WRITER RIDERS: A ZOMBIE APOCALPYSE
AND WHY IT'S THE BEST TEST
FOR THE BEST BIKE
Everyone's constantly banging on about "the best bike". I mean, that's the point of reviews, isn't it? Vital MTB's got their Test Sessions going on (Personally a fan of that series), and Pinkbike's got their occasional take on new bits of tech and gear that sprouts ever so often. Great stuff all. But let's be honest, reviews take us into the virtual seat of the tester in exploring new developments in the industry. From the comfort and longevity of kevlar-coated grips, to the reliability and plushness of stiff, long-travel forks, and even to the philosophical depths of using aftermarket titanium bolts over your off-the-shelf stock bolts. Now the question, is there truly a perfect build? One that you would run to if your life depends on it?
Techy bits, lined up the way you'd usually expect when it comes to a gear shoot-out
So good you could almost chow down on it. You should not though.
Bling blang bloong
THE QUEST FOR THE HOLY 2-WHEELED GRAIL
Now, while we may get science-y about this, run the numbers, figures and angles, bike tests (and generally tests for gear that's bike related) pretty much run in the same direction, literally. What's the most obvious way to test anything, at all? Simple. Use it the way it was meant to be used. Use it until it bleeds. Run everything deep into the ground, and crank it like a bat out of hell.
OR. Or. Or. We could take it to a whole new level.
The search for the "perfect" bike may not find result in your regular bike tests. A huge weakness in producing such reviews is that it's difficult to balance out industry expectations, technological development, conflicting flows and patterns of product development and specific aspects of consumer demand (vis a vis preferences for differing wheel sizes or travel categories).
So, I propose a simplistic solution. One that has the potential to trash out all problematic factors, whilst giving us a possibly viable answer to a serious hypothetical scenario concerning basic survival that is slowly, but steadily, building in the mind of the modern Man.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Zombie Apocaplypse. The Modern Man's Bike Test.
I'm dead serious (pun completely intended). Think about it.
The kind of setting one may expect a zombie apocalypse to be set in a tropical locale
The apex of testing and reviews would probably be gear oriented towards the stresses of racing, or epic freeriding. But no one has ever considered the hidden potential of seeking out the perfect bike in the throes of a bloody zombie invasion, a scenario that is less hypothetical in reality than the movies give it credit for. (Educate yourselves here http://www.bitrebels.com/geek/a-real-zombie-apocalypse-is-possible/)
Now, let's set the scenario. The world has gone to hell. Zombies have invaded and basically turned humans into the quintessential cattle-on-the-run. And I'm not talking about the trudging, moaning, sad excuses for zombies in "The Walking Dead" (apologies to the fans). I'm thinking the raging, pissed-at-the-world-and-you, cross country, sprinting and screaming freak zombies from "28 Days Later". You'd probably want to leave wherever the hell it is you're stuck in to seek out some distant human fortress of hope (seeing as how there are zombies here making day-to-day living a damn near impossibility), and in order to do so, you're gonna need a trusty steed to get you the heck out of dodge.
With a winning smile like that, Bikezilla's own Melvin's definitely got his thumb on any fool zombie who crosses his path. But what bike would Mel need to survive a zombie apocalypse?
Before I get into it for real, this is by no means a review. Instead, this should be the spirit in which all reviews should be conducted from now on. At least, from this humble writer's point of view.
CROSS COUNTRY BIKES – OUTRUN THE WALKING DEAD!
A classic example of an XC/Trail rig
Cross Country Bikes, or XC bikes, might very well be what we're looking for in the race against zombies (It's not really a race. Really. We're just calling it a race to keep things light and your minds off your impending doom with the rage zombies roaming).
XC bikes are generally stiff, with your options of either carbon for the ultimate serving of stiffness, or even aluminium. That makes it a pretty decent option if you're travelling light. You've got a nice mix up of speed and a huge weight reduction when faced up against the other two-wheeled options. What this translates to is you're probably going to outrun most run-of-the-mill zombies without much energy loss.
Now, where an XC bike would probably disappoint (truly. "disappoint" is a VERY gentle use of words. "Oh, I'm sorry to disappoint you. I had one job. [chuckle] oh look, you've gone and got your legs chewed off. Now why'd you do that? Oh it's because I've let you down? Don't be a prick. How is the disappointment you feel- wait. Why's there a middle aged gentleman trying to rip off your ears? Why's he drooling? Gawd, he looks pissed…") is probably in the region of DURABILITY. The rule of thumb is usually, the lighter something is, the less likely it's going to be able to stand up to abuse.
I suppose, assuming if one doesn't get involved in a brawl, an XC bike would probably go the distance with you and for you, especially if you shave off a bit on your weight expectations with some burlier bits that can take some long distance abuse and would be satisfied with rider-maintenance. But, with that said, it's zombie apocalypse. Brawls are like, staple. With that in mind, and the fact that you're probably going to get jumped by a flippin' GANG of zombies at any point in time, an XC bike might not be your best pick.
