The Elusive 26 Inch Hardtail

I came across a magazine article online a couple of weeks ago that had a 2018 review of the latest and greatest mountain bikes for the upcoming year. Surprisingly the piece came with a disclaimer: our new bike reviews do not include hardtails of any kind because they are simple machines, do not vary much from model to model, so it was unnecessary to cover them. As I read this my face began to turn red and beads of sweat began to drip down my neck. I thrust my hands toward the sky and shouted “NO” they can’t do this to us. As a loyal hardtail rider, I was offended by this blatant exclusion. How could they cast aside hardtails like a cheap polyester suit? I felt as if I had but punched in the gut, well not really, but this exclusion certainly got my panties in a bunch.

A couple of years ago I acquired a 26-inch full suspension mountain bike with all the bells and whistles: carbon frame, 120 mm fork in the front and 4 inches of travel in the rear. The weight was acceptable at 27 pounds for a xc/all mountain bike. Previous to this I had been riding a 26-inch carbon hardtail. So it was an immense change for me switching to a full suspension bike. It necessitated a few of rides to adjust to my new steed, but I indeed discover that my downhill skills began to accelerate. I could fly down fireroads with ease and attack rocky terrain more surefooted. The bike felt stable on the downhills due to the relaxed geometry yet with outstanding downhill handling came the realization that this bike was not nimble uphill, especially crucial in an area with immense amounts of climbing. It was difficult to shift to the front of the saddle when climbing steep hills, causing me to struggle to keep a proper climbing position. My uphill times went down and furthermore on flat terrain; the bike felt sluggish and plodding, not light and frisky. I was naturally disappointed because I was hoping the bike would deliver the goods, but it did not. In my quest for the ultimate machine, I tested 29er hardtails, 27.5 hardtails, and umpteen other full suspension bikes but ultimately returning to 26-inch hardtail was to be my path but finding one was a whole another story!

I set out on a quest to find a new 26-inch ht, but this was not an easy task. Perusing through local bike shops, I could not locate a single 26-inch ht anywhere in the store until I noticed one towards the rear of the store tucked behind the mechanics counter, a very swoon-worthy bike hanging from a bike stand. I remarked that it was a sweet bike and the mechanic stated that a customer had dropped it off for a tuneup. Well, what do you know, another 26-inch ht rider within the vicinity of my local trails? Maybe we would run into each on the trail at some point, eyeball each others bike and realize that we are a part of a small but hardcore group of crazy 26-inch hardtail riders. During my local bike shop search, I discovered one 26 inch hardtail, but it was already owned by another rider. So I continued my hunt, scouring online bike shops with no luck. If there was a 26-inch hardtail frame listed, it was some rejected size that no one wanted at a heavily discounted price. It would a be a screaming deal if I were 7 feet tall!

My search for the ever scarce 26-inch ht was becoming a frustrating experience. Did the fabled 26-inch ht still exist or had it indeed become extinct. I felt like I was on the lookout for the elusive Bigfoot, you know it exists, but you just can’t prove it. To say that I was having no luck in securing a bike was an understatement. That is until I was told by a friend that she knew of a small US bike builder that still produced 26-inch hardtail frames by special order. Finally a promising lead and with a few emails back and forth, I was able to secure a 26-inch hardtail built to my specifications. Wow, they do exist if you know how to look for them. For a while there I was expecting to see Bigfoot come riding out of the forest on a 26-inch ht. Now that would be awesome!


A 26-inch ht rider like myself could be regarded as a misfit in the world of mountain biking and be labeled a cyclist that refuses to keep up the with the technological advances of current mountain bikes, but these are not proper descriptions. A 26-inch ht rider is a big proponent of avoiding unnecessary trendy gadgets or gizmo’s that are very expensive, add unnecessary weight and become outdated after one season and therefore must be replaced the following year to keep up the ever-changing bike world. We adorn our hardtails with all of the necessary up-to-date mountain bike components: long travel forks 120mm or longer, disk brakes, the newest in tire technology, carbon handlebars, stems and dropper seatposts. All essential equipment to keep up with today’s discriminating mountain biker.



