it can be almost refined and then defined as a distinct difference in attitude. view the nefarious early season photos from either team training camps or indeed, races, and you will almost always come across a polite line of immaculately prepared bicycles leaning innocently against a liveried team bus. aside from any national champions in the team, each will inhabit the same gleaming paint scheme, bar tape, tyres and componentry, ready and willing for each similarly attired team rider to recognise his/her race number and head to the sign on.
flick through the pages of such as singletrack magazine or the more luxurious privateer and those full-suspension mountain bikes are more likely to be lying unceremoniously on the ground. if any of them have been washed, it's likely to have been a couple of weeks earlier and the paint scheme will probably exhibit the occasional chip through to the aluminium. though one should not criticise the ride apparel of others (since to civilians, we both look ridiculous), but the word 'team' is probably one that you would not associate with the scene before you. and while professional mountain bikers are rarely overweight - it's a hard sport too - emulation of stick-insect road professionals is not one of their attributes.
it's a difference in attitude.
though i admire the so-called purity and simplicity of the average carbon road-bike, my admiration of a full-suspension farm gate is somewhat grudging at best. they are quite 'muscular' however, and it would be difficult to ignore their fitness for purpose. i just wouldn't want to push one of them uphill, let alone attempt to ride it there.
examined in isolation, the notion of a couple of hundred guys on slivers of carbon fibre, riding a few hundred kilometres from point a to point b, or even from point a to point a could be seen as a tad pointless, particularly since little often happens until the last dozen or so of those kilometres. the same pointlessness could be levelled at the guys plastered in body armour throwing themselves down the steepest and rockiest of mountain sides in order to see who gets there first. there are other modes of mountain biking, such as riding singletrack: seemingly far more civilised and less fraught with danger than the mountain side hurling variety. road and off-road are hardly mutually exclusive pursuits; cyclocross is perhaps the bridge between the two: road-style bikes on more of a manicured surface, yet still offroad.
however, not all professional adherents of the singletrack and mountain hurling genres have finish-line victory in mind. many are paid by bicycle companies, clothing manufacturers and component suppliers to simply ride their bikes in public view, doing their very best to break them into little pieces while engaging in a series of dramatic acrobatics on two wheels. to paraphrase mr spock 'it's biking jim, but not as we know it'.
since 2004, a group of north american film-makers have taken it upon themselves to document the gnarlier side of mountain biking in a series of dramatic locations. as digital film-making was the preserve of the obscenely budgeted holywood movie in the earlier part of this decade, their movies were made using 16mm film, marrying pragmatism with the uniqueness of 'real' film. 2004's movie number one was simply entitled 'the collective' followed in 2006 by 'roam', rounded out by 'seasons' in 2008.
since then, they have been remarkably quiet, until late last year when 'the collective anthology' was released, comprising all the aforementioned three movies plus a fourth disc featuring the making of 'seasons', a commentary on the stills photography of sterling lorence and a couple of remix highlight reels of the best action riding from all three films. the full package arrives in an appropriately embellished tin, matched with a book of some of lorence's finest images and, for a short time, a copy of the 'seasons' dvd on blu-ray.
as a confirmed roadie (everyone has to make choices), thewashingmachinepost rarely concerns itself with the world of knobbly-tyres; far too many do it so much better and with more personal involvement. i have not owned a mountain bike since the early nineties and have no intention of altering that state of affairs. however, despite my misgivings over the acrobatic nature of much of the collective's capture, it's hard not to admire the skill and ferocity with which the riders approach the scariest of cliff drop-offs or similarly frightening, man-made north-shore tracks through the forest.
while watching the forest for the tree documentary on disc four, the lengths to which the film-makers go, and the attention to detail involved is quite exceptional. yet watch the first three discs and it is all but invisible to the naked eye. i also think it instructional to watch these chaps practice their art, despite little, if any, similarity with those of us on skinny tyres. any crossover that can be absorbed might look well to our going. i have at sometime commented on the handling skills of roadies who easily jump kerbs and road furniture in the classics and tours, but their attempts are but those of the amateur in comparison to the guys on springy farm gates.
and every once in a while, i wish i would take it upon myself to go out on the cielo, colnago or hakkalugi wearing baggy jeans and a shirt large enough to wear a rapha backpack underneath, feet shod in a pair of vans or something similar. just to show that it's only a conservative upbringing and tyre width that prevents my being a gnarly dude. whatever you think of 360 degree backflips, this is a thoroughly entertaining package no matter your wheel diameter.
the very best bit, however, is the price: all four dvds, the possibility of a blu-ray fifth, a book of photographs and free download of tracks from the soundtrack for a measly £27.47 ($46.95) plus postage. orders can be placed via the collective store.
posted wednesday 4 january 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................