Off the Edge …

I know some might find this hard to believe, but mountain biking isn’t a ‘fringe’ sport anymore. Why? Because I say so. No really, it isn’t just for the weird antisocial guy at work, it isn’t just for the yuppie in the big house who travels to the trailhead in his new hummer, and it isn’t just for the hiking-but-with-a-little-more-umph granola eaters anymore. Dead serious, normal folks ride too, now. What made the difference? Probably a number of events, but just to name a few (after all, we do have a blog to publish here):


Does this one seem odd? Allow me to explain: how many people do you know who wrecked their knees jogging or doing step aerobics in leotards or some other high-impact sport? Yep, all of those people are now looking for low-impact sports to replace the injurious sports they came from. The alternatives to mountain biking? Swimming, elliptical machine use, water aerobics … that’s about it. I’d say the choice is obvious.

You Know Who (not Voldemort)

Cycling was one of those sports that you had to wait around until the Olympics to watch right up until the US of A managed to grab a sport icon: no Greg LeMond, that honor falls most conspicuously to Lance Armstrong. Okay, so not everyone wants to be at the finish line waving a “Lance Fan” sign or waving the Texas flag. (On a side note: has anyone ever thought that maybe Texas and Quebec could break off from their respective countries and form one of their own: Quexas, they’d be Quexicans.)

Anyway, not everyone needs to be Armstrong-tastic for this phenomenon to promote the sport. The bottom line (yes, that bottom line) is that polls, taken just a couple of years ago, showed that most people would trust an endorsement from LA before any other cultural icon. (If you don’t believe me, think about how many people used to diss on car-trucks vs how many of those same people now own Subaru Bajas—sweet car.) And while most can’t afford a new $9,000 Trek Madone, most can afford a $450 Trek 4500. Never mind that it’s a one-stop purchase. You’ll probably never need a new one (that is, until you can afford that road bike—think Cannondale here).


Suddenly with casual, recreational mountain biking, one didn’t actually have to wear spandex to participate in cycling, unlike its skinny-wheeled Euro-based equivalent. You can actually go out and do this sport wearing shorts and a T-shirt and look relatively normal (although you still probably ought to have the dorky helmet for safety reasons).

In fact, mountain biking began coming without a lot of the requirements other sports have—you don’t even have to have gone into the mountains to qualify as a mountain biker as long as you’ve been around town with your shiny new rig. Heck, you don’t even have to turn the pedals to qualify, you just have to have your rusty steel frame sitting in your garage or locked to your apartment’s bike rack or staircase. Your dates will spot your knobby tires and immediately swoon at the fact that they’re out with an extreme athlete.

‘Fringe’ Factors

Despite the shift of normalcy to include mountain biking, certain aspects of mountain biking insist on shifting away from the normalcy. This isn’t so much directed toward the downhillers as it is to the freeriders, but haven’t y’all noticed that your bikes look more like motorcycles sans motors? Then there’s the umpire equipment you have to wear for each ride. I realize it’s a thrill, but c’mon people. Mountain biking was looking so normal until we got to this end of the spectrum.

Okay, so what do y’all think? (Yes, Mocha, I’m asking for your reaction as well.) Are we normal yet? Or are we right up there with tap-dancing fiddlers who grow beards, look like leprechauns and are named ‘Ashley’?


27 thoughts on “Off the Edge …

  1. Sue

    Yeah, I thought we were pretty normal, but sometimes . . .
    For example, last week after my ride to work I was standing in the elevator with my helmet in my hand wearing my cycling shoes, tights, and a long sleeve jersey.  A lady asked me "What are you, a mountain climber or something?"
    "No I just rode my bicycle into work."
    "Oh, well your outfit is charming."
    Charming? Charming! What?  Was she saying "You look TOTALLY GAY!"?

  2. Sue

    Hey, Caloi, I made it up that big climb (traverse mountain) yesterday.  I\’m going to try to get a picture of the hill this morning. When I get \’em I\’ll  e-mail them to you.
    Here\’s the stats:
    4.6 miles
    2,000 vertical feet
    41 minutes
    7.06 mph average speed
    5 knee-parts shot out of left knee
    1 tired cyclist
    P.S. . . .And now theh rest of the story.  There\’s actually 3 short flat/downhill sections on the climb and the turn I take isn\’t all the way to the very top of the hill.  There was probably another 200-300 vertical feet of climbing.  Anyway, now I wish I hadn\’t sold my GPS so I could find the exact stats on the climb.

