When Your Buddy Trashes The Trail

Words Dave Tolnai
Date Jun 30, 2015

Dear Uncle Dave

I just heard Garret Buehler (or was it James Doerfling, I always get those two mixed up) talk about how he didn’t necessarily want the largest features because he wanted to be able to session. Later he added that he wanted to be able to session, so he didn’t build the largest features.

Is there a certain insight to be gained from listening to people who skipped English class to hit dirt jumps talk? Do I have to be stoned to understand?

If I hear another person talk about how mountain biking is like flying and wizardry, or how it is their calling to be a pro rider…

Perplexed in the Prairies.

Dear Peepee:

What you’re watching is a video. And it took several decades, but the mountain bike industry finally figured out that following the skateboard model of doing business (create idols and sell shit) might work for mountain bikes. So what you’re watching is not much more than a giant commercial to sell bikes. So looking for insight might be where you have gone wrong.

I’ve never met either Mr. Doerfling or Mr. Buehler. For all I know, they could be English majors, mathematicians, or the CEO of Chik-Fil-A. I have absolutely no idea. One thing I am pretty sure of though, is that they’re not actors. And although it looks fairly easy, based on the difficulty I’ve had the one or two times somebody has stuck a camera in my face, speaking coherently on camera is a fairly challenging thing to do.
So…I mean…what else are they going to talk about when somebody asks them to talk about the jump they just built? Even if they wanted to start a deep conversation about the nuances and implications of proposed gun control legislation, well, that probably wouldn’t make for a very good video. So. I feel your pain. I don’t want to listen to that shit either. But you shouldn’t hang the shame of 30 years of “action sports marketing” on the humble shoulders of one of these two riders.

Interesting note that has little to nothing to do with this. I watched the Stacy Peralta documentary about the Bones Brigade. The Rodney Mullen interviews are fascinating. He comes across as this tortured soul who was barely allowed to follow his dreams due to his demanding father. I watched and I felt so sorry for this shell of a human, a slave to his art. I wanted to give him a hug, send him money, food and a puppy, and then encourage him to hang in there. Things will get better! And then you realize that he netted a solid chunk of the $30ish million that the sale of World Industries generated. And I realized that things aren’t always the way they seem.

Especially in videos.

Uncle Dave

Hello uncle Dave,

I have a friend that told me about a video from Kamloops, in the video one of the riders blasts through a big soft corner, since then my friend has locked up his back brake and tried to wreck every corner he goes into when we are riding trails.

Do you think that biking videos made by inexperienced riders can lead to the teaching of bad habits for those who may be new to trail riding, or even those who ride all the time but don’t fully understand the material they are watching?

I’ve seen people hit corners with speed before and I know that it can send a roost of dirt but I also know they do not have their brake to the bar while doing so, but that’s just one example.

Thanks for your time,
Video Games

Dear Vague:
For hopefully the last time in a while, we’re going to reference pornography. I’ll insist that I’m not that hung up on pornography and it just makes for apt references. Freud would probably suggest that I’m just deceiving myself. Anyhow, there is real concern that the Internet generation is going to grow up with a warped perspective on sex because all of their knowledge comes through watching pornography, and they now assume that…ummm…2nd base = things deemed unnatural in the eyes of god (when done by others) according to many Conservative American politicians. This might just be jealousy on the part of older generations though.

Mountain biking is kind of in the same boat. Every year, 2-3-4-5,000 professionally produced videos come out flaunting the latest in trail destruction and environmental negligence. Is it any wonder that kids have taken to emulating the actions of their ‘heroes’ and wind up dragging their brakes through corners?

And this raises a very interesting question. I like me some bike porn every once in a while, but I often find myself being a bit troubled by what I see on screen. Grassland mowed down. Picturesque mountaintops flattened. Giant wooden structures left to rot. For a sport that seems to be about interacting with the outdoors, some of us sure seem to make a mess of things.

But how can we sit here and judge this? For one thing, we’re watching the videos. For another, hell, we’re all doing the same thing to a certain extent. How many of us only ride fully legal, sanctioned trails? How many of us have never ended a ride with half the trail caked to our bike? In the eyes of somebody, we’re all ruffians, hell-bent on world destruction. Hi Monica! (Monica is the chief mountain bike hater locally – Ed.)

And the interesting thing is that we all think that what we are doing is totally okay and reasonable and anybody that doesn’t agree is an idiot. But that guy doing that thing just a little bit beyond our comfort level is an imbecile and he’s ruining it for everybody. But if you talked to him, he’d probably have a similar story to tell you about the slightly worse idiot that even he can’t abide by. You see this every day, driving your car. “What’s wrong with all these people driving so slowly? Whoah! That psycho is going way too fast!”

So, I agree with you. There are a lot of people doing really stupid things on bicycles right now. And videos, both the professionally made ones and the amateurs inspired by them, are contributing to this problem. But I don’t really know where to draw the line. And even if I did, nobody would listen to me. What I think is wrong, might be wrong, but somebody else might think what I am doing is wrong as well. Which totally doesn’t answer your question and more approaches the philosophical limitations of Libertarianism than anything to do with bikes.

My advice to you: If what your friend is doing bothers you and you think it is wrong, you should talk to him about it. The challenge is how do you do this without being a dick about it. Or, you could just be a dick about it. Sometimes people won’t change unless somebody vocally and insistently points out how wrong they are. Here are a few ways you could deal with it.

  1. Watch some more videos. When you get to the environmentally destructive portion, say something along the lines of “What a dick. He’s totally wrecking the trail.” This is a bit passive aggressive, but might work.
  2. If you’re riding the trail and you notice him doing this, say something like “Hey. Why are you doing that? You’re going to wreck the trail.” Call this the direct approach.
  3. Tell him that you’ve noticed that the trail is looking pretty wrecked and you wanted to spend a few hours fixing it up. Grab a shovel, hike up to one of the now blown out corners, and fix it up. The next time he goes through, he’s less likely to skid through his own hard work. Call this the hands on method.

Hope this helps. But since it probably won’t, you, my friend, are getting a prize. Make it a good one, prize givers.

Uncle Dave


This week’s question of the day winner rolls away on Specialized rubber!

How about some rubber to show your buddy the errors of his cornering ways? Let’s call it a Specialized combo – with a Butcher up front and a Purgatory in the rear.


Got a question? Send it to Uncle Dave! 

Trending on NSMB


Carl Linnaeus  - June 30, 2015, 10:19 a.m.

Let's see NSMB stop highlighting videos with gratuitous roosting and berm- skimming rear tire action. Good luck with that! Trail maintenance is always going to be a needed profession. Anything contrary is just your brain skidding over the realities of a fun life. Let NSMB ban all such videos to show us the narrow good path.


Cam McRae  - June 30, 2015, 9:58 a.m.

Everyone just agrees with you now Dave!


Nat Brown  - June 30, 2015, 2:45 p.m.

Well it's hard to argue with answers that are so reasonable! There's a pretty big carrot dangled in there for the few anti-MTB fundamentalists out there and nothing. And, I often find their view entirely unconstrained by reason.

However, since you kinda throw the gauntlet down, I'll give it a try. And I concede this is a minor point (of course, this is me): While I do think the trail-damage I cause is OK and reasonable, I do not think that anyone who disagrees is an idiot. That depends on their reasoning.


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