Riding is the new golf
Editorial

Riding is Not the New Golf

Words Pete Roggeman
Date Jul 12, 2018

“Riding is the new golf.”

Bullshit.

Look, I get where that idea comes from. Dudes and ladies in their 40s and 50s – the typical age range of newbie golfers – have flocked to riding in the last decade. Road riding primarily, but a host of people have given up on body-pounding (and boring IMO) sports like running to pick up mountain biking too, and good on ’em. But let’s just dispense with the comparison between a good ol’ muddy shred fest and 9 or 18 holes. They aren’t the same, not even close.

I feel somewhat qualified to comment, having grown up with golf in my teens, worked on a golf course for three summers during university (and for one year after), and having been an avid golfer on and off ever since. At the same time, riding has always been a big part of my life, since my first 6-speed CCM ‘mountain bike’ that I got at age 7 or 8. It was my 4th bike, but it wasn’t even the first one that was stolen from me. Weekend days used to start with 18 holes at sunrise, lunch, and then a ride in the afternoon. As the years went by and time became more valuable than money, two-hour rides became a lot easier to fit in than a 4–5 hour round of golf.

There’s the fitness issue. Golfers are…not really that fit. True, walking 18 with your clubs over your shoulder burns significant calories, but you put ’em all back on again at the 19th hole. And there are a frightening number of golfers for whom riding in a cart is the norm. They may claim it is so they have coverage from the sun (so much for your outdoor sport, champ) or to speed up the game (false), but it’s really so they can carry a bunch of beer and junk food with them as they play – and because they’re lazy. You can see their asses getting wider as they play. On a bike, there’s no faking it. If you’re a roadie, you can take shorter or fewer pulls on the front, but you still have to do the work to get your ass to the end of the ride. On a mountain bike, there is nowhere to hide. You do the work, the fitness comes, and you’re able to keep up with – or put the hurt on – your riding buddies. So, golf is a game that allows laziness, riding is anything but.

Golf_Hovercraft

Every now and then, golf does something cool. Who wants a hover-shuttle-mobile?

There’s the business angle. Golf has long been thought of as a good place to network – whether it was by inviting a client out for a round, or by BSing over a single malt in the clubhouse at your private club. There are no clubhouses for riding, unless you consider a coffee shop to be your clubhouse. As a roadie that means clacking across the floor like a duck in your obtrusive kangaroo-leather shoes, people awkwardly avoiding the sight of you in your toit spandex. Not exactly conducive to elevator pitches or rolling out a fiscal strategy to recover 4th quarter sales.

Getting business done on the bike? Forget it. You can have a conversation while riding two-up down the road while you warm up, or on a fireroad climb, but otherwise talking is limited to heckling each other, or letting out a whoop when you have a near miss. The rest of the time you will be yelling at someone’s ass as they soak up stutter bumps in front of you, or trying to say something over your shoulder only to have every sentence shot back at with a “whaaaat?” It just doesn’t work. Plus, no one needs to see their boss in spandex. If your boss rides for real, you are so, so lucky, but you don’t want to attend your boss’ safety meetings, or awkwardly avoid eye contact when he asks where your secret trail is.

Golf is known as a great equalizer: people of different skill levels can play together and have just as much fun as long as everyone keeps moving. Tees set at different locations cater to different ability levels. Skill centers and ride-arounds notwithstanding, the ability range for MTB needs to be fairly close: you either can or cannot ride a trail without having to get off and walk – forcing your buddies to wait for you. On the road, just substitute fitness for skill, though skill matters too if your group ride involves drafting, echelons, fast descending, or dropping pennies into your buddy’s seat tube when he’s filling his bottle.

simpsons-burns-classic-w

Despite the many bad things that can be said about it, golf can be enjoyed by all ages, abilities, and social classes – just like riding.

