It's amazing to me how many times I've seen this photo on Pinkbike, the "guy doing stoppie kissing girl" photo. This one's from the UK, but I've seen them from the US and Canada, from France, from Poland, a lot from Poland actually, from Russia, and even from the Phillipines and Indonesia. It's truly an international phenomenon, crossing all races, religions, and creeds.
I'll admit this one has a slight twist in that the guy and girl are both doing stoppies, but that does nothing to remove them from the kill list. If anything that only makes the case against her more damning, because it proves she knows anything about bike riding and was still complicit in this criminally, offensively stupid idea.
The only comfort I take away from the widespread proliferation of these horrific photos are these two thoughts that help me sleep at night:
If this many people have tried the "stoppie-kiss" picture, somewhere someone has bashed his teeth or even better his girlfriend's teeth in or broken a nose doing it. Knowing that's happened and savoring the thought of the awkward silence and shock after the toof-bashing gives me some sense of justice in this cruel, cruel world.
Even if the stoppie kiss photo worked out and no one got their teeth bashed in, my hope is that the shared experience and teamwork from the stoppie photo strengthens and enriches the relationship just long enough for the delusional misguided girl to discover that her boyfriend is an uncreative no-talent toolbag, but that this revelation of hers only comes after years of marriage, a whole litter of kids together, and maybe 20 years and 30 pounds later when her street value is down and she has to seriously consider the costs of going back on the market. So she finally realizes that the stoppie-kiss photo wasn't the kickstart to years of unbounded creativity and mutually shared aspirations leading to a lifetime of adventures and exciting new beginnings together, but instead it was a poor copy of someone else's idea, stolen in haste to prove to his girlfriend that he's totally into her and he wants to combine his love of riding with his love for her. Except he never really loved riding and he never really loved her, he was just using both as an external affirmation of his value to prove to himself why his parents should love him too instead of always showing their affection to his older brother Steve. They never gave him the attention he deserved. Steve was the team captain, 4.0 student, and on top of being a great boyfriend and later husband, proved in recent years to be a loving father and a great guy. Steve, Steve, Steve, that's all he ever heard about. But then he had mountain biking and he had photography, and that was cool, too, right? But he stopped riding in college, when he started the art classes to study photography formally, but with the art classes came the drinking. And the drug use. Up until all hours of the night with his art school friends, coming home too drunk to go ride the next day. And he was so angry after that. College changed him. He gave up riding a long time ago. And the photography is just work for him now, no love, no passion, just going through the motions so he can get to the end of the day and drink again. And it seems like that's all he does anymore, coming home drunk, even on weekdays, and when you bring up the bills or the broken refrigerator or the kids college fund he never wants to hear about it, he just goes into one of those rages, he's yelling and he's saying all those hurtful things. You know he can't mean it all, but it still stings when he says it. He knows where you hurt and he just keeps saying all those things. You tell him again and again that you didn't mean to go against him at the wedding last summer, that even his family was asking what was going on with the two of you and you felt like you had to come clean. Maybe they could help. And that's all you want now is just help. He was able to hide it for awhile, but now the kids are older and they know their dad isn't just "in one of those moods again." Everyone can see it, it's so obvious. And you just wish you could go back to those days, when you were still doing stoppies on your BMX. Things were so much simpler then. Sure you probably weren't going to "do anything" with your riding, you weren't trying to win races or "go pro," whatever that's supposed to mean. After all you were just a girl and it seemed like no one took girls who rode seriously back then. But the freedom. The freedom. And the simplicity. You could just go riding and forget about everything, it seemed like all the other worries slipped away. You wish you could go back there and tell that girl what you know now. You thought he shared that love of yours and you wanted to share that together, forever, but he wasn't in love at all. Would your younger self even listen to you? You were blinded by it, you would never have believed the truth. And now you're here, where you never thought you'd be. How did it come to this?
Anyway that's where my brain went when I saw the stoppie picture.
The International Mountain Bike Association throws the term "singletrack" around in all of their marketing materials, the above photo being just another hilarious example. I'm on their email and direct-mail lists, so every week I get something from the IMBA that says "give us money so we can build singletrack. If you don't give us money, you hate new singletrack trails."
In the past five years I've seen:
Very few new trails opened by the IMBA, none of them singletrack.
Existing singletrack trails closed or access restricted thanks to bargains or promises with land managers made by the IMBA or it's affiliates.
