RAD, The Right Way

It’s no secret that I’m not particularly thrilled with the use of the word “RAD” to describe cars. Almost nobody who took the whole “RAD” idea seriously even owned a car back in the Eighties. If they did, it was some kind of ragged-out station wagon with a bike rack welded to the liftgate or a VW Thing kitted out for surf and skate, not a Supra or BMW M6 or what have you. So this is what the kids call “appropriation” nowadays. I like it even less when someone uses the actual logo from the Talia Shire movie, which feels like adding insult to injury.

Oh well. The above short film, starring Bill Allen from the original RAD movie, is far more in the spirit of things. It takes place in and around Bentonville, AR, which has decided to make itself a mountain-bike Mecca. The riding is first rate and then some. It shows how far we’ve come in the past thirty-five years. Just as importantly, it makes the point that you’re only really rad if you’re existing in the moment, not looking to the past.

Another video of note: professional BMX racers (and Red Bull pump track champions) Caroline Buchanan and Barry Nobles remake the original “Helltrack” race here. Sadly, Caroline and Barry’s relationship didn’t last; he left her for a girl who looked just like Caroline but didn’t race BMX. Which suggests that my less-than-RAD insight of 1987 — namely, you’re not going to have a successful relationship if you prioritize your little bike over meeting someone — is more general than I thought!

21 Replies to “RAD, The Right Way”

  1. Aaron Berga

    RAD inspired so many of me and my friends. I bought a Mongoose, another friend bought a Redline, another a Haro. I don’t recall the models, but it was a huge thing back in the day.

  2. Aaron Berga

    The fact that Hal Needham was also involved, who was so instrumental in Smokey and the Bandit, it all tied together in a timeline fashion.

    • Patrick King

      Needham was also Brock Yates’s co-driver in one of the Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dashes and was involved in the fictionalized movie about the event.

      • Carmine

        Needham and Yates were working on a Cannonball movie script that originally was going to be a more serious movie, they wanted Steve McQueen for it, but after McQueen died the movie got changed to the cheesier comedy movie that came out.

  3. stingray65

    Incredible agility, balance, and power, but I can’t quite get my head around the adult performer doing kid’s stunts. There are so many activities that adults continue to do that were things that mostly kids did when I was growing up such as riding bikes (includes jumps, and stunts), playing video games, reading comic books, collecting baseball cards, which tended to fade away as favorite activities once adulthood arrived and bikes were replaced by cars, and video games and comic books were replaced by work, dating, parenthood, and more sedentary adult hobbies (i.e. drinking, smoking, cooking, knitting, car wrenching, woodworking, watching TV). Today it seems that its the kids getting fat because they are more often doing sedentary “adult” activities (i.e. social media) and it is much more common to see middle-aged adults still doing extreme sports (at least the ones featured on YouTube videos), playing video games (with high powered machines and peripheral hardware), and collecting comic books, baseball cards, etc. as “investments”. My dad was much more fit than the average dad of his time and could do just about anything from writing books to designing and building a house, but I can’t imagine him buying a fancy bike and riding with me down some jump strewn mountain path at high speeds when I was a teen as Jack does with his son. I suspect it is simply that we are living in a time with greater wealth and more opportunities and choices than any previous generation, which allows many of us to go well past middle age and still not be fully grown up.

    • Stephen

      That, and good orthopedic surgeons.

      I have not had as many incidents as Jack, but I have been patched up a few times over the years

    • Jack Baruth Post author

      This is a worthwhile idea to discuss so I’ll write a full column as a response. Basically, however, it’s a case of incentives, perverse and otherwise.

    • John C.

      As the publisher of the-philatelist.com, I would like to add stamp collecting to your otherwise complete list of hobbies. It is great for the sedentary of all ages.

  4. Mike

    Every time my wife hears music from that soundtrack soundtrack playing, she worries me and the boys will insist on watching RAD that evening. I still argue RAD is a better movie than Dirty Dancing.

