In the words of the late actor Charlie Chaplin: “You’ll find you’re life is more worthwhile if you just smile.” And perhaps the hardest thing to find on the faces of many mountain bikers these days are smiles. That’s because, apparently, mountain biking has become very serious.
Yes, I know, Bend is the home to every great recreational athlete in the world and that just about everyone who straddles a mountain bike is training for the next world championships or something equally important. And that’s probably why riding around Phil’s trailhead this past weekend there were lots of scowling faces, as if the workout (not fun ride) in progress was way too important to interrupt with a friendly greeting, hell, even a smirk.
And by being among the slowest mountain bikers in Bend, I often get smirks of derision from faster riders. But to his credit a very fast rider in full Lycra race kit didn’t smirk as he passed but said, “hi.” Kudos to him, and thanks for keeping it real.
To give grim-faced riders the benefit of the doubt, I think the problem lies in riding the Phil’s Trailhead area. There are so many people at Phil’s on weekend day that it becomes a scene. That means some riders feel it’s necessary to make sure the hoi-polloi know who they. So they dress sharp, have the latest fast bike, and generally let you know on the trail that their time in the saddle is more valuable than you’re time in the saddle. So, let’s call the apparent over-seriousness and lack of civility the Phil’s Trailhead Syndrome.
It has to be a Phil’s area problem because after some riding on that trail system this past Saturday, I ventured over to Shevlin Park. What a difference a couple of miles made. The mountain bikers I encountered in and around Shevlin seemed happy. They were smiling, exchanged pleasantries on the trail and seemed to be having a wonderful, albeit probably way slow, ride.
Further proof that dark anti-social forces are at work on the Phil’s area was borne out the next day on a ride at Horse Butte. Other riders encountered looked happy and exchanged greetings when they witnessed my snail-like pace.
Of course writing about bringing good cheer to the trail and having fun while riding will fall on deaf ears. Recreation riding used to be all about recreating yourself joyfully in a natural environment. Now, it seems to be a near life or death, grim experience.