Skill compensators and loss of the flow

Since the new Pegasus prototype arrived I have been riding it almost exclusively on all of my dirt jaunts. It’s fantastic, goes up fast, down fast, turns on a dime and feels lovely – ‘best mountain bike I’ve ever ridden’ I keep telling people – and it’s true. However it’s got 10 gears, a 120mm suspension fork with lockout and even a dropper post. In short, it’s a long way from the kind of thing people associate with me and the Singular brand – rigid steel singlespeeds, often with funky bars.

OK, so it doesn’t have gears in this iteration but it’s the best pic I could find.


So this morning pulled out my old favourite, the Gryphon. Now this ticks all of the niche boxes listed above, with added bonus of a ridiculously fat front tyre, the new 29×3.0″ Surly Knard.  I recently fitted a nice bulbous Racing Ralph 2.4 to the rear and installed a new suspension seatpost from the good folks at Ultimate Sports Engineering.  So this should make for one smooth and comfy ride.

After the best part of a month of warm weather and sunshine, the past few days have seen a bit of rain. This made for just about perfect trail conditions, nice firm and fast trails with just enough of a damping down to eliminate dust and provide just the right amount of tacky grab – ego dirt – just lean it over and rail.

However despite these perfect conditions, I had no flow. I was overcooking every corner, bouncing off every root and generally riding like an ataxic triathlete. What was going on? I was tearing down these trails just a few days ago on my Ti wonder-bike. It was early, I headed out the door at 6.30, maybe I was just getting warmed up. Indeed as I goot going, things smoothed out a bit, but I still wasn’t feeling that comfortable.

‘I know what’s going on here’ I thought to myself, ‘springs and things have robbed my flow’. The forums are full of chatter about ‘skill compensators’, big bouncy bikes which allow technically inept riders to barrel over anything in their path. But could this also happen in reverse? Could riding a forgiving and inspiring bike make you forget how to ride around stuff? How to smoothly float over the roots and rocks ? How to carry momentum around that corner and into the little sharp rise?  Yes, it seemed it could. A rigid singlespeed makes you do these things if you want to enjoy the ride, and it’s incredibly satisfying when you get it right. Yes, the Pegasus is faster – all else being equal. But over time it changes the way you ride – if you can always blast over stuff you may lose that ability to finesse it when you need it. If you can just click through the gears and spin up that nasty climb you may forget how to carry momentum through the sharp corner beforehand.

‘Modern’ bikes are great – suspension allows you to attack stuff with a vigour you’d struggle with on a rigid bike, gears allow you to get up stuff you simply can’t climb on a singlespeed. But they can also make you lazy and dull your skills, those hard earned subtle weight shifts, perfect applications of power, and smooth pedalling souplesse that make riding a rigid singlespeed such a joy – when you get it right!

This entry was posted on Thursday, August 1st, 2013 at 9:05 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

4 Responses to “Skill compensators and loss of the flow”

  1. Clink (@muddytrail) Says:

    August 1st, 2013 at 9:19 am

    I absolutely agree! Do you think the semi-fat front affected your riding if you weren’t used to it?

  2. Sam Says:

    August 1st, 2013 at 9:29 am

    It certainly handles quite differently from other bikes, but given the array of bikes I ride on a regular basis I don’t think that was really a factor. I think I’ve just been a bit stuck in the gears and squish groove, and the return to rigid SS was a bit of a shock to the system! Loving the Knard up front in general though.

  3. James gillies Says:

    August 1st, 2013 at 9:37 pm

    So the Knard fits the Gryphon fork. Now that’s good to know 🙂

  4. PeterMac Says:

    August 4th, 2013 at 8:33 am

    Firstly mate, lovely looking Pegasus. When do you anticipate them being available and ££’s..? Well done for bringing it back to the market.
    Fab comments on switching from full sus to SS. I have just rebuilt my TD-1 into a SS and it is amazing how you have clocked the variations in approach to riding fully rigid SS. It is very addictive.
    Not sure if I’m doing the whole SS thing justice though, as I do have to walk a few of the steep bits on the South Downs.
    Anyhow, good luck with everything.
    Best wishes
    ps. are you tempted by the FatBike or 29plus concept to perhaps build something that fits..??