The opposite pedal - Bike Magic

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The opposite pedal

Our skills contributor, Clive Forth, spends his time away from riding bikes pondering all sorts of (mostly bike related) subjects. He’s a bike-aholic and he isn’t ashamed to admit it. So to help Clive in his exploration of the sport’s many facets, we’ve given him an extra space on Bike Magic so that he can get his thoughts and feelings down ‘on paper’.

Trail solitude – the place where Clive Forth gets to do all his pondering.


Words: Clive Forth

On the opposite pedal to my regular skills piece I’d like to share my thoughts and feelings on the large topic of mountain biking, in these blogs I’ll divulge into a world of road trips, racing, riding, filming and photographing while philosophising about the art and form of riding off road. So no finer place to start than at the finish and kick off with Z for zeitgeist…

zeitgeist |ˈtsītˌgīst, ˈzīt-|

noun [ in sing. ]

The defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time: the story captured the zeitgeist of the late 1960s.

ORIGIN mid 19th cent.: from German Zeitgeist, from Zeit ‘time’ + Geist ‘spirit.’

So the spirit of mountain biking, what is it? How would you define it? What does it mean to you? We hear so many words thrown around in the scene, be it in the bike shop, at the trail, on the chairlift or embedded in our minds’ inner voice as we read. Cool, RAD, gnar, stoked, roost, drift and many more. Mountain biking and mountain bikers have created their own language, an intricate slang that only those in the sect can understand or decipher. I’ve asked people about this following conversations with bike-folk in The Shed cafe at Mabie forest and they (the non mountain biking public) confess to not having a clue what was being said between two enthusiasts.

The beatniks and hipsters created a few of these terminologies, others came from surfing or skateboarding, mountain biking has existed for long enough now that there seems to be specific words that only apply to our beloved discipline. Does the language define the spirit and mood of the time and is this language deeply rooted in the spirit of mountain biking?

I’ve always felt the sport lacks a look, a defining symbolic something that away from the trail screams, “I’m a mountain biker”. Like the language we have adopted and borrowed from other genres of sport, brands like DC, Billabong, Volcom, Dakine and so on are worn in a box fresh fashion with pride by many riders, but how many of those individuals subscribe to those other tribes of skaters, surfers and skiers? Maybe it’s the adaptive technique we use to ride the various terrain and bike types manifesting itself in our daily dress?

Clive Forth doing what he does best – getting people to ride better.

I’m fascinated by social study, the mind-set of the individual and group, what motivates people and influences people in their decision making; why do we do what we do?

I wonder how many of you ride for riding’s sake and how many seek a form of progression in your riding? How deep and philosophical do those post ride chats go?

Whether you’re into progression and philosophy or just ride for the high that endorphins provide, we are all in this together, the cycling world is often referred to as a community, right?

Do you believe we are adrenaline junkies as the media would put it or are we dealers of dopamine and serotonin looking for that sweet feeling of success following a flowing section of trail just ridden with ease and grace? I think we are the latter.

As outlined in my previous piece on skills a huge element of self belief is required if we are to ride and stay alive, mountain biking has taught me many things, adaptive technique is by far the most useful and powerful. Through mountain biking I developed as a human, I went from being a shy boy to a not so shy guy. I learnt to think outside the box and have confidence in my decision making process. To test out new ideas on the battlefield without fear of being shot down requires similar confidence levels to those needed to ride a large drop or gap jump.

From my perspective the zeitgeist of mountain biking could be defined by a few key words sometimes conflicting in meaning and more akin to the Oxford English Dictionary than our fast spitting slang:

  • Progression
  • Feeling
  • Friction
  • Dynamic
  • Freedom
  • Minimalism
  • Technicality/intricacy

Thanks for reading, now go riding…

Clive Forth.

Transition Bikes.


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