Some philosophers believe pursuing a personal ideal while at the same time recognizing the ideals of others is one way to achieve a meaningful life. Others suggest meaning derives solely from attending Dirt Rag’s annual Punk Bike Enduro. Having all but given up on the former, I was at Punk Bike yesterday.
If there’s one thing cable news has taught me (I mean, aside from the value of hoarding gold), it’s that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wildly guessing at attendance figures for public events, so I’m going to estimate that 42,000 people attended Punk Bike this year, partly owing to the exceptional weather.
By “exceptional,” I mean “warm.” Living in Southwestern Pennsylvania, we are all, however, subject to a special clause in the laws of nature stating that any seemingly positive natural phenomena must be met with an equal or greater adverse phenomena, like locusts or land sharks, or in this case, mud.
Turns out, there’s a very good reason why I should have taken the rigid single-speed like everyone else. You’d think I’d be used to real PA mud, given that I live here, but it’s all rocks on top of rocks around my house, so I was woefully unprepared for the adobe of mulchy leaves and thick goo just north of the city proper, the kind of muck that collects between frame and chainstays and brings you to an absolute halt. What few moments I was actually able to pedal my bike were gloriously wonderful and occurred to the soundtrack of ten thousand leaves buzzing along in the bowls of my lower rocker. On the upside, my full rear wheel lockup downhill bike skiing skills improved marginally by the end of the day.
Add frequent motorcycle use in the area, and that means some ruts were also considerably deeper than pedal height. None of this deterred the n’ere do wells who showed up, shown here launching off on another stage.
The best parts of the course consisted of puddles of unknown depth at the bottom of uncontrollably slippery descents. This made for great riding, and pretty great “course marshalling,” too, which let me study various techniques.
Full-tilt and Straight Down the Middle – the best option
Full-tilt and Let the Flora Get you Stopped – bolder, but ultimately slower
The Only Been in Pennsylvania a Week – disc brakes perform a different function here than they do in Los Angeles
Not captured here was a pretty spectacular split that resulted from an attempt to walk the bike down. Definitely safer on the bike.
Brutally muddy as they were, the trails were extremely fun. Though some of the hairier descents might seem less exciting once I have some semblance of control over my bike, I hope to make it back here during a dry part of the summer.
As great as the trails were, though, everyone knows you come to Punk Bike for the people. And the things that are almost like people.
The disco pimps.
|The unnaturally Scottish.
Some of the nicest people in the world attend Punk Bike, where they begin the day by crashing into one another until there can be only one, like the Highlander.
All of these cats were admirably herded by
Super Dave Osborne Dirt Rag’s own Karl Rosengarth, who kicked the day off by kicking out the jams.
The worst part of living on a mountain in the middle of nowhere is, well, the goddamn rattlesnakes–but the second worst part is rarely getting to see some people I really like, including everyone at Dirt Rag and some old friends. One of the first people I saw at Punk Bike was Dan, a great guy who owns this amazing, classic Smorgasbord. I built this bike myself a long, long time ago.
Punk Bike gave me a chance to catch up with so many good people. I even got to
ride with slide around while watching Dave Krack speed through the woods on a bike with one wheel more than he usually has and some custom headwear.
It needs be mentioned that amidst all the merriment there were two accidents at this year’s Punk Bike, which gave the evening a slightly surreal and gonzo quality. One minute I’m slithering down the last descent on the day and the next, I’m watching a man dressed as a sleestak escort a paramedic up into singletrack while a helicopter circles overhead. After a relatively uneventful day, all of a sudden the last hour of the ride took on a kind of The Hangover meets Apocalypse Now quality, which included some possibly cracked ribs, two squad cars, one ambulance sunk in mud, a high-speed crash into a guardrail, a helicopter landing on a rugby field, a second ambulance, and a fire engine to tow out ambulance #1. Before the evening had ended, Maurice offered a positive update on the riders, and our thoughts go out to both. Fortunately, seemingly one out of every three riders at Punk Bike is a trained nurse, so in both cases a highly trained individual was on the scene immediately. As unfortunate as both accidents where, it’s situations like these that bring out the true character of Punk Bike. There’s really no better scene to sum up the Punk Bike experience than exhausted (and in some cases utterly knackered) mountain bikers in ridiculous costumes instantly abandoning their own bikes and their own thoughts and concerns and rushing to the side of someone in need.
Would we all do this even for the new guy from LA? Of course we would. He’s one of us now, and if you see him on the trails, please help him out.