The Bike Magic forum has always been incredibly active, true the numbers fluctuate but there are always conversations, debates, arguments and all sorts of randomness going on in there. There is a hardcore of members who have been part of the loop for many years, none more-so than Serge the Seal of Death (not his real name by the way).
Serge has been contemplating Bike Magic's history and how he, the forum and the mountain bike world has changed in the years that he's been a member and supporter of Bike Magic.
Here's Serge's story:
YOU CAN TAKE IT TO THE LOO: BIKE MAGIC SO FAR
Words: Serge the Seal of Death
"You can't take it to read on the toilet or use it to mop up pet droppings, but the internet is an ever-expanding source of knowledge, useful or otherwise. If you’re after assorted Maximum Mountain Bike articles and up-to-the-minute news amidst all the porn and geeks, then may we recommend you point your browser at the maximum mountain bike page that’s part of www.bikemagic.com." Maximum Mountain Bike Magazine, November 1999. And so it started: a relationship that has seen me logging onto a bike website since 1999. That's a long time and as with any long-term relationship both partners have changed, so let’s start with me, back then.
I had been into bikes for a few years, but living in rural Oxfordshire my biking was probably of a type known only to people who can trace their biking back to those days. It was called Bridleway Bashing, and was probably as far away from the images and videos shown in the magazines as it was possible to get. There was often soul destroying frustration as I made my way around two sides of a field just to get to a gateway, dragging bikes along tractor tracks and trails that in winter were axle-deep in mud. You know you are struggling for suitable terrain to ride on when a favourite trail at the time was a loose-gravelled double-track with a slight gradient that made its way through a Christmas tree plantation, and then ended at a gate that had to be climbed (or opened quickly) due to the adjacent manor house with Rottweilers that ran loose.
But my life was changing. By 1999 I was 20, in work, and a proud owner of an Astra. I had always been into bike mags, and during my college years I would buy them all: Total Bike, Mountain Bike Rider, MBUK, Bike International and Maximum Mountain Bike. At one point I had over 400 magazines in a collection. My local mates at the time were Dave from college (more into jumping) and James (a fellow Bridleway Basher), and between us we started to travel around: Aston hill, Wendover woods, Forest of Dean, and the New Forest. Then James and I, along with quite a few other people, discovered a great place to chat and plan our weekends whilst at work: bikemagic.com.
In those days (at this point I would recommend looking up a You Tube song: 'We Didn't Own An Ipad') the ability to chat online was still a novelty. BM reflected this, as during the day the Forum was almost exclusively made up of people slacking from jobs where they were lucky enough to have internet access (me) and IT help desk staff (who should have been monitoring people like me during the working day). I often think this is where the hands-off approach to moderation of Bike Magic developed, as half the users were computer moderators in real life. The other users were the rare group of people with internet access at home in the evening.
Suddenly I could chat, and more importantly meet people who had better places to ride than me. For a few years BM was the only bike forum and bikers from all over the country and into every style of riding were on here. Friendships and riding buddies were found, small local groups would have dedicated threads in the ride sections (Leeds riders are still using this - well done) and a number of clubs sprung up. Suddenly it was possible to track down those other tyre marks left in the mud on your local trails, agree a meeting place and off you go. The start of some local biking scenes. A great example of this was a club called the Chiltern First Fifteen (http://bikemagic.com/mountain-bike-trails/trail-news/first-xv-go-legit.html), formed by local riders the length of the Chilterns, who I went out on rides with a number of times, and who, given the demanding nature of the local trails and the motivation generated by riding in a large group, soon became seriously quick. I have some amusing memories of holly bushes, vomit and long climbs with that lot.
Then we had the wonderful Dead Bike events. The premise was to pick a famous person thought to be close to death (we are still waiting on Cliff Richard), and the winner would then pick an event, such as a race, or just organise a large group ride, where they would be forced to ride a bike of spare parts and dubious mechanical strength (who ever thought cast magnesium was a good frame material). One of the most amusing being the Cannock meet: a local race, a large group of camping racers and us, about 15 guys and gals, knocking up this bike, and the guy who emerged from his tent at 11pm in his pants to shout at us. He will always be known as Mr Pants to me.
Altogether I think I went on around six or seven Dead Bike events, meeting guys and gals from around the country, and being joined by my Girlfriend, who is also a mountain biker. Although constrained by motherhood at the moment she also used to frequent Bike Magic (until work internet filters caught her out).
And so onto some of the friends I have made, the guys such as Ancient Mariner; Slowboy; Pinky; Dr Dolittle; the Flaps; Diane; Anne and Mike (most of whom came to my wedding) and the local mates such as Emo 75, who introduced me to my local club; Alan of shed who I used to meet up with on a Saturday morning and crash his mate's ride; and Milo who is now involved in bike events and holidays, plus loads more, much more then I can mention here. Bike Magic has been with me through some of the best and worst times of my life. Through relationships, redundancies (three), weddings, honeymoons (cycling in Andalucía), pregnancies (2), massive out of the blue health problems with our first son, to the continued adventure of family life, members of Bike Magic have shared their support, their stories, humour and, of course, flaming.
Bike Magic still offers the same hold over me as it has always done, group rides and events have happened over the years that due to family life I have not been able to attend (yes, you can now download routes to GPS units and head out, but I would still prefer organising a ride with a local). Former members have left, mostly to new forums and new websites, which have become so much easier to setup. For example, there was a massive drop in forum activity when MTB Wales came along.
But Bike Magic keeps on going. With new users popping up on the forums, and with another redesign plus new management updating the content and the direction of Bike Magic, I hope that more users will continue to support, develop and utilise the site. From my experience most are friendly, open and most importantly enthusiastic mountain bikers.
So go on: have a chat, share your views, organise a ride, submit reviews and articles to the management, and hopefully make some friends. Plus with WiFi, you can now even take it to the loo.
Click here to go to the Bike Magic forum.