The Trail Snob presents the periodic, ill-informed opinions, malformed thoughts, and inappropriate convictions of a certain Web Content Editor. Art’s Cyclery disavows all knowledge of, responsibility for, and concordance with anything that comes out of their keyboard.
Wiccans, pagans, and classical Western philosophers have all adhered to the tenet of four basic elements, sometimes including a fifth, consisting of everything the previous four are not, which is kind of a cop out, but I’ll let it slide. These four (five) basic elements are the material out of which the universe and everything in it is made. Believers would say human behavior is also subject to the influence of these four elements. However, due to our higher evolutionary state as mountain bikers, we are held under the sway of an advanced set of elemental influences, which trigger the mental and emotional responses commonly enjoyed while riding, thinking about, and looking at mountain bikes.
The Four Elements of MTB
In order of influential enchantment, the four factors which are responsible for all physical and emotional stimuli experienced by mountain bikers are Earth, Rubber, Carbon Fiber, and Aluminum.
Earth—Similar to it’s Classical, Buddhist, and Hindu manifestations, Earth is the base upon which we build our experience. Good Earth equates to happiness and contentment, and is the cornerstone upon which our Holy Trinity of speed, traction, and epinephrine is built. According to Western Philosopher Proclus, Earth’s qualities include bluntness and immobility, a belief painfully affirmed at one time or another by every mountain biker the world over. But, it is this immobility which pushes back when we press down on the cornering knobs of our tires, feeding our wheels, bodies, and souls with inertia and speed. We cannot do without it.
We take both our joy and inspiration from Earth, which represents endurance, strength, life, death, and rebirth. We as mountain bikers experience all Earth bestows during every ride.
Rubber—Not included in any record of Elemental Philosophy, but of crucial importance to mountain bikers, is Rubber. Combining both technology and nature, Rubber is a toxic but necessary brew of petroleum and plant-based ingredients. Mystic cabals of soot-fingered wizards mix potions and stoke the flames of magic to create a sticky, slow-rebounding, magical element of joy we mold into shapes to transform the properties of gravity and friction into adrenaline.
As Fire is held to be a cleansing element, Rubber also forces us to clean our minds of doubt, fear, and mistrust. Panic and grab too much brake, and you lose all momentum. Don’t have proper form and commitment through turns? You will either crash or lose time. If you trust your Rubber, and understand it’s properties, you will be rewarded with fast, carving turns, filling you with bliss and excitement all the way down the trail.
Carbon Fiber (Not to be confused with carbon, which really is an element, right there on the opening spread of chemistry text books everywhere)—As the Classicists and Mystics ascribed the properties of heavenly forms and beings to the element Aether—an unknowable, almost magical substance—so can mountain bikers consider Carbon Fiber.
Sharing a creation story similar to that of Rubber, our Carbon Fiber talismans are birthed in far-off lands at the hands of alchemists cultivated in the practice of infusing objects with dreams. Paradoxical in its use as mountain bike frame material, Carbon offers almost limitless fatigue strength, yet pales in comparison to good old steel or even aluminum when it comes to crashing into sharp, pointy rocks. Offering a combination of weight reduction, stiffness, and ride quality that someone probably had to sell their soul to discover, Carbon Fiber bikes and components are keys to portals leading to dimensions of enlightenment mere mortals were never intended to behold.
Like Eris’ Apple of Discord, a Carbon Fiber bike rolled into a group of alloy-mounted riders will create jealousy, envy, and competition. With influence far outweighing any of the other Elements, Carbon Fiber must be treated with respect for its power over your riding abilities and effect on your buddy’s emotions.
Aluminum—The amazing alloy is the firmament into which the roots of mountain biking’s performance tree grows. Aluminum acts as both Ying and Yang; behaves hot and cold; is sharp, blunt, cleansing, purifying and harming all at once. There is nothing aluminum hasn’t been in the world of mountain bike technology. Sure, steel is real and nurtured us before aluminum was perfected, but the astral stargates were first opened when the properties of Aluminum were cultivated for our use on the dirt. We will always be aluminum and aluminum will always be us.
Study the elements, their properties and effect on behavior and performance. Use them as tools to enrich your life in the dirt. Without them, we would be nothing, but with them, we are masters of singletrack, fire roads and rock gardens. The Four Elements of mountain biking contain. . . did I say Four Elements? Let’s amend the list to include one more, perhaps more important than all the others put together. You might forget to bring a spare tube but as long as you remember to bring a few nice, cold cans of the Fifth Element for you and all your buddies, your ride will still end on a happy note.
The Trail Snob goes by several pseudonyms, but is most recognizable as the Guy With All the Answers. He was around when the trails were so much better than they are now and is way cooler than you’ll ever be. Well, at least that’s what he thinks…