Thursday, 25 December 2014

May E-bikes heal you

I have had it with electric mountain bikes, or rather with arguing about them, wondering what people have to say in that subject. Perhaps because I've also had it with converting people to what I think and that is the only thing I am willing to convert people to these days: to live and let live. I have read two e-cycle threads too much, one on Dirt website and one on a Swedish forum. It seems impossible, I know, but the growth of the supermassive black (a)hole in the internet, that appeared long time ago in the place of word "dignity" is accelerating. Aluminium, Disc brakes, air shocks, carbon, number of speeds, wheel size generated incredible amounts of pseudo intellectual garbage, mixed with dumb hate shyte that instead of repelling people, makes them gravitate towards it. Controversial opinion seems irresistible to be left alone. Here's what I think is the real issue in that subject, as with many others, I hope this article will shed some light on every discussion on the internet that got too long.

Lately I am making my mere attempts at doing practice called in Jungian psychology "shadow work". To make it short, it is the utilization of the idea in the sentence "why worry about a speck in your friend's eye when you have a log in your own?". The Shadow side of our personality is all the things we do not want to become or reperesent, that we reject, like: white flour is bad, abortion is unholy, I would never ride a 29er! Shadow also carries things that we repressed for being shameful, like some happenings from the past, particularly from childhood. The fact that we reject it and we can even find many like minded folks,  does not mean that all in all it is any bad, that it really is a bad, baaad thing, like something a catholic would mention in a confession. After all everything is a matter of a set of circumstances and there is no one point of reference, there is no common truth and if it were, I'd paraphrase Jack Nicholson shouting to Tom Cruise: "You can't handle the truth!" The more extreme is our opinion on the subject the stronger is the shadow side of our personality as we push the issue deeper into your subconsciousness. It's basically living in denial, it creates the sense of guilt every time we get close to the case. When we react to an opinion we heard or read, we can be a)FLAT on it b)PASSIONATE about it c)ANGRY about it. Being flat means that you are quite ok, if you are passionate, something is worth the attention, there is some drive worth recognizing to because it can be utilized in the future, in reality to do something great. But if someone's point of view or action upsets you deeply and you cannot say why, it almost surely means that shadow is involved and you have your own issue closely related to the subject. The shadow side of our personality manifests itself in consciousness by aggression and condemnation because the real issue inside of you tries to emerge, and it would made us feel vulnerable like a shameful white-lie coming to light in the middle of the class room. The more we reject it, the bigger power it has, thus we experience more anxiety generating anger. In the end it gets out of control once some situation makes the shadow manifest itself. So if someone screams: "29ers are gay!", "29ers are for poor riders" in reaction to seeing more and more of them around, or rather in the bike tests, he is likely to feel guilty, or not happy with his riding. He is on a witch hunt and witches were burned to cleanse the sins from the town isn't it? The person sympathizing with the "wrong" bike gets associated with all sorts of bad qualities, whatever it is. So for some mountain bikers , a rider of 29er is supposed to be a trend slut, sheep, poor rider, brake burner, trail whacker, leg shaver, whatever makes you get on your high moral horse and look down upon them big wheel lover boys.Quite recently I still used to be really infuriated on the subject of electric mountain bikes. I despised them deeply, throwing opinions like that: 

Those bikes promote being lazy, strip from incentive to exercise and excel in riding bikes, another waste created to earn money rather than cater to a particular need. Potential buyers are no handicapped people, those are lazy, fat bastards, not willing to train, to earn the turns, they are likely to hurt themselves on the way down and someone will have to get them with the chopper wasting my tax money. Those bikes are illegal anyways, those are motorcycles, they should not be allowed on trails, because they will ruin them, eroding uphills, unskillfully skidding with locked wheel on downs. Finally the electric engines and their batteries are horrible to the environment, no matter if delusional green-leftist hipster-hippies in my town believe that their owners just sold a car to change commuting habits to save the planet, instead of being just lazy cyclists. Lazy lazy lazy... 

