Real Mountain Bikers

It’s official. I am a proper mountain biker. Retro traditionalists may claim that 300 metres makes not a mountain, but this is nothing more than semantic pedantry. I’d further refute their laughable claims by offering this compelling and watertight evidence:

Impervious in the face of dampness. As the weather tended to the spectacularly moist, my riding buddy cluster compressed to five or less. Proper riders unearthed dusty waterproofs, traded race shoes for winter boots and, striking a heroic pose, manfully rode out into the driving rain. Frankly, it was pretty unpleasant – a flashback to November with greasy trails outing summer technique as overconfident ego-stroking rubbish which dissolved under sheets of the wet stuff. Although once I’d slid into a tree and suffered a two hour deluxe mud enema, it became strangely enjoyable. Especially at the end. That was the really good bit.

More bikes than legs. Twice as many in fact. A full suspension for epic rides and scary rocks. A hardtail for Chiltern hooning and winter mud. A retro hack for towing the kids trailer and a singlespeed for, err, making use of my medical insurance. And many expensive MTB specific tools. Some of which have actually been used. But only when I couldn’t find a proper hammer.

Ownership of a virtual shed. Mountain bike currency of all denominations (denoted by the barter system trading when deficient shiny-thing-attention-span syndrome strikes) litters my house. Think feng-shui only with oily castoffs perfectly juxtaposed against pristine components. Only a real mountain biker would consider re-spraying a fork leg in a recently decorated kitchen. And then only once.

Speaking the lingo. Two years ago the phrase “yeah, I bermed the singletrack, hucked into the bombhole and railed the switchbacks but the negative pressure on the 1.5s is spiking the rebound and flipping the rotor arc” would have engendered a politely worried expression and the offer of money to fund some speech therapy. Now I’m proficient in all MTB dialects including tech-speak (nod, point, scowl), singletrack-speak (grin, point, giggle), stack-speak (grimace, embellish , rub tender area) and post-ride-speak (lie, insult, lie again). Ok so I made the bit up about the rotor arc but I’d wager you were all nodding.

Conquering the fear. Impending middle age, vocational obligations and fading reactions build a wall of fear scalable only by peer pressure, beer or both. Even conversing in singletrack-speak, I’ve never really owned a truly terrifying section but I have rented a few. Regardless of the technical challenge, unplanned high speed interfaces with the shrubbery are regularly met with the stoicism and inevitability that only cries of “you mincer” from your fellows can provoke.

I’ve done mountains. Hills on steroids with distant peaks and hard edged faces. Hour long slogs up unending climbs. Mile long descents on trembling limbs. But there is more to mountain biking than the dictionary definition of a glacial landmark. Many of us sneak a single day in seven to pursue our spectacularly pointless sport- spend that day in Wales and where’s the time to fettle in the shed?

Real Mountain bikers do it anywhere, everywhere, in the dry, in the rain and sometimes head first into the bushes. Our sport is already split on artificial lines and doesn’t need snobbery based on vertical distances to divide it any further.

You still think Mountain Bikes need Real Mountains. Yeah, like Moses needed a speedboat. The defence rests.

(first published on bikemagic)

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