Do Your Own Thing
by Geoff Maxted

I was wondering the other day why there is such a property owning culture in this country. Why do we scrimp and save to buy bigger and better houses, only to die and leave them to someone else? How many rooms can you sit in at one time? Why do we listen to giant, dehumanised financial institutions whose sole motive is profit?

In Germany home ownership is not such a big deal, and in Canada -- gradually usurping California as the spiritual home of mountain biking -- around half of the population prefer to use credit unions rather than banks. As far as I know, we only get one crack at this mortal tumult of ours so we'd better make the most of it.

We are not meant to be slothful. Man is a hunter gatherer, capable of physical work that should be done without the aid of a supermarket trolley, the easy comfort of junk food and the fatuous advice of flickering TV pundits.

Mountain biking isn't easy or comfortable. You get wet, sunburned, sweaty and up to your neck in tenacious mud, often all on the same day, but you can't get a feel for the land sitting in a motorised metal box.

Think of all the sweet sensations that give you pleasure: That first mouthful of cold Guinness when you really need it. The heady tingle when you come to the realisation that your new girlfriend is wearing stockings. That first fag of the morning, if you must.

Real mountain biking is like that. Leave all the technology to the gravity boys and ride along your favourite woodland singletrack. Listen to your tyres crunching over fallen leaves as shafts of summer sunlight break through the canopy. Mountain biking means new adventure and exploration taking you further and faster than walking boots ever can into places your car can't go. No artificial colours or flavours, just social sport with your mates.

Think of it this way. We have to put up with some appalling things. Boiled potatoes. Lifestyles dictated by greed. Enough rules and regulations to make your head spin trotted out by successive dead-eyed government nannies determined to homogenise society. I mean, how is a nice shiny bell going to look on your risers? How soon before each bell carries a mandatory picture of Tony Blair? A caring, sharing society? I don't think so.

So make your own. I'm not saying that you can't have a few creature comforts or that a night on the couch with beer and video is a bad thing. Neither am I suggesting that improving your worth is wrong. But I am suggesting that it shouldn't be at the cost of personal independence and a mind of your own. Many people have dull, mundane jobs that they have to option but to accept, and it can grind them down.

That is where the culture of mountain biking can help. It gives you the chance to get away from it all and consider what's important. If you had a grand to spare, what would you buy? A new set of kitchen units, or two weeks with your bike and your lover, not necessarily in that order, in Spain? I know where I would be and it's not by a gleaming cooker. With all the inducements to buy the goods and property of a manufactured way of life that can turn into suburban hell, perhaps it's time to get your priorities in order.

In that seminal road movie and cult classic 'Easy Rider' the character played by Dennis Hopper speaks to a farmer living the simple life off the land and utters the immortal words, "You do your own thing in your own time, man." Dennis might have felt a bit of a prat saying it but the sentiment is right. At the end of a ride you might have thighs of fire and the pulse rate of a Formula One driver but all the distractions of modern life will have faded into nothing.

© Geoff Maxted
Maximum Mountain Bike

other stories by G. Maxted