Really?! Hardtails, high saddles, skinny bars, semi-slicks tyres and in the worst case scenario even bar ends – that can’t be fun for anyone. And even worse the tight fitting sausage-skin lycra-outfits, which – please excuse us – just look awful.
But the good news is: the times have changed! A new generation of bikes, riders and styles will fundamentally change the XC sector. XC-World-Cup racers like Manuel Fumic are the pioneers of this movement and prove that you can be fast without wearing lycra.
These changes rest on three pillars: technical progress, racing and hindsight.
Technological developments over the last years have made bikes lighter, more efficient and more versatile than ever before. As a result the parameters and opportunities have drastically changed. A modern enduro bike climbs better than an XC bike from the turn of the century and can be piloted downhill with more confidence than a downhiller of the same era.
The formats of competitions are also drastically changing because the strictly enforced borders between the individual disciplines are become ever more blurred thanks to technical innovation. If you look at the difficulty of an Enduro World Series stage the difference to an average downhill track is only marginal. The same is the case for the descents of XC World Cup races which are similar to the stages of many amateur enduro events.
And that brings us to hindsight: the measuring sticks have drastically changed too. For racing at the top level you need special bikes, equipment and training and that’s a good thing. The fact is however that only a tiny proportion of all XC bike owners really ride at that level. Most cross country riders might just occasionally compete in a marathon or XC race. The rest of the time they just use their bikes for exploring new terrain, trails and their own physical limits. XC riders just want to blast up and down fire roads? Nonsense!
This is why most traditional XC-bikes are completely falsely conceived for many consumers, because the development was fixated on the demands of XC world cups. This neglects what the majority of the customers actually want: speed, fun and comfort. An XC bike needs to give the rider reliable all-round performance on climbs and descents and thus the freedom to quickly and light footedly explore new terrain.
That means: if you’re not an ambitious XC racer you’re better off and safer with a slightly more potent bike.
And thankfully many manufacturers have already realised that. Bikes like the Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt BC Edition, the Giant Anthem SX, the Pivot Mach4c or the Specialized Camber (Evo) show that the new generation of XC-bikes with their well-conceived geometry and spec are the best choice of many mountain bikers riding in moderate terrain. They come as standard with dropper posts, high volume tyres and solid parts which all create first class performance, confident handling and a lot of fun. And most of all these bikes are still damn fast!
These bikes, partly completely new designs and party reconfigured models prove that the borders between XC and trail bikes and vanishing faster than ever.
Along with these new-school-XC-bikes an enduro inspired clothing style is also growing in popularity. After all you’ll feel a lot more relaxed during an after ride drink in the beer garden wearing light “Slim-Fit“ baggy-shorts than looking like a lycra-clad mamil (middle aged man in lycra) not to mention the fact that you’ll be protecting the view for normal citizens (in our Breakout Session “Bike Fashion and its potential“ we give the topic of biking style and fashion a closer look)
On that note: dress relaxed, be relaxed and ride relaxed – as long as you’re not a pro racer. Well, actually even if you are…
Words: Robin Schmitt Photos: Christoph Bayer
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