Dienstag, 25. Juni 2013

Ruhr Bike Festival 2013 - Bushwhacking, murder attempts and plain old fun

 Now this is somewhat of a difficult post. I do not know where to start, for it is an event that not only took place. A lot of people made it happen, and, even if there were many people involved, I guess I´d start with a different kind of Volker, another friend of mine.

As many of my readers know, mountainbiking is always seen as controversial. Mountainbikers are seen as an ecological catastrophe, a pest, a plague. I am a mountainbiker, too, and, while I totally agree that tearing up remote desert spots or high - alpine - off-trail terrain might not be socially acceptable, a trail in some hills where a tyre track will vanish in one weeks course, is totally acceptable to ride on and have fun on, and no ecological consequences whatsoever result thereof. Just take care you´ve left the woods after sunset, OR learn how to avoid scaring any animal off. Especially in winter one should also take care to leave the wildstock alone where it needs it. Out of respect,  and not because someone told you so. If you follow some rules, all will be fine.

But then there´s another grievance against mountainbikers, and that´s social interaction. Many mountainbikers are said to be egomanic, antisocial morons scaring the shit out of horses, horseback riders, dogs, dog owners, pedestrians and being rude to hunters. And I have to say, while I always tried to be polite and ready for discussions, controlled my speed and said hello, let hikers, horseback riders and dog owners pass by and exchanged a few polite words, those who do that also seem to become fewer, and I got my fill of abuse from fellow mountainbikers when I suggested to accept the trail rules of DIMB and IMBA. Plus, we wear helmets, ride a bike that has often a martial, aggressive look, we move silently, but very fast, we love to jump and do aireal tricks and stunts, and this adds to a problem: That we are not seen rationally as just another group of recreational sports individuals, but as a threat.

That said and done, I must explain that, in this region, we have a mountainbike mekka, sort of. Even well - known Canadian riders come here to ride the trails, when they are around these parts, and that tells something. There are many manmade trails around, and here is another problem to be found: For in germany, until only recently, the land - owner had to assume liability to any injury any person, horseback rider, pedestrian or mountainbike rider might suffer due to a lack of safety in his or her woods. Fortunatly, this insane law had been removed recently, and was never persecuted as rigorously, for everyone, even lawyers, know that woods are woods (we might as well learn that the knowledge of lawyers might end there as far as the woods are concerned*ggg*SCHWARZDORN!!!). But what remains, is, that it is not polite to build  5 m - high  drop - down jump stunts on private property without asking.

The Ruhrbike-race takes place on a large amount of private property. Volker and Dirk from RSC Tretlager Bike Club Wetter were the ones responsible for the acquisition of trails for the race, and while most of the time they managed to get along with the land - owners very nicely, some of them were not exactly amused to have a  bike race on their doorstep. Because they had worse experiences with mountainbikers slamming into their horses, scaring their cows and dogs and whatnot, and building stunts in their woods without asking. If every mountainbiker in the region would voluntarily keep to a code of conduct like the DIMB / IMBA rules, Volker and Dirk would not have as hard a time as they have finding trails for the race. We will learn further down, that maybe even more problems could be solved.

When Volker called me if I would help out cutting free and pruning some trails, I agreed blissfully, for I wanted to show him my respect. So I packed my Khukhuri and a saw, and got a rake from Volker´s father. Must I mention that I also enjoyed being out in the woods and taking my old Khuk out for a walk?;-) 
The trail towards the place I had to clean up.
There lay this dried oak branch, and maybe the riders could have bunnyhopped it, but I simply wanted to do some chopping...;-), so I cleared it away.
Then it was some raking work, cleaning the downhill from fallen leaves, rotting twigs and branches, some good 300-500 m of it.
Before it looked like no trail at all.
I loved being out there, all alone, in the silent woods, under this lovely green light of the sun that shone warm and brightly, with the sounds of birds singing, and the echoes of my soul being strong in this environment. I regretted to have to tear out some tree saplings that grew in the trail and had to be removed. I tried to replant as much as I could, but to be honest, I daresay many of them will not survive it. But it was a trail anyway, and they would be cleared off either way.
When I was done cleaning, there was another trail to be done.

