Thought this was some interesting reading material. It's long, but a good read.
F is for Faction.
By Gary Fisher
Here’s the truth: for sheer old-school panache, nothing’ll ever beat a Big Wheel. Classic one-piece frame, riser bars, and a front wheel as big as a manhole cover. It was light, it was fast, and it looked killer with or without the seatback in place. Especially once it acquired that all-natural sun fade finish. If you weren’t riding a Big Wheel, kid, you were off the back.
Then along came the Green Machine. A different rig altogether. Dual levers steered the entire rear end, as opposed to steering the front wheel. Hook up was phenomenal. The engine room was way low, almost recumbent, with a long-ass wheelbase. Great for smooth-radius downhill stuff but not really suited for technical cul-de-sac work.
Needless to say, kids quickly took sides. The war was on, Tupac and Biggie style.
When it comes to biking, people used to be divided into two tribes: those who rode bikes and those who didn’t. Needless to say, I was in the first camp. Hair long, calves strong, cars wrong. We never actually said that but, you know, whatever.
Unlike most of America, we disagreed with the concept of car as freedom. In our eyes, it was just the opposite: you needed a job so you could get a car. And you needed a car so you could get to work. Basically a car amounted to nothing more than a ball and chain that required maintenance every 3000 miles.
Don’t get me wrong. We didn’t have some freak-o political agenda. There was no subtext whatsoever. We just preferred riding bikes. We preferred pushing two pedals instead of one. To us a bike was transportation and reaction all rolled into one (and for the lucky ones, avocation too). So yeah. Perfect.
Welcome to Splitsville
Just when everything seemed rosy, it happened. The big split. El Grande Divide. The rift between Mountain Biker and Roady.
Of course it shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Just Nature doing that Galapagos thing it likes to do. Quickly, things evolved: The Roady developed fancy Lycra plumage. The Mountain Biker developed an ability to subsist solely on mac & cheese.
Unfortunately, change brings differences of opinion. See also: Ski vs. Snowboard, Harley vs. Japanese, Fat Elvis vs. Thin. Somewhere along the way, bicycling got lost. We began to view differences as flaws. Where you rode, what you rode, and how you rode became more important than the simple fact that you rode. As a result, two camps developed, separated by the arbitrary borders of tire width and frame weight.
Factions with a Capital F
Although a little weird, two camps was still a workable situation. Agreeing to disagree, basically. But not all was well at Camp Mountain Bike. Because just as XC was making itself at home, here come the downhill guys. They were fast out the gate and surprisingly ready to ragdoll, if for not other reason than to get a feel for the new body armor. Pretty photogenic stuff.
From a public perception standpoint, the XC guys weren’t the bad kids in class anymore. They became the ones that did their homework and spent their evenings studying their heart rate monitors. They basically got morphed into the Roadies of mountain biking.
Before DH even got settled, though, the freeriders dropped in. And the dirt jumpers. Along with 4X and mountain cross and don’t forget vert, BMX cyclocross and everything else too while you’re at it. Things are busy in the bike world.
Overall this seems like a great evolution of the sport. All these different bands of people coming together to create their own scene. Unfortunately, a lot of riders seem to get off on harshing other people’s mellow.
Ring. Ring. This is a wake-up call.
Remember the first cell phones? Bigger than an army boot with no range, no ring tones, and no fluorescent colors to choose from. Today cell phones are… well, they’re still mostly a pain in the ass. But they’ve definitely arrived. The same could be said for bikes. They’re lighter, faster, stronger, and better in every way. There’s bikes for this. There’s bikes for that. There’s even bikes for this and that.
As a grom, the mountain bike industry went huge and generally landed it. As riders, we can all benefit from that now. But only if we can shift our focus away from what everybody else is doing and back to why we got into riding in the first place.
Basically, we gotta pick our own line and ride it.
Not a fan of downhill? No problem. You’re riding a different line. Not feeling the baggie shorts? No need for gears? No need for gearheads? Cool. Just get a bike, whatever bike you want, and ride.
Your line might be up the mountain. It might be down the mountain. It might be off the mountain. Ain’t no thing. Grab a bike and go. Pick your line and ride.
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