One of the beauties of biking is its individuality, the ability to make of it what you want. Although the industry is keen to pigeonhole products and riding styles into categories, there are plenty of riders who refuse to be labelled. The funny thing is that, like hipsters, by trying to look different they end up falling into a category of their own which, again like hipsters, is often signified by an abundance facial hair.
Beards are a must-have, surprisingly. There’s no excuse for not growing one, since the niche bike rider will be male and at least 30. Length is good, but bushiness is also requisite. A fluffy set of mutton chops or a goatee is a surefire way to ensure he doesn’t get bothered by girls when he’s out on the trails or down the pub. Tattoos are a recommended addition – a cog on the back of the calf is a good starting point, but skulls, flames and other bike parts are also approved. He will express his love of prog rock with a Grateful Dead or Pink Floyd Primal Wear jersey.
Wheels of steel
The beardy-weirdy will pick an outlandishly large wheel and tyre size and adamantly justify to anyone who will listen, and even those who won’t, that his choice is the future. “It’s way faster and more fun than everything else.” The fact that no pro has ever won a race on a plus bike or fatbike? Na, that doesn’t matter – in the eyes of the niche rider their beloved 36in wheeled, fat tyred beast is still the best. Suspension? No thank you. Who needs it anyway if you’re bouncing along on tyres as wide a tractor’s? If you must have suspension, it needs to involve dual fork legs, elastomers and lots of pivots.
Cogs and cow bars
For the specialist bike rider, singlespeeds are best. It’s totally impractical to run only one gear on a mountain bike so that makes him, in his warped world, more unique and means he can bond with other ‘special’ riders over their shared masochism. And forget standard shaped bars – this crowd go with something completely different. Cow bars, klunker bars, Jones bars, drops on a mountain bike – think of a shape you can bend aluminium into and some bewhiskered man is probably running it on the front of their bike.
Out there’ riding
The leftfield rider wouldn’t be seen dead at a trail centre or downhill track. They much prefer to ride unpleasantly long distances cross-country, ideally with unridable bog sections and most likely in unsuitable weather conditions. The top dog of the species (in his eyes), the singlespeed rider, will put in hundreds of miles to achieve that skinny, malnourished look. The fatbiker needn’t worry too much about his real ale belly hindering his performance because his slow-rolling bike will stop him venturing too far afield, and he certainly won’t be railing any berms or hucking any drops. The 20kg of luggage, camping equipment and coffee-making apparatus he carries strapped to every tube of his frame will make sure of that.
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