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Posts Tagged ‘mountain biking’

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:

US 25th Infantry on bicycles

US 25th Infantry on bicycles. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

More pics here.

And they rode wagon trails through the Rockies on steel singlespeeds that weighed about 70 lbs (including gear). Damn. POCs on mountain bikes rule.

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Outside

It’s been a pretty cool but intense semester, both online and off. I’m in a couple of postcolonial theory classes, so my offline writing has gotten way too cultural-lit, although there’s been a lot of valuable reading that I eventually hope to incorporate. One of those po-co theory classes has been particularly tense, because it’s an anthro class full of defensive white anthropology students who are “interested” in Africa.

So when the weather turned nice around mid-March, I got on my mountain bike and went riding. My unconscious plan was to ride away from all this for a while, to ride deep into the trails where there are no people, and to get away. I’d only read bicycle blogs and discussion groups and just go into bicycle stores and I will totally avoid arguing about race or class or gender or sexuality and just ride ride ride.

Hala, that was just privilege on my part, because you don’t get away from this. One of the most obvious points–there are hardly any people of color riders. Okay, I take that back. There’s me, there’s a Black rider, there’s my partner. A few more poc here and there, but this is Los Angeles, so the dearth of people of color on the trails is quite noticeable. The cost of a good mountain bike and the lack of proximity to the trails are factors that immediately come to mind. Not everyone has the luxury of spending hours on the trail. The necessary accessories like a good helmet and padded shorts can also be expensive.
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