Memories are made of this. Florian de Vries, Ben Clark and Max Bruneau explore core values of the ride somewhere in Queenstown NZ. Photo Zach Faulkner
There has to be a saturation point. The threshold for how many different-but-same storylines, reviews, and general commentary has been quite high since content started to be pumped out at an almost intolerable pace. I feel that a lot of what ends up on the front page of a website these days is a watered down, easily palatable mush of industry jargon and feel-good buzzwords to gently warm the insatiable appetite of the readership. The in-depth, quality analytical pieces of yore have fallen in favor of what I’m calling the “Long Format Brodown”. Granted, the deep philosophical pieces of insight and soul searching can’t be dime-a-dozen, otherwise their powerful hold would be lost in the ether of waxing poetic, but I feel that this new thread of writing and storytelling is doing a disservice to the very people it aims to inspire. Relatability is a key component about engaging readers, and while an element of fantasy is important in the sense that writing about the daily grind isn’t the aim, keeping a sense of realism about adventure is an element that should be strived for more frequently.
I am a big fan of exciting backcountry exploration and big mountain adventure, but at the end of the day, that’s not something I’d call my “bread and butter” regarding foreseeable future engagements and current travel trajectory. When I browse around various websites within the sport, I can almost guarantee a daily post about Old Mate and Some Homies packing up their Gear and Getting Stoked for the Epic Adventure they are about to embark on with the aid of Some Industry Friend and/or Sponsor. 9 out of 10 times, this is so beyond the reach of the average reader that it’s not even inspiring; it’s selling a lie, marketing a falsehood and alternate reality to the working class weekend warrior. These marketing write-off trips are the norm for the people in the story, it’s their job(s). But for the rest of the pairs of eyes glued to the screen, wondering what Epic View they’ll see and who will have a Personal Awakening, a True Revelation about their place in the world, this is a fairy tale, perhaps a once or twice in a lifetime experience should they have one.
Watching a video of or reading about a group of friends escaping existential crisis by kicking off into the woods on lavish (or minimalistic, whatever) expeditions is thrilling for sure. But it creates a poor interpretation of what it’s like to participate in the sport. If you’re not logging crazy miles with the help of a Topo Map or using at least three types of Shuttle Vehicle, should you even bother? For the rest of us who don’t live next to 10,000ft peaks in temperate climates, our weekend adventures usually mean loading up the bike rack on the hatchback and driving to the trailhead with our group of friends for a couple-hour ride on dirt we all know intimately. This is the real core readership, those who work for the weekends and take their big-mountain, adventure bikes out on just over single-digit-mileage XC loops in hopes of replicating a feeling they got from a storyline which took place in a land far away. There is nothing wrong with escapism when it’s honest, but I don’t feel that the pictures being painted (so to speak) of what mountain biking is all about is relatable within an acceptable perimeter.
This misleading faux-epic lifestyle agitates me because it makes me feel like I’m missing out on some greater experience that others have come to know as a daily routine. But the truth is that the morning ride I did today in semi-fresh snow was almost more validating of my love of riding than any Big Epic Alpine Broventure I could have done (of which, I’ve only done one––yes, it was awesome). I spent the 42 minutes of ride time deep in the stores of torque, fighting up punchy climbs, and then hanging a foot drifting like a hero on the exit corners at the bottom of descents. This was all in snow, not an ounce of loam in sight… and it all happened 15 minutes from by house on a late Sunday morning. It was relatable because it was something anyone could have done, and to me it emphasized the basic joy I get from just being outside on a bike. I don’t need a heli-drop to do it, nor do I need a bike that costs five figures.
But marketing teams don’t want you to think like I do. They want you to buy a bike that you’ll sell a kidney and remortgage your house for, in anticipation of that dreamy fanciful trip like the one you read about/saw the video of on That Website, and you’ll have to perhaps then sell your remaining kidney to fund. And hopefully, the bike shop employee sold you a little extra skill, endurance, and athletic talent you can bring along on the trip of a lifetime. That’s a much-forgotten aspect of the buying process: the bikes only work as well as you can ride them, and the riding will only be as good as your relationship with your heart rate. When talent runs out, you’ll need some fitness, and if you left that on the kitchen counter with your phone charger your trip is going to be remarkably less fun and perhaps abbreviated. These factors reserved for the Behind The Scenes DVD Extras are never touched upon, and it’s a travesty. Imagine descending for more than 15 minutes, and then doing that multiple times in one ride; what average rider has the stamina and fitness for that? And then to discuss “how small we felt among the grandeur of The Mountain Range In That Magical Location” is just lame malarky. If you didn’t understand your place in the World until that moment, you’ve been asleep your whole life. And the quip of, “We were pretty tired rolling back to our base camp that evening, but it was another great day in the hills, and the vibes were fully pumped to the max as we all laughed and high fived over a cold beer…” in literally any write-up about Adventure Riding is such a trite and played-out way of addressing the culmination of what was supposed to be a Revelatory Life-Changing Day is a sad, underwhelming cop-out.
These So Epic Adventures with The Crew and the WickedVibes are the dumbing down of a scene that is inherently exhilarating. Getting Back To The Basics by chartering a float plane is not how I think the Feeling Of Freedom is achieved for the majority. The location-specific unrealistic portrayal of adventure is quickly giving into the Hipster Glamour allure of Nostalgia felt after spending any amount of time away from the bustle of semi-urban environments. The fetishizing of nature and “oneness” is bullshit fauxlosophy that needs to be done away with, and the actual topic in mind needs to be handled with more care and given the proper credence it deserves. Because this bloviated interpretation of riding is so prevalent, it’s created dumb consumer expectations, detracting from the whole point of riding in the first place. The commercialization of the backcountry is fast approaching in this sport, with its foot firmly wedged in the door, it’s now driving a shallow market with little realistic holdings by showcasing a limited lifestyle, one which has few ties to the true end goal experience held in the mind of the buyer. Upselling a casual trip with friends and making it a glorified soul-search is smut, and attempting to sell-out the people who really live the core values of the sport.