Definitely Not On Cody’s Fun List

Much to the disappointment of my loyal trusty dog, Cody, I have an irksome addictive habit that takes time away from the day of fun he has planned for everyone. That addictive habit is cycling. Much to Cody’s annoyance, cycling is a time consuming selfish way for me to spend the morning. Why would anyone want to get on this weird contraption? Sure it has wheels like a car ( Cody loves going on car rides), but there is no back seat, it doesn’t go very fast or make loud accelerating engine noises and you certainly can’t stick your head out the window-there is no window! Maybe if he were a small dog, we could use my bike to go to the dog park, but since Cody weighs 65 pounds, this is out of the question. So from his point of view, a bicycle is a useless object, it has no purpose other than being a fast moving object that he must chase, ridden by some poor bike riding victim who happens to cruise by the wrong part of the neighborhood-past Cody’s house. How dare they? This is my property I must effectively deal with the cyclist, chase the hell out of them all the while snarling, foaming and showing off glistening white teeth. I guarantee you that cyclist won’t be back anytime soon. Of course, this is only a fantasy in my dog’s mind because I would never allow my border collie car chasing pooch to roam the neighborhood on his own. That would be trouble.

Being a border collie, Cody has an extensive vocabulary library and is very attuned to any words that may reference cycling or any future riding that may occur. He is the first dog I have ever owned where I have to actually spell out certain words such as ride, riding or bikes. Sentences such as where should we go riding, when do you want to go riding or are the bikes ready for tomorrow immediately trigger his warning signal to go off as if a Tsunami warning siren has just been initiated and you only have 20 minutes before death and destruction will occur. Cody has us trained so well that we will change the word go into embarking, depart or any other variant on the word go just avoid letting the poor little guy down.

Of course, as soon as any bike is spotted being carried from the garage to the backyard for a pre-ride tune-up, Cody is quick to catch on and let us know that going riding is not listed on Cody’s schedule of fun. This is when the puppy mind games and tactics begin. First panic sets in realizing that he may be soon left home while the humans are out playing, possibly with another dog. Traders! So he lays down on the floor with his paws under his chin staring at Rick in the backyard oiling the chains. Rick soon enters the house again, and then the, please don’t go tactics begin. Wow, he really wants a bone right now, so we open up his bone box, and he selects a bone and starts throwing it up in the air, prancing around.  Cody uses his persuasive puppiness to try and convince us that he is much more fun than a ride and how could we possibly give up the chance to play bone just to go riding. This is true, Cody is a lot of fun, but we humans also want to go play on our bikes so while bone play is excellent fun, unfortunately, little buddy it will have to wait til after mountain biking. Begging for a piece of cheese is another Cody tactic. Eating a snack might possibly slow the humans down. Oh wait, I know I will ask to go pee, that should stall them for a while. Once I am out there I won’t actually go pee, I will just strut around the backyard searching for squirrels and lizards. My owners know they can’t leave unless I have gone potty and if I don’t go potty they will be afraid I may not be able to hold it for very long so they will have to cut their ride short.


When various playful moves can’t dissuade us from leaving, he resigns himself to the fact that he is going to spend a dreary morning all alone. He hangs his head down, lowers his ears and sulks off to the living room to watch us depart. So with our bike kits on, tires pumped, chains oiled we head out the door praising our little pooch telling him what a good boy he is, guard the house against bad guys and we will be back soon.

Arriving home begins a celebration like no other. We can hear him barking already as we roll up to the house. We open the door and unleash a monster of uncontrollable excitement. Leaping to and fro, whining and slobbering all over my bike kit I am greeted with an abundance of unabashed love. The humans have returned, the humans have returned now the real fun begins!


Sometimes It’s All About Satisfaction

So let’s talk food.  I’m not going to write about what you should be eating or what you shouldn’t be eating.   I am merely here to discuss something all mountain bikers crave from time to time, rad meals that satisfy our stomachs and damn it, taste good!  Oh no, this food does not qualify as healthy and is certainly not the kind of food that a lab rat athlete consumes to be as light as possible. I’m talking about food that would never be considered to be part of a regimented training plan.  Many of us are not afraid to indulge when needed to satisfy a nagging craving in a rebellious way, such as scarfing down a couple of corn dogs as a reward for that gnarly singletrack we have mastered.  Mountain bikers and cyclists, in general, tend to have ravenous appetites and have been known to indulge in copious amounts of food and drink after a long ride. We all have our favorites, and you know what makes your mouth water.

As cyclists, many of us do attempt to make a concerted effort to choose a diet that is well balanced and packed with nutrition.  It is a well-known fact that to become quicker on your bike you need to eat with your health in mind. Otherwise, you can become sluggish and have no energy reserves left for your next adventure, but sometimes we do need to cut loose, stop listening to our practical side and let our growling stomachs take over our brains. 

Ever since I have been a mountain biker, I have had my list of preferred favorites I like to wolf down after a monster ride or race. Furthermore, as you know, the feeling of hunger is never more potent than that of an overworked, beat up dirt junkie at the end of an epic ride.  Bonking is undoubtedly eminent if we do not seek out the nearest food source and short of eating roadkill or scouring the trails for edible vegetation, the closest suitable kitchen, restaurant or delivery guy is the swiftest way to satisfy our insatiable post ride appetite.