As I started my shadow work I wrote down all that and started analyze it - what does it say about me? First off, I realized that electric mountain bikes are not the issue, it is the unspecified group of people that was upsetting me. Why were they upsetting me? I never met one. Come on! Let's be realistic, a choice of a bicycle, normal or assisted, cannot represent the whole picture of a whole human being. (BTW people having something smart to say against prejudgments but unable to explain why - try shadow work ;) )  So now, why don't I like those people? Why do they appear to me as individuals stripped of morals and more importantly: not getting what the real mountain biking really is about? I am not as fit as I would like to be and I feel ashamed of being weak. I buy and try a lot of different things, so I am ashamed of being a sheep. I like to skid sometimes but I am ashamed of ruining the trails. I like taking risks, I ride alone often, sometimes without a phone or not telling where I am going, I would be extremely ashamed if something happened to me, so that rescue team would need to take me, even worse - being injured and not helping my wife with our small kids. Ruining trails? - I am DEEPLY ashamed that I don't build trails, I may put some logs or branches away, but I wish I could build or at least maintain more. I ride illegal trails and I am at least a bit ashamed of doing it against the society. I don't give a damn about the law the system, and society? fuck society... something's wrong... am I arrogant? 

Each of those things can and should be taken apart into even smaller pieces, like buying things - why am I doing this? To experience how new toy feels like, to enhance my riding experience, to feel fast, to be faster... faster than who? at least a few people. So I want to be recognized > I want to be appreciated > I want to be loved. Then I want to be able to tell people that I have this toy, yes I want to be appreciated > to be loved. Why do I want to enhance my riding experience? I want to be happy? Do I know another way to boost experience? Yes - training - why don't I focus on it then? - Because... I am, I feel I am lazy?

It can go on and on, deeper and deeper, and we may find that the devil is not some external point of reference, in someone else. We may find that we do witch hunts to feel better about ourselves, to make up.what we don't like in us. Ultimately we find that those are not all bad things, we just perceive them so, either by our own judgment or by peer pressure. According to the concept of duality, everything has good and bad sides. I like to take risks, all mountain bikers do, well that helps us discover new things, gives us courage to face the unknown, ultimately to have more positive impact on the world. A kid that is nagging his parents to buy sweets by the check out at super market, with good guidance will be able to use that persistence to fight for his goals in his life. Damping that feeling, treating it as a waste we flush in the toilet just damages us, numbs us, steals energy to be creative, in worst cases to act at all. I like the expression: skeleton in the closet. Once we take them out and appreciate their power, we may hang them on the wall and appreciate what they can teach us about the world and ourselves. 

So don't worry too much about electric mountain bikes, at least until you see plenty of them and you have true evidence that they destroy trails more than regular bikes. Aren't there hundreds of people on "analog" bikes riding disrespectfully? Isn't the most respectful usage of trails damaging them and requiring OUR action to maintain the trails? Just think of the brake bumps! Millions of them appeared before e-bikes became a trend. As to people failing to recognize the value of earning an uphill, prize of physical exertion, well, these are their lives, by trying to save them from themselves you can only hurt them instead... and yourself in the end - Shuttling, lifts anybody? They obviously ride those bikes for their own reasons. Each life is a constellation of unique elements, experiences, pursuits after certain intrinsic desires, making us who we are and do what we do. The reward of shadow work is the energy we have left for any use, that used to be consumed by anxiety and reacting on it, for instance, writing long rants and scanning internet for "people worse than me".

Now, having said all that, I feel that there is some water in the "why don't you ride a moto" argument. The environmental perspective comes to mind immediately but those electric trial motorbikes are amazing these days, they are relatively light, have lots of power and some even have traction control, so you won't damage the soil on uphills! Yes I am assuming things, but why go midway- vague guilt? Trying to act at least a bit as you feel you supposed to? One leg still on ship to heaven? I can imagine that a electric engine assisted mountain bike could become a hybrid with one of those e-trial motos. It is unlikely that the weight of the motor and the battery will ever go to mountain bikes from even few years ago, so let's move closer to those "real two wheels". I say go big e-bikes! Let's see what you can be! 

Now watch for yourselves:

So to sum up I think e-bikes are the perfect scape goats, they are the ones to point finger at with what is wrong with mountain biking, their owners are the witches. Once they are there as a point of reference, the true mountain biking inquisition can feel better about themselves and keep on being who they are, because it is not them being weak, unskilled, and ruining trails. Well having such point of reference, especially one that does not exist in reality, barely leads anywhere - sure, it adds some self confidence, but what we need is to compare ourselves with someone real, someone better, even though it is harder to do because it forces us to be a bit more humble. So we may use the picture we paint for e-bikers, and try to work on being slightly better in each of the things we accuse them of.

Arguably yours


  1. absolutely beautiful! thanks a lot for this piece, it helped me a lot to understand myself.

  2. Nice one Wacek. Best thing I have read on the internet in a long while. A universal truth discovered and deciphered for all to share. Everyone can benefit from making friends with their shadow.