Hold on a minute, before you get upset, slam your computer shut and vow never to read another one of my articles again, let me preface this by saying that I think most mountain bikers are awesome.
However, like any group, sport, activity, profession, etc. there’s a small minority who aren’t so cool…and sometimes they give the rest of us a bad image. So who are these irritating few? And what do they do to make them seem like jerks?
Some mountain bikers ride recklessly, don’t respect the trails, the environment or other people, or are just downright snobby, thinking they (and their preferred bike brand and riding discipline) are the absolute best thing to happen to mountain biking since the activity was invented.
So yes, some mountain bikers are jerks…but what about the other 99%? Surely most mountain bikers (like yourself…hopefully) don’t do any of the things I just described. Instead, you probably do many things that make mountain bikers awesome (go you!) To find out which group you fall in, keep reading!
5 Reasons Mountain Bikers are Jerks
1. Mountain Bike Snobbery
We all know the type.
The rider who thinks their riding discipline (whether cross-country, enduro, downhill, whatever) is the best, and all other disciplines aren’t “real” mountain biking. The rider who thinks Brand X is the only bike brand you should buy (and you’re an idiot if you don’t). The rider who wouldn’t be caught dead on a bike less than $10,000 (why even ride if you can’t afford the best, right?)
If you don’t know a rider like this…maybe it’s you. Yikes.
There are snobs everywhere: beer snobs, coffee snobs, fashion snobs…name anything with choices involved, and there will be a group of snobs looking down their noses at you for not making the “correct” one.
Find the rider decked out in the latest, most expensive mountain bike gear, riding the most expensive bike with the latest technology, and it’s possible you’ll be in for some unsolicited advice and opinions about your own gear and bike.
These riders may be outfitted with equipment that costs more than your car, but sometimes they lack the one thing that can’t be bought at a bike shop: skill. While this can be infuriating, it’s also satisfying to watch as their 22 lb carbon fiber race machine and aerodynamic space-age clothing can’t help them with their lack of basic riding ability.
If that’s petty of me to say…I don’t care.
2. Don’t Yield the Trail
Basic mountain biking etiquette states that uphill riders always have the right of way. While this may be annoying even to me (there’s nothing worse than ruining your downhill flow), we all understand why: because climbing sucks! So we let the people slogging their way uphill pedal on by as we politely move off the trail.
Some riders, however, just can’t be bothered to respect any other trail user. They may see or hear you climbing up toward them, but it makes no difference. If you’re lucky, they’ll blast on by you at full speed without so much as an apology. If you’re unlucky, you could be heading right into a serious collision.
For many of us, going downhill is the most fun part of mountain biking, but you need to be respectful of other riders and be concerned for their safety…and your own.
Now, a rider who’s climbing a trail designated “downhill only?” Don’t even get me started. It’s still not ok to ride down toward them full steam ahead, but they may need a gentle reminder that in this case, they’re the jerk, not you. I’ll leave it to you to determine the appropriate method of doing so.
3. Riding Recklessly
Riding fast, hitting big jumps and doing cool tricks is great…why else would so many people watch Red Bull Rampage and other events like it?
But there’s a time and a place for that type of riding: and it’s rarely at your local trails…unless your local trails include a bike park, in which case I’m jealous.
Pushing your limits is the only way to improve your riding, but there’s a big difference between testing your abilities and being reckless. Some riders choose the latter, which can lead to injury for themselves or other riders.
Example? A few weeks ago, I saw three riders being reckless and hitting jumps way beyond their current skill level. They were following each other way too close (to get video for the gram), and the first rider went down HARD. Well, guess what? His two friends crashed into him and they all ended up in a big, injured heap. This could have been easily avoided.
If you choose to ride way beyond your limits or purposely do dumb things that put others at risk, you’re a jerk. Sorry, not sorry.
4. Damaging the Trail
This often goes hand in hand with reckless riding. Trail workers are usually volunteers, so it sucks to repay their selfless efforts by destroying the trails they built.
Things like schralping berms (riding aggressively into the berm, throwing up as much dirt as possible), skidding, or physically altering the trail in any way because you think you’re making it better all do damage that takes time (and many volunteer hours) to repair.
