Matt Niswonger

Uniting the adventure tribes

Campfire memories from Sea Otter, 2017. ASJ editor, Matt Niswonger on the plastic horn.

ASJ has a very unique readership. For nearly sixteen years we have sought to appeal to the type of person who participates in a variety of human powered adventure sports in California and Nevada. Among our readers are those who surf, mountain bike, climb and backpack. Over the years our readership has grown quite a bit, and we like to think we are the go-to resource for the multi-sport outdoor enthusiast who enjoys a little bit of everything.

Maybe it was inevitable, but as our readership has grown, a conflict between readers began brewing. This simmering conflict finally boiled over when we published an article called The Battle for Bikes in Wilderness Continues by longtime ASJ contributor Kurt Gensheimer in our last issue.

As a result of this article, a group of ASJ readers gave us an ultimatum: stop publishing articles that promote mountain bike access to Wilderness or we will start a nationwide campaign to put you out of business by pressuring your advertisers to stop supporting you. We first learned of this when some of our advertisers informed us they had already received emails from this group.

In order to comply with the ultimatum ASJ must take two actions: first we must permanently remove the article from our website. Second we must commit to never advocating for mountain bike access to designated Wilderness areas in our pages again.

We have not responded officially to the ultimatum yet, but think it is in the best interest of everyone to comply with their demands. When I informed Kurt that we will most likely be removing his article from our website, he was disappointed but he said he understood.

Dealing with this situation has been humbling and educational. Given that we have worked hard over the years to build a diverse and inclusive forum for outdoor enthusiasts how do we keep our readership intact in the face of strident philosophical differences?

For us, agreeing to the ultimatum is just the first step. More importantly, we want our readers to know that we acknowledge and respect different perspectives. If you are the type of person who feels that designated Wilderness should be defended and protected without compromise, then we respect you. On the other hand, if you believe that mountain bikers have been unfairly excluded from areas that embrace the rest of the human powered adventure sports community, then we respect you too.

It’s important to keep in mind that there is a lot more that unites us than divides us. We follow in the footsteps of John Muir. Like Muir, we believe that time spent communing with nature is restorative, and adventure itself is transformational. Whether you are a backpacker or a mountain biker or a surfer or all of the above, we want to be a source of inspiration and unity, not division. For this reason you won’t be seeing any articles promoting bike access to designated Wilderness. Not because we are choosing sides, but because we choose to hold our community together.

Welcome to issue #97. We are excited about summer and look forward to hearing from you. Did we make the right choice to heal this rift in our readership? What would you have done? Drop me a line:

—Matt Niswonger