Vignette: The Author Takes A Stand With His Fellow Young Riders Against Those Lame-Ass Old Millennials

Saturday was the third time, and the third weekend in a row, that John and I have gone to Ray’s MTB park in Cleveland. He’s progressing in rapid fashion. I’m doing okay, as well. I managed to clear the first nine jumps of the “Profile World” section in a row; there are two jumps after that but I’m too God-dammed tired to get over them. After years of putting up pretty good numbers on elliptical machines and treadmills I’d fooled myself into thinking that I was in good cardiovascular shape despite being overweight. Lifting 275 pounds of bike and rider into the air nine times in quick succession will cure you of those delusions. Even the teenagers are panting when they finish. Only my son can ride “Profile World” three or four times in a row without stopping; as pretty much the only seven-year-old to wander outside the easy stuff, his energy amazes everyone.

We warm up at the novice section, as you can see from John’s handlebar-mounted GoPro footage above — watch it in 1080p! Periodically, a group of twentysomething-to-thirtysomething mountain bikers will leave the dedicated cross-country trails and arrive to try their hand at the short drop-in and small box jumps. They show up, and they leave, in packs. Very few of them, it has to be said, can ride for shit despite their $5,000 bikes and carefully-chosen sporting-wear ensembles. John’s faster through the boxes than the vast majority of the “grownups”; John’s father, despite his sallow complexion, labored breathing, and unflattering sweat stains, is on another planet entirely.

The novice section can also be ridden backwards, if you want to use the roll-in as a vert launch. Some of the teenaged BMX riders like to do it that way so they can practice fly-out stuff like 360s and tire-grabs. They’re very careful around John and nothing even remotely worrisome has happened, so I don’t care that they aren’t “following the arrows”. This past Saturday, as I sat there catching my breath, one of those kids happened to be riding in the wrong direction out of the roll-in when a group of brightly-colored mountain bikers showed up, moving fast in a tightly-bunched single-file line.

It was five adults — and I use that phrase sarcastically, because they were all in their twenties. They had brand-new bikes from the high-dollar Chinese-crap makers, aerodynamic helmets, spandex shirts advertising various kinds of craft beer so you knew that they were cool people who like craft beer. They were in a hurry. I think their plan was to just ride straight into the novice section, blast through as quickly as they could (see previous note about not being as fast as a 45-year-old man with two linear feet of staple scars) and return to the main trail. I can’t stand people who do this; it endangers the genuine novice riders and the kids who use the novice trail to learn skills.

The lead rider saw the BMX kid coming the other way and panic-braked. The line behind him collapsed in a chorus of agitated yells and mechanical squeaks. To his credit, the BMX rider aborted his plan to try a 360 and just somehow rode a line through all of these stopped mountain bikers. The first thing I did was check to see where my son was; to my relief, he was actually finishing up the novice section and was on the other side of the room from all of the drama. Then I made an internal prediction that we’d see some passive-aggressive behavior on the part of the MTBers, said prediction being immediately rewarded.

As long as everybody was stopped, nothing got said. Once the train got moving, however, a few of the adults decided to yell over their shoulders at the BMX kid.

“Wrong way!”
“Save it for Sunday!”

Sunday afternoon is “BMX Time” at Ray’s. But all bikes are welcome at all times and if Ray’s had to rely on the business of the craft-beer crowd they’d have closed a long time ago. At any given time, between a third and half of the riders in the building are on twenty-inch BMX variants of some kind.

As the mountain bikers left, the BMX kid gave me a can-you-believe-that-shit look and I rolled my eyes sympathetically. Then he rode over to me and said, “Old people, you know?” There was a long moment where my brain was unable to process the precise meaning of what he’d just said. Then it percolated through. I wasn’t the old person. I had my helmet on and I’d just been to see my hairdresser, so I didn’t have a single grey hair visible. And I do have kind of a baby face, even in my forties. So I was in the clear. They, the jerkoffs on the mountain bikes, were the old people. Not that any of them were anything other than toddlers, fetuses, or possibly spermatozoa when I started racing BMX in the fall of 1986. But they were old. And quite lame, too, I would add.

“So lame,” I responded. Then we shared a companionable moment, just two young bloods out there doing the ride-or-die thing, you know? I could easily see us going out street riding, listening to some rap music by the likes of Future or Drake or someone like that, maybe slashing the tires on the grownups’ cars. Then John had to spoil it by rolling up and calling me “Dad”. But my new friend was already gone, back up to the middle section of the novice trail so he could try a 360, which he pulled clean on the next attempt.

Later on, John and I went back to the “Profile World” section. There was a group of millennial mountain bikers there, but they were nice guys. There was a member of the group that wanted to try jumping the three red boxes at the beginning of the “flow line”. His friends were egging him on to try it.

“Follow me,” I said, knowing that I would drop him immediately, which I did. When he caught up, he was panting.

“Man,” he said, “that was killer! How do you make it through that fast?”

“Well,” I replied, “I don’t know if I’ll still be able to do it when I’m your age.”

“That makes sense,” he nodded.

“It does. But it will be a while till I gotta worry about it. I’m only forty-five,” I winked, and rode off to find my son.

22 Replies to “Vignette: The Author Takes A Stand With His Fellow Young Riders Against Those Lame-Ass Old Millennials”

  1. Felis Concolor

    Having experienced skateboarding’s first golden age directly (urethane wheels, cartridge bearings, soft Kryptonics were BLUE) along with the rise of BMX just prior to the first great crash in the early 80s (Skateboarder Magazine morphed into Action Now, then folded little more than a year later), indoor parks like this are an unfamiliar, scary, and wonderful sight.

