I might have just become "that guy."
I've tried really hard, for a long time, not to be "that guy." I've come close before, and I'm pretty certain Lou and John might call me on it, but it's ill-defined (which works to my advantage), and so far I feel like I've managed to keep from falling too far down that rabbit hole.
One of the things that defines "that guy," in my mind, is an obsession with equipment. Every spoke is weighed, every nut is torqued to spec ... before every ride. Decisions are made based on color-coordination, gram count, or both -- and they are clearly competing priorities in some cases. Many times, "custom" becomes the name of the game, and "that guy" will spare no expense in the quest for a one-of-a-kind, ultra-tony, "perfect" ride that likely only he can appreciate. (Not that I'm talking about anyone in particular. Really.)
I've always kind of been the opposite. Stock is good, insofar as "stock" is as close to the top shelf as I can afford. I don't mind working on my own bikes, but I'd rather not have to touch them -- I quit track racing because, quite honestly, I got sick of changing out my gearing all the time. I can barely be made to change a tire unless I have to, and even then, I've settled on a tread setup that I won't change anytime soon. I have had a couple of custom/semi-custom frames, and they have served me well, but even those were partially a trial run at production by Brendan. I'd rather spend my time riding than rebuilding; spinning the cranks instead of spinning a wrench.
With that in mind, I've always kind of looked askance at the burgeoning aftermarket suspension service market. No doubt these guys know what they're doing, and for the feel-obsessed downhiller, it might make sense to send in your fork and your damper for a "custom" tune that will make your next run on A-Line that much more supple. But for little ol' me? Notsomuch. I always passed over the advertisements in Dirt Rag in favor of a bit more Dicky.
Ahem. Yeah. As you can see from the photo, things have changed.
It took some time after I moved here, but eventually I started meeting the guys from Suspension Experts out on the trail, or at events, or even just around town. Kevin Booth and his team have been at it for a while, doing custom tunes and rebuilds at a blistering pace, right here in Asheville, just outside the gates to the Biltmore Estate. In fact, they were one of the first factory-authorized Double Barrel Service Centers, providing much-needed support to what used to be a one-man, in-house warranty department.
Sometime in the past year, a group of us headed over to Heartbreak Ridge, and Mike Rischitelli and I found ourselves at the trailers together. As I chowed down on some gluten free ginger snaps, we started chatting about my Spearfish, and I asked about a few things: My faithful Reba was going on 4 years with only a minor rebuild and my seals were popping open; my other Reba wasn't doing much better; and most importantly, the Monarch-equipped rear end tended to pack up over root bolls and g-outs, even with the rebound wide open. With a sly look, Mike told me "we can take care of that," and the gears in my head started spinning.
Days turned to weeks turned to months, I got busy, and Suspension Experts got even busier. Every time I'd see him, I'd tell Mike I'd be in soon; and every time, I'd keep putting it off. Finally, I promised myself a birthday present: As soon as I was done with PMBAR, it was time to get some suspension work done.
I wish I hadn't waited.
As you can see from the little blue stripe in the photo, Mike rebuilt my Reba from the inside-out, giving it the famous Suspension Experts treatment, and did the same for the Monarch ... which now sports a corresponding blue stripe. He monkeyed with the rebound on the damper as well, giving me a bit more room to play, which will no doubt come in handy across the roots I'll encounter at Dark Mountain next week. I've become obsessed with the improved feel, and will be dropping off my second fork tomorrow. I even called them ... twice ... to check on the work. (To be fair, I had other reasons, but I couldn't help asking ...)
In short, I've become "that guy."
And damn, it feels good.