A while back I asked if anyone wanted to write any articles for the website. Lot’s of you did, including Tom Harrison.
Tom sent me a story about his bike, as he says it’s not a bike review, it’s just a simple story of one man and his wheels:
After fifteen years of arsing around on mountain bikes I feel as if I have arrived at a point of complete vehicular satisfaction. Funnily it seems to be very much the same as where I started.
When I was first exposed to ‘proper’ mountain biking and proper bikes via the pages of a magazine adorned with a sheet of free neon stickers my daily ride was a Raleigh Activator. This bike was the council estate Harley Davidson and to the uninitiated it didn’t get much better. Of course as I got sucked in bikes and parts became more expensive and Raleigh Activators were now just toys. I wrecked and replaced everything as my skills, and my crashes, became too much for the standard Halfords kit.
The first time I went out and bought a brand new proper bike it was inspired by a one page mini review in the back of a Dirt mag. It was the first Identiti Krisis and one of the best of the new ‘hardcore’ hardtails. It turned up in my local bike shop and it had my name all over it. Stealth black frame, metallic orange Z1’s, orange Roox kit and the first white rims I‘d ever seen. Gorgeous and hard as nails, this bike took a beating. It was jumped, dropped, crashed, wheelied, skidded and razzed to death but always I was greedily looking forwards not having much thought for where I was right now. As soon as I had the cash I went fully suspended. I lived miles away from the hills, hardly ever got to ride them but nevertheless I wanted the big rad bikes I was reading about. But of course you can’t ride a DH bike everywhere so I had a BMX for street, a hardtail for dirt and track duties and always the desire to replace and upgrade.
I’ve grown up a lot since then and I’m now less prepared to blow cash and just generally not as lusty about new parts. When my last DH bike was ragged and dented and due for replacement it was time to go shopping. I don’t do enough riding or earn enough money to justify running a fleet of expensive toys so I need one bike. One bike to do it all.
This time I would pick a bike that matched the kind of riding I actually get to do not the kind of riding I dream about. I needed a bike that touched all the bases. I want to keep riding downhill, hit the BMX track, blast around trail centres, hop kerbs and dodge cars on the way to work and visit the chip shop with more fun and less effort. Faced with a bewildering choice of frames all promising the world I decided to save a tonne of money and go in right at the bottom with a steel hartdtail in the shape of a Charge Blender. It looked cool and had similar dimensions to my DH bike so hopefully it would be just as fun in the rough but less lethargic everywhere else.
A year later with a huge variety of trails behind me I think I made the right choice.
This bike does touch all the bases. I’ve ridden hardtails that are faster and glide along at an effortless pace but when you turn up the heat they flinch and twitch like spastic rabbits. I’ve ridden beefy full sussers that lap up the big stuff but fall over in an asthmatic mess when reminded they have cranks. My Blender on the other hand, is not so highly strung. I’m not as fast on the downhills but suddenly even the mild ones are way more frantic and the proper tech ones are now epic fun. I no longer spend all my precious riding time longing for the man size ’gnar’ of Alpe D’Huez when I can just as well really hurt myself at Cwmcarn. Despite my stiff, non suspended rear end I do still walk up the occasional climb on account of the Blender not being much of a pedaller. However, it would be hypocritical of me to blame my bikes steely heft and lax geometry when first and foremost, I am a lazy bastard.
Like myself it only really wakes up when the trail points down and things speed up. The mellow handling sharpens up when you’re gunning it and it doesn’t wince in the rocks like lesser hardtails and too many wimpy full sussers. It swallows berms and poops them out in its wake with a rigid pop. It also fires out of lips like the best dirt jump bikes. This bike is a flat out singletrack screamer and when you’ve had your fun just sit back and cruise to the next bit. Or the beer garden.
So then, I have met my match. Sleek and elegant, strong and agile. A gentleman brawler who can eloquently discuss the finer points of neo-classical portraiture then burn your eyebrows off by lighting a fart. Perfectly capable of being a sensible and polite workhorse if it wasn’t out all night deflowering daughters. Where am I going with this? I think I was going to say that my bike is like a cross between Stephen Fry and Oliver Reed but that wouldn’t make any sense!
This year the variety of my riding expanded no end from the high speed manicured singletrack of Llandegla and Glentress to the rocky, greasy, rooty Innerleithen and my local Hamsterley via every 4X and BMX track I can get my hands on. I’ve done it all on one bike and two pairs of tyres. Is it muddy? Knobbly. Is it not? Slick. Simple as that. I also ride my bike now in a way that I haven’t enjoyed since before I found out that each discipline needed a specialist bike with a specialist price tag. I just leave the house and ride. I’ve found tracks, trails, jumps and drops in and around my home town that I never knew existed when I was driving to far flung downhill tracks to do five or six runs down a two minute hill.
This is not a bike review and it‘s certainly not militant hardtail propaganda. More a review of a year that was spent simplifying my riding in terms of equipment and expenses only to see it enriched in every other aspect. Finding a bike that is a pleasure to ride has made the difference between sitting in rush hour traffic listening to Chris Moyles’ dim and witless buffoonery and bombing to work via miles of empty cycle tracks.
The Blender doesn’t sit and wait for the next expensive trip to the DH track or the rare dry day at the skate park because every spare minute I grab it and take off into the network of trails so vast I have yet to find a boundary which start just down the street from my new flat. Which brings me to my next point; My girlfriend also loves my new bicycle monogamy because the other five bikes and boxes of parts can stay in my parent’s garage instead of our modestly sized spare room.
Got a good story about you and your bike? Send it to Billy.
tom harrison story about a charge blender hardtail mountain bike