Dirty Words: A great day to be a selfish cyclist


By Sal Ruibal

By their nature, mountain bikers tend to be unselfish. That’s not to say that roadies are just a bunch of skinny, hairless wankers who believe God made paved bike paths and lanes for them to set Strava records on the way to work at Lululemon.

Mountain bikers ride not just on the dirt, but in the dirt. The world is made of dirt and water, which when combined makes mud. Mud – like sex — in the right places and times is fun. And mountain biking is about fun.

We love mud, dirt, water, rocks, logs and turtles. Even this blog is “Dirty.”

Today I come to you not to bury dirt, but to praise it.

There is an election coming up next week and while much of the debate has been about the role of government in our lives, on our mountain bike micro-level the real issue is who owns the dirt.

That which is important clings to this wheel.

Almost all of the dirt that we ride and play on is owned by the public and managed by governments. But almost all of the trails, bike parks and rocky singletrack is maintained by citizens through IMBA and its offshoots that extend into your mountain and my woods and the skills course where your kid first pulled a manual and you thought you were going to cry.

Even those mega-resort, lift-accessed, blow-dry and parking-metered bike amusement parks are mostly on National Forest property owned by We The People and supervised by National Mountain Bike Patrol folks trained and certified by IMBA.

Mountain biking is small-d democratic. The guys who get up early after a big storm and crank their chain saws before my French Press is even warm are your neighbors, not paid gardeners (although some folks treat them that way – NOT GOOD!). You have a beef about a deteriorating trail, you don’t call a cop, you bring it up with the local IMBA chapter. And, of course, you volunteer to work on that trail.

The key to a vibrant and effective democracy is an infromed elecorate.

I like the way that mountain biking is of the people, by the people and for the people. But there is a movement afoot these days that says Big Business knows best, that Money talks and poor people walk – or that cycling means riding a cheap Wal-Mart bike to their minimum wage, no benefits job.

There is a place for business in mountain biking. I’d like to see more of that business leave China and return to the land of the Wright Brothers, who built bikes before they built airplanes. I’d like to see Cannondale bring those good jobs back to southern Pennsylvania. I’d like to see more Mom-and-Pop bike shops and fewer Mega-Superstores. We “invented” the modern mountain bike and then we invented outsourcing to save a few bucks. We’ve outsourced our children’s futures.

I’d rather have my bike serviced by a shop owned by neighbors, just like I buy cheese Danish baked at the locally owned bakery instead from a sealed box that was trucked in from Chicago.

Yes, we ride dirt that we as citizens own and have a voice in how that dirt is used. Do you feel the same way about your school system, your police department? The Congress? The President?

The most powerful voice we have is our sacred right to vote. No one can take that away from us, but too many Americans throw away an opportunity that billions around the world pray for every day.

Our voices should be heard on the 364 other days when we’re not voting. Mountain biking is not just a sport; it is a culture, a way of life, an aspiration to move like a supple animal through the woods and mountains, powered by our muscle, bone and, most important, our strong hearts.

The most important ride you’ll do all year is the ride to the voting booth. Take responsibility for the future. Put your dirty thumb on the lever and put this nation in the big ring. Yee haw!

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