    Just seeing that footage gives me pains in muscles and joints I never knew I had: while my experimenter Linear ‘bent rides on the Big Bens everyone said would never fit, it’s still comical to watch me when I hit anything that isn’t paved. Even on hard pack, it’s chopper at the motocross track time. Any attempt to negotiate such a venue would likely end with me caroming off a side wall or simply flopping over when the turn radius proved too tight.

    My memory recalls riding around on a Red Line frame in the early 80s, with Tange forks and “daisy” mags. I quickly outgrew that ride, and spent most of my HS years pushing pedals on a heavy metal cruiser with classic Ashtabula single piece crank spinning a 40:19 gearing and simple Dia-Compe hand brakes for stopping duties. I never enjoyed more than a hundred yards or so of flat roads in Maui’s upcountry area, but that did not prevent me from exploring every single road and trail in the greater Makawao-Pukalani-Kula area.

    We upcountry pedal pushers were given the occasional treat when some parent would offer a group of us a ride up to Haleakala’s summit before driving back down to await our return. Seeing those carefully regulated commercial downhill bicycling operations in later years filled me with pity and not a little bit of contempt for the participants: they weren’t allowed to run flat out down the park road, which prevented them from experiencing the thrill of passing, then outrunning outraged motorists in a crazed dance on the edge of physical possibility, fighting to balance traction around the switchbacks, then tucking in along the esses prior to the next big reverse. All the while being presented with some of the most heartbreakingly beautiful vistas down the mountain, if you were foolhardy enough to let the scenery distract you. They also suffered the indignity of actually paying for their downhill rides, while we just had to be good kids, perform our chores and get good grades for the privilege.

    I love the visual of the MTB near-pileup: having never worn spandex or any sort of official “cycling clothes” I still get that same feeling of contempt whenever I see someone being Too Serious about their cycling habit, especially on the trails in this city, so a full tangling of contrasting day-glo colors and carbon fiber frames has me saying “you’re trying too hard.” Though the Schlumpf drive features an integral guard, I still sport a few pairs of jeans with the right side cuffs chewed up from the occasional hungry sprocket.

    • Jack Baruth Post author

      Do you have a link to photos of your recumbent?

      I agree with you that it’s probably not going to make it over a box jump 🙂

  2. Disinterested-Observer

    Between your stories and a friend re-connecting with skating I am seriously considering getting a BMX bike and embarrassing myself at the park. Problem is I am way too cheap.

  3. VTNoah

    Man you have so many awesome places to ride. Makes me want to snag a plane ticket and head down just for a session or two. Regarding your MTB guys, the Craft Beer jersey’s were a dead giveaway for douchiness. Vermont is mecca for craft beer douchers. I can appreciate a good stout but I’m not waiting in line for two hours to snag a “Limited Release” for $11 a can so I can then post on instagram all about it. Give me some Coors heavy and I’m a happy man.

  4. Ryan

    It’s this mentality that cut my MTB “career” down to about two weekends on the trails. Loads of people showing up every weekend, arguing over whether their $600 Giant or Trek was a better bike. Apparently, pointing out that most of the lower-tier bikes from both manufacturers are produced in the same factory is frowned upon. Fortunately for me, my ride was a ‘demo’ from the shop I was working at.

    Worse than the beer jerseys, IMO, are the “rock” ones. I’m a shameless Metallica fan, but I don’t need to project how “cool” I am with a Master of Puppets jersey. Pretty sure I was just riding in a T-Shirt and jeans.

    When I built my Centurion into a fixed-gear, it was much the same. One day, it was a bunch of college students riding around, drinking beer, and whatever else. Seemingly overnight, everyone started riding Cinelli frames and paying stupid money for NJS parts.

    I used to ride a small pump track in Corktown for a short time (in abandoned lot, no surprise there). Once the word got out onto the forums, people swarmed it and completely trashed the place; everyone wanted to ride, but nobody wanted to help out with maintenance.

    That was one of my favorite jobs, but I absolutely despise bike “culture” anymore. It’s nothing like when it was just a group of neighborhood kids building ramps and dirt mounds out in the woods. Today, CPS probably would’ve taken us from our parents for giving us access to power tools at age 10.

  5. kvndoom

    I can’t help but roll my eyes when I invite my stepdaughters (18 and 24) to walk the trail with me.

    “5 miles is too far!”

    I’m gonna use Jack’s retort from now on.

    • Will

      Imagine your stepdaughters if women were actually equal and had to go into the military? Could you see them actually doing anything combat?

  6. Ronnie Schreiber

    I’m a roadie, I wear spandex not because I’m into craft beer or posing but because if I don’t my private parts get chafed. I learned about bike shorts the first week I started commuting to work on a bicycle. When I was serious I was riding maybe 4,500 miles a year, every day to work, plus long rides with friend on Sundays and the big group ride with the Wolverine sports club on Wed evenings.

    Of course there are bike snobs. There are snobs in every group of humans. The “built not bought” rat rod guys are snobs in their own way. My first bike was a Motobecane touring bike that I rode until the frame broke. I replaced it with a titanium framed Litespeed and suddenly on Wed nights I had credibility with riders who put in a fraction of the miles that I did. The Litespeed is unpainted, satin finished ti. I was tempted to get it painted and put Huffy decals on it.

    Now, the same kinds of folks probably look down on my rather worn Litespeed. The brake/shifter hoods are taped up with electrical tape, the decals are worn, the satin finished Ti is actually polished in a couple places on the frame from my chubby thighs, and it can always use a good cleaning.

    I figured out one way to tell the poseurs from the riders. Go to a bike shop and whoever the guys in back put to the front of the repair line is a real rider.


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