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Over a Beer: Passion Leads to Tension

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Editor’s Note: “Over a Beer” is a regular column written by Greg Heil. While Greg is the Editor in Chief for Singletracks.com, any opinions expressed in this column are his alone and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Singletracks.com.

To many, mountain biking is about having fun and enjoying the great outdoors in a healthy way. There are many different sub-sets of mountain biking and many different reasons why people ride, but I think the very core of why we choose to ride is because we enjoy it and it makes our lives better.

If mountain biking is all about having fun, why are mountain biking forums and websites full of some of the most hateful people around?

Ok, that’s a gross generalization, and we have plenty of amazing folks in the Singletracks community–on our forums, commenting on our articles, and even on Facebook (gasp!). But you don’t have to go far before you encounter vitriol and hate. I’d give you an example, but if you’ve been reading MTB articles online for more than about two days, you know what I’m talking about.

For years, this bothered me, and I couldn’t wrap my head around it: why is there so much hate in a sport that’s about having fun? But recently, I had this realization:

The apparent hate could spring from the incredible amount of passion that mountain bikers have for their sport.

You could deride this conclusion and instead say I’m delusional and looking at the world through rose-colored glasses, and maybe you’re not entirely wrong. But I’d prefer to think that the reason there are flame wars and showdowns in mountain bike comments sections across the internet is that riders are passionate about their type of riding, their idea of what mountain biking is, and they’re willing to defend it with everything that they have.

The ebike riders want places to ride their ebikes, so they defend their use of a motor with a vengeance. The mountain bikers don’t want to lose access to the trails where they ride their human-powered mountain bikes, so they attack ebikers with a vengeance. And on and on it goes.

I’m not saying that they’re right in doing so. I think we all routinely need to take a deep breath, chill out, enjoy the ride, and drink deeply of life. But the passion is still there.

This passionate debate crops up with the Wilderness issue, Strava, and different types of trail building. It even applies to criticizing someone’s choice of bike, because you love your bike and don’t want to see 26” wheels discontinued (although I think criticizing someone’s gear is particularly asinine).

I love the passion that mountain bikers have for this sport of ours. It’s way better than the alternative! But please: let’s take a deep breath, and when we engage with other riders, respect that they are just as passionate as we are. Maybe more so.