Look at this bike that is going to be old enough to vote this year:
It was amazing for its time. It had 33% as many ‘shocks’ as a Yeti SB bike does today. It had a carbon swingarm (and the top model had a carbon fork) where a bunch of bikes today are going with aluminum chainstays. It had like 80-100mm of travel or something crazy. It came with pedals that perform better than anything Crank Brothers has offered in the company’s history.
It weighed about 30 pounds. Your only options were rock hard compound tires that would pinch flat if you looked at them funny- probably because they were mounted on rims that were so skinny that Sally Struthers would have tried to feed them bags of UN grain. It had an interrupted seat tube that gave you roughly one inch of drop ability before chopping your shock in half. It had a fork that dove like it was working at Casa Bonita on a Friday night. It came with a stem that was too long and bars that were too narrow. It was something like $3000 at the time.
When you hold it up to the spotlight of today’s measures, this bike sucks shit.
It’s easy to complain about the sea of bottom bracket standards, hub standards, and headset standards, and whatever hilarious shit some butthole engineer overthought this week because it’s immediate. Lord, save us from 28.99mm spindle diameters! Buddha why hath you forsaken us to a life where Boost front hubs exist?! (Insert whatever religious icon, who cares), why do you continue to allow Knolly to exist and put DH hubs on trail bikes with inside out chainrings as if that’s something cool?
But you know what? That primordial goop of stupid evolutionary dead ends has crapped out some stuff that undeniably works. Ditching flippers for feet has made land-life less horrible in the long run. Pick literally ANY trail bike from (almost) ANY brand off the sales floor (or online direct-to-consumer webpage) and spend $4600, about the same amount after adjusting for inflation in 1997 bucks, and you’ll get a carbon framed trail bike with a dropper post that has possibly as much travel as that ProFlex did on both ends combined, wider tires that are made of sticky rubber, brakes that work, and suspension that won’t pitch you neck first into the dirt for no good reason. It will weigh about 30 pounds and will go faster in both directions on the hill than the old bike by a bonkers margin.
The old thing sucks now, but you didn’t know it sucked a couple decades ago because you didn’t know anything else. You rode what you had and you fixed it when it broke, and you had so much fun on the damn thing that you got hooked on riding bikes hard enough to still be doing it over 20 years later despite literally everything else in your stupid life being different. You still bitch about parts, and companies, and standards because something has to be the scapegoat for why you’re terrible at riding. The mountain bike industry sucks a lot of the time in the moment, but mountain biking will always be pretty god damn fun.
When it comes to bikes, the more things change, the more they stay the same.