Mountain Biking

Is That Socially Acceptable? | Things That are a Bit Like Mountain Biking, But Not Really

A cynical guide to the things that are similar to mountain biking, but aren't quite socially acceptable

Staying socially acceptable in mountain biking is a little bit like trying to navigate your way through a salt marsh sometimes.

If you run forward too quickly and decide to try your hand at trend-setting, there’s a good, solid chance that you’re going to end up neck deep in a puddle of mud, sputtering and spitting out arguments that, however valid, will be deemed completely incomprehensible thanks to all the salt and mud slowly engulfing your face and windpipe – the salt and mud in this case being metaphorical for the insults your unscrupulous riding partners are forcing down your throat thanks to your estranged choice of vehicle.

Even if the trend you’ve decided to adopt does become standard practice down the line, you’ll get absolutely no credit for picking it up early. Ask any given early adopter of the 29er.

If you stand still in the salt marsh, meanwhile, you’ll just start sinking slowly into all of the salt and the mud. Sure, it takes a little longer for you to become completely engulfed this way, but slowly but surely, as your tech gets older and older each year, you’ll find the jibes and judging glances becoming increasingly frequent until you are, again, stuck deeper in the mud and salt than we are in this analogy about mountain biking being a salt marsh.

People will think you’ve either lost your job, lost your interest in mountain biking or that you’ve gained 30 years in age just because you’ve been riding the same hardtail for five years and you don’t yet have disc brakes.

If you go backwards of course – think rigid bikes and cut-down handlebars – you’re either going to be branded a crazy person, and maybe get more conversation from random riders, but less who take you seriously, or worse yet you’ll completely turn into a hipster (remember, the first sign of hipster-dom is claiming you know nothing of the hipster world) and you’ll start taking pictures of your coffee cups and putting them on Instagram.

Basically, there’s a lot of stigma in mountain biking. We all know this. Most people are lovely. But there’s still a lot of stigma. That’s what happens in any scene where things cost money. A lot of the old salt and mud flying around.

The only way to avoid it really is to creep slowly forward through the salt marsh, watching your step and following the fresh tyre tracks of whoever is doing well in the World Cup at that particular time.

Or, of course, to not give a fuck. You could always just not give a fuck.

There was a time when people who rode 29ers were social outcasts in certain circles. Now the things are commonplace.

29ers were never too far from the brink of acceptability before they broke into the mainstream. They were on the line until recently. Or near it at least.

They’re just mountain bikes with big wheels right?

There are many things still far beyond that line, though. Things even more offensive to the tunnel-visioned purist than a mountain bike with 29-inch wheels, and after reading ‘A Cynic’s Guide to Watersports’ from our friends at Surf Europe, we decided it was our job to bring them to your attention.

Some of these will be unknown to mountain bikers, some are sneaking closer to the line of social acceptability, some, you could argue, have already crossed into the norm.

All of them, however, are things that are like mountain biking, but not really.


Man rides an e-bike up a mountain. Obviously. We didn’t add much to the picture with this, did we?

Basically just a mountain bike but with a motor.

Stereotypical rider: Smug old man in lycra.

Actual rider: Just pretty much anyone who can’t be fucked mountain biking anymore.

Pros: Allows people slightly longer in the tooth to ride a lot more and a lot better. Good for touring if you want the sights without the effort. Also, if we’re being honest, going uphill is often shite and these things make it outrageously easy, no matter what the terrain.

Cons: They lead to sentences like the one at the end of the last paragraph. They’re pretty much an excuse not to try. Like the “dog ate my homework” of the mountain bike world. Also they’re a whole lot heavier than your average ride. Not so good for the downhill.

Distance from the line of acceptability: About 100 metres behind in the UK, but catching up quickly with all the speed of a man on a bike with a motor. More common in Europe.

Offensiveness: To the purist of purists, vast. To most reasonable human beings, vastly less so.

Fat bike

A man looks at his fat bike instead of the view, because getting up there on a fat bike must have taken ages…

It’s basically just a mountain bike but with really, really fat tyres.

Stereotypical rider: Abominable snowman.

Actual rider: Nervous people.

Pros: Strong and stable. Can plough through sand, snow, or fields of wheat without bother. Good for touring.

Cons: Slow, heavy, generally quite ridiculous.

Distance from the line of acceptability: A mile or two behind in the UK, and falling slowly further courtesy of them big fat slow tyres. But then again, plus-size tyres are much more common these days. And again, even more common in Europe. It’s almost like… Europe… is more accepting… than… Britain? Huh. Who knew.

Offensiveness: Ed Sheeran. Less offensive, more just perplexing.

Tandem Mountain Bike

…but you’ll sweet, upon the seat of a bicycle made for two

It’s basically just a mountain bike but with double.

Stereotypical rider: Daisy Bell from that ‘bicycle made for two’ song?

Actual rider: Crazy people.

Pros: An unusual, amusing experience.

Cons: Ever been on the backseat of one of these things on a mountain bike trail? The cons become obvious very quickly.

Distance from the line of acceptability: Not behind, not in front. Somewhere off to the left, in a parallel dimension where people like other people more than they do in this one.

Offensiveness: Frankenstein’s monster.

Mountain Scooters

Man on thing you find embarrassing does thing you couldn’t do on thing you don’t find embarrassing

It’s basically just a mountain bike but transformed into a scooter.

Stereotypical rider: Child.

Actual rider: Overgrown child.

Pros: It actually looks like pretty good fun.

Cons: If you ever admit that, your friends will never let you forget it.

Distance from the line of acceptability: What line?

Offensiveness: Donald Trump.

Snow bike

Arctic Snow Bikes. Good fun, like a bike, and not getting in your way on the trails. Photo: Jack Clayto

It’s basically just a mountain bike but with the front wheel replaced by a ski, and the back wheel also replaced by a ski.

Stereotypical rider: Again, children.

Actual rider: Again, overgrown children.

Pros: Again, it’s actually incredibly fun.

Cons: You’d have to waste a day on a skis or a snowboard to use it. To be honest, if you’re going down the bike route on snow, probably stick to the fat bike. This’ll get old after an day or so.

Distance from the line of acceptability: Different spectrum entirely.

Offensiveness: It doesn’t get near actual trails, so it’s fine.

A Horse

Admittedly, this is pushing the “but not really” bit of our premise for this piece…

It’s basically just a mountain bike but it’s alive.

Stereotypical rider: Prince Harry.

Actual rider: Prince Harry. Or someone he knows.

Pros: Are we really going to do this?

Cons: Less suspension.

Distance from the line of acceptability: Neigh where near.

Offensiveness:  Only bad when around territorial mountain bikers, or dumping giant, literal shits on the trail

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