I used to own a mountain bike. I bought it in 1988, from Freewheeling Bicycles in Austin. It was red and I think it was called a StumpJumper, although in my case they should have named it the StumpHitter, or the StumpNotQuiteJumper, or just the plain old StumpThumper.
Mountain biking seemed like fun until I started doing it. Unlike road riding, where you can pedal stupidly along until you get run over by a car, on a mountain bike you have to ride with all 12 senses going full Spidey alert which means you’ll never get run over by a car and will only splat into a tree or fall off a cliff instead.
Austin’s Green Belt didn’t have any 1,000-foot cliff drop-offs, but it had rocks and trees and no matter how carefully I rode they always seemed to reach up, slap my front tire, and knock me onto the cactus. At first it was fun coming home dirty and covered and blood, but at second it really wasn’t, and at third I realized that this wasn’t my fake sport.
Even though mountain biking and I parted company early on, I occasionally took note of it and its practitioners, warily, kind of like you take note of the crazy downstairs neighbor who screams and beats the dog late at night when you cross paths taking out the trash. And I noticed that even without me, mountain biking did just fine. It became a big industry and got a lot of people involved in enjoying the outdoors and running over hikers.
Compared to road cyclists, mountain bikers always seemed to give a shit. I don’t know if it’s because they have to make their own trails, or because they have to fight grizzlies for the right to ride, or because by being surrounded by plants and water and rocks and natural beauty they feel more connected to the earth, but they seem to rally a lot better than road cyclists when the chips are down.
And you know, the chips are down, especially in Utah. The state has taken the lead in the latest Trumpian wave of dystopic, kleptocratic public theft as it is now trying to wrest back federal lands so the state can sell them off to private entities. Representative Dingbat Chaffetz is front-and-center in this public rape, proposing legislation that would rob generations of the right to use public lands.
In an amazing twist, the mountain biking crowd is having none of it. Being part of the giant Outdoor Retailers trade show every year that brings in $45 million annually to the Mormon economy, and being part of the Interbike trade show that recently left Las Vega$$$ for Salt Lake City, hitters in the outdoor retail business have told Chaffetz and Utah that, starting in 2018, they won’t be doing business there. They’re taking their money to Denver and will likely enjoy a bit of mile-high clean air and maybe even some of Floyd’s Rocky Mountain high.
Hats off, you stinky, scabby, dirt-covered mountain bike people. Thanks for putting your money where your tires are. I’d ride in solidarity with you but it wouldn’t be past the first rut.
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