A friend described cycling as a whitestream activity. I mentioned that I saw a lot of poc commuters in the early morning, and expect more as Los Angeles Metro fares go up once again (boo!). But that’s commuting, she said. Of course there would be a lot of poc. Riding a bike becomes “cycling,” a sport or a recreational activity, when you don’t depend on it to get around. Much the same way that walking becomes “hiking.”
She may have something there. After a year of riding, it’s still a nice surprise every time I see other people of color on the trail. There’s a Pinoy group, and a few Pinoy friends and family who ride with me when they can, but mountain biking (and trail running, I think) still seems pretty whitestream. And the less I dwell on the mountainbike boards, where a post asking “Any Pinoy riders in SoCal?” was met with a flurry of “I’m forming a whites-only riding group” posts and charges of “reverse racism,” the better for my sanity.
I snicker at claims that modern mountain biking was born in the 1970s, when a bunch of NorCal dudes started downhilling Mt. Tam and when road bike companies started manufacturing mountain-specific bikes. As a kid in the Philippines, my partner M used to ride his bike in the fields behind his house. It wasn’t called mountain biking then, of course. Just a bunch of kids riding their bikes where they could, like countless kids have been doing since bikes were invented. But that probably doesn’t count as modern mountain biking. Or as mountain biking, for that matter.
Neither was it called mountain biking in 1896, when 20 Buffalo Soldiers from the 25th Infantry rode from Fort Missoula, rode to St. Louis, Missouri. This wonderful picture makes me happy:
And they rode wagon trails through the Rockies on steel singlespeeds that weighed about 70 lbs (including gear). Damn. POCs on mountain bikes rule.