My 8 year old daughter has been asking why her mountain bike doesn’t have front “springs” like her sister’s bike, or like mine. So last week I ordered a set of inexpensive suspension forks for her and installed them on her bike. The resulting smile and new found enthusiasm for riding her bike was well worth the $40 I spent on the forks. Plus my older daughter and I had a good time working as a team installing the new part. It was a fun afternoon of bonding with my girls, and the result was that we all smiled at our part in the project, my eldest daughter for being able to help work on the bike, my younger daughter because she now had a bike with front “springs”, and me for seeing the smiles and feeling the bonding with my daughters.
I also realized something as I worked on the bike and saw the resulting joy that was created. I realized that most mountain bikers feel pride in this sport, and that in turn manifests itself as the desire to help others feel that same joy and satisfaction. In fact, I think if you ask most mountain bike riders if they would help someone get started riding, the answer would be that they would be more than happy to assist. I think this is because mountain bikers ride, not only for the exercise and enjoyment of riding, but also for the social aspect too. Many times you will see mountain bike riders in pairs or larger groups talking and pedaling along with big smiles and good attitudes and saying hello to everyone they meet on the trail and completely enjoying the shared experience with their friends.
After helping my daughters with the forks I could also see that it is the responsibility of us more seasoned mountain bike riders to help promote our sport and get other people interested in riding. It is important that we help our sport grow and that we help new riders understand the rules and etiquette involved in being a responsible mountain biker. It is also our attitude toward riding that will show the new riders how much fun it really is to get out and sweat as we pedal up a hill, or race down after that long climb (in a legal and controlled manner, of course). We are integral in the future of the sport, cultivating the enjoyment of new riders, and creating the image that other ‘non-riders’ see when they meet us on the trail. We need to teach technique and social skills, while preserving the fun and adventurous spirit that was originally found by those crazy guys racing clunkers down Mt. Tam in Marin County.
So if you ride a mountain bike, keep in mind what it is that you enjoy about our sport and remember to pass this enjoyment along, either as support for other riders you meet, or as a positive attitude towards those that have yet to appreciate the pleasures of this great sport. By passing on your experience and enthusiasm you will be helping to create positive mountain bikers...who will pass on what they learned from you to the next generation of riders!