My book project examines the origins and growth of mountain biking as a test case to consider how fun emerged as a viable cultural value. Fun, a seemingly simple and natural emotion, relies upon cultural norms, values, and practices. Fun only makes sense in context, and one person’s fun may be another person’s displeasure. I examine mountain biking to understand how this new style of riding and experiencing nature came to be thought of as “fun.” After all, what part of barrelling downhill at 30 miles per hour over treacherous terrain on the edge of control sounds fun to you? Chances are, some readers will cringe at the thought while a few of you will begin to grin with glee. I want to understand where that grin comes from. More importantly, how did the impulse behind that grin come to be an acceptable motivator for crafting lives?
Mountain biking was part of a larger cultural shift that also saw the emergence of other adventure, or “lifestyle” sports such as surfing, rock climbing, skateboarding, and snowboarding. Though each has its unique history, they share the following qualities; an aesthetics of style, the desire to elicit an authentic experience, and a treatment of nature as a play-space, sometimes with sacral undertones. Today, each represents a subculture of sport, fashion, and lifestyle with entire towns, industries, and communities formed around them. My work looks to the counterculture origins of mountain biking to study how this happened and how things might have been otherwise.
For more on this project, visit my blog, check out my digital archive on the origins and growth of mountain biking, or view the video below.