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Old 08-28-2008, 03:39 PM   #1
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Default Why are mountain bikes so popular?

I just read an article in the paper where it says that a local college is giving away a free bicycle to any student who pledges not to bring a car to school.

I looked at the picture of the free bikes and they are brand new Trek mountain bikes. My first question was "why mountain bikes?" Last time I checked, the town where the college in question is located (Ripon, Wisconsin) has no shortage of paved streets and not very many mountainous trails running through the campus.

As a person who has done quite a bit of bicycling in his life, I know that generally speaking when you are riding a bicycle you want it to be fast and easy to pedal. This normally requires that the bike be as light as possible and have thin tires for low rolling resistance. The wide knobby tires on mountain bikes are just the opposite of what I want when I am riding on streets.

I guess I'm thinking, is this pretty much an American thing? We tend to like things to be made big and strong. Look at the popularity of 4x4 SUV's and pickups over the past 10 years or so. How many of the folks who bought those things actually ever took them off-road? When it comes to bicycles, I suspect that many Americans look at a skinny tired road bike and to them it's got "French" written all over it and is something to stay away from.

Still, I'm willing to bet that many, many folks who have bought mountain bikes over the past 10-15 years because they have been the "in" bikes to buy, would have been much happier had they instead bought something that was made to go fast on city streets.

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Old 08-28-2008, 03:44 PM   #2
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Not sure, I think there are probably a few elements that mix together to get the popularity. I could easily see though how a mountainbike on campus would be much better if you have to traverse any grassy areas/etc. I can't really make the call here because road biking and mountain biking seem to be of similar popularity. Most enthusiasts here have both. If I lived in a city though, I'd get a city bike or probably none at all. One of the things that drove me away from cycling was dealing with all the inconsiderate motorists. Granted cyclists can be inconsiderate as well...but that's not my point .

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Old 08-28-2008, 03:45 PM   #3
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I had a Trek mountain bike in college. I replaced the knobby tires with inverted tread tires (like car tires), added fenders, and a big rack over the rear tire (for groceries and stuff). It was an awesome bike for navigating potholed streets, curbs, gravel paths and torn up alleys. Because I replaced the knobby tires with smooth ones, it was faster and quiter than a typical mountain bike. I rode it year round in Montana, and it was pretty stable on the ice and snow. Try that with a 1/2" wide tire at high pressure and you'll be on your ass in a heartbeat. I loved it. I still have it, actually.

I also had a "real" mountain bike for off road.

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Old 08-28-2008, 03:52 PM   #4
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I think you're on to something with the strong/sturdy image versus the skinny French-looking road bikes. I personally prefer hybrid products that can handle multiple environments (e.g. all-terrain bikes, trail runners, sidewalk surfers, etc). I have an SUV that spends 70-80% of its life on pavement. I obviously don't need off-road or 4WD capability, but I like knowing I have it. I think many Americans like things they consider "safer". Like all the soccer moms driving huge gas-guzzling trucks that they can't handle or park, but that make them feel "safe" on the roads...

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Old 08-28-2008, 03:53 PM   #5
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Mt Bikes are the in bike. They have "cool" thinks like suspension, more gears than you can count and big fat knobby tires.
Due to their popularity there are a large number of competing models and you get more "features" for the price than other styles.
The majority of Americans know very little about bikes and have little experience riding them for utility.
So the most popular bikes and the ones most people start trying to use for commuting/utility work are not well suited for that purpose.
The next most popular bikes are probably road race bikes which probably are less useful for the purpose than MTB.

I'm surprised an effort like this does not involve one of the commuter/utility models that many manufacturers are now importing. I have seen some decent utility bikes from Jamis, Trek and many other manufactures introduced in recent years. These are much better for daily low mile utility riding.
If you are going to put some miles in then a more road oriented bike is warranted. I commute about 16miles daily on a Surly CrossCheck.

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Old 08-28-2008, 03:59 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Soulive View Post
I think you're on to something with the strong/sturdy image versus the skinny French-looking road bikes. I personally prefer hybrid products that can handle multiple environments (e.g. all-terrain bikes, trail runners, sidewalk surfers, etc). I have an SUV that spends 70-80% of its life on pavement. I obviously don't need off-road or 4WD capability, but I like knowing I have it. I think many Americans like things they consider "safer". Like all the soccer moms driving huge gas-guzzling trucks that they can't handle or park, but that make them feel "safe" on the roads...
I think there really is something to the "safer" thing. (Although I don't know just how safe those big trucks are in the hands of so many people who not onl don't know how to handle them, but think they are invincible in them.

I have an SUV. Not a 4X4, and not a terrible gas guzzler. I have it mostly because we have two teenage boys and a dog and we need the space. I'm also a big guy. Last I checked, they don't make many station wagons any more. It's nice to be in a truck that feels heavy and solid to drive. If car companies in the U.S. would start selling efficient vehicles that had the space I need, I'd dump the SUV in a heartbeat.

My bicycle of choice in recent years has been a hybrid. I still have a road bike, but don't use it very often any more. If I wanted to ride on off-road trials, though, I'd get a "real" mountain bike. I feel sorry for people that I see riding on fat knobby tires on the street, especially when you can hear the whirring sound coming from all that rubber on the road.
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Old 08-28-2008, 04:00 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Soulive View Post
I think you're on to something with the strong/sturdy image versus the skinny French-looking road bikes.
There is something besides skinny tired road race bikes and knobby tired MTB bikes but most consumers know nothing of the other categories.
Hybrid bikes can be decent campus bikes but the city/utility/commuter bikes that are now available are usually even better and include many of the accessories that are needed for daily use.
Even a couple years ago it was difficult to buy a good commuter but now they are quite common in manufacturers lineups if less so on show room floors.

Craig
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Old 08-28-2008, 04:04 PM   #8
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I would guess that they aren't giving away mountain bikes, but kind of a utility one. Won't have all the fancy shocks and what not that a true mountain bike will have, but enough to cut across grass, go through potholes, snow, and off a curb. Roadbikes aren't really that practical for students using it as the primary mode of transportation, especially in places that can get snowy/slick such as Wisconsin.

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Old 08-28-2008, 04:11 PM   #9
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I got mine cause it was free. It just so happens that it is a Trek PK7.

I do plan to swap out the nobbies with street tires.

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Old 08-28-2008, 04:13 PM   #10
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I know when I went out to buy my last bike, mountain bikes were the only ones I could afford. I imagine this is the case for a lot of people. I ended up getting one with those big nobby tires (which I plan to replace when they wear out, which doesn't seem to be taking long on pavement) and it has a set of shocks on the front which I loathe. But I could afford it and I'm saving a ton of gas with the rack and saddle bags I put on the back for grocery shopping.

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