People often ask me, “Dr Behooving, why is mountain bike culture so idiotic?” You just need to look at the kinds of places where mountain bikes are really popular: not on flat pastural lands where ingenuity thrived, or around port towns where clever traders were the ones spreading their seed, but in mountainous regions that have always attracted and retained the most stupid. Afghanistan, Appalachia, Tasmania… You know what I mean. Hillbilly country.
It is a good thing people in mountainous regions don’t earn a lot more, or I would be writing about ATVs. The motivations are roughly the same: to get muddy;
and get injured.
Notwithstanding the redeeming aspects of mountain bike riding (exercise, serenity, low impact), it is the youngest and dumbest of all bicycling niches. It has the least cross-over with bicycle transport, making it stupid. It has no traditions older than a dog.
The most damning point though is no one can even decide what a mountain bike is. All the old ones with 26″ wheels were palmed off onto the kids when the theory arose that a mountain bike was something with 700c wheels and big tires. But those experiments have since been passed on to the wives as the theory floats around that a mountain bike has wheels of middling diameter. Sheds are littered with non-tapered forks, skinny skewers, non-mechanical seat posts, and various “old-school” components all less than 3 years of age. Most have been deliberately broken, a tactic of mountain bike riders to justify the purchase of new bits of shit that they will also destroy as an excuse to upgrade again.
If you think they’re ungainly with their waste of equipment, consider how they get to the tops of their mountains. Not by pedalling. They use chairlifts, and where these don’t exists, they shuttle each other with multiple cars.
No wonder the next generation of mountain bikes (that will trigger its own cycle of monthly upgrading) will have tires as fat as a Jeep’s. If it weren’t for the money that bike brands are making from broken drive trains, I would say within ten years mountain bikes would not even have pedals. But ladies, don’t be surprised when an electric moto-cross (EMX) turns up in the post for your big bellied hubby. Yep: that’s on the way!
Somehow these victims of commerce need to be saved from themselves. It is not easy though, when mountain biking is not really a sport. The UCI protects road racing cyclists form their own madness by banning new innovations from competitions. It helps too that enough of us are still racing who started in the days of 531 tubing, our presence on the club racing scene tempering the inclination among newcomers to be upgrading each season.
Most mountain bike riders though would not care in the slightest what a sports body said. Only the tiniest minority ever competes! Neither would I recommend that more try their hands at mountain bike racing. The only winners there are the bike shops, whose tactic is to dream up so many kinds of events (downhill, gravity enduro, marathon, cross-country, etc.) that joining a club means owning 5 separate bikes.
The solution? Go solo. Promote mountain biking as a solo pursuit, or an activity shared by no more than one or two friends. It’s when strangers get together that gear is used to start conversations. Look at the way members of bush walking clubs gear up to do something you or I would do in our thongs.
The sooner they put their equipment in the same category as bird watching goggles or photographers’ vests, and stop riding in groups with virtual strangers, the sooner mountain bike riders will be on track to dismissing the rest of the population as absolute dick heads (as I always have) and start living their lives instead of working all the time to buy excessive equipment.
My own mountain bike is an assemblage of secondhand pieces and superseded components bought for a third of full retail. I’m not going to show you, lest you feel tempted to share your opinion.
What I can say is I will be using it a lot during my remaining time in Tasmania. My house backs onto reserves filled with flow trails and berms, and for $6 of petrol I can car-pool with a few non-consumerist friends to one of the most incredible mountain bike venues anywhere in the world. I find it stupid that trails such as these are not woven into the fabric of cities but instead built as incentives to drive, but really, there is only so much I can do to change a stupid world’s thinking.