helltrack
Beggars Would Ride

Radness Redacted

Words Mike Ferrentino
Date Apr 29, 2022
Reading time

The Zoom call had been going well enough, and we had worked out most of the kinks with the current draft of the press kit for the bike. The project lead was happy with the timeline. The suspension team were comfortable with how we were describing the kinematics. The chassis guys thought the adjectives used to describe the ride quality of the frame were on point and were thankfully backing away from their “13% stiffer” agenda. Another couple tweaks and we might have a workable copy deck.

This is how some of us old hacks pay the bills; we write copy about bicycles, or spokes, or tires, or headlights, or helmets, or sundry other “stuff” within the bike industry. Having gone from shop rat to “journalist” to magazine editor to marketing stooge and back in a three decade or so arc, embedded the entire time within the microcosm of mountain biking, there are times when this landscape feels as comfortably familiar as a favorite sweater on a cold day. There are also times when it feels like the movie Groundhog Day, as I tumble the same words over and over in my head, trying to come up with some new way of talking about what is essentially the same old shit. I mean, seriously, how many ways can you really say “this is the most awesome new stuff ever” without it at some point becoming painfully repetitive? Some days, you find a balance between hype and lucidity that works. Other days, Groundhog Day.

On the laptop screen, the project lead cleared her throat nervously. “So, the creative director had a couple points. About, ummm, your choice of words.”

The temperature in the room dipped noticeably.

“Specifically, a list of words that should be avoided.”

Hmmmmm.

“Nimble has to go. It’s testing poorly,” she continued. “Also, any reference to ‘playful’. One of the graphics guys says that makes him think of kittens wrestling, and he doesn’t think that is an appropriate metaphor. And, ummm, ‘shred’, ‘gnar’ or ‘gnarly’. They’re deemed too aggressive, and too old sounding. Also ‘flow’ and ‘stoke’. Oh, and ‘rad’. That was the one they called out most. It sounds like something old people say.”

Ouch. Shot right in the heart. Choking back a rising bubble of protest, I carefully pointed out that none of the offending words except ‘nimble’ were being used in this copy deck, and that had been inserted by some category manager during a whiteboard session a couple weeks prior.

“I know,” the project lead agreed. “They probably haven’t even read through it. You know how it goes. But they wanted to put this out there. For future reference.”

Most of that I could take in stride, but “rad”? Old? Played out? How can this be?

Admit it, you had to have seen this coming. Hell, it even has almost local relevance, what with being filmed mostly in Alberta and all...

Somewhere in the dusty cuts of Southern California in the late 1970s, “rad” slipped casually, effortlessly, into the lexicon of action sports. Skaters, surfers, BMXers, motocross racers, desert rats, they all started using it; a sun-baked truncation of the word “radical” that perfectly described in one syllable the effort and act of going big and getting stylish, of pushing out the physical boundaries that define our earthbound existence, regardless of consequence. Rad was not only an aspiration, something to reach for, but a state of being in of itself. One could get rad, but one could also be rad.

The 1986 movie, RAD, was foundational for me and almost every other mountain biker I have ever known. Admittedly, the movie is not very good. At all. And, fuck, it came out in 1986, a solid seven years after I had hung up my last BMX bike. And I had never been really any good at BMX anyway, and never would have been caught dead performing some sort of flatland abomination of a bike mounted mating dance at prom even if I had been talented enough to pull those moves. But that’s not the point! Hell track! Cru Jones! A hometown hero going up against the evil douchery of big corpo Mongoose and prevailing! Risk! Reward! Getting rad!

To belabor the linguistic vibe of the 1980s, RAD was Awesome. It left a mark.

I mean, not to beat the proverbial dead horse (speaking of evergreen and somehow totally wrong phrases), one needs look no further than Braydon Bringhurst's totally meta RAD tribute video to understand the impact that RAD had on the mountain biking psyche.

Aaaanyway, words like rad come and go. They arrive at a moment of cultural relevance, have their day in the sun, and then sink back into the grammar soup, often never to be heard from again unless to serve as reminders of a place and a time, like the date stamps on old letters. Daddy-O, hep, jive, groovy, far out, totally tubular, illin’, baller, hella, bro. You can tell the age and likely local upbringing of a stoner by how he or she refers to marijuana; weed, pot, herb, reefer, ganja, smoke, bud, mary jane… Most of these words sound horribly dated once we get beyond that moment in time when they were designated cool. When they were part of, as Maude Lebowski once said, “the parlance of our times.”