  3. Tim D

    I had to buy some new cycling tights on Saturday.  I had to endure walking down the street with the boys singing "Dad wears tights, Dad wears tights".
    PS Erica was twenty somethingth out of fifty something.  You can get the results of the Lavaman link on her blog

  4. Unknown

    MTB\’ing is pretty normal.  I did some cross country racing and just plain ol\’ riding back in the early 90\’s.  Among the guys I rode with, I was the freak – clean shaven, actually owned lycra shorts with chamoiseseses, and owned a road bike that I trained and took long rides on and sometimes triathloned and TT\’ed.  I actually caught crap as being just another road refugee, usually being abused at the hands of an alternatively groomed, weed smokin\’ pierce nosed, rear wheel-riding freak.  (Back when alternative facial hair and nose piercing were thought weird).  This was around the time that guys like Bob Roll and a lot of other pro peleton back markers and domestiques were leaving road racing for MTB racing, and they were generally resented as having a bright lycra-clad corporate influence on the sport.  It\’s gone mostly mainstream now, however.  The racing frequently has weight classes for clydesdales and athenas (meaning you don\’t have to be a hyper-committed cultist to compete in your own little arena), and many local, state & federal parks have designated MTB trails.   
    I think that being a roadracer is still pretty non-mainstream, however, and find it interesting that some MTB\’ers like Cadell Evans have moved into pro road-racing.  Is the momentum shifting back to road riding?  Probably not; it\’s just that a lot of the cachet and money has dropped out of MTB\’ing.  Marketing dollars always move toward "the next big thing," rather than the thing that is big right this moment.  If MTBing is not as trendy and monied, yet it seems like everybody is doing it, chances are it is established and pretty mainstream.   

  5. Zed

    Botched- So your climbing time is great–no shame there at all. I actually came in in 42 minutes at the past two Teton Pass Climbs so I don\’t think you have anything to worry about.
    So you\’re not worried the woman in the elevator was hitting on you? Was she some prissy rich woman or something?

    TimD- Thanks for the tip on Erica. Good for you for wearing tights in public. It builds character.

    Al- Isn\’t that interesting that road riding, supposedly the more civilized of the two, is considered less mainstream than mt? I\’m tellin\’ ya, it\’s the spandex.

  6. Tom Stormcrowe

    I\’m pretty mainstream myself, I guess, I\’m a Lycra wearing roadie that mountainbikes as well, my only particular cachet is I have shrunk so much!

  7. Zed

    Tom- Mainstream? Whatever, you\’re going from weighing 500 pounds to finishing Lotoja in 2.5 years, that\’s exceptional.

    Botched- I keep looking at the "5 knee-parts shot out of left knee" part and wondering just how gross that was and how much better that climb would\’ve gone for you if you hadn\’t run into some medical trouble part way up. Fill me in, was that sarcasm, or is your knee really jacked up?

  8. Unknown

    The sad thing is that my left knee is my GOOD knee, but lately my knees have been having a contest
    My right knee needs surgery and I can\’t go up or down stairs without pain and I haven\’t gone hiking in 2 years because of pain.  I\’ve been going to physical therapy for about 5 months now, and nothing has helped.  I have a rough spot (bone spur) under my patella (in my rt knee).  Fortunately and paradoxically during cycling my right knee doesn\’t really hurt and cycling actually helps the off bike pain.  
    My left knee has (what I think) is a torn Posterior Cruciate Ligament.  I was goofing around at the park with my neice and nephew about 5 years ago and screwed the knee up.  I can\’t bend down or twist the knee without pain.  I can do light leg presses and squats, but as soon as I try to do some heavy lifting, it really starts hurting.  Again, fortnately my right knee doesn\’t typically hurt during or after cycling, unless I\’m climbing Traverse Ridge then the problem is that "low" gear of mine that I can\’t pedal.

  9. Zed

    Heck, that\’s probably a lot like doing repeated leg presses (for forty minutes with no interruption). I tore some cartilege back in the day, so I can sympathize a little, but that sounds nasty.

  10. uncadan8

    I have noticed some improvement from my right knee (scoped and reconstructed a few years apart) since I started cycling. The numbish odd sensitivity in my patellar tendon seems to be going away. Botched, if that knee is really bugging you now, it is only a matter of time before it will affect your cycling as well. Have it checked, git-r-done!
    I also just got my new bike on Saturday! I posted a blog and a link to see it. Now if the weather would just cooperate, so I could ride outside!