People of different levels ride together all the time, and have fun doing it – me included. But that’s not the norm. By contrast, in my family we golf together a lot, and our handicaps vary considerably but we have a blast. Chalk that one up for golf; it’s a unique and very cool thing about the sport. Err, game. It’s more of a game, really.

Some things are similar about the two, though. Do golfers and riders both wear garish clothing? Oh yeah. What about the cost? Some articles would have you believe that riding is cheaper than golf. Either one can be done on the cheap, but the reality is that both of them can be an equipment arms race between bitter rivals (aka your Sunday morning foursome or riding crew). Golf’s newest 460cc driver and $400 shaft is biking’s carbon wheels. “But it doesn’t cost money to ride!” Keep telling yourself that, Mr. Swiss-made chamois. Both sports can cost a mint, or you can play municipal courses and not switch your driver every year; similarly it means not having carbon everything and running SLX/XT instead of XTR. Which, like using the same clubs for five years, does not fundamentally affect your enjoyment, no matter how much you lust after that upgrade.

Golf is still an old boys’ club. Riding is male-dominated, but the ratio is much tighter, and more women are picking up the two-wheeled habit all the time. They’re golfers, too, but the chauvinistic attitudes on golf courses far and wide prevail, despite the progress being made. Augusta National – home of the Masters – accepted their first female members only two years ago. St. Andrews – the home of golf – only voted to allow female members this year. It was the first time they allowed voting by proxy, allowing members all over the world to participate, and they were overwhelmingly in favour, but still. Ever see a “no girlz allowed” sign on someone’s trail?

When was the last time you finished a ride hating your sport? Ask a golfer how their round went: “ah, I was doing great until the turn and then I put one in the water. Doubled the 12th, and three-jacked 15 as usual. Fuck this game, man. Pass me another beer.” And when you ask a rider the same thing? “What a great ride. Everyone was feelin’ it, the weather was sweet, I feel so good.” If golfers applied the same unrealistic standards to their lives that they do to their golf game, they’d never be married, or settle on a house, or make any other big decision. Their brutal perfectionism is comical – even to other golfers. Riders? We ride until we see stars, fight off a puke at the top of a hill, charge the descent – and accept the fact that we’re just not that fast anyway. And we still love it like nothing else.

I love golf. I also hate it.

But I just flat out love riding bikes.


What did Roggey forget? Is there anything you love more than bikes?

Comments

drpete61w
0
DrPete61W  - May 17, 2015, 4:10 p.m.

If you compare hard-core to hard core, even the most expensive of mountain bikes has got nothing on golf. Yeah, the $4000 set of clubs is nothing compared to a $10K bike, but figure in the cost of playing at THE golf course (often hundreds of dollars for a round), the disposable $5-a-pop balls, the country club membership, etc and I have to believe that golf still takes it. Many clubs are thousands a month just to be a member-and they still charge you for the golf cart! And of course you're not a serious golfer if you play at JUST your home club, so you're still paying greens fees on top of that membership.

Then there's the simple fact that the people I ride with are just flat-out cooler than anyone I've ever met on the golf course. 😉

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satn
0
satn  - Nov. 12, 2014, 8:48 p.m.

I just ride with my golf buddies!

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jitenshakun
0
Jitensha Kun  - Nov. 12, 2014, 12:38 p.m.

Hey Pete,

Was it the Economist article that go you going?

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pete@nsmb.com
0
Pete Roggeman  - Nov. 12, 2014, 12:55 p.m.

No - I hadn't seen that one. But many pubs have tackled it - the Globe included. I didn't check into the NYT but despite their usually great reporting, they recently bungled that article about breakage of carbon frames in the pro peloton. I should see if they've run anything. Thanks for the link, I'll check it out.

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jitenshakun
0
Jitensha Kun  - Nov. 12, 2014, 2 p.m.

I find the Economist to be up there in terms of reporting. Certainly in the realm of the NYT.

