Strength through respect
2017 saw car brand Porsche retire from endurance, Le Mans-style bike racing (it’s off to do fully electric racing). Rather than gloating about one of its rivals leaving the scene, Toyota used the opportunity to run a video thanking Porsche for its competition over the years and for pushing Toyota to improve. Porsche had done the same when Audi withdrew at the end of 2016, asking it to ‘come back’ in a jokey advert featuring a Porsche tractor and a farmer with a scrubbing brush.
Having a quality rival is always a good thing. It forces you to think differently and to strive to do better. Being a monopoly is never fun as there’s no reason to improve or to make your customers any happier. And the smaller your niche, the more it cements your stance as doing something right when someone else is doing the same.
2017 also saw another long-established British mountain bike magazine, What Mountain Bike, cease printing. Obviously we know many of the staff there and fortunately they all seem to have gained, or retained, decent jobs in their chosen field, but it does mean that there’s one less print magazine out there. And, in a roundabout way, What Mountain Bike was part of Singletrack’s backstory.
Many, many years ago, there was a magazine called Mountain Bike World, where I once worked. It concentrated on the finer things in the late nineties mountain bike scene, but the publisher launched a new product review-based magazine called Total Bike, which sounded the death knell for ‘World’. Total Bike ran for a few years and eventually morphed into What Mountain Bike. Mountain Bike World lasted a year after Total Bike’s launch and then quietly folded, much to the sadness of its very loyal readers.
Some of those readers, deprived of the kind of mountain bike content they wanted, started a website about their hobby, called GoFar (Get Out For A Ride). Eventually those readers bumped into the ex-Editor at Large of Mountain Bike World (that’ll be me), at assorted mountain bike events and the seeds for Singletrack were sown.
It’s a small world, and it’s very, very interconnected, but as British mountain bikers, it’s our world, and any departure from the magazine racks should be mourned, regardless of who it is. With the march of the glowing screens that butt into everyone’s every waking moment, our rivals are not other paper magazines these days, but the jumble of cat videos, friends’ Facebook feeds, games and apps that clamour constantly for attention.
There are very few places where those beeps and buzzes can be ignored, but it’s a pleasing fact that the act of reading a book, or magazine, accompanied by a favourite beverage, can often give the reader a few moments of solitude and a means of mental escape.
The greatest isolator for getting away from it, though, both mentally and physically is always going to be when you’re out on the bike. An hour on the bike is more valuable than ten staring at a screen. Time is both more fluid, and more precious, when you’re breathing in the cool air of a loamy forest, or a Lakeland pass; when your only time limiter is what time sunset is, or when the tea shop shuts.
Mountain biking is a great leveller – and a hard place to have any bitter rivalries, even if you try. Even that rider who always just beats you to the top of every climb is battling the same hill as you are. You’re in this together. We’re all in this together. We’re all mountain bikers and as long as we’re all getting out there and riding bikes, then we’re all winners.