I just read a blog post by Doug Walsh that was talking about how divisions exist within the mountain biking community along the lines of gear and equipment. Doug pointed to an article from Outside online where the author described feeling like he didn’t fit in with “hard tailers” at the local mountain bike trail. That got me thinking about the new business concept of the long tail and how even sports like mountain biking are affected by technology.
The idea of the long tail is basically that things like the internet allow us to dig deeper into more specialized activities that fit our individual tastes and desires. The prime example is Amazon.com and how they can offer virtually unlimited selection of books on esoteric subjects since they don’t have to worry about shelf space like traditional retailers. But enough of the business lesson…
Way before the internet, people just pedaled their bikes on the road. In the 1970s some dudes in California started modifying their bikes to take them off road and mountain biking was born. Mountain biking was the new thang for more than 2 decades and everybody was pretty happy (especially the bike manufacturers). Foreshadowing? Absolutely.
Now it’s 2007 and we have free riders, single speeders, downhillers, cross-country riders, hard tailers, 29ers, and ultra-endurance racers. We’re all mountain bikers but we’ve found our niches and tend to socialize with those who share our tastes. Not a bad thing in my opinion, and I would argue the internet is playing a big role in the creation of these sub-categories.
The internet is great at connecting people with unique hobbies and at introducing us to new ideas from around the world. I mentioned Ike’s High Roller Club (old fashioned high-wheel bike riders) in a previous post and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Some kids in Akron are probably doing something crazy with mountain bikes right now and as soon as they upload their videos to YouTube and build their MySpace page, other people around the world will start to follow if it seems cool (and fun).
The point of all this is to say now is the best time to find the style of mountain biking that fits your personality. Use the internet to see where you fit in and get involved with others who share your tastes. You never know what you’ll find on the ‘net these days…