By the way, a Khukhuri is a really good tool for many kinds of work. Like a billhook, you can chop as well as cut. I cleared this trail´s rims from nettles, jack-by-the-hedge, several strong grasses and brambles. I chopped some dead branches and tree limbs that had fallen on the trail, and that beast came  begging for more. And it´s not even a good one! I will make myself one soon.
Then, some two weeks later, the race was taking place. Volker and the safety squad rode the course beforehand to make sure everything was still in place. When they returned, they had a puzzled look on their faces. The start of the race had to be postponed.

It seems, from what I got out of them, that not only were the trail signs removed, as is common practice, and the ribbons taken away or torn, but someone put punji sticks into the soil on the course. There were banners mounted in the woods saying "Ruhrbike nein danke" (Ruhrbike - no thanks). Many of my mountainbiking friends out there will not understand me when I say that this is extremely serious. Not the banners or the common means of sabotage.

But that there are individuals out there not restraining from murder attempts, and punji sticks CAN kill, especially if you hit them on a downhill with some 35 km/h, to make sure the race does not take place. This is not just some "I do not want this or that, so I use the law or political methods to keep the organizers from doing it", but utter hate and ultima ratio. To me it is an indication that our civilization fails at a much more rapid rate than I expected, and it is a reminder to me to get my bug - out methods wired and train some more.

The organization team however, deserved even more of my respect, for in but half an hour time they managed to get the whole thing running.

I was then hanging around with the guys at the tent of my club, when a voice came from behind, calling me, and who might that be? It was Heike, whom I had not seen for a year or so. Now Heike is a very great person, a mountain bike racer extraordinaire, but also a very laidback girl with a wonderful attitude towards the sport. She´s also a hunter. Pardon me, a hunter? A mountainbiker and a hunter? Yap, that´s possible, and she does not suffer from schizophrenic fits. We had a laugh, and she told me she was there for fun and rode the race for no team whatsoever (she was a semi-pro until last year). I said: "Then you´re in for a victory? Do you prepare your comeback?" She answered: "I´d rather prepare my camenbert... it´s ripe."-"Is it overripe?"-"Last night it wanted to escape, it ran away to flee, but no chance, for I am a hunter..." We then had a laughing fit when we imagined what a big caliber might do to a camenbert that runs away and imagined a camenbert´s face... and NO, WE DID NOT TAKE ANY DRUGS*ggg* in case you ask. She then hemmed and hawed about putting a waterbottle here and there, "for she had noone to lend a hand". I replied "Oh pleeeease, just ask!!!". I once taught her the bunny hop and how to ride her first bike and accompagnied her on her first races, and it just makes me proud what she made out of that little input! So I took the water bottle to this location.
It wasn´t long  before the leading motorcycle came around the bend, ridden by one of my lunatic neighbours.;-)
I do not have an inkling of who those guys and gals were, but they apparently had fun and most liked the encouragement I had to offer.

This is maxvader from my club attacking on the uphill.

Then Heike came, still on 3rd position in the women´s race, and we exchanged water bottles and I gave her a piece of banana, and we traded a joke and a laugh  again. And this is what makes this person that endearing: Being able to have a laugh while you attack the field in a mountainbike race that´s not exactly all roses all the time!

When Heike had passed, some other member of my team came along huffing and puffing and snarling at me why I hadn´t brought a water bottle for him! I replied that he did not ask for it, and he answered that I should have guessed... that made my day! I laughed my head off afterwards...;-) Those are my most beloved situations with the morons of my club..www.zee-aylienz.de..

But, I must admit, this picture made me proud. For you could see a whole army of flame jerseys scattered around the expo area, being busy for the race of our neighbouring club, or for our racers.