DOWNHILL BIKES – OUTHUCK THOSE ZOMBIES!
Looking majestic as heck. But might meet it's limitations when chased UPHILL by your enraged cousins.
Where XC bikes may crumble in the face of a blood thirsty horde of demonic demi-humans, a Downhill (DH) bike might just be able to shine. In recent times, even DH bikes have not been immune to the carbon movement. And it's not just limited to front triangles either. Specialized, Giant, Trek, have all come onboard the carbon train. DH bikes have gotten lighter and definently all-around stiffer as against rider-input forces and lateral forces. With all that said and done, DH bikes have become much faster than the DH bikes of yesteryear.
Now, while most DH rigs can carry Gee Atherton or Sam Blenkinsop to a Word Cup Victory, can it carry these lads to survival in the face of a zombie uprising? (With that said and done, has anyone considered what Tippie would look like as a zombie? Anyone? Pretty rad zombie I'd think. He'd take a chunk out of your ass and laugh it off, and you'd probably laugh it off too. For a while, yeah.)
That is durability defined.
A DH bike's are heavy, and that means huge energy consumption while sprinting away from zombies (think alpine loads. Weapons. Food. The works)
Apart from what that, a bike's got to have the geometry for the job. If a race against zombies (there's that word again. "Race") was comepletely downhill, we'd have a winner. No doubts there. Thing is, you can't always expect to be speeding in a downhill, speed induced rage as against other rage'd individuals of a completely questionable nature as to their motivations (your spleen). Chances are, you're probably gonna need to chug it up some gnarly uphills, and tight corners. The race standard 800mm-ish handlebars are not going to be welcome here.
Therefore, with all that in mind, and the fact that not all of us are great shakes at extended climbs, geometry or not, a DH bike is a definite "NO".
TRAIL BIKES – OUTLAST THE DEAD MEAT
Or Enduro. Whatever makes your day, and boils your oats. The satanic lovechild between DH bikes and XC bikes. The seeming and consistent search for the "perfect bike" is centred around this permutation of our 2-wheeled friend. But is it enough to get us through the lonely nights? (Lonely is a perception. Think necrophilia.).
The possible zombie dodging factors can find home in a few house names. The Santa Cruz Bronson. The Giant Reign. Pretty much anything out of Pivot, i think. That, and different technological advancements in the form of 27.5" wheels, plusher and more dependable suspension, Enduro standard bearings, and the like, have definitely driven these bikes out to become something more than they seem, and way past what they may or may not have been designed for.
The potential meeting point of all the relevant zombie dodging factors.
All in, I honestly can't think of a reason to bang this class of bikes down apart from one thing. You're successful avoidance of any and all zombies would probably be dependant on a little soft factor. PREFERENCE. Love it or hate it, need it or not, you're gonna need to WANT your bike to make it work. And I think the element of preference really makes a difference here when it comes to trail bikes or enduro formatted rigs. When everything almost seems perfect, preference makes a difference. Some may prefer a little more on the leverage ratio, others may be a little more geometry oriented. Everyone else may just be concerned about the color. (Go stealth. For obvious non-attention-seeking reasons)
Zombie-dodging elite. Stealth mode.
Either way, when it comes to Trail bikes, choose well or.. well. Zombies.
THE BOILING POINT
So what does it come down to in the end? Fear. Beer. And probably calves of adamantium.
We could all take a back seat on this (preferably not. Zombies. Zombies don't sit. So you shouldn't), this humble writer takes the view that where bike selection is the issue, whether it's for zombie dodging, zombie slaying (Think fat bikes. With spikes.) or any other non-zombie related purpose, get creative. Don't allow the mountains of reviews and opinions to dull your synapses from firing away into the "PREFERENCE" sector of your mind.
Preference, whether logical or otherwise, whether carbon-oriented or not, is key in bike selection. You could probably be in love with the burliest DH rig when you live in a region with a fair amount of climbs, but that shouldn't stop you from taking that rig out and trying to have some fun with it. Riding bikes is supposed to be fun, and it gets better when it's out on the trail. So pick something you want, not something someone or something's telling you what to want.
Unless.. Survival is totally an issue, and zombies are involved. Then yeah. Pick wisely. Rage zombies can tell you what you should want. Only rage zombies.
Jerome Tan is part of the Bikezilla Editorial Team. He's back on his Blackmarket Roam after a broken wrist a while back. When he is not writing about his passion, he is living up some shortlived freedom in the trails. He enjoys spending time in the green rather than in urban jungles. Some may mistake him for a random homeless person living off the land in the depths of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. With all that said and done, Jerome enjoys wanton mee, and excessive amounts of laksa with equally excessive amounts of chilli just before a day out riding. You know, just to make things interesting.