"It's mountain biking,"
says Mike Levy. Pinkbike used to spend a few weeks each year testing bikes in Sedona, Arizona, and it was on those trips where Mike Levy first earned my respect as a rider. For most, sessioning the myriad of tricky downhills and drops highlights the red rock experience there. Levy, however, spent at least as much time working on his climbing game and he's aced a number of the zone's most infamous pitches. I looked forward to the inevitable climbing contests that ensued, although I can count my victories on one finger.
There's an art to technical climbing that requires well-honed skills, one-hundred-percent concentration and, especially here, where exposure is always a danger, a level of commitment that rivals the muster you'd need to attack any black-line descent. Beyond bragging rights and a sense of accomplishment, technical climbs foster confidence and bank skills that can save gobs of energy when you're riding chunky trails at any gradient.
Mountain bikers who ride in the mountains will spend on average, 51 minutes of each hour going uphill, and that figure becomes much more lopsided for skilled descenders. That's right, the faster you ride, the larger the percentage of your riding time will fall into the climbing column. Look no further than the EWS, where the winner's total time for eight stages of downhill competition after two full days of pedaling uphill amounts to about 30 minutes.
It could be argued that climbing, not descending defines the sport. Homo sapien-sapiens are inherently lazy, preferring to populate river valleys and seaside retreats where accessing food sources and mating opportunities are rarely farther than a minute's walk. Mountains are wild and unpopulated because access requires effort. The harder it is to pedal to the top, the more likely it will be that you'll escape average humanity's noise, litter and situational numbness. The return for a few thousand pedal strokes and burning legs cannot easily be purchased: silence and solitude on the way up - and few reasons to hold back on the way down. Mountain biking is wonderful because
it's not easy.
The satisfaction that awaits a successful climb is not easily explained. We're not conquering mountains, as is so often written. We're conquering self doubt - overcoming inertia that's been hardwired by a lifetime of setting readily achievable goals. "Could have, Should Have and Might Have Been" are the daemons we fight with each rhythmic breath and revolution of the crankset, and while there are rare moments when the body and mind revel in the experience, climbing is mostly an uncomfortable, but all-consuming conversation between the two that comes to an abrupt end at the summit. Reaching it never gets old, but maybe that's just me.
Bikes have become gravity specific these days, and if you believe the marketing hype, climbing is out of fashion. Media reviews and bike brand PR's wax on about gravity-friendly geometry, 1200-gram tires,
suspension nuances, and how weight shouldn't be an issue - and we give high honors to trail bikes for efficiency as long as they don't make us suffer to an extraordinary extent.
The nail in the climbing coffin, however, may be the once-proud Big Brands who battled for years to win the pedaling efficiency war and are now falling over each other to sell e-bikes with tag lines like: "More of what you want, less of what you hate." Newbies could be excused, then, for believing that mountain biking was a downhill sport, or for searching for an "Uber Shuttle" app after discovering that the trailhead was inconveniently located at the bottom of the mountain.
That's where I stand, but I'm more interested in knowing your take on the subject. Today's poll is: