Who do you blame?

I think a lot about riding and training. Not just on the trail stuff but the mindset of different riders and how that influences their view of mountain biking. I’ve realized that there are a couple of different mindsets that define different riders.

For example, whose fault is it when something is going wrong on the trail? If you can not clean a certain climb, keep up with certain riders or navigate a particular downhill section who do you blame – yourself or your bike?

In talking with some of my friends I’ve realized that a lot of riders tend to blame their bike. Their bike isn’t light enough, the suspension isn’t plush enough, their wheels have too much rotational weight and on and on it goes.

I have a couple of friends fall into this category. One of them rides what many would consider to be the ultimate trail bike – a Santa Cruz Nomad with a Fox 36 fork, DT Swiss 1750 wheels, Avid Code brakes and top or near the top of the line components. Yet every time he feels that he is being held back on the trail it seems to be the bike’s fault. He is now considering selling it so that he can try another bike because the VPP suspension seems to be the problem.

A couple of other friend have found their trail skills deteriorating and have been on a quest for the bike that will fix the problem. You know what else these guys have in common? None of them train.

The problem is that this is a fool’s quest. Your bike isn’t the problem, the rider piloting the bike is.

We tend to think that everyone views riding like we do so this was kind of a shock when I realized this. I look at what I am doing wrong or lacking and devise a plan to fix it. This strategy has taken a guy who was one of the last one’s up a climb and who wrecked jumping off a curb and taken him to the point that he can crush climbs and send 40 foot gaps.

I’m also doing it on a bike I bought in 2003. Yeah, I’ve bought some new stuff to hang on it over the years but I don’t obsess over every part on my bike and spend thousands of dollars to shed a few pounds.

The point is this – if you want to ride better stop blaming your equipment and start looking at the real reason you are not where you want to be as a rider. Stop making excuses about why you can not train and get you butt in the gym and start learning how to move better and get stronger.

You can have more fun on the trail but only if you stop falling for the marketing hype that tries to convince you that a 2 degree change in your head tube angle or a new shim stack in a fork is what separates you from your goals as a rider.

If you are one of the riders who recognize this then we owe it to the rest of the mountain bike community to help spread the word. We are the voice of the revolution and the message is simple – we control our destiny as riders, not what bike we can afford. 

Every day is a chance to do something that will make you a better rider…

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  1. Paul says:

    I just can’t tell you how much I agree with this!

    Obviously equipment play a role in performance but nowhere near as much as anyone trying to sell you a new bike/tyre/fork/shock/wheel/whatever makes out.

    Since starting a bit of proper organized strength training I can now ride twice as hard for twice as long and have four times the fun. Show me the bike part that can do that for me!

    Reply • July 6 at 8:08 pm
    • bikejames says:

      In business there is a saying – What’s the fastest way to the cash?

      In riding I have a saying – What’s the fastest way to more fun?

      Getting stronger, more mobile and fitter gets you there far faster than any bike part. The only thing is that you have to put in some work, which is what seperates us from most mountain bikers…

      Reply • July 7 at 7:13 am
  2. josh says:

    well said james! inthe words of lance armstorng…..it’s not the bike. i’m sure Trek doesn’t like him saying that but it’s the truth. training is the foundation you must build first, worry about a new bike later. give your buddy with the “problematic nomad” and give sam hill a hard tail xc bike, i bet they’ll be pretty damn close on the way down the hill.

    thanks for speaking the truth!

    happy trails

    Reply • July 7 at 5:24 pm
  3. Karmen says:


    Reply • July 7 at 7:09 pm
  4. Rob says:

    Great article James. There’s another often overlooked reason to stop blaming your equipment… people who are always mad at their bike (or their skills or fitness or whatever) are NOT fun to ride with. No one wants to hear what a terrible time you’re having… it’s a total downer. STFU.

    Reply • July 8 at 2:02 pm
  5. tommy norman says:

    it has to be the bikes fault i’m this out of shape. i’m sure if i had a nicer bike i wouldnt be 30lbs over weight or i’d have a higher avg speed or be able to ride longer…… i have friends with that mentality but i’m in this condition because I DONT TRAIN HARD ENOUGH or at all sometimes. I’m looking forward to ordering the 12 week strength program in a few weeks and becoming a better rider.

    Reply • July 8 at 6:29 pm
  6. Gord says:

    Coming from a golfing background, I know exactly how this mentality plays on people. Rather than getting a few lessons to fix their slice, they would rather spend 3x the amount of money and buy the newest driver on the market. Thankfully I haven’t ran into anyone like this since I have been mountain biking. I know lots who buy the latest hype, but none that blame their bikes for inabilities on the trail.

    This ‘blame the equipment’ thought is the mantra of the lazy man with more money than brains who thinks throwing money at problems makes them go away. After their purchase they are satisfied, but only for a few months. The same problem will reoccur and they will be the first people in line for next year’s new and improved product, which isn’t really all that different than the model they currently have.

    Reply • July 9 at 1:01 pm
  7. Hey James,

    So true, I see guys staring at their front wheels and not making climbs and then yelling “f*&^ing bike” (while on a $6,000 machine) when it wasn’t the bike, it was them. Kills me! What sport do your skills improve by doing the sport? I can’t think of one, in every sport I can think of the best have coaches and do drills.

    Keep up the good work,


    Reply • July 13 at 1:48 pm
    • bikejames says:

      Preach on, brother Gene!

      Reply • July 14 at 8:40 am

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