  11. Unknown

    okay…so i was trying to catch up..reading old comments from old posts and i found this little exchange between botched, mocha, and apparently caloi, who deleted a comedic comment about me.
    i like funny comments about things…less so about me.  but considering i am a thing of sorts, it would be nice to know what it was, and if it has something to do with me disappearing after i asserted interest in a race with caloi and botched. 
    by the way botched, i haven\’t heard from you anymore on your kokopelli adventure.  the dinner offer still stands.  on another note, i may be in slc for the week of april 10-17.  ride opportunities?  interested?

  12. Jose

    Let’s see, if I still can remember from my statistics class in college, there should be no difference in terms of mean and standard deviation between the Universe and a Sample to consider that the sample is Normal or that there is a “Normal Distribution”.
    That means that we would have to demonstrate that Mountain Bikers have a bell shaped-curve within society, and there is no bias that makes that curve skewed towards one of the sides.
    To evaluate that, we should consider the race, sex, socio-economic, physical and behavioral composition of the Mountain Biking community.
    Race: If we just stay within the American Society, that means that approximately 40% of the riders should be Blacks and Latinos. Being myself part of the Latino minority I would not say that there is an equal distribution between Mountain Bikers and Society. There are not many of us in the trails. Not to mention the black community, how many blacks do you normally see mountain biking? 
    Sex: Unfortunately, there are not enough women practicing the sport to be considered normal. I don’t think women account for more that 20% of the riders, versus a supposedly what? 55% in society? I am sorry Caloi, another point against your “Normality” theory.
    Socio-economy: Are the rich, the medium class and the poor proportionally represented? I have no idea, but considering that a Mountain Bike costs on average, (I’m just guessing) $400, not to mention all the gear and the Spandex shorts, that would exclude the poor from that list. That makes the curve skewed to higher salary ranges.
    Physical: Is there a Normal Distribution in terms of body shape or let’s put it in other terms, are there equal proportions of Fat Cyclists (I mean real fat, not like Fatty), slim, tall, petite, wide-shouldered, pear shaped etc, etc in our trails? You know the answer.
    Behavior: I know that this is the aspect where you really want to make your point. I’d give you this, but every time I try to recruit people to come mountain biking with me, there is always the same question, isn’t it too risky? Or aren’t you afraid of getting injured? You have to recognize that risk averse people don’t like mountain biking and most of people is risk averse (according to Dr. Scott my finance professor).
    So let’s see, how many points did you get? Niente, nietz, nothing, nada. Sorry Caloi! I can not support you in your thesis. Mountain Bikers are not normal.

  13. Tom Stormcrowe

    Actually, I think you partially proved Caloi\’s point! Mountainbiking, at it\’s inception was popul;ated by hippie type dope smoking risk junkies who rode self modified cycles of questionable parentage! Now it\’s more the middle class and even the poorer classes considering even the bottom end bikes are "Kinda" like mountain bikes! Go to Walmart and find full suspension and suspended front ends the norm with MAYBE 1 or two roadies in the stable in the store with a price range of $99-$180.00! When you did your statistical study,(You apparently did one, because of the data you quoted, or did you pull the data out of your head without research, in which case it\’s not data, but opinion!). Not trying to jump on you, Jose, because you did a nice presentation of your thoughts, but you have to remember that while most people are risk aversive, as their skill set increases, they redifine their concept of risk. By the way, you can get a decent entry level MTB for about $250.00 from Trek or Giant also, that will stand up very well to most peoples idea of what mountainbiking is, so there you go, my response,………….. yours?

  14. Tom Stormcrowe

    By the way, Caloi, I think I have some of "Ashley\’s" music! I believe he played with a band called Rare Air! If so, he was involved with some pretty cool Bagpipe jazz, if you can imagine that!

  15. Sue

    Rocky, I don\’t think Caloi deleted my post which made fun of you; I think it got shot into the ether by MSN.
    Caloi blogged about looking for people for the 12 hours of E relay team.  He struck out on his A list and moved on to his B list.  In my disspaeared (?) I was suggesting you for the C list, and then I said something (very funny) about you quitting mid-race like you\’ve done with 3 blogs. 
    Anyway I could definitely ride April 10-17.  The trails will probably sill be mostly snowy.  How many bikes can you bring?
    I\’m still set on doing the KOKO in May. 

