A long time ago, probably on an early incarnation of an internet forum, a UK-based bike designer widely known for his outspoken views took umbrage at a heated debate that was taking place. I forget the detail of what was being discussed. As usual, it wasn’t so much the topic that was the issue but the fact that a bunch of people hiding behind pseudonyms were disagreeing over minute details. But I digress.
The point, according to our outspoken critic, was simply this: “mountain biking isn’t a <insert deleted expletive here> religion. It’s riding around muddy fields in circles”.
You could practically hear the virtual tumbleweed roll down the ISDN line…
The point, though, is as relevant now as it was then. More than one person asked me, in the run-up to launching Cranked, which particular mountain biking tribe I was aiming the mag at. “All of them” clearly wasn’t the expected answer, but it’s the only one that makes any sense. Back in the halcyon days of rigid bikes, 18 vaguely indexed gears and dayglo riding kit, everyone with a mountain bike was, by definition, a mountain biker. Even races were a cheerful smorgasbord of disciplines, pulling together a bunch of disparate individuals to have a crack at downhill, observed trials and cross-country… on the same weekend, and on the same bike. It was chaos, but cheerful chaos.
At around the same time, windsurfing was quietly dying a death inflicted by a rash of specialist boards and rigs for different conditions. You couldn’t just turn up on the beach and launch any more. If you were a proper windsurfer, you needed at least three boards and five sails.
Oh, wait. Look what’s happened to mountain biking…
And there’s the rub. While manufacturers have driven sales by, first, re-inventing the bike (all mountain, anyone?) and, latterly, by re-inventing the wheel (twice), we’ve ended up with an embarrassment of incredible kit on which to have our off-road adventures. This is a Good Thing, provided we don’t end up splintering off into different factions divided by false perceptions of what’s “right”. Cranked is (it says on the cover) “a magazine for mountain bikers”. And, by that, we mean anyone with more than a passing interest in (broadly) human powered, two-wheeled vehicles designed for use off-road. Downhill, cross-country, trail, enduro, all mountain, over mountain, freeride, fat bike, e-bike, off-road wheelchair, gravel bike, cyclocross, unicycle… it’s all good.
Our first issue rubbed a few vocal Internet commentators up the wrong way by including (gasp!) both e-bikes and fat bikes (there was a column about road bikes too, but it appears we got away with that). Someone even commented that they wouldn’t be buying the mag, just because of that. So there.
That’s fine. We’re not out to convert anyone, to preach or to imply that one particular variety of having fun on bikes off-road is The Best. What we’re about is celebrating, inspiring and, occasionally, challenging everything and anything to do with riding around muddy fields (or even dusty trails) in circles, on bicycles. So it’s only right that we give fair warning: our second issue probably contains pictures of tyres that are (whisper it) more than a couple of inches wide. There’s even mention of touring bikes. Oh, and some four wheeled contraptions have snuck in too (but it’s not what you’re thinking). There are also a fair few mountain bikes.
We are nothing, if not a broad church.
Amen to that.