FOR WHAT IT’S WIRTH
In honor of the 30th-year anniversary issue, I’ve decided to take a step back on this page and let the original editor of Mountain Bike Action tell his story, which appeared in our first issue
ever printed. He had no small task, writing a magazine about a
sport that hardly existed at the time. Join us in our time machine,
because we’re going back to the first editorial ever written in
MBA —“Happy Trails” by Dean Bradley. Hope you enjoy the
palpable nostalgia as much as I do.
From Dean: “Okay,” they say. “You’re the expert. Tell us,
what’s the average mountain biker like? In other words, Mr.
Bradley, can you give us a precise demographic breakdown of our
target audience? Or in even simpler terms, can you consolidate
the entire unwashed and admittedly motley market into a concise
and well-cleansed consumer group of young and upwardly mobile
overachievers and over-spenders?”
“No problem,” I say. Then I think for a minute. Then I think for
two minutes. Then I think, wow, I’ve never thought of my sport in
these terms before. Facts. Figures. Names. Numbers.
My sport is hopefully your sport: mountain biking, all-terrain
cycling—call it what you will. It didn’t start out this way, of course.
We didn’t really have a name for it. Didn’t have to. But that’s all
changed now. Mountain bikes are big bucks, big names, big fun
and, in the wrong hands, big trouble.
I may be an idealist, but I’d like to think that mountain bikers
share a unique camaraderie. First off, a more diverse group you’ll
never find. All-terrain biking is emerging as an athletic melting pot
of the ’80s—a sport style of cycling that has convincingly captured the hearts and quadriceps of literally millions. There’s nothing like the people, the places and the pedaling potential offered
through ATBing. But there’s also a lot of responsibility involved.
As the name so aptly implies, ATBs go just about anywhere and
consequently have the potential to impact a far greater number of
folks than do “normal” bikes. That’s good. And that’s bad.
Recently, ATBists (that’s what they call us) have been receiving
a lot of flak regarding the intended use of our riding areas. People
are already beginning to tell us where, when and how long we can
ride our bikes. And that’s scary. If you’ve ever ridden an ATB, you
realize that you want to ride it just about anywhere. It’s arguably
the greatest thing to come along in cycling for decades. It has
blown the roof off the somewhat stagnant sport of cycling. Go anywhere. Under your own power. Cheap. Easy. Healthy. Hip. And your
butt isn’t sore, so you can sit up and take in the scenery and forget about flats. No wonder 50 percent of all adult bikes sold next
year will be fat-tired, multi-speed bikes. We’ve got something here.
Let’s not blow it. Last year’s landmark vote by the nation’s most
powerful environmental lobby—the 94-year-old, 260,000-mem-
ber-strong Sierra Club—to ban us along with all other “ATVs,
motorcycles, dune buggies, etc.” from various wilderness areas
was admittedly a shocker. Or, as Glen O’Dell of NORBA so eloquently put it, “an incredulous note of betrayal” from a group
with whom cyclists have normally been aligned. To lump us into
the same category as motorized, fuel-burning forms of off-road
transport? Come on. And that’s only the beginning. Unless we
address the problem, the resulting domino effect could include
federal, state, city and county land closures. We’re serious. Ride
a bike; go to jail.
But hold on. You say you’re a healthy, young, environmentally
conscious, law-abiding kinda person? You just wanna ride your
bike? Well, figure it out—it can happen. It’s happened before.
Are there any Green Sticky ex-motorcyclists out there? Whatever
happened to the “less sound = more ground” motorcycle movement of the early ’70s? It’s the same…only different. The end
result is the same, though: fences. Fences restricting where we
Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe you haven’t. But, let’s not
end up there again; let’s learn from our collective mistakes. We’re
not alone out there. And whether you want to or not, you’ve
become somewhat of an all-terrain ambassador. If you now ride
an ATB, you’ve suddenly become a spokesman for our sport.
The bottom line? Get out there, have fun, ride swiftly, take only
photos, leave only tire tracks and generally preserve nature. Get
rad if you must, but ride smart, use your head, and preserve our
access. Happy trails.
Sincerely, fat and happy,
the MBA time
BY MIKE WIRTH
Dean Bradley, 1986