I really had a tough time writing the title for this article. I wanted to quote the lyrics of a certain rap song, “You can call it what you want, but it’s all the same…” as title, but it would be too vague. So I settled to name the article the off-road capable RACER bike… meaning, this is an article about OFF ROAD CAPABLE RACER BIKES.
Last millennium, when bikes were simply called bicycles, people used them anywhere. If there were no paved roads, they still pedaled their machine there. Over rocks, on back roads, on highways, wherever they want to go, they just point their handle bar there, and they would be on their way.
I even came upon an article written by cycling advocate, Howie Severino that Jose Rizal wanted a bicycle while he was in Dapitan. According to the article, Rizal wrote to his family asking to buy him a bicycle which he can use in the back roads of Dapitan. Since there were no paved roads in Dapitan, we could imagine Rizal going off-road, braving the mud and the rocks on the path! But for whatever that was worth, we couldn’t categorize his bike as a cross country mountain bike or gravel bike, for him, it was simply a machine to bring him from place to place much faster; a BICYCLE!
The emergence of different subcultures around our beloved bicycle machine started when manufacturers started creating different types of bikes for different purposes. When bike makers started marketing new models for off road cycling. Tires got thicker, handle bars took on different shapes and forms, then the mutation of our simple transportation machine flourished.
Klunker / Off Road
To withstand the rocks, dirt and mud of the great outdoors with no paved roads, bicycles took on “balloon” tires so that the rider can handle all the vibration from the ride. Historians say that these bikes were the predecessors of the modern mountain bike as we know it for they were used to handle the trails and dare devil riders rocked them to go downhill really fast. From these klunkers, a culture emerged and thus the transformation of the bicycle started.
For me, a racer is a bike with drop bars. Period. Growing up, cycling was kinda big in the Philippines because we had the Tour of Luzon bicycle race, which was later popularized (and sponsored) as the Marlboro Tour. It had different stages and the most hyped stage (I guess) is the Kennon Road stage climb to Baguio. My uncle had a racer bike when I was young, but I couldn’t borrow it or ride it for the seat tube was way too long for my then short legs. The so called racers eventually evolved and got high tech and was later called “road bikes” (much like jogging was called running). Components got lighter, geometry was adjusted yet if you look at the bikes from 30-40 years ago, they are still usable and very much dependable up to now.
So what happened?
Bicycle Company Marketing strategy happened.
In order to keep the bike fans to continue buying bicycle stuff, the owners of the cycling companies strategized and ordered the Research n Development department to come up with new ideas to launch something new every year. “Make it lighter.” “Change the pulley to have ceramics.” “Make the swing arm carbon fiber.” “Make the tires thicker!” “Let’s put drop bars!”
Every time the creative bike RnD department pulls a rabbit from their sleeve, the market follows. “Add some flare into the drop bars!” “Let’s put a clutch on the rear derailleur!” “Let’s make it wireless!”
Let’s admit it, we love cycling so much, that when the big bike companies release something new using a cool video to launch it, we instantly want it in our garage. It is sooo pretty. The true enthusiast would want to be ahead of everyone, and want the latest bike tech. Four piston brakes?! Do we really need that much stopping power? Are we bombing those downhills at 130 km/h to really need that much stopping power? C’mon. If you were, congrats to you.
Whatever you name your bike, “Bob”, “Harry”, “Scotty” or whatever you call it, IS UP TO YOU. Do not let others dictate what it should be or not. IF you want a double crown downhill fork on your carbon hardtail frame and name it “Bitchik” (the beach cuiser)…BY ALL MEANS…
It is your bicycle, your toy. You built it, you ride it. It gives you pleasure, making you smile, thus HAPPINESS. Don’t let others tell you otherwise. There are experts for certain standards (or norms), they can talk and give comments on your bike, maybe giving sound advice on what they think is on the surface of normal. Listen to those words of wisdom, years of experience would be shared on to you… but when it comes to telling you on what’s beautiful or not, I believe that a bike’s beauty is in the eye of the owner.
Call it what you want, gravel, cross country, touring, cyclo cross, road, racer, hybid, mountain, hardtail, 29er, 26er, steel, Ti, carbon, or whatever… the important thing is that you ride it and have FUN. Enjoy your toy.
We have been customizing toys since 2006. Valleybikes is NO expert on a certain bike discipline, but we certainly enjoy building and riding bikes. Each bike is different from one another, much like each person is with the next dude. There may be qualities that seem the same, pretty much because of similarities of use and influence… but each bike is different.
There is an emerging category in the cycling world they call “Gravel”. Honestly, for us, it is simply a genetic mutation of the old school cross country mountain bike. I saw a video talking about Cyclo/gravel bikes and how it emerged and the bike industry simply rode the wave.
It made sense, if the demand wants something like it, then the market gives it. Shimano produced a line of drivetrains just for it. STI levers which shift mountain bike components. Brilliant!!! Let’s cash on it!
Ponder on where and how will you use your bike… then decide on what tires would be best for that terrain. Think about what handle bar can give you the most comfortable ride for that… then build your bike and name it whatever you want to call it.