Approaches to Language and Trails.
Slay, Carve, Savage, Destroy, Smash. The descriptive words of adrenaline sports, and in particular, for me, mountain bikes.
There is seldom a word given to the sport such as smooth, gentle, considered, graceful – perhaps ‘Flow’ – a vague term that tries to imply Zen, and some sort of mystical power. But more the slightly over youthed so cool but not actually cool wording that is starting to make me cringe.
As I approach my late thirties, I’m drawn to riding distance, but not at the expense of tedium. I like technical trails, not always fast, ones that demand more of my skills than the flow line at a bike park. There is a challenge in my locality of 200miles across chalk and flint. I adore and love this particular landscape. It’s not a traditional mountain bike mecca, and I’m glad of that. But just riding distance isn’t enough, and it isn’t all that mountain bikes can offer.
Our sports language describes slaying, beating and conquering rides. Whilst usually this is suitable for a genuinely epic adventure, your local trails on go-pro kind of don’t quite tip into that word – epic.
This isn’t a moan about who rides what or how and on the type of off-road machine, it’s about the way we describe the experience. Seldom are we accomplished enough to have actually ‘destroyed’ or been ‘epic’.
My perspective on the language isn’t to suggest a soft and gentle approach, but more a deeper and more connected one. This isn’t an especially male/female difference (discuss this with me if you feel otherwise) as although the sports participants are mainly male, female participants don’t seem to have a massive variance on description.
Mountain Bikings language is rooted in surf and skate culture. We appropriated it – either by marketing companies or how we present ourselves when participating. High fives, fist bumps and so on.
My example is this: Watch Danny Harts classic world cup race win. Watch it with no sound or commentary (it’s also worth the watch with the honest, straight up words of Rob Warner).
Watch him ride, he is smooth, on a fine line between violence and grace, an arrow that bends round obstacles, without seemingly a single second of doubt. It’s poised and perfect, deeply thrilling and inspiring.
Our language doesn’t always need to be the destruction, more the relationship and action. The straight forward description without being overly fussy. How do you sum up the feeling of riding? Are you destroying or actually building. Is it violence or really just experiencing life in a vivid, immediate and unfiltered way?
Is skidding a berm faster? Does a Scandi-flick actually improve your next few turns? Is technique and language acting as a barrier to being better? I’m asking questions, with no answers, just as I get the feeling we could advance more with a wider and more inclusive approach to our ride and reporting of it.