In relation to the article, I tend to "wear my cycling on my sleeve" around the office and it has resulted in at least a few connections. While is hasn't led to a ride per se, it has led to networking that wouldn't have happened in the absence of the "So, do you ride too?" question.

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blackbird
0
tw  - Nov. 12, 2014, 11:47 a.m.

Can't tell you how many times I've been humbled on the trails by chicks here on the west coast. They are and have always been as good as many of the guys out here.

One other point about golf vs riding: in golf wrecking your clubs is usually an intentional act of rage and self disgust. For a mountain biker Wrecked gear, cuts, bruises and banged up parts are badges of honor: well earned. (Or perhaps a call for a better line on that descent)

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drpete61w
0 Velocipedestrian Ron Chang
DrPete61W  - May 17, 2015, 4:03 p.m.

Why is beating you considered a standard for whether "chicks" are supposed to be out on the trails? Sadly you're a bit of an example of the sexism that pervades mountain biking.

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cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - May 19, 2015, 2:55 p.m.

Who said anything about whether are not women are supposed to be out on the trails? This may be a phantom argument.

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ron-chang
0
Ron Chang  - July 15, 2018, 2:05 p.m.

This comment has been removed.

ryan-d
0
Ryan D  - Nov. 12, 2014, 8:37 a.m.

I take clients golfing and riding for work. When we go cycling for work it's not "riding". It just gives clients and opportunity to jump on their ridiculous race-ready carbon road bike and cruise, BS and talk a little business. Afterward its a trendy pub. Keep in mind too business is rarely done when doing this activities with clients. It's normally just relationship building. Also this has become an anchor for relating to my bosses who both road/cross race. In this aspect it is the new golf. The goals and objectives on the bike are the exact same as when we're on the course.

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pete@nsmb.com
0
Pete Roggeman  - Nov. 12, 2014, 9:32 a.m.

You're one of the lucky ones, Ryan! I used to ride with my boss every day at lunch, but that was a bike industry job, so it's a little different than the average work situation. It sounds like in your case, cycling is like golf - lucky you.

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ryan-d
0
Ryan D  - Nov. 12, 2014, 12:38 p.m.

Yeah i might be the exception. I wish these guys would sack up and ride fun downhill bikes though. Hell at least they could drive shuttle.

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pete@nsmb.com
0
Pete Roggeman  - Nov. 12, 2014, 12:53 p.m.

Think gateway drugs, Ryan. Get 'em riding trail bikes first, then when they realize MTB isn't as dangerous as they thought, they'll be tempted by longer travel forks and steeper pitches…

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stampers
-1 Velocipedestrian
stampers  - Nov. 12, 2014, 8:10 a.m.

Hell, even if my wife wanted to ride, I wouldnt be able afford it, unless I downgraded to entry level hardtails…no thanks…also, id have to be a shuttle bitch 50% of the time.

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nat-brown
0 Velocipedestrian goose8
Nat Brown  - Nov. 12, 2014, 9:31 a.m.

Ha ha! Yup, there's no problem with sexism in MTB.

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jprime
0
jprime  - Nov. 12, 2014, 2:22 p.m.

Maybe she could get a part time job on the internet making $642.32 a week through amazing opportunities!

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thefunkymonkey
0
TheFunkyMonkey  - Nov. 12, 2014, 7:37 a.m.

Interesting article and perspective. I'm similar to the author with a golf background and a love/hate relationship with the GAME. I haven't played in three years for what it's worth…

The only thing I would have spent more time on is on the product/marketing side of things because that is where they are very similar. We are the point in our in our sport and within the golf game whereby most technology improvements are incremental yet the propaganda will have us believe they are game changers - along with game changing price tags. And I'm a sucker for the propaganda unfortunately…

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drewm
0
DrewM  - Nov. 12, 2014, 8:22 a.m.

Absolutely true in terms of the marketing-of-product, but I would highlight marketing as one of the huge differences between golf and cycling.

