This post is more of a ‘thinking out loud’ type thing. It’s not full of cited information. It’s not meant to insult anyone’s efforts at trying to make this world a better place, because that image of “a better place” looks different for everyone and the route to getting there is vastly different. This, like everything else posted on this blog, is just for fun. In this case, it’s a rambling thought that we hoped would make more sense once put to digital ink.
There sure is a lot of talk going around about how IMBA sucks for poo-pooing a bill that would allow mountain bikes into Wilderness areas. A lot of the commentary is along the lines of “IMBA sucks, they don’t speak for me, cancel your memberships” and so on and so forth.
This raises the question for me- who out there is still a member of IMBA to have a membership to cancel anyway? Is this really the event that lead you to the conclusion that the group does not necessarily represent your voice? If you’re reading this blog, shouldn’t you have realized that about a decade or two ago? I mean, better late than never, but damn.
If you read this blog, you probably enjoy smashing rock gardens, punching the guts out of a berm, and aren’t trying to spread the Gospel of Mountain Biking to get millions of assholes into the sport with a coupon for 15% off a used Gary Fisher hardtail with the purchase of a $25,000 Subaru and a sticker for your back window. No, you probably have a touch of that old west spirit in you that leans away from ‘cycling club’ and towards ‘bike cult ‘with initiation ceremonies that include ripping your shin open with the pins of a flat pedal, digging fun shit of dubious legality (is this ditch in the back of a cemetery cool with dirt jumps, does this rarely present land owner care if a trail cuts through a mine plot, do local authorities care more about the rampant heroin and meth problem in town than your shuttle trail dumping out into a construction company’s back lot?), and getting a bunch of concussions. And big surprise- that’s not what IMBA is about.
That old west spirit of “who are you to show up and ride our jumps without digging?” is rooted in some sense of preservation of nice things. Loose lips sink jump spots, blow up shuttle trails, and generally shut down the good times. You don’t spend all that time scouting spots, moving dirt, practicing your craft of shredding, and risking health and legal repercussions without trying to protect it. There is a barrier of entry to the cult. You get to prove you’re worthy by making some sacrifices. More on this in a moment.
So here’s another question- a legitimate one because I really don’t know- was that bill being proposed really the best thing for our collectively owned and preserved Wilderness lands? Those places are special and while it’s a total load of semantic crap that bikes are not allowed in them due to the interpretation of an old but crucially important law, was this new bill proposed a good thing for those spaces? Did it let in mountain bikers at the cost of letting in RVs and toilets and pizza boxes and the American Fat Fuck that would tarnish the Wild part of the Wilderness? Due to the inherently complicated nature of bloated bills put up for law, I doubt that it just said, “Hey, let’s let some bikes in already, eh guys?”
The final question I have is this- do you really need to ride your bike in Wilderness areas? A hundred skid happy bike riders cause about .000001% the erosion of even a mild winter, so I think the wear and tear on the land is possibly minimal, but they also bring another person into a space where we, as a species, haven’t screwed everything up so badly yet, with that much more invitation for trash (even if accidental), or any other impact.
There are so many Wilderness spots that I would personally LOVE to ride a bike, because hiking sucks and is boring. And I would love for you to go responsibly ride your bike in those areas too. But maybe you don’t need to. Maybe the barrier of entry to the cult of Wilderness is that you leave your bike out of it and frankly, leave yourself out of it to the maximum possible extent. Maybe you can suck it up and lace up your cranky little boots and walk your ass in and out of those places if you want to enjoy the views. Maybe there can be a class of spaces that we all agree to not collectively fuck up- just leave alone for future generations and the other species that occupy those places to enjoy.
You know, all 2 or 3 generations we have left before the climate start to kick us foolish humans off this mortal coil.
I’m sure I would feel very different if my backyard were Wilderness and there was very little else to ride. But my immediate pleasure to ride a bike somewhere doesn’t outweigh the collective effort to leave some places alone. For once, I think IMBA was right, or at least has a valid point, even if it’s in the same way that a blind squirrel occasionally still finds nuts.
So yes, IMBA sucks as a general rule. And yes, they probably don’t speak for you. But this time, I have to ask if there was a better way to get bikes into Wilderness than this bill I frankly know nothing about. Probably so.
Commence hate storm in comments.