and within a few days we had 14 Rolls sitting on the porch (2 were backordered). The same excitement that I saw in Judd’s eyes when he first told me about it, pulsed through the shop. The stoke level had gone full to 11.

This little sport that we all love and can’t get enough of isn’t very old. 30 some odd or more years ago a motley crew started to ride old Schwinn Cruisers on trails. Jamming in balloon tires, modding them out to be able to handle long descents, naming trails after the fact that you had to repack the coaster brake hub after one run. Yes, mountain biking started by a bunch of granolas riding bikes in a way they were not designed to be ridden. Stuff broke, people may or may not have gotten hurt and most importantly our sport was born out of the ashes of messed up cruiser frames, or klunkers.

Lord Byron was specific. These bikes are not designed for off road use.

Comfing – the act of riding a comfort bike off road.

Trent Stallard rolling through Rhythm and Blues. Photo by Lukas Brinkerhoff
Trent Stallard rolling through Rhythm and Blues. Photo by Lukas Brinkerhoff

My first comfing experience was a few weeks ago, just a couple of days after receiving my Roll. Trent Stallard, Scott Gates and I headed out to the Bear Claw Poppy Trail to see what, if anything, was going to become of this idea that seemed like a really bad, but good one. I was sold before we even hit the trail.

Despite it being the most trafficked trail in Washington County, the BCP is not my favorite and I rarely spin my tires on it. Maybe it’s because I’ve been riding it for well over 20 years or that I just like a different style (think Zen or Kentucky Lucky Chicken). However, there is a certain appeal to riding a trail that is “old” on a new bike to see what that new bike can throw at it. The Roll rockets off the top of the ridges and wants to get sideways. Mr. Stallard was going so hard in the paint that I couldn’t keep up with him and witnessed as he almost careened off the trail multiple times. Sounds awful, right? It wasn’t. It was the most fun I had had on that trail in ages.

Comfing pioneer Scott Gates shows us how to use that suspension seatpost correctly. Photo by Lukas Brinkerhoff

It was unanimous. Comfing was a thing and we were all stoked on it. A few days later, another comfing trip was planned. Seeing that it had transformed the BCP, we thought it might be cool to hit Rhythm and Blues or the One Hit Wonder as I like to call it. The comfs were loaded and we all dropped in like there was no tomorrow. Repeating the original trip, there was a lot of giggling, a lot of “oh shit” moments and probably the most fun any of us had experienced in months, if not years, decades, a lifetime. Yes, it was that good.

It’s important to point out, that yes, I’ve been using the wrong tool for the right job for longer than I should probably admit. I ride cross bikes off stupid stuff, commute on fat bikes, tour on a singlespeed, it’s my MO. Comfing has brought this idea to a much bigger group and they love it. The bicycle industry has built itself around the idea of designing the perfect bike for whatever you want to do with it. Want to go uphill only, sure we have a bike for that. Planning on riding on gravel? Yup, those exist. Planning on riding on pavement and then gravel and then pavement followed by cobbles? Ok, that might be a bit of a stretch, but you get the point. The industry has categorized bikes beyond recognition. Bikes are bikes. Ride them where you will.

You might be thinking to yourself, this is a horrible idea. And you’re entitled to your opinion, but we’re pretty sure that if you give comfing a try, you’ll find it to be everything good that can be found in a bad idea. You’ll find yourself giggling and have that same excitement for comfing that you did the first time you throw a leg over a mountain bike and hit some singletrack.

 

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