Golf is a suns-out/guns-out multi-headed marketing machine, especially now that they are bleeding participants faster than tennis and a lot of courses are in trouble financially. You have marketing from manufacturers but you also have a huge amount of marketing from courses (which employ a lot of people), from communities that are golf destinations (they employ a lot of people), and - entirely anecdotal - members of clubs (that life-time membership you sprung for up-front isn't worth diddly squat if the club goes out of business).

Cycling has stayed ~ flat in terms of sales over the last many years (with a number of brick-and-mortar stores closing -- just like golf stores). Cycling participation is up in places that have built infrastructure (bike lanes), but I haven't seen any reliable stats re. more vs. less mountain bikers: other then trying to indoctrinate our friends, the members of our club don't really care if anyone else is doing it.

There are obvious exceptions like Whistler, or the occasional advert I see from Moab, Sedona, or Tourism Yukon, but by and large it is a participant driven activity and most the non-manufacturer marketing I see is trail associations out reminding people, who are already participants, to give back.

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thefunkymonkey
0
TheFunkyMonkey  - Nov. 12, 2014, 9:43 a.m.

Great points, Drew. Definitely an interesting topic that Pete tackles…

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pete@nsmb.com
0
Pete Roggeman  - Nov. 12, 2014, 9:36 a.m.

I could have spent a little more time there for sure, although I'll disagree slightly: I believe technological advancements in cycling are still pretty significant if you look at them 3 years at a time. Say what you will about carbon, wheel size, and 1by drivetrains, but I think those have positively changed riding more so by far than anything golf has come out with in the last 3-5 years. Just look at the weight of an average bike now vs 3 years ago. To be expected, though: MTB is a much younger sport than golf - hell, even road biking is.

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thefunkymonkey
0
TheFunkyMonkey  - Nov. 12, 2014, 9:41 a.m.

Really fair points, Pete, with regard to cycling advancements. I'm on a carbon frame with carbon wheels with a 1×11 drivetrain so I'm certainly enjoying these advancements!

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drewm
+1 Velocipedestrian
DrewM  - Nov. 12, 2014, 10:06 a.m.

Your point re. tech is still selectively valid though. True, the average bike today is a lot better than five years ago but with hindsight you could build an (aluminum//26″) bike using all components from pre-2010 and but for a slightly higher BB, slightly steeper HTA, and a couple pounds of weight it would hold its own with a current 6″ bike.

There are some products like King hubs, Hope brakes (small caveat for maintenance required), Fox RC2 forks, Shimano HT2 cranks that have been largely unchanged for years -- and if you get on a fully serviced/properly functioning example are competitive with current products.

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pete@nsmb.com
0
Pete Roggeman  - Nov. 12, 2014, 12:52 p.m.

Haha! Well whether you think it's kool-aid or not, you're definitely drinking it!

Reply

thefunkymonkey
0
TheFunkyMonkey  - Nov. 13, 2014, 3:46 a.m.

And it tastes pretty darn good, Pete!

I can't imagine going back to a 2x drivetrain after going 1x and carbon is worthy of the hype albeit it's expensive.

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JBV
0
James Vasilyev  - July 12, 2018, 8:01 p.m.

i'm pretty sure the average weight of the average bike today is higher than it was 3 years ago.

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quallim
+1 goose8
Quallim  - Nov. 12, 2014, 7:28 a.m.

I'll agree, the sexism in Mountain biking seems to be ingrained and detrimental to the sport. Look at rock climbing to see the equality and better vibes with females on the whole, and you will see a much healthier vibe.

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morgan-taylor
+2 Velocipedestrian goose8
Morgan Taylor  - Nov. 12, 2014, 6:45 a.m.

The sexism in cycling may be less systemized than it is in golf, but it is still prevalent and problematic.

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poo-stance
-1 Velocipedestrian
Poo Stance  - Nov. 12, 2014, 8:54 a.m.

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahgahahgahahahahahaha

Reply

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