|TELEGRAM & GAZETTE |
July 8, 2001
Mountain bikers should hit the roadBy Lynne Tolman
My normally sane colleague Mark Conti, mountain biking
columnist, disgraced this space last Sunday with his list of "top 10
reasons why mountain biking beats road cycling." It took some nerve to
insult us roadies that way during the Fitchburg-Longsjo Classic and
practically on the eve of the Tour de France.
shaved legs, pink jerseys and other traits that Conti saw fit to ridicule,
road cyclists are not the type to let fighting words go unchallenged.
(It's the mountain bikers at the Naked Crit at Mount Snow, after all, who
turn the other cheek, so to speak.) And wasn't that Conti himself at
the Longsjo on Sunday wearing a pretty pink T-shirt and cheering the
skinny-tired racers? No wonder lightning struck.
sorry Conti finds riding his road bike such a chore, and for his wife's
sake we hope he gets his saddle adjusted properly to prevent what he calls
We'll break the truth to him
gently, in a simple format he can understand. The top 10 reasons road
cycling really spins our wheels while mountain biking just drops our
All kidding aside, there's plenty of room in the
cycling world for both roadies and mountain bikers. Many riders, including
those quoted here, do both types of cycling. Then there's cyclocross, and
even Spinning in the gym. It would be easy to make a longer list of all
the reasons any kind of pedaling beats being a couch potato. Moreover,
cyclists are a minority in most places and need to stick together, not
divide into warring camps, to achieve goals such as improving road
conditions and trail access. So Conti and I are calling a truce. See you
on the road or trail.
- No. 10 -- Chairlifts. What kind of so-called sport --
involving a human-powered vehicle, for heaven's sake -- lets you kick
back in a swinging loveseat to get to the top of the mountain? Next
they'll be hiring sherpas to carry their Gatorade.
- No. 9 -- Tattoos and body piercing. Witness all the
racing wannabes with their names inked across their hairy backs like
Shaun Palmer. As Tom Swenson of Boylston puts it, "Don't mountain bikers
mutilate themselves enough when they fall off their bikes?"
- No. 8 -- Heritage. Roadies have a rich history spanning
more than 130 years of European racing, the American good roads
movement, and a key role in women's emancipation. Swenson again:
"Mountain bikers have a vague recollection of a couple of hippies riding
old Schwinns on the West Coast 20 years ago." Roadies have the classic
movies "Breaking Away" and "American Flyers." Mountain bikers have
Kramer's green Klein, with the fork backwards, on the wall in "Seinfeld"
- No. 7 -- Mud. The bike trail signs at the
Craftsbury Outdoor Center read "DDUH," which is not a stuttering Vermont
version of "I'm with Stupid." Well, close. It stands for "Down and
Dirty, Up and Hurty." What really hurts is spending hours after every
ride cleaning the mud out of your bike, your shorts, your hair and your
- No. 6 -- Supply and demand. Sure, mountain bikes
outsell road bikes. But off-road biking ranks a lowly 30th among the
sports, recreation and fitness activities in the annual National
Association of Sporting Goods participation survey, while bicycling
overall ranks fifth. Last year's survey showed 7.1 million Americans do
off-road biking, while 14.3 million people ride mountain bikes on the
road. That's out of 42.5 million cyclists of all kinds. You do the
- No. 5 -- Going nowhere slow. If you have any practical
destination, you'll have to use the roads sooner or later. And, you
don't have to get special permission to do so, points out Mark Wysocki
of Worcester. You might as well make it easy on yourself by riding a
lightweight bike made for the pavement instead of a heavy, sluggish
trail shredder. Or were you planning to drive your gas-guzzler to the
trail head? Swenson's remark: "That dual suspension MTB looks good
parked on top of your SUV. Too bad it never gets ridden."
- No. 4 -- Lack of Lance. Who do mountain bikers look up
to, Hans Rey? No way. All of mountain bikings's stars put together
cannot outshine cancer-surviving two-time Tour de France winner Lance
- No. 3 -- Bug bites. You're guaranteed to finish a
mountain bike ride dehydrated, Swenson says, not from perspiring but
from having a pint of blood sucked out of you. If we wanted to be "meals
on wheels," as Kevin Motta of Hubbardston puts it, we'd volunteer at the
senior center. Mosquitoes can't draft a roadie. While we're on the
subject of wildlife, Rich Whalen of Framingham asks, what about hunters?
Point of etiquette: Yield the trail to anyone with a shotgun.
- No. 2 -- Bike parts. Technical singletrack trashes
expensive mountain bike components the way army worms chew up lawns. You
don't have to carry a spare derailleur on a road ride, points out Ken
LaMura of Holden.
- No. 1 -- Body parts. These get bashed and broken all
the time on mountain bike rides. Mountain bikers are so prone to injury,
they are on a first-name basis with the emergency room staff. My
ex-roommate's boyfriend initiated her into mountain biking by cheering
when she drew "first blood" on a ride. LaMura's own off-road injury list
includes a torn biceps tendon and broken left shoulder, "not to mention
innumerable cuts, bumps and bruises, the most memorable being a stick up
my nose resulting in profuse bleeding." Ouch. We hate it when that
The Bicyclists' Bill
of Rights and Responsibilities received a favorable report from the
Legislature's Joint Committee on Transportation last month. The bill would
consolidate and clarify traffic laws pertaining to bicycles --
essentially, "same roads, same rules" for cars and bikes -- and require
police training in bicycle safety enforcement.
Rubel BikeMaps has
updated its Eastern Massachusetts and North Shore/Cape Cod road maps and
has added trail information for hikers and mountain bikers. The maps are
available in bike shops or by mail order from Rubel BikeMaps, PO Box
401035, Cambridge, MA 02140 (http://www.bikemaps.com/). Rubel also
has excellent bike maps of Central Mass., Western Mass., Boston, Martha's
Vineyard and Nantucket.
TIP OF THE
HELMET to Joe Rano of Millbury, who won the Fitchburg-Longsjo Classic in the
masters division (age 35 and up). It was the second Longsjo title for
Rano, 41, this year riding on the Leominster-based Gear Works team.
Second-place finishes in the time trial and road race vaulted Rano into
first place overall. He also won the four-day stage race in 1999, riding
for Rhode Island-based Arc-en-Ciel.
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