  5. Jeff Zekas

    When I hear Bentonville, I think of the Walton family, owners of Walmart. I remember my two year stint working for terrible bosses and a corrupt store manager (she was later allegedly fired for embezzlement). I remember store bosses scouring surveillance video tape: not for shoplifters, but to find out who was a union organizer. But mostly, I remember the hard working, good-hearted workers, who gave 110% even though they were paid slave wages. Meanwhile, the Walton family lived in fabulous wealth and decadence. Walmart: when said you worked there, other folks (usually white collar, educated, well paid) would say, “If you don’t like it, quit!”. Which would be true, if those same white collar folks hadn’t sent all the good paying blue collar jobs to China. Walmart is the reason for Trump. Walmart is the reason for anger. Walmart is the reason there’s a divide in America. Because Walmart is a symbol of how our ruling class sold-out the working class. All so they could save a few bucks on tennis shoes.

    • Jack Baruth Post author

      Agreed on all counts — the irony is that Wal-Mart is now being soundly whipped by Amazon, which figured out how to do things with even LESS humanity.

    • Ronnie Schreiber

      Peter Meijer, a Republican congresscritter from western Michigan whose family owns a regional competitor to Walmart, voted to impeach President Trump.

      I wonder sometimes, do the Waltons shop at Walmart, do the Meijers shop at Meijer? When business owners become culturally distanced from their customers they risk their businesses.

      I have two books by Paul Midler, a Flint native who’s made a career out of being a go-between for American companies looking to have good manufactured in China, Poorly Made in China, and What’s Wrong With China, where he makes the argument that aspects of Chinese culture are responsible for their attitude towards quality control. For all of his criticisms of China, he still makes his living there.

      Of course, you can’t completely excuse the working class for buy cheap imported crap, though the reality is that you cannot avoid doing business with China these days.

      Mainland Han culture seems to me to be among the most racist and supremacist cultures on the planet. I’m not thrilled about doing business with them but I’ve arrived at the position where if I can leverage Chinese goods to make a profit here in the U.S., I will.

  6. Eric L.

    I bought a copy of Lee McCormack’s niche book Dialed: The secret math of a perfect mountain bike setup. Now I, too, can ensure my Rider Area Distance (RAD) is correct. The medium Reeb Sqweeb has 2mm less reach than an “XL” Specialized Rockhopper XC bike.

    (When you buy the book straight from lee likes bikes, he sends it to you via Amazon with a nice gift message attached. Rip it up!)

    • Jack Baruth Post author

      The modern bikes are LONG, largely because the consequences of going over the bars are increasingly fatal as speed increases.

      It’s even true in the BMX disciplines; The top tubes of my son’s racing and skatepark bikes are 20.5 inches; I ran perhaps 100 races at a height of 6’2″ or 6’3″ and a top tube less than 20 inches.

      • Eric L.

        Do you agree with Lee’s philosophy that the stupid-long nature of modern bikes prevents you from adequately flicking them around? eg Lee says I should ride a size 2 short Guerilla Gravity (458), whereas GG’s calculator spits out a 6’1″ guy should ride a size 3 short with 483mm reach.

        462mm reach on the Rockhopper seems fine, but its flat effective top tube of 25.5″ is miles longer than the slope-y full-squish bikes.

        The core of his theory is that you should ride hinged in half, from the hips, and having a shorter bike gives you greater range of motion in your elbows to push the front down when going off drops or stand up and yank the bar to your hips when powering up them.

        • Jack Baruth Post author

          I don’t agree with it at all — or, more specifically, I don’t agree with it for myself. My son does well on a shorter bike. For me, it’s an inducement to further injury.

  7. MarkXJR

    Ok boomer… (rolleyes)

    JK. I’m just a bit of a collector of odd 80’s cars, so the whole “Rad” scene is near and dear to me. It’s a breath if fresh air compared to the typical car show crowd that usually features dozens of the same 1970 Camastangs in slightly different shades of candy. But I do agree, they could have picked a better title..


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