Yesterday was my birthday. It wasn’t a significant one. I didn’t change age category on the app. Strava, that’ll be next time. We’re doing a massive garden project at the moment so I didn’t have the time for a long and indulgent ride, which is what I really need. My last ride was a short but fast one to secure a Strava King of the Mountains accolade on a local circuit so something longer for stamina training would have been appropriate. With little time available I decided to do a short trail ride to Healey Nab where I’d do a couple of laps of the purpose built trails. After 10 days without rain the ground is quite dry so as a birthday treat I elected to ride one of my precious classic mountain bikes, the Whyte PRST4. I noticed something as soon as I got onboard. My hands almost missed the narrow 620 mm handlebars. I’ve got so used to modern bars 2 to 3 inches wider at each side.
The PRST4 was built in 2004 to be a fast cross country trail bike at a time when 100 mm of suspension travel at each end was normal. How things have changed. 150 mm would be normal now but the older bike does retain some advantages. I noticed when lifting the bike over the first stile just how light it is at around 12 kg. Many bikes now are as heavy as 15 kg which may allow longer travel suspension and 29” wheels but it still seems like a retrograde step when you have to propel all that extra weight up hill. I reached the steep, rocky climbs at the Nab and found that the front wheel goes very light over the bumps under power. This is not a problem because it helps the wheel to skip over obstacles. I felt like I was riding on one wheel in places. I ventured to a secret spot because it offers an entertaining downhill on the way back. I took some photos to illustrate the unique linkage suspension.
So why don’t they still make such a fabulous bike? I think the radical looks counted against it even if another rider did ask me for a photo at the trail head a little later. The 26” wheels were jarring over rocks compared to modern, larger wheels which was compounded by the shorter suspension travel. After a nice downhill section I rode the short distance to the trail head. The next downhill felt really fast. It was only later when I looked at Strava that I found that my downhill times were only average on my 2 laps. It feels so quick on the PRST4 but the app. reveals the truth. A full lap, meanwhile, is probably quicker on this lightweight bike but mountain biking increasingly focuses on the downhill sections. Fewer riders are interested in the speed on the climbs.
I had a good ride and love the older bikes, they are thrilling to ride and don’t sanitise the trails like contemporary bikes. I just hope the dry weather continues so I can get out on the older bike again.