I am a person of deep passion, whether my friends and family would know it or not. I would simply point out that there is a difference between having deep passions and expressing those passions. But one of the things that happens with such passions is that they are eventually challenged by new circumstances, new situations… in short, change. So then the question is, do the passions change too?
This has come to the front of my mind recently as I come to terms with the fact I am now a big Under Armour fan. Even as recently as the Winter Olympics, I was somewhat gleeful to hear U.S. speed skaters blasting the new speedsuits they were wearing — as designed by Under Armour. When my son needed new baseball cleats, he really wanted a pair made by UA. I turned those down in favor of some Eastons, based on the extreme length of the actual cleats on UA’s offering. What I didn’t tell him is that I didn’t really want to get UA cleats anyways.
But then he needed new baseball pants too. After trying on every pair in the store (or so it would seem), we ended up taking some UA pants home. They are white, which every baseball parent would agree is a nightmare. But somehow these magic pants have stayed white and make him look really, really classy (for a 9-year old).
It turned out that at the same time, I got a UA bottle from my sister as a birthday gift. Despite having Nalgene, Kor and Camelbak bottles on the shelf, the UA bottle has become my favorite. Various Under Armour items have subsequently invaded our house.
More topically, I had a lot of resentment towards Kona bicycles as well, before I had real opportunities to ride one. After just killing it on a Kona Hei Hei as one member of a 2-man team in a 12-hour race where every other team had 4 riders (we quit after about 6 hours while in 4th place and still finished better than last place), I ended up buying a Kona Big Kahuna, which is my absolute favorite mountain bike ever. Then a Kona Jake the Snake came into the house this spring and I nearly bought a used Kona Unit last fall.
In both of these cases, I have been forced to eat crow. My biases were wrong and I freely admit this.
There are two companies that have so repeatedly disappointed me that I have fervently resolved never to knowingly purchase anything they have had a hand in. One is Kenda tires. I don’t care who else they manufacture tires for — I’ve never been disappointed in another tire brand the way I have been disappointed by Kenda. Repeatedly and consistently disappointed. The other brand is WTB.
Part of me wants to like WTB for being one of those companies that has been in mountain biking just about forever. However, I have tried most of their saddles and some of their wheels and have been so disappointed I had sworn them off. Additionally, at some point they wrote an article about some revised tire design that addressing concerns people had about uncertain cornering with the previous design. Their response was, essentially, “The old version is actually better than the new one, but we changed it because you aren’t Mark Weir and are not capable of riding aggressively enough to really take advantage of the old design.” The new Jake the Snake came with a WTB Volt on it and I gave it a try anyways.
It is awful.
Tremendously, uncomfortably, even painfully awful.
I found myself on rides wondering if WTB has ever examined the shape and size of actual human beings when designing their saddles.
WTB says, “A slight whale tail and gentle drop to the nose provide something to push against while not limiting riders to one seating position.” This sentence contains several outright lies.
The whale tail is not “slight” by any stretch of the imagination. The nose does not drop enough to not get caught on proper road cycling bib shorts. And trust me, there is only one seating position on this thing. If it is pointed too far nose-down, you will constantly slide off the whale tail and be holding yourself up with your arms. Once you get the saddle pointed up enough to not be sliding forward, you are forced into a “cradle” in the middle of the saddle and the front bit pushes up very uncomfortably on soft tissues. Getting a low, aggressive position (as in the drops) is almost impossible. There are no fore-aft changes in position. I put several hundred tarmac and gravel miles on this saddle before I couldn’t stand it anymore. The Kona labeling and lime green highlights that match the bike are nice, but not nice enough to ride in such discomfort.
Look, I know saddles are an individual thing. About that…
For one, I am not usually especially picky about saddles. I rode in comfort on some stock saddle that came on my entry-level 2003 Gary Fisher Wahoo until it ripped in a crash. I replaced it with some arbitrary Specialized Body Geometry saddle that worked until I replaced the bike. My full-suspension Fishers came with Bontrager Race Lux saddles which I logged thousands of miles on. The Specialized Tricross came with some other Body Geometry saddle that I replaced only because I was developing a preference for a more firmly padded saddle. The ‘cross bike then alternated between a Bontrager inForm RL road saddle (during the summer) and a cheapo Scott saddle for ‘cross season. It was just an OEM thing off some entry-level road bike that I picked up at the shop for $20 and carried me through 3 ‘cross seasons. I recently demoed a Syncros XR saddle that disappeared instantly underneath me. I even have been able to tolerate a WTB Valcon that came on the Big Kahuna. But never have I ridden something so uncomfortable as the Volt.
The other thing is that three people in my area (including me) have fairly recently taken delivery of almost identical Jake the Snakes recently. We are three very different builds with three very different opinions about the overall quality of WTB stuff and have three very different riding styles. One guy is shorter and slimmer than me, rides downhill MTB and enduros. The other guy is a little taller but not quite as broad as me and has an XC race and enduro background. I’m all XC race, gravel and ‘cross. All of us absolutely HATE the Volt and all for the same reason: the shape is horrendous.
I can’t recommend the Volt at all. To anybody. For anything (except throwing at late-night intruders). And I’m done with WTB. Sometimes things change. This time they haven’t.