Bespoken Word – maybe we should stop taking mountain biking so seriously and remember that riding is supposed to be fun

rider roosting
(Image credit: SRAM)

I had a bunch of possible themes lined up for this week’s column including the knock-on consumer and industry effects of WiggleCRC failing to find a buyer for anything more than the right to use its brand names. Another topic up for consideration was the current confusing multiplicity of different trail advocacy organizations – that reminds me of the ‘People’s Front of Judea’ scene from Monty Python’s Life Of Brian.

I could have waxed lyrical about finally finding a situation that a jacket I’ve been testing for months worked really well in. Or that you only recognize just how well tubeless tires work when you’re fixing an old school flat in a sleet storm at 10pm. 

I will also shine a light on why I’m subconsciously getting an increasingly negative vibe about e-MTBs. At some point, I should probably confess that actioning any of my ‘New Year's Resolutions’ has been a complete and utter failure. 

Another subject up for debate that I could convert into a good few hundred words is the ‘interesting’ fact that the Fox Float X shock on the cheaper Canyon Spectral CF7 I recently tested, seems to perform a lot better than the RockShox Super Deluxe on the CF9.

No doubt I might yet get around to addressing all these potentially problematic, rage-baiting issues in future columns too. But talking to my mate Andy on the way to our fatefully puncture-filled, weather-blasted ride, we realized that more than anything everyone seems to be taking mountain biking far too seriously.

Killing the vibe

Full fat e-MTB riders seem intent on starting a civil war against the SL e-MTB riders who they think are idiots, but who in turn think a less powerful motor and smaller battery gives them some kind of moral and physical superiority. A stance shared - somewhat more understandably – by self-propelled mountain bikers bored of amped-up idiots. 

We got to watch more MTB racing than ever last year but all most of us did was moan. Every brake anyone ever asks about on a forum is sh*t unless it’s a Shimano Zee from decades ago. And Lewis brakes have been reserved a special circle in hell for offering the performance of a €1,200 brake in a $200 package by seemingly mimicking Trick Stuff brakes. And yet if you buy a handmade UK light rather than risking burning your house down with the ropey charger of an AliExpress torch, then you’re an absolute idiot. 

And it’s all so stupidly circular and self-destructive, like scratching a scab you know will bleed worse than the original injury. I get furious about fall line trail vandalism then ride those trails. I get paid to stamp my petulant feet about tire compounds, overdamped forks, erratic brake bite points, and ecologically sound but useless DWR coatings on coats despite the fact they’re all infinitely better than what was around when I started mountain biking nearly forty years ago. 

I whine about lack of fitness while failing to do anything about it beyond doom-scrolling interval training influencers. I waste a huge amount of time on an ever-expanding range of ranting/messaging platforms complaining about how I don’t have time to do any work or ride my bike. And this is before various social media demons stick me to screens with the bittersweet sugar of deliberately depressing, antagonistic algorithms. 

Group of night riders

Whatever your definition of mountain biking fun, I suggest you go get some as often as possible (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Primitive pleasures

As Andy and I stood there post ride only one thing mattered. Sure we were knackered and frozen-footed and the middle-of-nowhere pub we’d parked next to had shut an hour before we got there. But as we stared up at the moon with the same fascination and awe that people did before anyone even thought of pottery, we drank in the delicious realization that tonight, like so many other times, mountain biking had given us something incredible.

It had wrung our legs out and burnt our lungs. Fluxed our fingers and toes through countless freeze and thaw cycles. Constantly changed the relative rankings of the competitive comradeship of our group as we’d climbed or descended, fuelled and faded. Twisted our faces with both exertion and elation. Revved our minds to the max with line choices, rock dodges, pace judgements, map checks, and the all-consuming question of whether we were going to do the vile climb up the quarry. 

And of course, we did. We always do. Because when we get back to that car park, we’ll know it was the right thing to have done. The crippling, cramping, silent screaming crux move that synced us with each other, and the remote unforgiving landscape we’d been guests in for the previous couple of hours gets us in a way no social media platform could ever replicate. And it felt utterly wonderful.

Canyon Spectral CF7

Mountain biking is a brilliant way to blur out the background noise of #life, but not if you take it too seriously (Image credit: Roo Fowler / Canyon)

Don't forget it's supposed to be fun

And while our Type 2.9 idea of fun is probably not shared with as many riders as the joy of a jump line or chasing singletrack towards a stream dip on a hot summer that matters even less than the tires we use, the brand of our bikes or whether we have a motor or not. Sure, you can lust over bikes you don’t have, or bitch about the one you do have if you want, but whatever, however, wherever you ride and how you define ‘fun mountain biking’ the whole point is that it’s supposed to be fun. 

A freeing, de-stressing escape from an increasingly noisy and often nasty world that’s going to crowd even closer and shout even louder if we start taking mountain biking too seriously as well. 

Guy Kesteven

Guy has been working on Bike Perfect since we launched in 2019. Hatched in Yorkshire he's been hardened by riding round it in all weathers since he was a kid. He spent a few years working in bike shops and warehouses before starting writing and testing for bike mags in 1996. Since then he’s written several million words about several thousand test bikes and a ridiculous amount of riding gear. To make sure he rarely sleeps and to fund his custom tandem habit, he’s also penned a handful of bike-related books and talks to a GoPro for YouTube, too.

Current rides: Cervelo ZFS-5, Forbidden Druid V2, Specialized Chisel, custom Nicolai enduro tandem, Landescape/Swallow custom gravel tandem

Height: 180cm

Weight: 69kg