The Coastal Post - June 1999

Letters - By Readers


Hiking, Biking And Just A Little Plain Talk

You know, it's all real simple when you think about it.

Hiking is Natural and Mountain Biking Un-Natural.

It's easy to prove.

I don't need any special equipment to walk, I need a machine to mountain bike.

A machine built of metal, plastic, petroleum based products, including rubber. I might need boots, but technically, if I were brave enough and

tough enough, I could hike barefoot. Of course mountain biking in barefoot would take a lot of toughening up too, and you would still need

the bike, wouldn't you?

A problem here is that these two activities have nothing in common, except the physical space of sharing the trails.

But the bigger problem and what is really causing all this brouhaha, is that mountain bikers are trying to SELL the concept that they do share

a commonality.

And they can't.

Let's think about this for a second.

Why is a bicycle as 'in tune' with nature as a walking human being?

Is it because the word "Mountain" is placed in front of it?

Heck, it's got to be natural, it's made for mountain trails and mountain riding!

What does it really mean when a normal bicycle has the 'mountain' word slapped on the front?

It means that the bike has been re-designed to stand up to the rigors of nature-that are un-natural to a regular bike.

Special tires, heavy-duty shocks and suspension for rough terrain over rocks and trails when taken at dangerous speeds and adverse

conditions make this possible.

But it's nature that takes the real beating.

The speed and unbalanced weight create a bike-made erosion that over time cause permanent ruts, especially in damp or soft ground.

Eventually the ruts become bad enough that bikers are forced to miss old ruts and create more ruts as they become impossible to ride over.

This loosens up the soil and rocks on the trails.

Rains come and help to further move the ground, often exposing tree and shrub roots to the elements. Once exposed, there is little to keep

exposure to insects and even disease to attack those roots. But don't worry, the 'Mountain' bikes can take all the punishment they are

dishing out, a new set of tires or springs and they're ready to go again!

Another problem is with wildlife.

Let's face it, wild creatures probably are not thrilled about hikers either, but compared to loud, speeding mountain bikes tearing up the trails

having fun making some adventurous jumps now and then can be startling.

It's just as startling to hikers who share the trails as well.

Mountain bikers don't ride for the nature.

They use it as Sport. Exercise is a secondary motive. If it were for exercise, why not ride a bike around the school track, around the block, or

pedal on a stationary bike?

The natural surroundings make it more challenging and exciting and in the right situation, there would be no need for discussion.

But that is not what they are trying to sell or get you to buy into.

They want to call the hikers, "complainers" or "radicals" and promote their very "specialized" activity as normal.

But ask yourself, why?

Their reason is because if you accept 'mountain' biking on the same plateau as 'hiking,' then they can defend the damage they do.

Moreover, they can get YOU to support and PAY for it through that acceptance. That's what this is all about really.

The free ride - on two wheels.

Ken Rattan