But not rad. No. Rad is evergreen. Rad somehow outlasted the predetermined short lifespan that most of these words are fated to experience. Just like Cru at the Hell Track, Rad surmounted almost impossible odds, hurdled the lexicographic barriers placed to keep unruly slang in the time capsule prison where it belongs, and rose beyond its gritty SoCal origin story to become part of the broader global vernacular. Rad has this ability to be both absolute and completely personal. You can watch a video of Brandon Semenuk doing something so eye-poppingly difficult with such style that he makes it look almost nonchalant, and it is definitively rad. You can also smoothly clean that bony line on your local Thursday loop that usually makes you choke and revel in a personal glow of radness. It’s more encompassing than “siiiiick”, and more potent than “dope” or “sweet”. Rad is Rad, and Rad will always be Rad.

But then again, I’m old. Maybe the kids don’t say “rad” anymore. For my part, I try not to call kids “young whippersnappers” when I’m yelling at them to get off my lawn, and I try not to wince when they shout “Okay, Booooomer” in derisive response. They are usually gone out of sight before I can explain to them that I’m really more Gen-X than Boomer, and that Gen-X is, of course, way more rad than Boomer because we can still figure out how to do things like slide into someone’s DMs and use emoji in ironic ways, even if we don’t really pay much attention to TikTok. Still, it stings a little to be called old. Whether it’s by a kid who instinctively and gracefully gets way more rad than I ever will, or by a 27 year old graphic designer who doesn’t ride bikes and apparently hasn’t read the copy for the press kit she’s designing.

All these other words, like the ones on the creative team’s hit list at some bike company, they have their day and then they fade. I can loosen my grip, try to stay relevant, ride the liquid surf of colloquial change. But I will take a stand on Rad. This is where I draw the line. Stay Rad, Rad. Long may you run!

cru

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Comments

taprider
taprider
3 weeks, 4 days ago
+10 fartymarty Mike Ferrentino Pete Roggeman NealWood Merwinn T0m Andy Eunson Spencer Nelson Derek Baker dhr999

Rad article

thanks

Reply

tashi
tashi
3 weeks, 3 days ago
+7 Mike Ferrentino Pete Roggeman Timer ZigaK Derek Baker kcy4130 dhr999

Did testing not pickup that most mountain bike spending is done by nostalgic old dudes that loves Rad?

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
Pete Roggeman
3 weeks, 3 days ago
+1 Mike Ferrentino

Strong counterpoint, almost as good as cutting off a tie.

Reply

Carmel
Carmel
3 weeks, 3 days ago
+5 Niels Mike Ferrentino Pete Roggeman Merwinn Velocipedestrian

Since Rad is basically the German equivalent of the word bike (different pronunciation obv.) it will surely survive over here. As an English adjective it is great too!

Reply

Vikb
Vik Banerjee
3 weeks, 3 days ago
+5 Mike Ferrentino Allen Lloyd Timer Velocipedestrian dhr999

I have to admit whenever an adult says "sick!!" I laugh because it sounds so stupid. It's not so bad when a 12 year old says it. Hopefully whatever comes next for MTB lingo is more rad than sick!!!!

Reply

mikeferrentino
Mike Ferrentino
3 weeks, 3 days ago
+1 Vik Banerjee

But what about when the adult says "siiiiiiiiiiick, bro"?

A few years ago when some profoundly talented Canadian and his dig crew were building some trail at my place, I got an education from them that "sick" had lost its lustre, and the way to show appreciation for something that had formerly been designated as "siiick" was to now call it "fucked." As in, "Dude, did you see how deep R-Dogg was getting in that berm? That was so fuuuucked." I think that may have been a short lifespan...

Reply

Vikb
Vik Banerjee
3 weeks, 3 days ago
0 taprider Dogl0rd

I basically stop listening after "sick" as I don't expect anything useful to my brain to come out of the rest of the conversation.

Reply

xy9ine
Perry Schebel
3 weeks, 3 days ago
+2 Mike Ferrentino Derek Baker

i'm guilty of being fond of using "sick" in regular parlance. *shrug*. of course as an 80's bmx'er, "rad" is firmly cemented in my lexicon. impressive longevity, that word.

Reply

Hollytron
Hollytron
3 weeks, 3 days ago
+2 Mike Ferrentino blackhat

Bro, sick is totally rad these joeys need to chill.

Reply

xy9ine
Perry Schebel
3 weeks, 3 days ago
0

word

Distrakted
Distrakted
3 weeks, 3 days ago
+5 taprider Velocipedestrian Andy Eunson Mike Ferrentino Spencer Nelson

Oh poor Winston, Rad is no longer in the Newspeak dictionary and therefore no longer exists, In fact it never Existed. You have become a thought criminal and a heretic. The industry has a duty to save you from yourself. We will be sending you to room 101 for reprogramming.

Reply

thaaad
thaaad
3 weeks, 4 days ago
+4 fartymarty Mike Ferrentino Pete Roggeman Derek Baker

I'll never stop saying Rad. Even when I'm an old person.

