Sports, Switching Gears

Uncaging the human spirit

By: Matt Baatz

I remember what hooked a lot of us into mountain biking in the early 90s. The sense of freedom of riding a bike, multiplied by mastering daunting terrain in beautiful natural settings, yielded exponential results. The payoff was nothing short of the liberation of mind, body and spirit. The side benefit of working yourself into incredible shape was just a matter of course and rarely the point.
Festivals and races abounded. The community felt so accessible that at any given race you could hobnob with the virtuosos of the sport, the living legends. The Overends, Furtados, Tomacs and Sydors of the world were just regular people with superhuman skills and lung capacities.
So, unlike many other sports that tout narcissists as role models, to reach the pinnacle of mountain biking practically required that you stay down to earth. There are pompous cliques in every bunch, but it seems like the ones who ride mountain bikes are only trying to compensate for their mediocrity.
Races have always been an integral part of the sport, starting with the legendary repack contests down Mount Tam. (Mount Tam is in the hills outside of San Francisco where some of the pioneers of the sport raced down the fire roads on mountain bikes that they fabricated themselves. Without them and those races, mountain biking as we know it wouldn’t exist.)
From the beginning, competitions were more about camaraderie and adventure than determining a pecking order. This is the spirit with which we approached this year’s race.
“Winners” will be celebrated but quickly forgotten. The intent will be pure adventure, fun, connecting with a great community, and un-caging the human spirit through challenge and communion with nature.

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