I asked a few of my mountain biker friends what they generally craved after a monster ride, and these are some of the foods they love to scarf down.



  Meaty, juicy, tasty, the post-ride burger always seems to put your taste buds into overdrive. Stuffed between two fluffy buns, burgers pack a protein punch for post ride recovery. Of course, a grilled burger is the smarter choice for fat content, but the point of the article is to highlight the fun side of a post-ride meal so fried or grilled. Any way you like it, just enjoy it!  Bacon cheeseburger, guacamole burger, BBQ burger, buffalo burger… the list goes on and on.  Nothing says post-ride deliciousness than a mouthwatering juicy, thick burger.  Add a side of crispy fries and a cold microbrew, and you have a significant scarfing session.


Mexican food goes together with mountain biking like bread goes with butter. You can’t have one without the other.  The link to Mexican food and mountain biking seems to go way back to the early 90’s when riders and racers could be spotted at the local taco stands and restaurants. Go to any NORBA national race in the 90’s, and you would run into the who’s who of mountain bikers.   Chicken tacos seem to be the favorite among mountain bikers,  Spicy chicken tacos piled high with shredded cheese, guacamole, salsa, and lettuce.  We all agreed that spicy food after a monster ride really hit the spot!  Any kind of taco: beef, fish, chicken, etc.. a basket of crunchy chips, zesty salsa and cold beer for a most excellent post ride feast!



A two-handed half-pound monster! Stop off at your desired taco stand on the way home and indulge yourself in a cornucopia of flavor.  The super burrito can cure even the most ferocious post ride craving.  A tortilla packed full of the meat of your choice, cheese, refried beans and hot sauce.  Awesome stuff!  This ingenious invention is super convenient for mountain bikers that don’t have time for a sit-down meal.  This ready to go meal can be eaten practically anywhere, even on the trail.

Spaghetti and More Spaghetti

Pasta is a staple in the world of cycling.  Nothing tastes better to a cyclist than a delicious plate of pasta. Spaghetti with marinara sauce, creamy Alfredo or pasta with succulent shrimp and Parmesan is a killer post-ride meal. How about a heaping pile of noodles drenched in marinara sauce and topped off with spicy meatballs?  Very tasty after a ride plus you’ll be carbo-loading for your next mountain bike adventure.

Chili dogs

A barbecue with friends after a great ride is always a gratifying choice.  Why not indulge in a messy, spicy chili dog?  Grilled hot dogs smothered with chili, jalapeno peppers, cheese, onions and a big basket of french fries often satisfy many mountain bikers fresh off the rigors of the trail.  Top notch chili dogs require a cold refreshing beverage, and of course, a light sparkly ale is the perfect pairing with a spicy dog!

Pizza and suds

Who doesn’t love pizza and beer? After an epic ride you really can’t go wrong with pizza and beer.  A zillion toppings to choose from and after a really tough day in the saddle, pizza goes down real easy with a cold brew or an icy cola.  I think most mountain bikers have scarfed down a pizza at some point after on the trails.


Micro Brews

Beer, what else can I say!  Pure liquid gold.  Mountain biking and beer, perfection at it’s best.  Beer earns it’s own post ride section.   After all, beer is liquid bread, therefore when it comes to replenishing your post-ride nutrients, beer is always a pleasant way to indulge.  With so many microbreweries out there, any rider should be able to quench their post-ride thirst.  Whether you dig IPAs, Pale Ales, Porters or Stouts, kicking back with close friends and your preferred brew after a  monumental day on the trails is pretty much the most refreshing way to spend a post-ride evening.

This is a small list of some of the delicious possibilities available for post-ride consumption.  Mountain biking and killer food make for a formidable pairing, and every rider has their favorite. What is yours?

A Rider Is Born

Flashback I’m 8 years old in Southeast PA, and I’m sitting at the kitchen table eating a big bowl of Frosted Flakes before school when my Mom asks me the question I had been longing to hear all week “what do you want for your birthday?” The was only one thing I wanted, a bicycle.  The following weekend a shiny blue 5-speed bicycle shows up at my house, and I was so enamored by this gleaming new bike that I could hardly speak for several minutes before I hopped on my cool new two-wheeled machine and bravely rode off down the street in search of new adventures.  Never had I known freedom like this before.  I could go further than I had ever been and it was so exhilarating to zip through the neighborhood at a high rate of speed and feel the wind whipping through my hair and across my face.   I rode that bike everywhere, and because of that bicycle a new world opened up to me, and I felt far more independent and grownup because of the new found freedom that bicycle afforded me.

