More background tales on the Whistler Diaries column that is published in Dirt Magazine each month.
Have you seen Travis Pastranas latest stunt he is going to attempt on New Years Eve? I love that guy. What a modern day hero. Wowing the crowds with amazing feats and spectacles all whilst being a thoroughly nice seeming chap without appearing too nice that he comes across as a Jesus. What a contrast to Evel Knievel. The stunt hero who I describe as “the 70s most famous drunken, pill addict, anti-Semitic wife beating stiff backed hucker” in an article I wrote for Dirt’s Whistler Diaries column called ‘Evel Knievel had no friends’.
Apart from taking the liberty of throwing around some allegations that other people have made about Evel Knievel, I used Evel Knievel as the topic starter for that months issue, which was the joy of riding in packs and sharing the good times rather than riding a “29er fixed gear hard tail recumbent across the wilds of the Norfolk downs with nothing more for company than a packet of tofu ginger snaps and their own smug sense of individuality”.
I try to make the tie ins with the opening paragraph and the actual ‘thought-of-the-day’ as obscure and unobvious each month, but that month I made it make sense too, in my opinion anyway. Have a read of the full article (below) and you decide.
Anyway, Evel Knievel had just passed away. Understandably a lot of people were mourning him and just like Princess Diana, people were making him out to be something in his death whilst forgetting some of the ills the committed whilst alive.
Sure, I think in some way, be it small or significant, he affected every mountain biker, bmxer, skater, motor biker, or scooterist, who grew up watching him stunts. He made every young boy not just dream about flying, but showing what could be done…if you just manned up and were willing to take a beating once in a while.
I don’t think I want to get into the ALLEGED darker side of the man behind the caricature Evel Knievel, but I don’t think he really was what a hero is. And that was the ills of the man I was alluding to in the opening paragraph.
Anyway, as usual I digress. The article is about sharing those good times on and off the bike. If there’s no one around to share the stoke, does it really count. Well of course it does because mountain biking is in many respects an individual pursuit that is primarily self-satisfying. And that’s cool, go out alone and you can have a blast. You can experience many things, be it tranquility, inner peace, contemplation, and satisfaction. However, the enjoyment we can get out of biking can be multiplied if you share the times with good friends. They act as mirrors to reflect back your stoke, and you can share in their moments of stoke. The stoke swells and proliferates when you ride in packs.
And that’s what makes places like Whistler and Queenstown so good, because there’s always people around to ride with who are willing to share, reflect and magnify the stoke factor.
One last thing, I remember scribbling the notes for this column as the thought struck me sitting outside of Joes Garage in Queenstown. It was a sunny blue-sky day. I had got up after a late night shift at Harry’s bar and I had the day to myself. No plans, no rush. I was sat waiting for J-Rad to turn up and I was sipping on a long black with a hearty dose of sugar as always. The hot chicks who worked there (there was two, or maybe three on a good day) and that made a big difference to wear I choose to drink coffee. I like the coffee to be served with a smile of pearly electricity, and the coffee made with a swift considered hand. And that’s why I went there a lot that summer. Since then the place got sold to some old dudes and the young hip staff who made the place slowly moved on and replaced by useless minimum wage slaves.
J-Rad (Jarrod Hepburn) and myself frequented Joes a lot between the hours of 11am and 1pm at that time of the summer. J-Rad had just broken his arm for the second time that summer so was having a mare, and we used to meet up and talk shit, discuss issues of the day, pick apart the latest magazines that hit the shelves, and throw ideas around about our own enterprises. Nothing yet has come about from our brainstorming sessions but I hope one day something does.
Heres the original..
To commemorate the passing of Evil Knievel (the 70s most famous drunken, pill addict, anti-Semitic wife beating stiff backed hucker) I tried to track down an Evil Knievel Stunt Cycle toy like the one I had as a child.
Even though I was born in the year of the Moscow Olympics, which was the twilight of Evil Knievels’ stunt career, I still remember having one of these most excellent of toys as a child and subsequently trying to jump it off and over anything and everything. Down stairs, across a garden pond or even over the cat without the aid of a ramp. There was no limit to what I tried to make it jump, but no matter how awesome some of the jumps I created for him were it just wasn’t the same if there was no one there to share the fun with.
And that’s a lot like mountain biking. It’s about sharing the good times. Sure, there are some odd balls that love riding their 29er fixed gear hard tail recumbent across the wilds of the Norfolk downs with nothing more for company than a packet of tofu ginger snaps and their own smug sense of individuality. These are the kinds of people that spend their Friday nights alphabetizing their stacks of maps. But for most sane people riding is about more than just the riding. It’s the stoke between friends, seeing a mate finally pull that trick, and then taking the piss because he couldn’t keep his knees together. It’s about having mates around to plot new trips or build projects with. It’s about having someone there to help drag you off the mountain when your face and the ground decided to race toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Padstow at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Lyme Regis at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph.
That’s why the best riding spots in the world are ones where there is as high of a concentration of riders as much as there is a concentration of trails. Places like Whistler are so ball achingly attractive, not because it has an endless supply of sublime riding terrain, but because there are endless hordes of ADHD afflicted riders to share it with. There is such a tight community of bikers during the summers that unless you are a hate filled giant with terrible personal hygiene you will make a ton of riding friends.
On any day of the week throughout summer you can roll out of bed and onto the chairlift with nothing more for company than a hangover that feels like a cross between a plane crash and nails in a washing machine and lap by lap your riding posse will grow like a colony of E. coli on room-temperature Canadian beef.
I’m sure there is THE best riding terrain in some remote Venezuelan mountain range. I’m sure there is single-track there that flows like champagne over a young woman’s thighs. I’m sure the up hills take less time than a young lads first time but the downhill goes on longer than a forced weekend in Scunthorpe at a curtains and drapes conference. I’m sure its an amazing and truly religious riding experience, but go there alone and it wont be half as much fun as riding your back garden trails with all your mates.
And that’s why 100,000 bikers visited whistler last summer. The trails are what pull the punters in, but it’s the good times shared that serves to pull their trousers down. I am not saying that the occasional ride alone isn’t soul enriching (Have you seen Stu Thompson’s awesome self filmed solo video segment on www.mtbcut.tv?) but I know for myself if I had to ride alone every time I would probably not be mountain biking anymore. Instead I would buy myself a recumbent and cycle around the world trying to bring to people’s attention the plight of millions of British people who suffer from Seasonal Affected Disorder but go un-diagnosed. I might even take up kiddy fiddling to fill my spare time in between solo expeditions. I would probably grow a great big beard and review thermal gore-tex jock straps in What Geeky Boy Scout Gear Magazine. I would certainly be a nicer person, but I would never know because I would have no friends to be nice to.
Evil Knievel did some amazing things in his lifetime, and there were always people to share those experiences with him. Of course those people paid to share those times, just like Shelly Saltman had to pay for saying something nasty about Evil Knievel with a busted arm. My advice for you is to stop whining about where you ride and enjoy the company you have, or stop whining about the company and move somewhere with a good run in to a Snake River Canyon–esque huck and ride into it on your newly acquired recumbent. I will pay to watch that. So at least you will not die alone.