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Tuesdays Can O Wasps: MTBMX

Morgan Hampton ponders on the subject of “When does a MTB become a BMX?”

I like your BMX mate

Right then; another week, another rant. I was hoping to be a bit more positive this week, and concentrate on the fun side of riding. But unfortunately, in line with British tradition on a bank holiday weekend, it pissed it down. (Editor:Soz this was supposed to be posted last week)

Instead I’m sat here a bit fed up and frustrated, having wasted my extended weekend, waiting for it to dry out enough to ride. Ok, so I guess a few of you will be thinking “oh for god’s sake, don’t be such a pussy, get out and ride in the wet you fag!” But the problem is I was looking forward to going to Redhill on the 24” and having a mess about. It’s not a bike suited to rough or wet terrain – That’s what my 4X bike is for. However, she’s currently stripped down waiting for a paint strip, and full service, so I’m limited to the dry and the smooth at the moment.

So, I moped about at home for a bit, not knowing what to do. I would have moped about at my girlfriend’s house, but she was sat doing her Uni essay, and I dare not interrupt her while she’s stressed as I risk becoming a eunuch in rapid time. One of my mates suggested I go ride Newport skatepark, but unfortunately that’s been burnt down, so was out of the question. He then went on to say “why don’t you ride some street seeing as you ride a BMX?” Hold on there sonny Jim, I think you’ll find it’s a MTB, and not a BMX. He countered with the argument that it’s not far removed from a BMX, which got me thinking: When does a MTB become a BMX?

Firstly, my 24 inch play bike, used for dirt, park, 4X and general thrashing about at Redhill.

I know that MTBers (especially the DJ crowd) are a fickle lot, and are hugely subject to the fashion game. BMXers are the same too. Nowadays it seems you’ve got to have a seat tube so small that your saddle mounts direct to the BB, your bars have to be wider than Jordan’s legs, every component has to be made of cheap plastic yet cost more than their metal counterpart, and your jeans have to be so skinny you use KY Jelly to put them on!

I’ll admit here and now that I’ve bought in to some of these trends. Pivotal saddles are a thing of genius for a start. No more bent rails or barstools taped to the top tube because you’ve snapped your last saddle missing the pedals on that superman. I’ve even got a set of plastic pedals for days when I want to mess about and take my limbs off, but not risk mashing my shins to pieces. I’ve even got a pair of plastic pedals for everyday use which do away with bearings! Two halves of a plastic body are held onto the axle by traction pins threaded through them, meaning they’re essentially a giant bushing. Tighten the pins up as they wear, and eventually it’s a couple of quid for a new plastic body when it’s fully worn. Simple BMX genius. And where would we be if 3-piece cranks weren’t invented? Yes they can be a pain to fit correctly, but once done they’re on, and they’re not going to break. I’ve also gone in for a bit of trendy colour coding, with a very tasteful blue frame and white components, kept clean, uncluttered and simple. Very modern BMX.

Jamie Insley's tricked out Team Slam69 Identiti Krisis SL. Built for pedaling flat out on 4X tracks. But also suitable for a bit of jumping, light DH, singletrack, XC, playing, thrashing, pretty much anything. (Photo courtesy of Pete Newman)

But there is a flipside to some of these great innovations. Plastic saddles are back in. They were in back in the 70’s. They were in right up until riders realised that they didn’t like having their rectum torn apart if they screwed up a landing, and so started to use saddles with a bit of padding. But now if you want to be cool you have to have a plastic saddle to save some weight. I’m sorry, but I’ll sacrifice a few grams for some extra foam rather than having a regular and brutal colon examination using glorified Tupperware. And running no brakes. Why? (That’s next week’s rant sorted then)

a new breed of bike. Park bike? Street bike? Wannabe BMX? 24inch rigid, slick tyres and brakeless, what is it, and what is it for? It can hardly be called a MTB, as you wouldn't ever want to take it anywhere remotely off road. (Photo courtesy of Graham Foot @ Slam69)

But it’s not just the use of BMX parts that’s blurring the lines, it’s the bikes themselves. I run 24” wheels, suspension, a single rear disc brake, and one gear. It’s a MTB. Go watch a BMX race and you’ll find riders with 24” wheels, rear V brake, rigid forks, and one gear. These are BMX cruisers. Although the differences are subtle, they are two quite different machines.

What I don’t understand then is the new breed of street/park MTB. These are 24” wheel, rigid, single speed, U/V/no brakes. They use integrated headsets, Spanish/Mid BBs, 110mm rear hub spacing for 14mm axles (MTBs use 135mm spacing), gyro tabs, integrated pivotal seat posts, pegs, the list goes on. There was a time when a fully rigid 24” MTB could be distinguished from a BMX cruiser by its shallower head angle. But these nu-school bikes have 73/74 degree head angles, bringing them into cruiser and BMX territory. When does a MTB become a BMX? With 22” wheeled BMXs now being made and 24” cruisers now being used for trails, park and street, where is the line that differentiates MTB from BMX?

Now I’m not moaning about the people who ride them at all. Different streaks for different freaks and all that. I understand that they’re generally built for simplicity and strength which is fine. Use a suitable tool for the job at hand. Anyway, most of the people who ride these bikes are better than me at their chosen genre of riding. I could never contemplate to do a tail whip to foot jam, to bar spin out on a 7ft quarter, and anyone that can do this is up there with God on the list of “people what can do things I’ll never ever do, not in a million years”.

But why do it on a 24” bike (I can’t even call it a MTB), when BMXs are designed for this kind of thing? Why call yourself a MTB rider when all you do is ride park and a bit of street? Just buy a bloody BMX and call yourself a BMXer if all you do is jib around at the skatepark! Oh, and put a bloody brake on that bloody bike, whatever bike you choose to call it!

Morgan Hampton

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