The expo area was situated on a beautiful location, a sports area beneath an old  tower. The tower would be just right for me to live in...;-)

This was our tent in the expo area, and it was a right chillout zone. Racers who finished came along, friends, loved ones and relatives came by, and everyone had a chat and a laugh and enjoyed themselves.
Then Wido came in. Now this race is arguably one of the hardest in Germany. Testament to that fact is he smashed his rear derailleur on a stick in testing terrain. Not willing to quit, Wido just carved himself a stick, stuck it in the mech and finished, and not on the last position! Respect!
What I mean with a chillout zone.. great atmosphere, and thanks also go to Frank and Bastian who were present at the booth the whole day, handing out drinks and food and more than one beer!
Bikes galore...
The Nutrixxion booth. I heard say my club owes them summat, but I forgot what...*ggg* The energy bars, and more so the drinks and power gels (you know that stuff?GAH!) always tend to get stuck halfway in my throat, and my stomach seems to revolt, and I cannot call that "food", for there are no baked potatoes, bacon and sausage involved;-).
Susanne came along, exhausted and terrified by the race, but she finished. For that, I find she deserves even more respect. Knowing one can ride the hell of a race and even thinking of finishing, say top ten, is one matter. It´s as easy as picking up a penny. But knowing the bastard will bring you to your limit (or even over it), and still do it, just to become a better person, is brave and, when done out of the right reasons, worth more respect that racing for ranking.
Then I met with Adrian from Connex bicycle chains. We once rode more together, he riding downhill, races and all, including the ice - race in Winterberg and doing snow jump stunt shows, and hadn´t met for a decade or so. We had a chat, and I learned he will be a father soon... I wish him all the best for it!
Those are the guys from my favourite bike shop, metal motion bikes, Dennis and his father, Ralf. Ralf is riding mountainbikes since the medieval ages, and one can safely say he is a big part of the m,ountainbike scene. Dennis, the one with the strange haircut and the load of spare metal in the face;-) up front, looks like some ghetto kid, but is certainly one of the nicest guys in the scene, laidback, super-friendly, but firm. Also, he´s got a funny humour. When I neared their booth, he addressed me:

"Psst, we got a troll in the shop". We had a laugh on that ambiguity (meaning this bike, of course, not drui*ggg*) and a bit of beating around the bush. I really have a certain affinity to those surly bikes, for they are bombproof and will easily meet a bushcraft standard. No race bikes, those means of transport will get you places even after a meltdown. Also, I love that classy look. Talking of which, they also got a classy GT Hans Rey anniversary edition of the classic GT Avalanche trail bike on the booth, all white and gold, with a triskell as a stem cap...schwweeet! As you can see, I am not above being a techno weenie from time to time myself. But that stem cap gave me ideas... something to do with a forge and some stag antler crown... watch this space...;-). We talked about this or that, and I have to drop by their shop soon, just to control if they are not making mischief there;-).
There also  was a junior dance group presenting Arabian dance interpretations. I found that good, for we desperately need cultural diversity and integration!
Decathlon is another sponsor of our club...
And this was my favourite place;-), for there you could have pasta, coffee, cake, wafers and a lot of real and delicious homemade food.
Talking of which, I attended a Carsting;-), Carsten, that is. Carsten is another laidback guy from the RSC team, always with a joke on his lips, even when the going got tough. Originally hailing from Solingen, the bladesmithing town and being no stranger to some knife talk and some knifemaking himself, we simply have to meet again some day for a hammer - In! I got a steak there (Thanks, Björn, I am not sure I deserve it;-)SCHWARZDORN!!!)
This is a dirty girl... Heike, to be precise, after she finished 2nd place in the SENIOR WOMEN II *GGG* category. Here, she is being not amused that I am making fun of her old age...*ggg*
Party on! I met with Björn, and we had a chat that made my day.. SCHWARZDORN!!!!!
Finally, some decent food again... man, I drank like a bucket of coffee and ate three pieces of cake, it was that good!
This is the logo I once (long ago, in 1999) drew on a handkerchief when I was drunk as shit. The club being called "Zee Aylienz" I adapted this design from an older sketch... the laughing matter is that this sketch was intended to be for a campaign of "vikings against fascism", and there was a Nordic warrior cliché depicted with a huge broadaxe (winged helmet and bronze age sword and all;-)) standing over a pile of tiny severed heads with swastikas tattoed on, with the severed head of Adolf Hitler on top. The heads (they were tiny heads, did I mention*ggg*) were drawn like the alien skull to make them more demon-like. It´s a constant laughing matter and a queer joke that in the past, when I was still second chairman, there were some individuals with tiny heads doing the old "we are better than anyone else, we are aylienz" stunt and acting the Gestapo with people who did not join the club... not so funny then, but, in retrospective, a reason I might laugh on my last bier still about that. Nothing wrong with symbols, nothing wrong with caring for each other, but I hope to have contributed with that tale to a sense of awareness that the club´s not the only one in the world and a reminder to be careful.
A lot of flaming jerseys frequented the podium... er... is that Max?