Reply

fartymarty
fartymarty
3 weeks, 4 days ago
+4 Timer Mike Ferrentino Pete Roggeman Cam McRae

I'm gonna start saying it more now.

Reply

ham-bobet
hambobet
3 weeks, 4 days ago
+4 Tremeer023 Mike Ferrentino Pete Roggeman Mammal

Always have, and always will say rad. Also as a side note, RAD in the UK was a skateboarding magazine called Read And Destroy which ran from 80s-late 90s - so my cultural references are more hung on that than the bmx film. Check out their insta for all sorts of nostalgic skate brilliance: https://www.instagram.com/readanddestroy/

Reply

denomerdano
Deniz Merdano
3 weeks, 3 days ago
+3 Mike Ferrentino Pete Roggeman Mammal

We had a '3 scuff max' rule in the height of the west coast flatland scene. You had to roll and find the flow before the 4th scuff came along.. that was the only way you could activate Raditude in your ride. You had to balerino your way around a bike in the most poetic way possible for your peers to appreciate your Radness.

Rad is everything...

Reply

fartymarty
fartymarty
3 weeks, 4 days ago
+2 Mike Ferrentino Pete Roggeman

Rad and Choice were the 2 word I remember from my childhood growing up in Auckland.  You could always slip bro (implied in a gender neutral way) on the end.

Reply

tashi
tashi
3 weeks, 3 days ago
+4 Mike Ferrentino Cam McRae Pete Roggeman dhr999

“It is so choice. If you have the means I highly recommend you pick one up.”

Reply

velocipedestrian
Velocipedestrian
3 weeks, 3 days ago
+1 Mike Ferrentino

Did your childhood lexicon include Ace? I'm trying to keep it alive - as The Don puts it - down in the capital. Even more fleeting was Grouse.

Reply

fartymarty
fartymarty
3 weeks, 3 days ago
+1 NealWood

Ace did feature but Choice was the word of choice.  

I do need to try and push it onto my kids (which could work as we live in Surrey, UK - therefore it would be new).

I wish I was in Wellington sometimes as well....

Reply

mikeferrentino
Mike Ferrentino
3 weeks, 3 days ago
+1 dhr999

Aaaaah, grouse. I remember it well. I left the land of the long white cloud right about the beginning of "sweet as", but that's a phrase that I hope is still weathering well

Reply

velocipedestrian
Velocipedestrian
3 weeks, 3 days ago
+1 Mike Ferrentino

Sweet As is doing sweet as, Grouse has totally vanished, and people laugh nostalgically when I use Ace.

Reply

Shortyesquire
Andrew Collins
3 weeks, 2 days ago
0

This comment has been removed.

pete@nsmb.com
Pete Roggeman
3 weeks, 3 days ago
0

I also like 'aces'.

Reply

mikeferrentino
Mike Ferrentino
3 weeks, 3 days ago
0

There was a way of rolling "chooooiiiice" around in the mouth that really made it a savory word. Whole lot of personal interpretation going on with that one.

Reply

fartymarty
fartymarty
3 weeks, 3 days ago
0

Let's bring back choice.

Reply

tashi
tashi
3 weeks, 3 days ago
+2 Mike Ferrentino Spencer Nelson

Good idea, “choice” was so fetch.

Reply

velocipedestrian
Velocipedestrian
3 weeks, 3 days ago
+2 Mike Ferrentino Spencer Nelson

Choice is Mint (in the Kiwi accent, so you would hear Munt).

Reply

SpencerN
Spencer Nelson
3 weeks, 2 days ago
+2 tashi Velocipedestrian

Stop trying to make "fetch" happen, Gretchen, it's not gonna happen!

Reply

kos
Kos
3 weeks, 3 days ago
+2 Mike Ferrentino Cr4w

Dude is rad, and his scoot is sano!

Reply

craw
Cr4w
3 weeks, 3 days ago
0

While we're giving kudos to the sano build and perfectly executed classic NORBA geometry of that Bridgestone MB-0 (in contrast to an east coast woods bike), whatever happened to Zapata Espinoza and Pineapple Bob and that particular taco joint they used to talk about? Mike you must know!

Reply

solar_evolution
solar_evolution
3 weeks, 3 days ago
+1 papa44

Naugles Tacos???

Reply

mikeferrentino
Mike Ferrentino
3 weeks, 3 days ago
+1 dhr999

Mister Kurosawa found his way back to Hawaii some number of years ago, from what I have been told. He is still, as always, timelessly graceful on a bike and defying all attempts by father time to age him. No idea the taco joint in question. Zap was/is a socal guy, PB was mostly up in the east bay. Morenos in Santa Cruz still crushes most everyone.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
Pete Roggeman
3 weeks, 3 days ago
+1 taprider

Pineapple Bob and those early Bridgestone catalogs were way points for me. 

