The Death of Adventure, or How I learned to stop worrying and love the Strava
Several years ago, when mountain biking was slightly more fringe, there were certain trails that were steeped in lore. You’d hear whispers about ‘such and such’ hitting that new gap or ‘what’s his name’ greasing the new rock roll or ‘that guy’ airing to flat because he overshot the transition. You would ask around trying to find directions, ‘what road is that up?’ ‘What drainage is that in?’ These questions were usually answered by blank looks and hesitant mumbles. Every once in a while photos from these trails would surface, or segments would be seen in a video. These little snippets and blips would only provide fuel for the proverbial fire, inspiring people to find and ride these trails. This was part of the adventure of mountain biking, and you were fine with failure… at least you knew where not to look next time. You found these trails with loose directions, trying to interpret the land thinking, ‘Where would I put the trail if I was building it?’
If you have spent anytime in Whistler you have met and ridden with Len Hornridge, or you may have heard of Lenco, his stud mechanic alter ego who has wrenched for Stevie Smith and the Devinci WC crew. No doubt you have seen his follow-cam work, chasing Richie Schley in the early New World Disorder films. Len’s trail philosophy is pure.
|Trails find you when you're ready - Len Hornridge|
This statement, however eloquent and simple has a much deeper underlying theme. It is about community, with the amount of time, blood, sweat and tears that go into building a trail, not every rider should get the privilege of riding it. To be able to ride these trails you had to build relationships with the builders, or their close friends… you had to join their community. Maybe you just had to ride with them for a while until they showed you their trail, maybe you had to move some buckets of dirt, or trade directions to your own trail. Or inversely, you may never have found it, a real secret trail that the builders never intended to share outside their group. Maybe it was just whispers of a trail you heard, from no one person in particular, requiring you to combine their information and explore to find the trail. That was part of it, what made it an adventure. For me, infamous trails like Titties and Beer (aka Jack the Ripper), 306, Mad Flow, Dead Fall, and Grin and Holler were all discovered with minimal directions and lots of bush whacking.
With the recent popularity of Strava-equipped GPS and iPhones, some of that adventure is removed. The lore, the mystery, the search is gone. Obviously trails built and intended as tourism products need to and should be Strava’d by everyone. Trails built by the local riders, however, are a different beast. If you have heard rumblings of a new trail, now you search for its segment online vs. searching for the access road or its drainage. Or perhaps there is a handy article profiling the trail with GPS coordinates and recommendations for how much water and how many bars to bring.
The fun is still there, albeit a different type. Who doesn’t love racing their friends and trying to shave off a few seconds? It fosters competition, and going for the KOM can be great motivation to keep hammering up that climb. However, the dark side of Strava is that segments become public and eventually advertised on Facebook. Once somebody has claimed the KOM on a new segment, it’s open season. Now someone just has to stumble upon a trail, be happy with the way they greased a corner, Strava it, and it becomes public knowledge. This narrative is obviously the outcome of a growing, diversifying sport. As mountain biking becomes more main stream, “secret” trails become public. Why it is happening is not worth debating. What is up for debate is if the new Strava normal has made our trails too accessible, whether it has killed the adventure.
The above edit, may have some lines in it from some ‘less well-known’ trails, these trails may be Strava segmented, or may not have been… We cheated, either our friends built the line or we did. See if you can find them, without Strava, they are in Squamish B.C.
ArtBarn Film is an action sports production company from Squamish, B.C. constantly trying to balance work and play.
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Special thanks to Platypus Hydration