I am not really a “joiner” or someone who likes hanging around a big crowd. Lately, it seems that when people who consider themselves “extreme” participants in any adventure-type sport don’t really care about what the sport is, they just want to be in it. They gather in large crowds, hang on every word of the self-professed “gurus” of whatever sport it is, and attend classes and clinics that tell them how to participate more fully, how to get the right equipment, how to live the life. Posers. Most of the time, it’s a fad. They all have to get involved in some way, like wearing the clothes or talking the talk, even though they are not really interested in whatever “it” is, they just like the coolness factor.
Mountain biking was like that. For a while, in the 1990s, it was a “fad,” it was “cool” to be a mountain biker. Lots of people were in it when I first started. I got into it because I loved being outside, and I loved the feeling of discovering new trails. Then I got into racing.
During the races there were over 1000 people on the first day of racing, and there had to be a second day to accommodate all those who wanted to race. Now, the same racing organization can barely fill one day with different age classes and types of racing. Racing was tiring and required an effort, and most people dropped out when they found that out. I won a lot, but I had to work and train hard. After about seven years of it, I was exhausted and wondered if I needed to do it anymore. I quit racing, but I chose to keep riding.
Out on the trails now there are either newbies who are trying to look cool, or us, the “old school” riders who have been out there for years. You can tell which ones we are, our equipment is old, weathered and worn, scarred, and so are we. We know every pebble, every twist and turn on our favorite trails, but we stay out there because we love it, we are not trying to impress anyone.
I do not want to be tougher than any other rider. I ride the most technical trails that I can simply because I know 99.9% of other people can’t ride like I can, nor would they want to. It’s something that is mine, and I share it with very few other people. For me, that is one of the big reasons I will never stop doing it until I’m dead.