I saw Zap at Sea Otter, he's still around.

Reply

xy9ine
Perry Schebel
3 weeks, 3 days ago
0

zap is heading up roadbike action. now pineapple bob is a name i haven't heard for a VERY long time!

Reply

kekoa
kekoa
2 weeks, 2 days ago
0

The manager at the shop I worked at went to high school/elementary school/boy scouts/something with PB. And they would go riding when he came back home. PB would just dismount and run over the root gardens and wait for everyone to catch up. Sadly I wasn’t cool enough to be invited.

Reply

4Runner1
4Runner1
3 weeks, 4 days ago
+1 Mike Ferrentino

Took me back to my childhood. That’s rad.

Reply

rigidjunkie
Allen Lloyd
3 weeks, 3 days ago
+1 WheelNut

Rule #1 of corporate work life:

when you hear "project lead cleared her throat nervously. “So, the creative director" you 100% know that neither are or will ever be RAD.  They are going to be MBA having a$$holes who only know what their focus group of other know nothing MBAs tell them.  

The act of testing words guarantees that you will never get it.

Reply

helpimabug
helpimabug
3 weeks, 2 days ago
+2 bikedrd kcy4130

So, we need to stop using the word “so” to begin every statement.  It doesn’t make you seem more important or that you know what you are talking about.  It also comes off a bit pompous, as if the superiority of your thoughts and words is a foregone conclusion.  “So” is, in fact, an overused linguistic crutch the likes of which has not been seen since, well, the word “like”.  

So, like, stop using “so” so much.

Reply

ben.rogers
Ben Rogers
3 weeks, 3 days ago
+1 tashi

Original schwag from the movie and it comes with stickers 

https://www.ebay.com/itm/293844042300

10/10 purchase

Reply

tashi
tashi
3 weeks, 1 day ago
+1 Ben Rogers

There are a lot of Rad shirts out there, but this one looks really good. I need one. 

Thanks for the link, I’ve sent it on to the wife so she knows what to get me for my birthday.

Reply

lacykemp
Lacy Kemp
2 weeks, 6 days ago
+1 Mike Ferrentino

I feel this about "dude" too. It transcends its original meaning. "Dude" can be an expression of wonderment. "Duuuude!" It can be a greeting. "Dude! What's up!" It can impart sorrow..."Oh...dude." It can cast doubt "Dude...uh.." So yeah. Dude is another rad word. Long live the rad dudes.

Reply

mikeferrentino
Mike Ferrentino
2 weeks, 5 days ago
0

Dude has been around so long that it is even finally beginning to lose gender, meaning it can apply to such a wider range of use, which is totally rad.

Reply

lacykemp
Lacy Kemp
2 weeks, 5 days ago
0

Dude! I know. It is so rad.

Reply

cxfahrer
cxfahrer
3 weeks, 3 days ago
0

Got to have to look into urban dictionary more often. And I could listen to the 10year old school kids on the other side of the street, but an old grey haired man would probably scare the parents...(insert Steve Buscemi meme here).

Reply

DaveSmith
Dave Smith
3 weeks, 3 days ago
0

Rad article.

And creative leads shouldn't listen to testing.

Reply

andy-eunson
Andy Eunson
3 weeks, 2 days ago
0

Words and sayings sure have a lifespan. Just like fashion clothes. Guys in suits that make them look like Pee Wee Herman. What’s next? Ties that double as a bib and Tiajuana flares? Words certainly become overused and we need new words to make us sound unique and cool. I going to resurrect words and sayings from my youth. No guff eh. Like a bear. Far out man.

Some words need to stop being used though. Custom is one that bothers me. I see people selling so called custom bikes. An off the rack frame hung with off the shelf parts is hardly custom. A frame built to my dimensions with different tube lengths and angles is custom. 

Or upgrade. I replaced the black plastic pedals with plastic pins to purple plastic pedals with plastic pins. 

Referring to a bike as being playful needs to stop too. It’s a toy. Of course it’s playful. 

Some of this descriptive words are a bit like the Marzocchi girls in adds. Over the top and kind of ridiculous. Kind of like the movie Idiocracy. Short stays are playful. It’s what we crave. Why not move the bb forwards a bit and maintain the same wheelbase but have weight more centred? BMX out back, DH out front. It’s what we crave. Thus goes the circular logic.

Reply

mack_turtle
Jonathan Nolte
2 weeks, 1 day ago
0

Millennials strike again! They have ruined the word "rad."

how do the words "whip" and "sled" or "rig" test when used to refer to a bike?

As someone who wants to work in the media side of the bicycle industry, this was hard to take.

Reply

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