Uncle Dave Wants You off his Lawn

Words Dave tolnai
Date Nov 28, 2016

Dear Uncle Dave,

I can’t believe Seu Jorge was here, and you didn’t give the community a heads up!! Granted, from the comments sections across the internet, it seems as though mountain bikers in general have awful taste in music. So I can forgive you for thinking no one would care. Except then you rubbed it in our faces that you were there and we weren’t and now I am sad that I missed him.

I have been enjoying your recommendations. It’s a nice addition. I probably feel that way because we like a lot of the same music though. I don’t tend to listen to music while I ride. I personally prefer the sound of tires on the ground, the birds, the wind/rain through the trees and any potential predators approaching on my early morning climbs.

I saw someone recently with a Bluetooth speaker hanging from their pack pedaling up the hill while listening to music of comment section’s wet dreams. Thankfully I was less fit and he passed. It wasn’t long before he was far enough ahead that I could no longer hear it, but it was long enough that I had plenty of time to consider other people’s lack of consideration. I am all for people listening to whatever they want in their own ears. I worry though, that with the advent of small, decent sounding, waterproof, Bluetooth speakers, that this might become commonplace. After all, it’s way more comfortable and you can still hear your tires and the rain.

Do people who want to listen to music while they ride have the right to play it aloud?  Are these the same people who think it’s appropriate to video chat in public places, use selfie sticks or take up space under awnings with their umbrellas?  If I did listen to music while I rode, I would never subject others to it. Do you listen while you ride?  As a rare breed of mountain biker who I share musical taste with, what are your thoughts on subjecting others to it?

Silence When I Ride.

Dear Swirly:

Time for some unjustified speculation and generalization.

No. Wait. Let’s talk about freedom. Using speculation and generalizations.

I’m guessing that anybody that reads this column lives in a country that most people would describe as “free”. We probably are able to vote in elections. We don’t have thugs breaking down our doors in the middle of the night to drag us off to some prison someplace. Or at the very least have another couple of months before having to worry about those things. We’re free. “Free.”

Yet think of all the times in your life you’ve had some asshole getting all up in your shit, telling you what to do?  Maybe it’s some old lady who didn’t like that you were riding a skateboard. Or some cop telling you that you can’t drink a beer on the beach. Maybe even some old guy with a moustache lecturing you trailside about your mountain bike*. Everybody has a threshold for what they think is acceptable behavior in another human being and quite often this threshold doesn’t jive with the bewildered person that they happen to be yelling at. Let’s just keep that in mind.

The flip side to that is we can’t just all run around doing whatever the hell we want. My personal feeling is that we should be allowed to do whatever the hell we want as long as it doesn’t infringe on another person, which is about the extent of my overlap with the average Libertarian. But if you break that down, there are very few activities that a human can complete that don’t have an impact on another person. Especially in a country with government-run health care, you can argue that pretty much anything beyond leaving the house in the morning has a potential impact on the pocketbook of somebody else.

So. The point is that I really, really hate it when people stick their noses in my shit because they have some sort of unreasonable expectation of society. And I really, really hate it when some buffoon assumes that he owns the world and can do whatever he wants. Maybe this is why I roll around, perpetually angry at the world in general, and spend a good hour or two** each week writing about petty injustices?  Nah. Probably not.

Now, dragging out the tangent a little bit longer before we get around to answering your specific question, I want to point out that boomboxes are awesome. Strapping them to bike is even better. When I see a group of crazy kids riding around on bicycles, blasting music that I’ve never heard, I smile…momentarily…then I get a bit sad that I’m so old…then I smile again knowing that there’s people out there not giving a shit and enjoying themselves.

But that shit that they’re not giving doesn’t belong on the trails. Anybody riding a mountain bike in any sort of populated trail system or near-wilderness type situation (which is 95% of what we do) has to be aware that creating all sorts of noise is going to do nothing but piss people off and have a detrimental effect on our general cause. Is there a situation where riding with music blasting could be acceptable?  Bike park? Maybe. Dirt jumps? That could work. But if you see some jackass cruising around blasting music on your average mountain bike trail, feel free to give him a public scolding, or at the very least a nasty stink-eye. Public humiliation could work too. Lay off the physical violence though.

Uncle Dave

PS – There’s an implicit assumption that anybody blasting music in public has some sort of interesting musical taste and isn’t subjecting those around him to horrible shit. If you’re out there grooving to some Chainsmokers type bullshit, you deserve any bad thing that happens to you.

*Sorry if I’m generalizing by continuously inserting the word “old” into the mix.

**generously speaking.

Uncle Dave’s Music Club

Today’s Music Club involves two things that Uncle Dave seems to love: Trios and concept albums.

On the surface, it seems like a trio should be an inferior (holy crap it took me a long time to think of the word “inferior”) type of musical apparatus. But I think there is something really focussed about a trio. There’s nobody hanging around to say things like “Why don’t you let me play my Theremin on this song” or “Let’s do a concept album about Jesus.”  They just seem to get down to the business at hand.

And then we have concept albums. Once again, we’ll talk about focus. I’m still a sucker for a good album and I think a concept album, with that nice, big, over-arching theme, brings a focus to things that can be otherwise lacking.

Bringing these two things together is The Thermals with The Body, The Blood, The Machine, an album which, presciently, tells the story of a young couple forced to “flee a United States governed by fascist faux-Christians.”  Why wasn’t I talking about this album a few weeks ago?

I highly encourage you to listen to the whole album. It kicks off with a bang with “Here’s Your Future”, which unfortunately has no video. However…we can enjoy Miss Nancy Botwin taking her clothes off and jumping into a swimming pool full of drugs with the song playing in the background. With Spanish subtitles. You should probably just listen to the song instead. Or watch Weeds.