  16. Shari

    Let\’s face it, it\’s just plain fun. The more the merrier. I think that it\’s grown in poularity because peope are becoming more conscious of how they feel. So living healthy isn\’t just for health nutso\’s anymore!
    And it\’s easy. I mean, how many people can not ride a bike? And it\’s faster than walking or running, especially if you have somewhere you need to be! It\’s just spintastic.

  17. Unknown

    we mountainbikers are as normal as blue powerade, skinny dudes with huge chins who ride all-carbon road monsters are the freaks. (yes I\’m talking about Boonen-type guys)

    drop me an email caloi if you feel like it, whenever you want.

  18. Jose

    Tom – You are right I did not do a research it\’s just my opinion, but you have to recognize that I have a point in my comments. I agree that there is a growing popularity of the sport, but there is still a long road to be able to blend mountain bikers into "normal" society.

  19. Tom Stormcrowe

    Well, I agree that you have a point, Jose, but I do as well, as does Caloi, that Mountainbiking has gotten considerably MORE mainstream in the last decade or so, more so than road touring and road racing here in the midwest. I am primarily a roadie myself, and being a truly large, formerly incredibly fat cyclist, who could probably introduce you to 50 or 60 LARGE sized cyclists just in my area (Lafayette, Indiana) that race, and club ride, and recreationally ride. Granted, a lot of them have gotten involved with cycling because of my efforts, but they are involved and livin\’ the good life! By the way, Caloi, sorry about squatting on your blog comments!

  20. Unknown

    Botched–it wasn\’t THREE BLOGS, mr.  It was one blog that underwent massive mulitlple reconstructive surgeries which included a gastronomic bypass which really leaned it out, until I finally, in a Kavorkian-esk fit mercifully (to me and all two readers) killed it on the table.  That makes it sound so much less flakey, right? RIGHT?
    And I have been relegated to the C list?  Geez that sucks.  Okay.  So anyways, when is this race (I am paying attention now) and I likely would not quit in the middle of it, unless I was really really tired, which could be the case given the fact that it is a race and all, and that I have been C listed.

  21. Zed

    Tom- No need to apologize. It\’s cool.

    Jose- Thanks for that detailed analysis, but when I declared mountain biking no longer fringe, I presented only one reason why that was so: because I said so. And since I have such an authoritative voice on the subject (and way more ego than I can cram into this blog comment), it is true.
    No really, I do appreciate your statistical, socio-economic, racial and male-female insights. That\’s probably more thought than most would put into answering the blog discussion question, and it\’s obvious you take your finance and stats classes pretty seriously.
    It seems to me, however, that you can no longer characterize mt biking among other \’extreme\’ or \’off-the-wall\’ sports. I was thinking more that it is normal from a societal perception rather than from statistical analysis. Besides, I don\’t think everyone has to participate in a sport for it to be \’normal\’ with or without the standard deviation. How many black or latino skiers do you see? Despite skiing\’s normal status, if you invited me to come skiing, I\’d find a polite way to tell you I\’m not interested: "I\’m, uh, … perming my cat\’s hair that day. Sorry." (Oh, and if you want to see more latino mt bikers, check out photos from La Ruta de Los Conquistadores or click on the Caloi link on my main page–it\’s actually a pretty popular sport in South America; ever heard of Marvin Campos or Jose Rujano?)
    Oh, and I\’ll come for a ride sometime, where do you live?

    Tayfur- Hey, good to hear from you, brotha! I will drop you an e-mail. I\’ve got to hear how that 26-mile race went over. Are you tearing up the course nowadays? I\’ll drop you a line for the details.

    Shar- Spintastic. I like it. Good call. You\’d say \’yes\’ if Jose asked you to ride, right?

  22. Zed

    Rocky- Sorry, I thought you quit halfway through your comment (we need some way to express sarcasm in the blogoverse, you know that?). Hey, the E100 12-hour is June 24th, and Botched said he\’d do it solo if we find too many team members, so you\’re welcome to take his spot.

    Botched- You don\’t mind me giving away your spot do you?

  23. Sue

    Nah, it\’s fine Caloi.  Maybe it\’s better I don\’t know for a while, that way the fear of potentially having to ride it solo will motivate me to do more riding.

  24. Zed

    yeah, it\’s not like you\’re short on riding or training time between now and June. Still, it\’d be awesome to do it as a relay team. I\’m thinking we might even be able to compete. Just maybe.

  25. Unknown

    I don\’t want to kick Botched off of the team.  And June 24th won\’t work for me, anyway.  So.  Maybe as a Pygmalian thingy, I will start dropping off in the middle of sentences just so that my character

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