Does mountain biking have a self-esteem issue?

As editor of Cranked, every single word that goes into each issue passes by my critical gaze. Several times. There are a lot of words in each issue of Cranked (ballpark 28,000 – 32,000), so all this critical reading and tweaking takes a little while. Well, a long while.

It’s worth it because words matter. Mainstream consumer mags put their contributors in a straitjacket, then ratchet-strap them to the floor and make them write their features blindfold, with their hands behind their back. At least, that’s what it can feel like. Stringent and inflexible word counts limit what can be said, and extensive style guides restrict the way you can say it.

Mass market mags do things that way because they feel they have to. Cranked isn’t mass market, so we do things… differently. We don’t give our writers word counts to work to, we let them express themselves however they want, and we even (gasp) allow the occasional expletive (which we don’t asterisk). Not only that, but words that are unusual or long or will require a dictionary (or sneaky Google) are positively encouraged.

I only mention all this to illustrate that we’re tuned into the importance of language. All of which is a precursor to asking, does mountain biking have a problem? You don’t have to follow all that many social media streams for very long to realise that a peculiarly aggressive lexicon has slipped in under the radar. Trails aren’t ridden, they’re shredded. Owned. Ripped (and so on… you get the idea).

For some riders, this is already an issue. Land access and trail conflict are problems that have to be dealt with wherever you ride in the world; portraying an image of mountain biking as little more than destroying the land over which your tyres are rolling (goes the argument) doesn’t do anyone any favours.

Which is a fair point. But I’m beginning to wonder if the purveyors of this new language of trail rape-and-pillage aren’t, perhaps, stretching the point a bit. It’s almost as if they’re over-compensating for something. You could argue the toss over the way in which videos tend to show a lot of slow-mo roost (loam or scree, it doesn’t really make any difference). This isn’t a sustainable way to ride, natch. The crews who fix trails around the world know this.

But, more to the point, the vast majority of riders aren’t actually capable of riding this way. Cornering foot out, motocross-style, takes a level of skill and nerve that most trail riders can only dream of possessing (this writer included). You know how when you get one of your riding buddies to video you nailing that huge drop and it looks so… lame?


It’s analogous, I think, to the way in which caravan manufacturers in the UK – purveyors of white plastic boxes on wheels, in essence – feel the need to dress their wares up in names that the products can’t possibly hope to live up to. Marauder. Avenger. Swift.

Nope. It’s a caravan. And that’s a bloke riding round a corner, fairly slowly. You may think you’re shredding… but you’re really not. Which is a good thing.

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