I think doing scary shit on a mountain bike is much harder when you’re 50* than when you’re 10 and we need to start recognising it.
There isn’t a week that goes by without my social media feed being filled with some kind of viral video of a 10 year old(ish) grom doing something pretty damn cool on a mountain bike. The same content is usually narrated with some subliminal comment about how the said 10 year old has only been on a bike for a few years and is already better than you, and that “at even 10” they’re doing shit that you’ll never do. That huck, huge jump, or even that first backflip – yep it’s pretty damn cool to see young folk doing these things and I really do wish I could do half of what they’re achieving, but what about that 50 year old who after a lifetime of golf has also just picked up a bike and is also doing some pretty cool shit? I can bet it’s much, much harder for them to get over their physical and mental hurdles and do that jump or gnarly line. One could argue that in some sense they’re actually achieving far more than that grom.
Let’s look at this a little more.
When you’re 10 the world is still very much your oyster. You don’t have to work and every need is provided for you. Your body is like a rubber band and you bounce back from pretty much everything. You’re growing and getting stronger every day. You are playful and your life revolves around moving and having fun, and you make the Energizer bunny look lazy. And if you’re not glued to the Xbox then it can mean hours and hours a day doing fun physical stuff. Your brain is creating new pathways and developing at an exponential rate and your body is learning so quickly. You see the world a little differently and have less negative energy and baggage from life experiences; every day is a new experience and you’re growing with those experiences. Learning a backflip on the trampoline is something that’s fun and a cool challenge between friends.
When you’re 50 you’ve (probably) already had a few mid-life crisis moments and the mountain bike represents the new convertible. You have to work and there are people who rely on you (like the 10 year old above) and that responsibility sits heavily on your mind. Your body is more like a stiff board that doesn’t bounce back anymore and getting off the couch is already starting to take a little longer. Your body already aches from a lifetime of mistakes. You only play when time allows and that can sometimes be only a few hours a week. You have started to shrink, lie about your height and age, and your muscles are actually getting smaller every day. Your brain is not what it used to be, and after 30 years of beer and other bad things you need a subscription to Lumosity just to keep things working upstairs. You have seen some pretty bad shit in your life and know all too well what happens when it all goes pear-shaped and that sits heavy on your mind when you get scared on the trails. Learning to do a backflip on a trampoline is not something you could ever think of doing, no matter how drunk you are or how much your 10 year old makes fun of you.
And that is why I say it’s much harder for that 50 year old (or 62, or 74, or indeed 44) who did her or his first small double-jump than it is for Miss-10-year -old hitting Crabapple for the first time. I am not saying stop praising the young – they are the future and will push our sport to new levels and provide a future for all those new standards and e-bike innovations. However, I am saying – to you and the industry – start praising the old(er) mountain bikers with the same enthusiasm and make their achievements just as viral because they’re achieving way more than we ever give them credit for.
(And, if you can find an older rider who has been on a bike for only a few years and doing some amazing shit let us know. We’ll tell their story and share it with the world.)
– Damian (Ed)
* 50 was just an age number to pick. The story is about all “older” riders.