The Flow – ‘I Don’t Have the Skills Bru!’

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If I had a Zar, just one Zar for every time I heard someone say they don’t want a trail bike because ‘they don’t have skills’ I’d be able to retire and move to Whistler by now. – By Myles Kelsey

Photography By Craig Kolesky / Nikon / Lexar

It’s a woeful state of affairs this, and one which I lecture many an innocent lycra-clad bandit on. The conversations typically go along these lines:

Rider X: “Is that a downhill bike?”

Me: “No, it’s a trail bike – here, give it a go mate.”

Rider X: “Ooooh, no thanks I don’t have skills and I will hurt myself on that bike. Are you sure it’s not a downhill bike?”

Me: “Bru, it’s a modern-day trail bike which is very different to a DH bike – it goes up, down, long or short and does everything well. Here, give it a go…”

Rider X: “Are you mad? Did you not hear me. I don’t have skills and will hurt myself on that bike.”

Me: Sighs. Takes a deep breathe, and goes for it: “Truth is bru (I always use bru as it’s a South Africanism which I find often softens the impact of the content you are about to deliver – I learnt this at corporate), you are putting yourself at more risk of injury by riding that sketchy XCO-specific machine than if you were on a light or heavy-duty trail bike. Look how long that stem is, not to mention those bar ends, that head angle and those tiny bars. If you don’t have the skills you shouldn’t be allowed out of the house on that (XCO) machine.

That aggressive XC-style geometry you have there is designed for skilled riders who seek every advantage on the climbs and use their immense prowess on the bike to negotiate/make do/improvise on the techy stuff. Unless you have the skills of Nino (Schurter) or (Emily) Batty you just shouldn’t be on that weapon.”

Things tend to get a little awkward now as Rider X is not quite sure about the validity of the message or why I am kakking him out about it. So, I start to soften my tone a little and try to make friends, show I care, which in the end serves me to reinforce and galvanise my point.

Me: “Don’t get me wrong – that’s a really great bike. I just think, perhaps, you could have more fun and be safer on a different category bike. A trail bike is an enabler, you will have the confidence to roll through tech sections, get off the brakes a little and enjoy your riding so much more. You can climb out of your toit lycra, worry less about power training, calories, carbs, rolling resistance, hanging in the dirt peloton and focus more on the things that brought you to the mountain in the first place. You know – to de-stress, get outdoors, socialise, get a great total-body workout, enjoy some flow and the thrill of all the trails features.”

Me: Thinks to myself. I probably shouldn’t have used some of the terms there like flow, dirt peloton and off the brakes as the dude is looking a little nervous now. Ok, tone it down a little.

Rider X: “Ja, but this bike wins world cups, marathons and I want the best – so this is what I bought.”

Photography By Craig Kolesky/ Nikon / Lexar

Me: “So I am not going to knock the bike store owner that sold you this bike as you probably were keen on that category bike before you entered the store. All I am going to say is next time you are considering an upgrade, ask your LBS if you can demo an XC bike and a trail bike from your favourite bike manufacturer and do some back-to-back loops on a trail giving consideration to fun, safety and the limitations of each bike. Thing is bru, by investing in a trail bike you are not telling the world that you have skills and are a DHer. Rather, you’re saying you want to have more fun everywhere on the trail and want a bike that allows you to explore your skills without sacrificing race ability.

Let me put it into numbers for you. Moving up a notch into the realm of a trail bike you will likely climb around 1% slower (I don’t know the actual number but I am pitching low for impact you see) than you currently do on your XC weapon, yet you will corner and descend 30% faster, flow through tech sections that you previously walked through and have fun! And no you don’t have to do jump lines and drop offs or anything you don’t want to do my bru. Its about knowing your limits and maximising fun.”

Rider X: “Hmm. I see. Interesting. So what bike should I buy?”

Me: “Fortunately all the brands have light trail bikes nowadays so chat to your LBS about what to consider – have a good one bru!”

Now listen people, unless you are in the hunt for a top 15% result at your target mountain bike race and/or have sublime skills then you too should probably look around at moving up a notch from the XC category to the ‘light trail’ category for your next purchase.

Food for thought.

Till next time! Cheers.


Myles Kelsey is a former masters downhill World Champ. When he’s not giving advice to those wanting to better their skills, you’ll find him shredding the trails of Cape Town’s Southern Suburbs – that’s if he’s not competing overseas. He knows he’s stuff so we suggest you listen to him.


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