Riding full suspension is fun in the kind of way where you are faster than ever before, can gently squish off of a drop with glee, and enter a curve feeling secure, especially when on 29-inch wheels, but isn’t there something just pure and beautiful about the line you take on a rigid bike?
I’m not exactly sure, because it’s been so long since I’ve done it. I’ve been spoiled by the plushness of suspension on a fairly light frame. The combination of light and squishy, with an option for locking it into somewhat stiff for climbing, really is a difficult thing to turn down. A descent that allows for graceful rock-hopping, swishy high berms and floating through long rock gardens is enough to make a girl blush.
But I really like the option of having to work hard for the grace. It’s good to occasionally return to the roots of biking for a refresher course in the basics. It’s important to retrain muscles that once back on the full-suspension bike can only make one faster, cleaner and smoother.
At first the rigid bike offers the difference between floating through a rock garden and giving oneself whiplash and chipped teeth when rattling through a rock garden. A crucial part of mountain biking is learning how to see the line. I am reminded of that every time I’m in a boat and trying to read the river for the best line. For me, on the river, I’m looking for the easiest line, but on the mountain bike, I like looking for the most fun line still well within limits of the death ratio. Then again, if I were any good, I could make a rigid bike float too…
Learning how to land a rigid bike after jumping a small log can determine whether you get the wind knocked out of you. It will teach you how to plan ahead for jumps and use core muscles as suspension. Then there are the ways rigid is easier – like when you’re yanking the front wheel up over a water bar and the back wheel just grabs the dirt and propels the bike forward as soon as you sit back down on the seat. There’s no extra pedal stroke to make up for the extra bounce on the rear end, which can get sloppy.
The rigid line tends to need a little more speed in lift-off when approaching obstacles, but it’s almost too easy to lift the front end when doing a manual through a mud puddle.