I read the San Jose Mercury News daily and I was pleased to see today’s article about mountain bikes because it gave a balanced view of the pastime some 40 years after it got its start in the Bay Area.
The headline “Bay Area lays out welcome mat to once-shunned mountain bikers,” pretty much sums up the article. We’re told that some parks are making accommodations for mountain bikes, especially new riders who want to learn more in a safe environment.
The sentiment expressed in the article mirrors what I’ve been noticing over the years. I’ve followed the mountain bike boom since the early 1980s when Tom Ritchey started building top-of-the-line frames out of his garage. The sport, if you can call it that, was born out of a desire to ride bikes off-road.
That’s a wonderful attitude to have because riding a bike off-road allows you to see miles and miles of open terrain, far more compared to hiking. It can also be mixed with road riding, giving a healthy individual the ability to ride from home in Santa Clara Valley into the mountains and back in a matter of hours.
The only downside is that off-road cycling has a kinship to off-road motorcycling. All that’s missing from today’s mountain bikes is the motor. They have suspension, beefy brakes, strong frames, wide, sturdy tires. Great for speeding down hills.
That was the rub in the beginning and it’s still the rub today, only most of the young Turks who rode like Yahoos back then have aged and saw the error of their ways, or just chalked it up to youth.
Nothing wrong with that. Young people like to have a little excitement and the mountain bike is a better option than a lot of other risky outdoor activities.
While I believe things will improve for mountain bikes, we still need to remember that the bike is the “car” on the trails. That means yielding to other trail users and slowing down to a crawl to pass.
With the mountain bike comes responsibility, no different from driving a car. I always keep that in mind while I’m riding trails in the Santa Cruz Mountains.