Constant trail abuse may make people less likely to volunteer, as their efforts seem unappreciated. This isn’t good for any of us. Some trails even get closed down because of this. So before you think of wrecking the trail to get a cool pic, think of how much it would suck if your favorite trail was suddenly shut down. Unfortunately I’ve experienced it myself.
So thanks for that, jerks.
5. Damaging the Environment
Oh man, of all the ways mountain bikers can be jerks, this one really burns me up the most.
Nothing enrages me more than finding garbage along the trails. I don’t see it often, but when I do, my inner Hulk starts to come out. This is probably the most common rule of the outdoors: if you carry it in, carry it out. But some people can be lazy and gross.
Some non-mountain bikers even see trail building itself as a means of environmental damage, and while I can see their point, I do believe it can be done with minimal impact to the surrounding ecosystem.
However, some bikers like to cut their own illegal trails wherever they see fit. This I do not agree with, and it only adds credibility to the argument of groups who would see all mountain bike trails banned permanently.
I strongly believe in the power of nature to improve both physical and mental well-being, but we all need to be responsible and respectful and leave as little impact on the environment as possible. If you’re a mountain biker who doesn’t care about nature, you’re a jerk.
4 Reasons Mountain Bikers are Awesome
Have you made it this far without any of the above topics applying to you? Then you’re one of the good ones! Fortunately you’re in the majority, because most mountain bikers are great people! Here are some reasons why:
1. Support the Economy
Let’s start with a financial reason mountain bikers are so great. Mountain biking is a huge tourist attraction and draws people from around the world. Building a great trail network can flood an area with revenue and stimulate the local economy, especially if that area is ripe with other mountain biker must-haves: bike shops, coffee shops, great restaurants and craft breweries!
A perfect example of this is Ashveille, North Carolina. While a relatively small town surrounded by mostly rural land, Asheville is in the heart of great riding destinations like Pisgah and Dupont Forests and Kanuga Bike Park. It also has tons of great places to eat and drink all within walking distance of each other. Pretty convenient!
Perhaps the most unique example is Bentonville, Arkansas. Arkansas really isn’t known for much other than the birthplace of WalMart (love it or hate it). But the Walton family saw the value in mountain biking, and invested almost $80 million to date in creating one of the most incredible mountain bike trail networks in the world.
That investment has paid off BIG TIME, bringing in more than $137 million in revenue to a low-income region in 2017 alone. We have the mountain biking community to thank for that!
2. Support Environmental Protection
While a few might treat nature like their personal garbage can, most mountain bikers understand if they don’t protect the environment, the trails they love will disappear forever.
That’s why mountain bikers and other outdoor sports enthusiasts are so active on the environmental protection front. Whether it’s donating money, volunteering time for trail cleanup, or joining advocacy groups dedicated to various environmental initiatives, mountain bikers play a huge role in minimizing the impact of human activity on the natural world.
3. Build Community
Mountain biking is an incredible activity, and the people you meet are just as cool. Mountain biking has introduced me to so many new friends and riding buddies, all of whom have been very welcoming. Everyone you meet knows how awesome this activity is, and wants you to experience the same joy they get from being out on the trails.
And that’s the secret. Mountain bikers know if they get you hooked on riding, you’ll tell all your friends, and they’ll want to get in on the fun too. After the initial effort, the “product” just sells itself to new converts. It’s kinda like a pyramid scheme…but in a good way!
4. They’re Really Nice!
Being outside is always better than being at work, so it makes sense why mountain bikers seem so happy all the time! You would be too if you were surrounded by friends, fresh air and nature instead of cubicles and that one coworker who won’t stop heating up fish in the microwave.
It’s almost guaranteed you can ride up to anyone on the trails and strike up a conversation. Everyone is pretty willing to chat as long as you keep it about mountain biking: don’t bring down the mood with office drama!
Don’t Be a Jerk
So, are mountain bikers jerks? Well sure, some are. But most of them are great people that love being outside and sharing the stoke with new riders. If you’re a mountain biker, be one of the latter and help even more people experience this awesome activity for the first time. We could all use a little more joy and excitement in our lives!