We lived in a rural area of Pennsylvania, with miles of vast open rolling hills and farms everywhere, so there was ample opportunity to explore by bicycle.  My first attempt at mountain biking was taking that little 5 speed to a cornfield across the street from my house, and navigating my bike up and down the field and then plowing down a little technical trail at the end of the rows of corn that dumped you into the road.  The child in me did not know that in my adult life I would become all consumed with cycling and develop an addiction to this incredibly healthy and outrageously fantastic sport.  I knew back then that I was in love with riding bicycles, but it was not a full-blown addiction until I heard the two words that would change my life: mountain biking.

Fast forward four years later to California, the land of warmth and sunshine and what’s a better way to enjoy the California sun than on a rad new bike.  My parents bought me a new silver Schwinn road bike and better yet, this one was a 10 speed!  I hopped on my new bike, and again the feeling of being fast and stealth took over me as I glided effortlessly down the neighborhood street on a  splendid summer afternoon.  I found that when I shifted into a harder gear, I could accelerate quickly and deftly navigate my 10 speed down the road, between cars parked on the curbside and this is when I first learned how to hop curbs.  In my mind, this ten speed was a real bike, a grownups bike- the kind of a bike a real rider rode.  Although I loved my reliable little blue five-speed with all my heart, it was always a little bit short of being a full blown race machine, and to me, this new steel beauty was the real McCoy!   I remember the day my Dad took me down to the local bike shop to buy new handlebar tape, black- to replace the junky tape that came on the bike.  I  proceeded to ride this bike everywhere, up and down the streets of my neighborhood, to friends houses, down to the ice cream store and to school and back.  This lasted until I was about 15 when I decided that driving was cooler than riding a bicycle.  Sadly my flying silver race machine was left to the cobwebs in the dark corner of the garage in favor of my new Honda Civic.  This was to be my favorite mode of transport for the next few years. Until……

My obsession with mountain biking started when I was going to college.  I remember the exact moment-  I was lying around a pool on a blazing hot summer afternoon blasting music when I heard a radio commercial for a local bike shop that was having a sale on mountain bikes.  The idea of mountain biking had not occurred to me until that afternoon in my backyard, but for some reason, I really wanted to go down and buy one.  A Specialized Rock Hopper was my weapon of choice!  My very first ride on this bike was just down the local paved bike path in my neighborhood, but that trip exhausted me, and I remember getting home and just lying on my bed for hours because I was so beat but at the same time I exceedingly thrilled to be on a bike again. I hadn’t ridden since I retired my silver road bike in favor of my teenage desire to bomb around in a kick-ass car so you could say I was a little out of shape but the lack of stamina or fitness didn’t dissuade me from wanting to ride more.  The next ride I attempted was on a trail above my house on some guys farm where he allowed people to use the trails at their own risk.  I rode about an hour, and  I was exhausted but so happy and so in love with this sport called mountain biking.

Each time I rode I got quicker and quicker until I realized that I wanted a higher end bike with more top-level components and I was beginning to feel like this was a sport I could get serious about.  After riding and honing my skills for about a year I decided to venture into racing, so I entered my first local race, did reasonably well and had a blast!   The rest of that year I entered several more races and just pretty much rode as much as possible, but I had no idea about proper training methods for racing or even gave a second thought to what I was eating.  I remember this one particular time I went riding after a night of partying and pounding down drinks until 2am, I awoke that morning feeling pretty crappy but nonetheless I still wanted to venture out on my bike and do some climbing.  I arrived at the trailhead haggard and nauseous from my night of indulgence but proceeded up the trail anyways.  I got about two-thirds of the way up the climb before I got an overwhelming feeling like I was going to spew my breakfast right there on the trail.  Unfortunately, I had to turn around and call it a day, now realizing that if I was to get serious about my riding, I was going to have become more aware of what I was eating and drinking. That’s when I began researching training plans, studied what the pro women riders did and read training books about becoming a better cyclist. I saw a marked improvement in my riding, fitness and generally grew faster on all my local rides. It showed in my race results too-I joined a team and moved up to sport and then into the expert category. It was all becoming clear to me that my diet and everyday lifestyle had a significant impact on how I functioned as a mountain biker.  I still allowed myself the periodic Saturday night brewpub fun but not as often because after all you still have to fun on the weekends! Mountain biking has a learning curve, and early in my riding I was learning how to become a better rider, and I am still finding new ways to improve my riding and training. You never stop learning every time you through your leg over the saddle.

I think the allure of mountain biking to the many that become attracted to it is that mountain biking is spiritual.  It awakens our senses, pushes our limits, creates independence and makes us feel alive.