Why Do Pro Riders Get Off Easy?

Words Dave Tolnai
Date Jun 13, 2016

I feel tired today due to standing around in a Ferry line-up last night and arriving home at an ungodly hour. I’m having a hard time creating thoughts. So this week, you get a recycled answer from an early effort for last week that didn’t quite make it, and a brain-dead, too tired freshie. See if you can figure out which is which!

Dear Uncle Toenail.

Are we becoming brand agnostic? I used to care about what brand of bike I ride (which had something to do with pro riders and nationalism) but more and more it’s just about the numbers (geometry, travel, cost etc).


Dear Brandagon:

Like you, I used to be far more brand loyal than I am now. Shimano and SRAM parts litter my builds and the sticker on the downtube has almost nothing to do with the bikes I theoretically purchase in my head every few days. But is this a case of brand disloyalty? Substance trumping style? Either way, in two sentences, you just ruined the life’s work of several marketing managers.

I think back to my more brand loyal times and they came during a period where bikes weren’t all that great. Things broke all the time and didn’t work all that well even when they were running. My response was to reward the same companies again and again for this continuous disappointment. It was almost if, in the absence of a quality product, we were forced to latch on to the only thing these companies were able to offer us. Your bikes are shitty but I really dig the lumberjack street urchin vibe that your company is laying down, so please take all my money.

Yes, I do realize that I alternately praise the “good old days” and rail against them. This week, railing suits my purposes.

The really funny thing is that not only was the product bad, the advertisements were terrible too. Dig up a half page photo of your bicycle that was taken by your nephew with a point-and-shoot, throw in a pun-laced headline and then finish if all off with a couple of paragraphs not-really-explaining whatever bullshit technology you were pushing at the time. Somehow, some kind of personality filtered through all of this terrible advertising. Maybe now that we’re bombarded with so many vibes, personalities and bro sketches we’re rebelling, focussing on the technical details and making information-based decisions?

Anyhow, I dig it. You are not the things that you purchase and they don’t cause your bike ride to be more enjoyable. Only good things can come when companies are forced to sell us on product rather than on other useless intangibles.

Uncle Dave


Reading internet comments (oh dear…) on mtb sites, I’m struck by the overwhelming positivity of the commenters towards public figures in the industry. Large companies are fair game for abuse, but negativity and (even valid) criticism of almost all riders is shunned, down-voted etc. In big-money sports, the vitriol directed at the professionals is abundant, graphic and more the norm than the exception.

Why is it alright to call out a pro hockey player as a plug, overrated and overpaid but the mtb community has deemed that unacceptable for a rider? I can think of a couple riders lightly mocked for attitudes or style but that’s about the extent of it. Is it because they don’t make nearly as much money? Or because some of the pro’s read and post on sites? Or because there’s a chance you might actually run into the person in question in the liftline at whistler this summer? Or because I’ve been reading pinkbike comments? (My secret shame…)

I would say it’s because it’s silly to criticize somebody who is far better at what they do than you are, but that hasn’t stopped keyboard/armchair quarterbacks from doing it since professional sports have existed.

Killing Time At Work

Dear Kawt:

I can’t help but feel like our experiences on the Internet are vastly different. Maybe I’m overly sensitive, but there always seems to be some blowhard railing against something that he knows nothing about. Any post about Semenuk or Gwin has at least one guy complaining about everything from their choice of breakfast to their ability to win races. I’ve at no point thought that mountain biking didn’t have its fair share of haters.

But I get what you’re saying. Things do seem worse with more popular professional sports. Listen to sports radio at some point and time and you’ll fear for the future of humanity. Players are just meat that warrants ridicule or threats if they don’t meet the expectations of each and every mouth breather who forked out money for a jersey. I mean, shit, that’s what you’re buying, right? Unlimited rights to dehumanize the people that actually get paid to wear that gaudy, ill-fitting blouse that you bought for an inflated price?

I think that it is really just a question of scale. There is always going to be a certain percentage or people with insane views that take things too far. Some run for President, others complain about sports on the Internet. Once something gets large enough, there are enough of these yahoos to band together to create an echo chamber to support their entitled views, build on the insanity, and then take it all a step further than anybody reasonably expected. If millions of people watched downhill or slopestyle competitions we would have facebook pages demanding the immediate firing of Greg Minnaar’s mechanic over the slow start to his season and overpaid announcers who have never ridden a bike decrying the fact that Semenuk has “destroyed the room” with his standoffish attitude and lack of creativity.* People can be terrible and the more of them that you collect together, the worse it gets.

Uncle Dave

*Ding, ding, ding! This may have been written before this and this happened. Doesn’t matter. People would still be saying it.

Dave wasn’t interested in providing a social media reminder this week. If you’re really interested, dig up one of the old articles and figure it out from there.

In celebration of the arrival of Extended Play at the Whistler Bike Park, this week’s winner gets two day-passes to the park. Kawt – you win! Send us an email to claim your prize.


Photo by: Robin O’Neil Rider: Tristan Merrick

Got a question for Uncle Dave? Send it!

Do you have less brand loyalty today? Do you give pro mtb athletes and easy ride?

Trending on NSMB


brente  - June 19, 2016, 4:21 p.m.

Who cares about brand any more they are almost all made in Taiwan. It's not as if buying a rocky is supporting the BC brand and all the companies have become so corporate who really cares if they live or die.


Humanpowered  - June 14, 2016, 12:17 p.m.

I might argue that in this case brand has become more important as quality has become more consistent. Essentially if everyone makes good bikes with similar geometry etc. the only things left to differentiate are brand and price. Pricing is still fairly non-elastic across brands seeing certain brands can charge massive premiums for bikes that perform similarly to others that sell at much lower prices. Had brand lost its power that wouldn't happen. Look to the airline industry as an example where brand has lost nearly all power. People almost exclusively shop by price, you will see massive shifts in market share based on price differences of 1%. The marketing managers at cyclings winning companies should go and ask for a raise.


DJ  - June 14, 2016, 5:14 p.m.

best avatar picture ever.


Humanpowered  - June 14, 2016, 6:36 p.m.

In either case thanks.


Mitch Mason  - June 15, 2016, 8:07 p.m.

I'm considering a Santa Cruz bike for my next rig. Am I stupid? As far as I can tell they make quality stuff. Their designs make you think that the guy designing the bike has a brain. Plus they are perdy. In Canada Santa Cruz seams to have a higher price tag.


Humanpowered  - June 15, 2016, 8:32 p.m.

Santa Cruz is one of the main brands I was thinking of being able to demand a premium price, but that doesn't mean it's a bad value. If you have to take out a loan to buy it, or you end up in a divorce then yea that's stupid, but if it fits the budget buy and enjoy. I impulse bought a $150 xbox controller because it looked cool and felt like quality even though I only play like 3 hours a month, does that make me stupid… actually it might.


Cr4w  - June 14, 2016, 7:08 a.m.

This was a pretty good ad!


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