Merlin finished 2nd on the podium, and to be true, Heike somehow belongs to the team, too, for even if she rode in a MBC Bochum jersey, she started as an Aylien... and you don´t become an Aylien. You are one.

Pardon me, did that guy not state he was against dogmatism and symbolic cult but some lines ago?

It has something to do with some finer points. It does not make you a better person. As mountainbikers, we have a rare opportunity. As one advertisment in 1990 read "Those who said you can´t run away from your problems obviously weren´t going fast enough". I remember a Yeti ad saying "Faster and faster, until the thrill of speed overcomes the fear of death". Mountainbiking as a sport is but a surrogative activity, and as such serves a civilizational purpose. But there is more to it. Many riders experience a soothing and healing effect when riding out into the woods, or even a race or some extreme stunts. Your problems are still there, but if you do not live the moment, i.e. if you are not alert all of the time, if you don´t pay attention, you might die. You have to pay attention to your bike, to your body, to your performance.

But this is merely the step towards the real thing. If you have got your technicals and your technique wired, if your body is trained, you develop a very special mindset, and this mindset might give you the opportunity to experience a very unique psychological condition, namely the flow experience. My long years of research towards that topic hint towards a connection between the concepts of flow, satori, kairos/metakairos, and the concept of Awen (poetic inspiration in the Welsh tradition, and also found in the manuscript "The cauldron of poesy"). That is not to say, they are all the same, and a mountainbiker certainly will not always be a druid, although I know some druids that ride mountainbikes. What I say is, that the experience is based on similar psychophysiological matters, and it must suffice for now that it is something special and unique. You cannot quite talk intelligently about it. Either you experience it or you do not. If you do, you might use it for your own benefit. How you do that, is your business. But I have the feeling that many members of this club have that feeling, and some of them recently felt like joining hands with their fellows to create something great and unique. And since it comes out of the flow experience they all have experienced in one way or the other, and, most important, any act of creation is an act of inspiration in the first, and creating this club is a constant process, that makes it something special, and that makes the people involved special. It might be just that they feel responsible and aware. They are freaks, of course, and we do not always agree. Some of them have tiny heads.

Some of them are focused, some of them are narrow-minded, some of them are morons, and in that this club is nothing special. But they create something beautiful by riding a race and having a beer afterwards. For that, I have to say "thank you!".

Now back to that murder attempt. I counsilled Dirk to press charges against unbeknownst for murder conduct, but how realistic is that the police will even take any action? Those were just some sticks in the woods. But there´s something else we can do. By closing shoulders with the clubs and mountainbikers and shop owners in the region, by hard work and obeying the IMBA rules voluntarily, by keeping in contact with the forest bureaus, we can better the image of mountainbikers in general, and, let´s be honest, the bad image we got is not given utterly without cause. We can use our unity and our harmony against the violence. Then those lunatics will at least not claim a victim. And the race and, more important to me, the festival can still take place. As a meeting place for people in peace, not in civil war.

For more photos, look here!

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