Fat Tire Tuesday: Dirt Artists

We are artists on wheels, and there is no wrong way to paint

By Sarah Hansing

MTB interpretation by Bruce Dorman.

MTB interpretation by Bruce Dorman.

Art Class. For all of the classes we were loathe to go to, Art Class was the saving grace between Calculus and 18th Century English Literature, Economics and Political History. Art Class let us breathe for an hour.  It freed us from rote memorization, and encouraged thought and interpretation. Art Class let our brains stop soaking up requisite facts and figures, and start splashing out our individuality.  It was what kept us … well, us. (And kept a lot of us from skipping school, too).

And here we are again.

We ride our bikes, and paint the dirt with our treads; some ride sweeping lines to the outside of the roots. Others take the angular, harsh lines and cut through the rock gardens like only a Cubist would.

Some of us are precise and intense;  hasty and harsh, minimalist and efficient in our quest to be the fastest rider to get from point A to point B.

And some of us are meandering and dreamy in our journey through the woods;  reveling in our surroundings and finding tranquillity among the trees.

We are artists on wheels.

And there is no wrong way to paint.

Too often I hear bickering or mocking between the different disciplines and subsets of the knobby-tire world:

“Why would you ride THERE?” “Honestly?! You like riding FIRE ROADS?!” “I cannot BELIEVE that you hit that jump!” “Who would ever even want to TRY riding down that rock garden?!” “Cross-country is dumb.” “Free-ride is reckless.” “Uphill sucks.” “Downhill is dangerous.” “I HATE technical trails.” “I LOVE flow trails and berms!” “Using a shuttle is cheating!” “Who the hell wants to CLIMB?!”

But much like art class, mountain biking is subjective; it is personal interpretation. The important thing is what you put into it, and what you get out of it. It is about you and you alone, it is about the pleasure you get from your expression.

Anyone that tells you otherwise needs to keep their eyes on their own paper, so to speak.

Because it doesn’t matter if you wear lycra. It doesn’t matter if you are kitted out in baggies and a GoPro, or knee pads, shin guards and a full-face helmet.

It doesn’t matter if you ride on flat pedals, or if you clip in. Shaved legs or hairy, cross-country or free-ride, single-speed hardtail or 8″ of slacked out full suspension; we should ALL be welcome in the woods. Because quite honestly, mountain biking would have become boring and stagnant long ago, were it not for personal visions and variety.

You don’t have to like how another rider paints, and you don’t have to incorporate their style into yours. But please – appreciate the way they interpret the dirt. Like all good artists, we should try to remember that there is a certain type of divine in our differences, even when our canvas is dirt.


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​Fat Tire Tuesday columnist Sarah Hansing has been slinging wrenches as a pro bike mechanic for 15 years (with the exception of a one year stint working for Trek Bicycles in Wisconsin.) Epicenter Cycling scooped her up as their lead mechanic and the shop’s crew plans to ​keep her forever. Sarah loves riding singlet​rack, wrenching on bikes, and hanging out with her jerk-face but adorable cat Harlan. (Who is a jerk.)

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