Exclusive: A No-Gwin Situation

Photo by Jeff Sandquist


By Seb Kemp

I was in a rush to ride. I just wanted to get out there. I dragged my bike out of the garage without even a cursory once-over before jumping in the car and heavy pedaling it to the trailhead. Once there, I threw on my helmet and shoes, and got going before I had even started.

Out of the car park and into the opening preamble of trail. I reached for some more gears and they were slow to engage, even clunking and ticking; adjustments be damned, I carried on regardless.

The gritty grind of the chain, the squeak of jockey wheels, and the rub of discs on metal-bare pads grated me; I had lube in my pack but instead ignored the sounds as best I could.

I noticed my tires were soft and the suspension wallowy. I tried to shove it to the back of my mind, all I wanted to do was ride.

My last ride was just yesterday but I had put the bike away wet, with no love or care. Now, just a short time later it was showing its wear.

I punched the pedals, hammered into turns and tried to get that thrill, but something wasn’t right. No matter how much I tried to enjoy my ride it felt wrong. I felt like I was pushing something that wasn’t ready to be pushed, pulled, saddled or relished. The bike felt rough, crunchy, and resisted me. I wanted something but it wasn’t forthcoming.

I should have spent the time to lube the chain, clean the seals and set my sag. I had failed my ride before it even started. I was so keen to just get out there that I rushed the prep, skipped the vital checklist, and neglected the necessary preflight briefing of my not so hot, pink bike.

The thing most often neglected in the minute-by-minute chase of the daily news. Photo by Seb Kemp

The world of communications has been turned on its head. And it’s something we are trying to get used to – you the reader, the corpo captains, the media muggins, everyone. We don’t know how it works yet. We don’t know what’s best practice. All we know is the medium is more important than the message and the speed is faster than the quality of the message.

Long before a conventional press release can go out, hours (sometimes days) before the marketing mavens can massage their message, net-connected bikey keeners around the world know exactly what’s going on.

No longer is the message controlled by a handful of upper-echelon insiders. No longer is the mass distribution of messages dependent on costly, old-school production methods. Despite what some armchair cynics think, the mountain bike media is not a bunch of hacks who dine in the pockets of the corporate paymasters. It never was like that (with the rare exception) and it certainly isn’t now. The means of production are certainly not shared communally, however, everything shared by the community of individuals .

Today everyone is a reporter. Smart phones, head-cams, and on-the-fly editing and distribution technologies that a child can operate. The communication toys available to us all are allowing each one of us to create personalized messages that are just as compelling (sometimes even more so) than those produced by the savvy pros who work in the media and marketing departments.

And nowhere is this more evident on the comments fields, message boards, Twitter-verse, and Facebook-sphere. Yes, many of these digital statements are poorly written, nonsensical, in bad taste, ridiculously absurd, and agenda-driven. But they are all out there, for someone to read, discern and digest. This is what changes the game.

It is a pretty big change and it does affect the dynamics of everyone’s role, whether you believe it or not.

What we have seen it in the last two weeks, in the World Cup transfer loonie season, is that news travels fast. Too fast perhaps. So fast that the message is lost. Yes, we know which young man rides what now. But what about the backstory? What about the intelligent insight? What about the details? Speculation, rumor, and tales are fueled by opinion without grounds.

Well, in the rush the story and the reasons are all forgotten. You are to blame. As am we, the media. You, the reader and commenteer, have a voracious appetite for information and we know this because we see the numbers scrolling on screens, we read the comments, and we see the mad dash to chew over these morsels of information and then spit them onto the many social media platforms.

Photo by Seb Kemp.

For the media the game has become about numbers. Who got it first and who got the most. But is that the measure of success? Certainly not when the media begin to compete for maiming rights quite publicly. The bragging, swaggering, and name calling that now goes on among the media is a further death nail. With every outlet rushing for the imaginary finish line, only to find it has been pushed back further and further every time, people are crawling over each others backs.

And who benefits? The outlet? Hardly; families go untended as news break at children’s bedtime, sleep hours become work hours, and friendships and collegial alliances become strained. And for what? The digital counter doesn’t give out like a Vegas slot machine promises to. What about the reader, do they advance? Certainly not, they might get more of less, but soon the void for more of less will be felt – if it hasn’t already. And the corporate interest, do they win? Hardly, they become embroiled in half-truths, misguided transmissions, and bitter battles. All of which takes time to throw Band-aids on, massage what they can, and salvage the wreckage.

It has become a perfect cycle of self-serving rushes, whereby no one wins. No one is to blame more than the next. Each of the three groups listing above have demands, perpetrated by themselves and by the imagined needs of the others.

All the while the beautiful machine we love goes without the drop of lube, the cleansing sponge, and the gleaming polish. We send it out before it’s ready, while it rusts, and squeaking a dreadful tune.

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