Mountain bike mags are written by fat, overweight guys who rarely sling a leg over a bike. Okay, that’s not strictly true, not for all of them, but if their lives consisted of solely attending wine-and-dine press camps it could well be the case. A couple of years ago one bike journo said to me, “if you want to ride bikes, don’t work for a bike magazine!”
He was referring to the amount of time he has to spend behind a desk writing about all things bike, working on PDF print deadlines, keeping advertisers happy and eating Jaffa Cakes, compared with the amount of time he gets to actually ride bikes. Okay he gets to ride bikes too, but it isn’t as often as you might think. But then maybe he’s just lazy. Luckily help is at hand on camps like Trek Bikes’ 2013 launch last week in Cortina, Italy.
Press camps – the multi-day affairs set aside each summer when companies launch next year’s product to the press – are one of those events in which invited journos (and a couple of high-flying photographers) actually get to ride bikes. But not just bikes, they get to ride next year’s bikes.
With so many tamed trails on offer from bike parks across Europe and North America, you’ll be forgiven for accepting that these ‘ride-and-be-back-for-cocktails’ loops are the perfect places for such journo herding, so it was refreshing to see Trek buck the trend and throw their press camp based around true adventure riding last week. And it couldn’t be further from the DH circuit that Trek rider Aaron Gwinn is taming in his own special way.
Working with Whistler-based Big Mountain Bike Adventures (the guys who cut their teeth on the Morocco segment in Roam, and have since been involved in logistics for Strength In Numbers), Trek decided that to fully test their new 2013 Fuel EX trail bike, the assembled journos would have to ride, carry and push their bikes to the tops of several high Dolomite passes and stay in a refuge before earning their descents and calorie-rich dinners afterwards. It wasn’t to everyone’s tastes, but there were no complaints. And while there were plenty of dropper posts, there were no droppers out.
The Dolomites are an unforgiving place to ride. The steep trails there are strewn with loose pea-gravel and hungry baby-head rocks that will happily take a bite out of a shin or elbow or head at the slightest sign of losing front wheel traction. Add to that a few 700m/2200ft climbs and the odd afternoon storm hurling sheets of hail and bolts of lightning at a rag-tag string of bike riding journos and you have the recipe for adventure.
Getting to the overnight refuge damp, sweaty, grimy is all part of that adventure, but the chance to wake up among some of Europe’s, if not the world’s, most magnificent scenery before dropping straight into a 600m/1900ft descent that threads its way through 100-year old warfare trenches more than compensates for the barrage of expletives echoing around the mountain valleys a day earlier.
Sometimes being a bike journo has its rewards it seems. But like clearing a road gap or nailing a skinny section of North Shore or cleaning an ambitiously techy climb, nothing comes easy. It all has to be earned, and we wouldn’t want it any other way, would we? Adventure is in our blood, we just don’t all realise it (yet).
Of course if you don’t sit and eat Jaffa Cakes and write about bikes all day, you have no excuse not to go for a ride. It doesn’t take much to turn that into an adventure.