Are you a real mountain bike rider?

What makes a real mountain biker? If we listen to the marketing droids, real mountain bike riders are predominantly baggy pants wearing male teenagers or young adults – eXtreeeem d00ds, drinking lots of caffeinated beverages after launching huge drops. On the other hand, mountain zzbikers at the Commonwealth Games wore tight fitting lycra and seemed to spend most of their riding time on smooth dirt and tar. Then again, maybe those family groups we see out on easy firetrails on Sundays capture the essence of mountain biking.

If we listen to some rabid bushwalking groups, we are either noisy lunatics carving up the environment, or the silent death, sneaking up on people to scare them half to death (while we carve up the environment…). Land managers such as NPWS (National Parks and Wildlife Service) often seem to regard us as unwelcome, nothing but trouble, likely to damage walking tracks and cause accidents and trail conflicts.

Maybe we need to ride a certain distance each week – off road. Maybe we have to ride a 6″ plus travel duallie. Maybe we never ride on roads at all. Maybe we should ride solely to explore and be at one with the bush, stopping regularly to sniff flowers and admire the fauna. Maybe only rigid bikes should count, modern duallies making it far too easy. Should we only be riding techie singletrack, or is a firetrail just as good? What about a blat around the city, jumping various man made obstacles and dodging security patrols?

Perhaps we have to be able to ride up all the hills we blast down, and down the hills we ride up. No wussy chairlifts or chicken run walking bits.

Maybe we need all the latest gear – baggy shorts, water bladder, latest model duallie, stylee t-shirt, clipless shoes, big chunky tyres, body armour – or at least lust after the latest.

Pffft. Booshwah. What a load of codswallop.

Try this quick quiz:

1) Do you ride off roads?

2) Does your bike loosely fit the definition of a mountain bike?

3) Do you have fun?

If you answered yes to all three, you’re a mountain bike rider. Sure your bike may be an old clunker originally sold by a supermarket, but it doesn’t really matter. The recent Lab Gear Oaks Classic mtb race, which raises money for Careflight, had riders of all levels, riding all sorts of bikes from kiddie bikes to full on DH sleds – hell, there were even a few trailers getting real littlies involved early. Some were fast, some were slow enough to be beaten by runners, but it certainly didn’t matter what they rode – some fast riders were on cheap bikes, and some poor riders were on some hot gear. But they all had fun.

And that’s good enough for me.

In reality, mountain biking covers a huge range of activities and types of participants – all those I’ve mentioned above, and more. Don’t be too willing to be pigeonholed by marketeers, forced into the lifestyle and accessories they’ve decided will fit some artificial sub group of mountain biking. I’ve been passed by baggy wearers on rigids downhill, and lycra wearers on single ring duallies uphill – something must have gone wrong with the marketing dream… Ride any tracks any weekend, and you’ll see a huge variety of bikes and riders out there having fun.

So, don’t slag off those riders you see on cheap hardtails and rigids, who’s to say they aren’t having as much fun as you on the latest and most expensive model? Don’t slag off those riders you see on really expensive duallies – who’s to say their experience isn’t any more “pure” than yours? It’s just variety – the spice of life.

Get out there, ride and have fun. That’s the real essence of mountain biking.

It would be boring if we all rode in the same style…