Does this sound like you?
There are certain milestones in mountain biking that you need to have ticked off before you can be a card-carrying member of the MTB community.
You’re not a proper mountain biker until…
… you hoard old sheets/towels/T-shirts/curtains
You can never have too many bits of cloth at your disposal if you’re a mountain biker. Endlessly useful for both cleaning your bike bits (especially filthy drivetrains) but larger sheets are also useful for protecting bikes during transit in the back of vehicles.
… you punch a chainring
Have you ever skinned your knuckles when attempting to remove stuck pedals from your cranks? Of course you have. Congratulations, you are a proper mountain biker. Still hurts though.
… you have a fatal mechanical at the furthest point on the route
Not ‘fatal’ as in someone dies but ‘fatal’ as in your bike no longer works. The absolute classic is a snapped chain but let’s not forget those moments when you puncture and you can’t repair it. Grinding along the trails and roads with a flat tyre roaring away under you, whilst every hilarious passerby points out that “you’ve got a puncture mate”. Thanks for that.
… consider a bike costing four figures as good value
The cost of mountain bikes is something that you can only really talk about with other proper mountain bikers. Try explaining how a bike that costs £2,700 is “amazingly good value for what you get”. You’re on a hiding to nothing.
… regret selling a bike
We all have a mountain bike from our recent history that we think we should never have got rid of. Even though, deep down, we know that it wasn’t any way near a good a bike as our current steed, we still pang for the good ol’ days. Nostlagic grass is always particularly so much greener.
… blame your bike for not riding something
Classic components that come in the firing line here are brakes and tyres. Which is fair enough. If you’re having a bad day and then discover that your tyres aren’t suitable for the day’s conditions or your brakes go all weedy, they’re going to get sworn at. Even though your mate on even-worse components isn’t having any trouble at all riding the same things as you. Hmm.
… there’s nothing else you’d rather be doing
Mountain biking is the killer of all other interests and pastimes. Sure, you’d quite like to go for a hike or even a run every now and then. But you don’t. Because there’s never ever any time when a bike ride doesn’t get priority.
… you suffer in the wrong clothes
Perhaps counter-intuitively the wrong clothing phenomenon isn’t often about being cold – although those are the instances you may remember most vividly – it’s actually the times where you get dressed in a seemingly suitable ensemble only to find that you are massively overdressed for the activity of mountain biking. You are very rarely cold when mountain biking. Will we ever learn?
… you found yourself on the wrong side of a hill
This is a bit like simply being lost but it’s not quite the same. It’s more like the slowly dawning realisation that you’ve descended (for ages) down the wrong path. You went down the most interesting looking path without pausing to see if it was correct. Oops. And now you have a huge climb/push back up to get back to square one. And it’s getting dark.
… you finish a ride in the dark
Accidentally we might add. Deliberate night rides don’t count. For whatever the reason (mechanical, injury, getting lost, underestimating how long the route would take etc) you’re not a proper mountain biker until you’ve sketchily finished a ride in complete darkness. Without lights. Bonus points added if your family has begun contacting the emergency services.
… you bonk
There’s being tired and then there’s bonking. Being so empty of fuel that you feel permanently chilled and you lose all social conventions regarding food. Begging fellow riders for food, eating anything at all no matter how foul, genuinely contemplating going to sleep right there on the mountainside, would gladly hand over all your credit cards and PIN numbers in exchange for a Mars Bar.
… you take a picture of a trail with your bike lead across it
Instagram eh? The classic MTB cliche of bike-on-empty-trail is our version of the roadies’ BAAW (bike against a wall). Part bike porn, part trail worship, part mate-baiting (if your mates are stuck at work or at a fmaily function etc).
… you forget a vital item
This is before you even start the ride. Have you ever driven to the trailhead or meeting place only to then discover that you have forgotten your shoes/helmet/wheel/thru-axle? Of course you have, you’re a proper mountain biker. Bonus proper (stupid) points if you’ve then try to go ahead with the ride anyway by riding in your Nikes and without a helmet.
… you go OTB
Over. The Bars. There may well be some type of cyclists who never experience the queasy time-travel slo-mo sensation of being sent sailing hight over the front of your bike but if you’re a mountain biker, you most definitely will OTB at some point. Numerous times.
… you rejoice at finding a zip tie in public
By this, we don’t mean finding a zip tie in your garage/shed/backpack, what we mean is spotting an unused zip tie on the ground somewhere in your civilian life and merrily picking it up and internally punching the air with glee and satisfaction. Free zip tie! Yes!
… ‘World Cup’ doesn’t mean football
World Cup conjures up images of Bruni, Gwin and Seagrave, not hair gel, histrionics and Heineken.
… you fit a crucial component the night before a ride
And you don’t check if it works. And then it doesn’t work on the ride (of course it doesn’t). Drivetrain items are the classic culprit here: new chain, new cassette, new rear mech on a pre-bent gear hanger, bottom bracket… That sinking feeling you get when you start the ride and your drivetrain immediately tells you that it’s not happy. Slipping under load, not staying in gear, awful creaking or clicking noises etc.
… you experience The Feeling
That addictive cocktail of thrill, effort, trepidation, success, freedom and fun that is… mountain biking.