Viral videos have made mountain biking a spectator sport

”Are you gonna do a sick jump?” I was asked the question by a random pedestrian as I was preparing for a drop during my routine trail ride. The height of the drop was a mere two meters at best, but it was a fun jump – there aren´t that many perfectly placed fallen trees in the middle of a bendy single track descent that provide a level take-off platform with a steep landing. “No, I´ll just do a regular old small drop”, I replied. “Oh, I thought you would do something really sick, like balancing your way down on top of the tree and then jumping off it.” I looked at the mostly bark-free tree trunk and the sloping slippery ride it would make and said nothing. Sure, Danny MacAskill could ride it and probably make a back-flip while exiting it, but even though I had ridden mountain bikes for nearly 30 years and was, in my own opinion, a pretty solid rider – my skill set was nowhere near the required level for it.

As the bystander walked away and disappeared in the forest I did the drop a couple of times and enjoyed the little air time I was getting. When continuing my ride I remembered another occasion where I was on top of a slightly bigger drop, one that I had been looking at for quite some time, but had not yet had the courage to execute. I was intimidated by the blind take off and the small sweet-spot of steep landing area you had to hit in order to not land on the flats. That time as well I was approached by a random person, a beer-bellied dog-walker who told me straight off to go ahead and do it. It would be easy he said – “I have seen people drop it.”

Remembering the event got me thinking how much mountain biking had developed since I bought my first bike in 1989. The mind-boggling evolution of suspension, frames and components have all enabled the level of riding to progress to the height that we see today in the Enduro and Downhill competitions and the Red Bull Rampage. But without the invention of digital cameras and editing, GoPro´s and social media the knowledge of the evolution would have probably remained within the sport. Now, with the help of viral videos, action sports like mountain biking have become spectator sports where the fans don´t necessarily participate in the sport themselves, but instead cheer the athletes with a beer in their hands – expecting for ever greater stunts. While my incapability to be a crowd-pleaser might have made me question my riding abilities, the encounter also got me thinking that with a little bit of work, some two-by-four, hammer and nails – I COULD add the log-ride to my trail routine.

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