|You've got to love internet forums. As technology unfolds
to create a truly global community within the reach of everyone, the
net unites people from every corner of the globe, every walk of life,
race,colour and creed.
Then they all call eachother tw*ts.
I guess it's the anonymity, but chat forums bring out the worst
in everyone. The ability to insult someone and not get punched for
it is very liberating. And very few places demonstrate this behaviour
more clearly than mountain bike forums.
Technology brings new opportunities but it's an old rivalry that's
being displayed. Like a thousand-year-old feud settled with a laser-guided
warhead, the method may be new but the arguments go way back.
I've never quite understood it, but different kinds of riders always
seem to dislike the other kind. To a downhiller, XC riders all shave
their legs, are only happy when they ride uphill and are attracted
to their own sex. To a cross country rider, DH'ers are all fat,
push their bikes everywhere and are attracted to their own sex.
It's a generalisation, but to some extent every rider I've ever
known, heard of or read about considers their branch of the sport
the best. And don't thing 'freeriders' are any different- they just
insult anyone who doesn't do everything!
This rivalry is odd. True, healthy rivalry is great- it's what
makes those end of ride races with your mates such a buzz; it's
what makes you want to jump higher or drop off bigger to go better
than the people you ride with. You need to feel that desire to be
better or you'd never ride faster, higher or bigger. But when you
turn that against people you don't compete with, it stops being
healthy and turns plain nasty.
To you and me, telling a Trials rider from a DH'er would be obvious.
But how do you think all mountain bikers look to non-riders? Can
that bloke and his dog make the subtle distinction between Fox armoured
DH shorts and Cannondale freeride shorts? I should coco- to him,
we're all the same.
What he does with that depends entirely on the person. To some,
we're damn cool. To others, our (in some cases perceived) fitness
is a source of great envy. But to far too many, we're a pain in
This isn't deserved. Don't get me wrong, I know there are idiots
out there buzzing past people, scaring horses and endangering families
on Sunday walks, but they really are the exception and they really
should be focus for all this hate. In my experience, mountain bikers
are some of the most clued-up people when it comes to respecting
the countryside. The minute you're faintly serious about riding
you realise how much you need it, how much you'd miss those hills
if you couldn't ride them- up or down them. We don't leave gates
open, we don't skid on soft ground, we slow down for horses and
we abandon downhill blasts at the sight of walkers 500 paces away.
I don't think this is an idealistic, rose-tinted Oakley view on
my part; it's what I've seen in well over ten years mountain biking.
The minority of trail-twats give us a bad name which we really
don't deserve. Shortly after 'dangerous' on Joe Public's list of
mtb adjectives comes 'destructive'. We are apparently responsible
for ruining the countryside. Well, if you gouge ruts in mud and
pull down plants and trees then you're not helping. The reality
is, though, that we are not the worst offenders.
Walkers do the most damage- just by their sheer number. Four-Wheel-Drives
come next, because they butcher the earth beneath them despite their
relatively small number. 4x4s are followed horses, because there
are lots of them and they have a reasonable impact on the ground.
After all these come mountain bikers. We're right up there because
of our similarly high number to horses, but in terms of destruction,
we're small fry.
We're a scapegoat, and that's why I mention these statistics. Personally-
I don't care. It's the country, not a museum and everyone should
be free to use it respectfully. But far too many people lazily consider
us the enemy. Dog walkers seem to resent our very existence- but
I've never taken my bike up the woods so it could crap in the middle
of a path.
Next time you see someone doing something different to you on a
bike, don't think about whether they could handle a manic descent
like you on their 22lb racing whippet- think about whether they're
making mountain bikers look bad. If they're riding with respect
and care, they really can't be that shabby. If they're dropping
litter, bunny hopping real bunnies or riding into people they're
really the ones you should be insulting, because they're the ones
who'll get you banned from your local riding spot, get you evil
looks from non-riders you've never met, and stop us all being taken