Thursday, January 12, 2012

where are we going? we need a U-Turn

So there has been an ongoing debate on the MORC forum basically ever since I have joined, I don’t think it is my doing but it might have something to do with it but I doubt it. The debate is about what bike to ride and trail difficulty and rating. I have always been on the stance that the trails are too easy and that there should be more difficult sections to choose from.
Here is a great quote from an interview I read a couple days ago:
Response from industry professional (Justin Frey from fox):
“Question: Can you believe that full-rigid carbon mountain bikes exist in 2012?
Answer: I wish I didn’t because it’s kind of like a bad nightmare that won’t go away. At that point, isn’t that just a road bike with knobby tires and straight bars? I really think that XC race venues need to make their tracks more technical and challenging so that racers actually feel that riding a bike with 100mm or 120mm of travel is an advantage. After all it is MOUNTAIN BIKING not fire road biking."
I totally have to agree with that statement but every time this gets brought up in discussion I end up on the short end of the stick, like I’m attacking someone or their credibility and I’m totally not. We have amazing trails and incredible trail builders as well as a great organization MORC backing all of this.
What I mean or am trying to say, is that there is what 3-5miles of Green (easy) trail, 7-8 miles of Blue (intermediate) trail, and about 2-3 miles of Black and Double Black (difficult and hard) trail at Lebanon alone, I believe that is close, and way more Green and Blue compared to black in the metro area? The Black and Double black should be something that is earned, IMO, it is not your right to be able to ride that section it’s a privilege earned over seasons of riding and practice to hone your skill to reach that level or riding.
Green trails- be able to be ridden by just about any able bodied person
Blue trails-be able to be ridden by most people and a slight challenge for Green level riders mildly intimidating.
Black trails- only be able to be ridden by advanced riders, not because others are banned but because they are not physically able or at that skill level. It should not be able to be completed by a Green level rider without them walking and/or carrying their bike and it should be intimidating to that level of rider to the point that they don’t want to ride that trail and it should be at the top of a blue level rider’s skill/ability level and be a difficult challenge for them to ride but do able with maybe walking a part or two but intimidating.
Double black trails- only be able to be ridden by expert level riders and should be both physically and mentally demanding and taxing on your skill set. This trail should be extremely intimidating to Green level riders, very intimidating to Blue level riders- to the point that they need to really question if they are good enough to ride it, and slightly intimidating to a Black level rider, a trail that pushes their skill set and puts them in sections that make them pucker up. This section of trail should be at a level that if you do not belong on this trail you should know it and if not the trail will tell you or show you very quickly and it might result in you crashing, getting hurt, breaking bike parts or all of the above.
There are plenty of trails that can be ridden by lesser riders 10-13 miles worth at Lebanon alone. I guess it is up to the rider to choose and dictate to a point which level they are at but the trail should let you know where you are as well as it does in rock climbing. A 5.5 rider is not going to be able to complete a 5.10 route and if they try they will fail and quickly be humbled back to their rightfully earned place, until they have put in the time and effort to improve to that level and develop the needed skills. I can also add the example of down hill skiing. If by chance you catch yourself on a black or double black level ski run you will most likely crash, probably hard or end up walking down the hill. Now that is humbling. Sports like these have different levels to encourage development and progression. As well as provide challenges to different levels of riders but each level must be earned. It can not be given to you with out the trials and tribulation of years or of hard work and practice.
Can a bike or equipment help a lesser rider move up quicker? Oh definitely, at that point it would be considered a crutch and there are tons of products in our sport that get misused and turned into crutches- Clipless pedals, suspension and 29er wheels to name a few. Are there advantages to these products? Most definitely but you can only gain their full potential by gaining yours first. When you have pushed your skills to the level that your current rig is no longer supporting your riding or the trails you are riding then you need to upgrade.
With that said top level trail (double black) should mandate or at least highly encourage some pieces of equipment, such as suspension. Could that trail be ridden on a fully rigid bike? Yes of course, a very skilled rider could ride a rigid. Would that rider, ride that trail as well or as fast as they would with a full suspension bike? No, and that is my point the trail should dictate to a point what equipment is needed and what equipment has its advantages. Can a rider on a full rigid or even hard tail bike ride an extremely rough and technical downhill section? Yes of course. Can that rider ride it as fast or smooth as they could on full suspension bike? No or be able to take routes that one could take on a full suspension bike? No.
I understand that there are some hurdles and restrictions imposed by land owners and maybe insurance companies but we as a mountain bike community are quite large and MORC has a lot of influence on these entities but I don’t feel that it is being used. I feel that mountain biking community as a whole is rather conservative and content with what they have which in my opinion goes against mountain biking at its very being!
Mountain biking as a whole is very progressive and motivated sport that is always changing and pushing the limits of what is possible and the abilities of its participants. If we forget this we will not only hold our selves back but our entire sport. The mid west is not really on the map when it comes to mountain biking but it damn well could be! We don’t have mountains but we have a lot of hills and a lot of interesting terrain that is not being used to its potential.
I hope that with the advent of this new High School Mountain Bike League it will bring a new crop of young and progressive riders on to the scene that will demand more out of mid west mountain biking. This will only happen if their young moldable minds are exposed to a large and diverse viewing of what mountain biking has to offer. I hope that the people that have decided to coach are not close minded and will not push their conservative Lycra wearing smooth pedal fest xc beliefs onto these kids. I am almost tempted to try and become one of these coaches myself. I will see what this season has to bring and if the league will be around for years to come, hopefully and if so I will look closer to what it takes to join up.
I hope this encourages you to push yourself, test your limits and boundaries and thrive to be the best mountain biker you can be!
Keep it real!
And big props to my boy Tim on his 4 year wedding anniversary!


  1. I think you're right on. I don't thinknwe'll ever get to be too gnarly on public land, but we can def get more thn right now. Fortunately I think MN riders will continue to want more cool trails as they ride out west more and are exposed to f'ing sweet riding through videos and such. Having the Lex jumps will help a lot too I think! (thx dude). In meantime we should start saving for some hilly private land!!

  2. I think you are exactly right, we need a private land owner to be like you know what come build some bad ass trails, kind of like Jay Richards did at Maplelog, but even burlier! But until then I will continue to push the limits of what I can convince people to build here!

  3. so I guess if you know of any prospects you should let me know and we could try to approach them this summer and see if they would let a small group of us ride and build and keep them to ourselves! otherwise Battle Creek has the best potential in my opinion to be the gnarest trails around