What is a Joey (Don’t Be THAT Kind of Mountain Biker)

We all know one.

That one friend who looks like a pro mountain biker, but doesn’t have the skills to back it up. A person who spends more time shopping for new bike upgrades online than actually riding their bike. 

And if you don’t know one…maybe you are that one. Sorry.

I’m talking of course about a Joey.

“Joey” is a mountain biker who spends big money on bikes, components and gear, but minimal time on building skills (you know, the important stuff). For a Joey, it’s all about looking the part. Even worse, Joey also exhibits horrendous trail etiquette…whether deliberate or accidental.  

Don’t let the name fool you: a Joey can be any and every gender! Your friend, relative or spouse could be a Joey without even knowing it! It’s up to you to spot them before they ruin your ride. 

Below you’ll find a user’s guide to identifying a Joey in its natural habitat so you can protect yourself from unwanted interaction. If you take nothing else away from this article, heed this warning: 


How To Spot a Joey


The Bike

A Joey desperately wants to be perceived as a mountain biker at any cost. And by any cost, I mean it. 

The first thing to look for is the bike. A Joey’s bike will be expensive: immaculate carbon frame, top of the line components, blinged out with all the aftermarket parts possible…maybe even a custom paint job. 

You might think this is just a very experienced rider who can afford the best…until you see them ride. Joeys spend more money on their bike than time on skill building. So whether they’ve been riding for one month or five years, their skill level is about the same. 

If you see a $10,000 bike being piloted by someone who clearly hasn’t got a clue what they’re doing, avoid getting within 100 yards if possible. Because when they have a crash (and they will) you’re liable to wind up as collateral damage. 

Another red flag? Joeys will blame that crash on the bike. Their blame is misguided of course…but not unexpected.

Though I suppose it could be the bike…because Joeys never bother with even the most basic of maintenance after a ride. 

The Gear

When it comes to riding gear, a Joey will take one of two forms…both equally ridiculous.

The XC/Trail Rider Joey will be kitted in the most form-fitting bike jersey and bibs possible…sized down to leave nothing to the imagination. It will be adorned with as many brand logos as will fit, to give the illusion that the wearer is a sponsored athlete. They may even have their own name printed on it. 

These Joeys have never entered a single race in their entire life…but may have been a spectator at one and found this outfit for sale in the team store. After all, a few hundred dollars is a small price to pay to make yourself look faster!

A super-light helmet, anodized riding glasses, gloves and expensive Italian cycling shoes complete the look. 

For a fun game, see how many energy gels you can spot bulging out from under Joey’s outfit. 

Enduro/Downhill Rider Joey is ready to shred. Full-face helmet, neck brace, long-sleeve downhill jersey covering a chest protector and elbow pads, knee pads and shin guards tucked under expensive bike pants, and flat pedal shoes. With all that protection, DH Joey could ride into a tree at 50mph and walk away unscathed (just joking, don’t test that yourself!). 

The thing is, the biggest jumps and drops these Joeys are capable of tackling are no more than knee height, and if the bike had a speedometer, it would rarely go above 10mph. When the trail gets steep and technical, these Joeys get off the bike and walk…as long as nobody is watching them.

Rather than risk the embarrassment of people discovering they can’t ride difficult trails (and because building the skills to ride them is too time consuming) these Joeys will stick to “warm up laps” on the mellow trails…but they’ll still be decked out in all their downhill gear. They bought it, so they might as well get some use out of it, right?

If someone’s riding gear looks like extreme overkill for the trails they’re riding, there’s a 98% chance you’re in the presence of a Joey. 

The Slang

A Joey is the definition of “talking the talk, but not walking the walk.” Mountain bikers, like most other groups, have developed their own sport-specific slang. Joeys like to use these terms liberally to fit in…but it’s clear they don’t know what any of the words mean.

This would be understandable for a beginner, who would then seek to learn the proper definitions. Joey can’t be bothered with this, preferring to continue to use terms out of context and bring much shame to their riding group.

Trail Etiquette

Respect for others on the trail…and respect for the trails themselves…are of paramount importance to mountain bikers. But Joeys hoist a middle finger to trail etiquette.

Above, I told you how to spot a Joey on the trail. But the reality is, you’ll most likely hear a Joey before you see them: because Joey always rides with a Bluetooth speaker blaring music. Nothing like drowning out the sounds of nature and the melodic buzz of your rear hub with a playlist of today’s club favorites.

Most annoyingly, Joeys seem to have no situational awareness. When they stop riding for any reason (grabbing a snack, changing playlists, taking a selfie) it’s usually right in the middle of the trail. Besides being irritating, this can also be dangerous. Common etiquette states that you move off the trail if you stop so you don’t become a hazard to other riders.

Typically, you can find Joeys camped in the following locations: at the bottom drops; in the landing zone of jumps; around blind corners; and halfway up challenging climbs (the perfect spot to kill your momentum so you have to stop as well). Be extra cautious when approaching these areas!

Most riders know that on two-way trails, uphill riders have the right of way. And while I even think this is annoying (as it ruins your flow on the downhill) it makes perfect sense in terms of safety. Joeys on the other hand, seem unaware of, or blatantly disregard this rule. 

If you see (or hear) a pack of Joeys flying down a two-way trail as you’re climbing, do your best to make your presence known early to avoid a collision.

This recklessness carries over into a Joey’s whole riding mantra: Look as cool as possible with no regard for anyone else. Joeys like to skid around every corner and berm to kick up dirt because it looks cool, which causes more trail damage and leads to faster wear and tear. Volunteer trail-builders just love when riders act like this (*cough: sarcasm). 

So what’s it all about? What’s the underlying reason why Joeys act this way? 

They do it for the ‘gram, obviously. If you did something awesome but didn’t get it on video, did it really happen? 

The expensive bike and gear, looking like a fool, getting in the way, having no regard for the trails and other riders: it’s all worth it for that one great picture or video…which will be heavily filtered and photoshopped to make Joeys look like they’ve actually accomplished something worthy of filming.

If you come upon what looks like a professional film crew on the trail, most likely it’s one or more Joeys eagerly trying to create post-worthy material. In these situations, be the bigger person: photobomb the Joeys, hit whatever trail feature they’re pretending to be able to do, and ride away like the boss you are!   

Joeys: It’s Time for an Intervention!

Joeys are the Achilles heel of the mountain biking community: they look ridiculous and are incredibly annoying (especially when you come across a whole pack of them) but their disrespect for the trails and other riders is why some trail networks get shut down. 

If you see Joeys behaving poorly, don’t be afraid to call them out (in a respectful way of course). Maybe they don’t know they’re acting like Joeys. But if they do, don’t let them give the mountain biking community a bad image! It’s up to the rest of us to protect the great riding destinations we love!

Rob Marlowe

With years of experience as a dedicated mountain biker and an unwavering passion for research, I have cultivated a deep expertise in all facets of cycling—from the intricacies of bike mechanics and gear optimization to the subtleties of riding techniques. My journey has been one of continuous learning, driven by countless hours delving into the science and art of biking. It's this wealth of knowledge and practical know-how that I aim to impart, offering a trusted resource for novices to gain their footing and for seasoned riders to refine their skills and push their limits.

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