The Mountain Bike Life

My obsession with bike porn nearly ruined my love of our dear sport. I remember the first time I spent money on bike porn, it was the moment I knew I had a problem. We all get free bike-porn over at pinkbike.com, and we watch the soft-core stuff on youtube from our phones, and behind our desks, but I actually spent money on it. I crossed that threshold that everyone starts off saying they will never cross. I bought the lie, and I bought it with more than just my head, I bought it with my wallet. Read below the break to learn how I got pimped, and how I am breaking free.

It was December 27th, 2013 and I was experiencing 2nd degree burns on my upper thigh from a $50 iTunes gift card that was burning a hole in my pocket. Alone in the corner of a coffee shop with my eyes darting everywhere and my back to the wall I redeemed the iTunes card and bought bike porn for the first time. “Arrival”. Download complete. I was drawn into the screen, I could feel my legs trying to pedal, this was going to be my experience, I would live in this moment through those riders. Feeling the pulse of the moment I flowed down singletrack with them (all while watching countless not so subtle ads for Specialized), I launched back flips with them, I traveled the world with them, I partied with them. Then as quickly as it started, it was over.

Watching bike porn put me in the mood, so I went home and there in my basement was my hardtail with its 100mm travel fork. Sure she’s not as pretty as the bikes I saw on the screen, but I’d give her a quick ride anyway.

Not known for her beauty, but at least she’s been faithful.

I took her outside and I looked around. Northwest Ohio plains. Sure the setting wasn’t gorgeous like that in the video, but I’d give it a go anyway.

I rode over to an area near my house that is always fun for me, but it didn’t have the same allure it once did.  I hit some little roots and caught my standard 6 to 24 inches of air which after watching the video seemed utterly benign. Am I even allowed to call anything under 4ft ‘air’?

Everything that was once acceptable and even enjoyable in my biking world had lost its allure.
A couple weeks later I decided to watch a number of YouTube videos which chronicled the “Making of Arrival”. What I saw changed the way I watched bike videos forever, and maybe saved my love of the sport. The final product of the video would have you believe that the real Mountain Bike Life consisted of dropping huge airs in perfect sunlight on epic trails.  It would have you believe that real riders flow downhill for 10 minutes straight dropping jump after jump, but when you see behind the scenes it is far less impressive. Days are spent making a jump just right. Immediately after each camera shot the riders are hard on their brakes and hiking up the hill to rail the same berm, over and over again hoping to get it just right.  Camera crews celebrate when they get one good shot. Yet as the viewer of the final product it looks like continual awesomeness. We are led to believe that this is what good mountain biking looks like.

My poor hardtail, Ohio plains, and little section of single track are being judged against and trying to compete with something that isn’t even real. Reality can’t compete with bike porn. The final cut never shows the cameraman making the bike-pornstars do the same move over and over again to get it just right. The final cut doesn’t show the teams of people just out of the view finder barking out the instructions to make it flow perfectly. It’s no different than the reality that you never see the poor woman puking off screen after pretending to enjoy what she just endured. Yet here we expect the same experience we saw in the video to happen every time we throw our leg over our … bike.  Theodore Roosevelt once said “Comparison is the thief of joy”, I’d say he was on to something.

If you tell my son he didn’t get air, I’ll tell him you are a liar!

I still watch bike videos, but I have a lot stronger appreciation for videos that capture the reality of the sport like “Church”.  ‘Church’ was shot in 2 days by one camera man. That is closer to reality. As an added bonus I didn’t feel like I was beer bonging Specialized Kool-Aid, or that I should be smashing a Red Bull can on my forehead while watching it.

I’m not going to tell a reader how to live their lives, nor will I tell anyone what to watch and what not to watch when it comes to biking. However I won’t be bashful in saying that we should be aware of the tricks that the editors and cameramen are playing on us before we lay unrealistic expectations on our own experiences.

We riders who will never attain the level of filmed riders these videos start off feeling inspirational, but the videos’ unreality can gradually destroy any real desire we have for progression. I remember when it felt rad learning to do a 180 bunny hop, I felt like I accomplished something. I felt accomplished when I could track stand through the long red light on the way to the park, or when I added a hair of what I thought was style going over the tiny box jump at our rural skate park.  All these little things marked progression for me, and progression is one of the true joys of our sport. If we are not careful, watching these videos will make us downplay any progression we experience, and rob us of a joy that is rightfully ours. Porn isn’t reality, and it often keeps us from making reality as good as it could be.

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