So, we’ll leave you with “A Pillar of Salt”:

And “Returning to the Fold”:

Which are both pretty good options.

Sharing Uncle Dave’s taste in music has at least one benefit. Probably more. You win Swirly! This sweet 7mesh Recon jacket – made with Gore Windstopper scores high on breathability and comfort. Send us an email to sort your prize.

Uncle Dave Lawn

The 7mesh Recon Jacket is all about weather protection and breathability. Check out the Revelation (which is currently 40% off) if staying dry is your main concern.

If you have a question for Uncle Dave fire it his way. Flattery, apparently, is welcome.

As always, pictures of dogs and shit @davetolnai on Instagram.

Music while you ride for all to hear? Or no?

Trending on NSMB


kekoa  - Nov. 30, 2016, 11:04 p.m.

I used to hike with a bunch of very…muscular female canoe paddlers and some would play music while we hiked. I was also too scared to mention it else they'd pretzel me and toss me off a cliff. Seriously I'd just hike ahead of them and snicker (quietly) to myself.


Kos  - Nov. 30, 2016, 4:44 p.m.

What are you talking about, "another couple of months before we have to worry about thugs breaking our doors down in the middle of the night to drag us off to prison someplace"?!

What the heck, is Trudeau finally getting approval to implement his wet dream Political Correctness Police Force, or something? ! Will the Mounties approve?!

Get things under control up there!


Mike  - Nov. 29, 2016, 11:47 a.m.

I know a few folks who use a small sound system in hopes of keeping bears away (Canmore, interior BC). I'm fine with it since it's generally less annoying than a bell, and they turn it off if they end up in a larger group with everyone yammering away… On The Shore, I can't see this being useful or necessary - there are just too many trail users.


Dirk  - Nov. 29, 2016, 2:43 p.m.

Never thought of the bear angle. Interesting.


Mike  - Nov. 29, 2016, 3:07 p.m.

Canmore was so bad this summer we just stopped riding. I won't ride there anymore without spray and some kind of noise device.


tashi  - Nov. 29, 2016, 10:40 a.m.

I use a Bluetooth speaker sometimes while riding. I totally get why you wouldn't want it out there. I don't want it out there sometimes.

However it's actually pretty quiet, ergo, it's not blown and distorted sounding and tends to only expose folks to my sweet 311/POD/Creed New World Disorder playlist for a few seconds while I pass them. I've asked folks out on the trail about it. They've all said that they couldn't hear it until I was quite close, like within regular speaking voices kind of distance, that it didn't bother them, and really the only reason it was noticeable was because I took the time to stop and ask their opinion. Otherwise it's on the level of the noise a rattling drivetrain makes.

But hey, feel free to glare, lecture, and publicly "shame" folks for doing this. It is after all some quiet music, not of your choosing, that you're being subjected to by a passing rider for, at the long end of the scale, 30 seconds of your day. Totally a vibe killer. Or you could just, you know, strike up a conversation and explain why you don't like their speaker on the trail.


Dirk  - Nov. 29, 2016, 11:02 a.m.

Wow. Ripped from the headlines.

It's great that you are able to talk about this, and are conscientious enough to speak to other trail users about your impact. I think it all really comes down to time/place. Not knowing where you're from, perhaps you live in a place where this is no big deal.

In our backyard, I can't imagine this going over all that well. 90% of the people won't care. 9% won't like it. 1% will use it as just another way to tar mountain bikers as scoundrels.


tashi  - Nov. 29, 2016, 11:19 a.m.

I hope I'm being conscientious of how I use it anyway. Just like other aspects of my riding.

Low volume, it doesn't need to be that loud if it's close to my ear.
Off when stopped if folks are around.
Off for horses.
Off when poaching.
No terrible music…I WAS being facetious about my playlist before…

I try to keep it about as offensive as a conversation between riders/hikers, or a dog bark or any other noise you'd expect on the trail. I dunno about trying to appease the cranky 1%, they can always find something…


Cam McRae  - Nov. 29, 2016, 5:46 p.m.

tashi - you were expecting to have an issue coddled by Uncle Dave? Or gently poached? How could he say sorry if he didn't say anything worthy of an apology?


tashi  - Nov. 29, 2016, 8:24 p.m.

No apologies requested, required or expected. I expect sass from Uncle Dave, and expect he can take it back. I figure there's room on the trails for tunes, done right anyway. FREEDOM!


Nat Brown  - Nov. 29, 2016, 9:39 a.m.

Nice one Uncle Dave.

Swirly, if you're out there, what kind of music is typical of MTB? I've generally thought of us as a moderately varied conglomerate of folks, excepting race and income. Perhaps I'm ignorant of how uniform we are. If you throw out a (sub)genre or a few band names you might help me fit in better.


Luix  - Nov. 29, 2016, 5:02 a.m.

A couple of things worth being pointed out:

  • Why is Sheldon Cooper's half-albino half-brother singing in those Thermals videos?
  • Anybody blasting music off a bluetooth speaker is meant to have a terrible life and obviously terrible musical tastes as a result. And he/she wants everybody around to feel his/her pain. That's why they put out those fugly sound testaments for everyone to notice. Period. There's no other way to justify those asshats scaring every living creature away with Wisin and Yandel and other reggaeton bullshit coming from a distorted beyond repair BT speaker.
  • Now that's time up there to tell the snow to get off your lawn up there, put some sunshine back in your life with The Tormentos, Argentina's finest surf band:


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