I recently had the opportunity to help with promoting The Moment
- a documentary about the history of freeride. Most of the people I reached out to were thrilled with the idea of the film and with having a showing in their town, but a few of the responses I received back surprised me.
"Does the film reconcile or reflect on the change in times or does it revel in the joy of anarchy?"
This question wrapped up a larger message of concern about "weed talk," rogue riding culture, and the lack of marketability the film would have to an all-ages audience. Another response I received was in respect to taming down mountain biking's extreme image.
"I'm trying to promote mountain biking to women and I'm not a huge fan of promoting the gnarly stuff like Rampage and freeriding because I think it scares a lot of people away from the sport."
Don't get me wrong, at the heart of both of these examples are genuine issues that people are considering. This is a time of hypersensitivity around illegal trail building in some places and I do understand that the mainstream media version of mountain biking may not be truly representative of what is available in the sport to everyone. But since when does that mean we shouldn't celebrate our history or that we should leave out the bits that are inconvenient to our current (or sometimes individual) concerns?
The documentary tells the story of the moment freeride began by using footage from the North Shore and Kamloops in the 90's and current interviews with some of the people who were involved in pushing the boundaries back then. The filmmaker, Darcy Turenne, takes us to the roots of a movement that has impacted all areas of mountain biking, including bike technology and design, trail building, photography, and skill development, to name a few. This story isn't meant to encapsulate the entire history of our sport, but, instead, to highlight a key point in its evolution.
So why are people feeling squeamish about acknowledging these roots of mountain biking? Freeriding isn't some estranged family member who's gone off to live in the woods, its influences can be seen in everyday riding and everyday people - every day. It can be found in the drops I was practicing in lessons ten years ago and in the baggy shorts, I still opt for today. The gravity-fed trails that bring a smile to your face - even if you don't want to admit it - are a result of the days in the Kamloops gravel pits.
I understand that everyone thinks back to their own history occasionally and wonders if life would be different if - if I hadn't dropped out of college, if I hadn't married my high school sweetheart, if I hadn't become a brain surgeon, if I hadn't swiped right
. But, if you can look around and appreciate where you are in life at this very moment, then even the most cringe-worthy memories were worth it. So, it stands to reason, that if you love mountain biking today and what it's provided in your life, you have to embrace the history it comes with.
The people who were smoking weed and building trails or taking headers into the dirt while sending in on pinner bikes back in the day weren't thinking ahead to whether or not their footage would be shown to an all-ages audience nearly three decades later. And they shouldn't have been. Even just ten years ago, mountain biking movies, in Vancouver at least, were shown predominantly in bars. The sport wasn't old enough to be thinking about the next generation yet. Remember Pedalfiles
? That movie came with the message, 'Warning: this film contains boobs, fire, fights, and bikes.'
The athletes back then certainly weren't focused on making what they did mainstream and accessible to everyone. As noble a pursuit as this has become, I'm not entirely sure - outside of making a profit - why we care about this so much now. And let's be honest, the barrier to entry with mountain biking has a lot more to do with the current price of bikes, than whether or not it's perceived as dangerous. When you say to a friend, "You've really got to try this new sport, but be warned, you might crash and need stitches" versus, "I know you're really going to love it, but you need to drop $3000 just to start," which one do you think is the bigger deterrent?
There is a scene in one of the old New World Disorder
movies where Aaron Chase is bleeding from the head. Chase puts his helmet back on and keeps riding. Genuine concerns for his well-being aside, that image was what inspired me to get on a bike. Fifteen years ago, there were only a few women riding and they were all shredders; none of them represented me, an awkward beginner, who was in no way a natural, and who hadn't ridden a bike since she was eight. But I still wanted to ride because when I did, I felt badass. I wasn't an athlete. I was terribly out of shape, skinny fat, as the saying goes. And yet I still identified with riding, because it was for me. I didn't need anyone to put lipstick on it, tame it down, and try to mould it into an image that they thought I would want. And let's be honest, back then I was the key demographic that companies are now targeting. So, maybe we all just need to take a step back and let mountain biking be, let it attract the people it speaks to, and not try to change it. I mean, my whole life I've been told that you have to love someone for who they are and not who you want them to be. If mountain biking leaves the toilet seat up now, let's just accept that it always will and save ourselves the trouble.
Much like that scene with Aaron Chase, The Moment
unapologetically celebrates the good, the bad, and the ugly in mountain biking. It excites the audience because it connects us to something bigger. It ties our passion to the culture that existed in our sport at that specific moment in time. This film salutes our gritty pasts, to the regrettable and the great one-night stands, to the one beers too many, to the speeding tickets and the stitches, to our messy roots that make us truly unique individuals. This movie reminds us why we should appreciate and value the "weed talk" and rogue riding culture that we've come from. That an all-audiences rating isn't something to consider when you're telling a true story. Let these kids grow up and if they still love mountain biking enough they will seek it out (realistically they just have wait until it comes out on iTunes and their cool parents rent it for them).
Mountain biking won't build a sustainable relationship with anyone if it has to change who it is or deny its history. Acknowledging our past is so incredibly important, because, as they say, you can't know where you're going if you don't know where you've been. So, let's revel in the joy of our past anarchy just a little bit longer and be grateful that we can.