IMBA showing up and turning existing singletrack trails into "sustainable" sidewalks "for riders of all abilities."
Because "Likes don't help us make boring trails and tenuous and often-times unrewarding agreements with land managers" didn't have the same ring to it for IMBA's social media campaign.
I don't even care about singletrack that much. It's not my favorite-ist thing to ride, and it's certainly not my cause célèbre. If it were up to me all trails would be downhill trails, they'd be 20 feet wide, filled with death from start to finish, and you'd be happy to survive. Maybe the climbs would be singletrack, but that's sort of an afterthought. The climbs could all be gravel roads and that'd be cool too. I like riding singletrack trails I guess, but it's certainly not my calling in life and not what gets me up in the morning. If I had to choose between snapping my fingers and riding 20 miles of new singletrack or snapping my fingers and having a Taco Bell Beefy Crunch Burrito Box, I'd have to think about it for a while. I'd probably go with the new trail over the Taco Bell, but only because the Five Buck Boxes come with a 20 oz drink, and I need way more than 20 oz of Dew to wash down all that Taco Bell.
So much gastric distress for only five bucks.
The point is that my preference for or against singletrack doesn't enter into it. And maybe the IMBA does lots of good things for trail advocacy. I don't really know if that's true, but lots of people who I trust and respect insist that IMBA's lobbying efforts in Congress, in state houses, and with local land managers across the nation have done immeasurable good in changing the climate for legitimate trail building in the U.S. And maybe that's all true, but that's not what we're talking about here. We're talking about the IMBA and the very simple, very tangible idea of singletrack trails. What the IMBA is doing with their singletrack guilt trip campaign is the oldest trick in the book: the bait and switch.
Remember when Discovery Channel went on every talk show and radio show in America to make sure we tuned in to watch some guy get eaten alive by an Anaconda? And you were all, "yeah, I'll watch that. Homie could die, that would be awesome."
And he's going to be covered in pig's blood too? Put the TV on mute and turn up the Cannibal Corpse.
But then more and more information came out, and it turned out that instead of getting eaten alive and having to Steve Erwin his way out of there with nothing but pure grit and elbow grease, instead he was going to wear some massive zero-risk carbon fiber pressure suit with it's own oxygen supply, a complete diagnostic kit broadcasting his vital signs to nearby stunt handlers via bluetooth, and probably a shiatsu massage function and foot warmers.
And then you were all, "yeah, that's kind of weak, but I guess I'll still watch this spectacle because maybe the snake will die trying to swallow carbon fiber Darth Vader, and then it'll be great to watch these guys try to justify their excuse of 'raising awareness for anaconda conservation efforts' after they just killed one of these great majestic lumbering beasts with a 4th-grade circus act that could have been dreamed up on the back of a napkin while sitting around a table at the Denny's across the street from Motel 6, probably while eating pancakes at two in the morning after watching cable reruns of the original 'Anaconda' starring the great but Cajun-accent-challenged Jon Voight."
That's where my brain went, anyways.
Jon Voight had an airtight plan in "Anaconda" and he still died at the end of the movie, so there's still an outside chance that everything goes horribly wrong on this Discovery special and we have some quality television. I'll take that chance. So I'm in. You bought the hype, you made a bowl of popcorn and tuned in to Discovery on December 7 to maybe watch someone die, but probably just to watch an anaconda gag for 45 minutes with commercials, and all you get is an anaconda-sized case of blue balls. The snake constricts Darth Vader for, like, an hour or something, in what uncomfortably reminds me of that one weird aunt of yours hugging you for a little too long as you're saying your final goodbyes and trying to get out the door on what must have been the longest Thansgiving day of all time. And then once the holiday hugfest is over, right as the snake starts to eat Darth Vader the whole thing gets called off because it's "endangering Paul's safety."
Let me break it down for you:
That's what we want. That's why we came here. I did not come to the Discovery channel to watch a guy be safe with a 27 foot 2000 pound killing machine for 45 minutes.
I came here to watch a guy potentially get destroyed, hoping that everything goes wrong and the handlers can't get to him in time and we have an up close and personal HD view of that regretful look on his face as he realizes "hey, this snake is really trying to kill me right now." AKA the reason people watched Steve Erwin. AKA the reason people watched Siegfried and Roy. AKA the only reason people have ever watched live acts involving big scary animals in small spaces with unprotected human beings. Because, just in case everything goes wrong, we'd like to have front row seats.
It would be fine if they tried all this snake-eating-a-person stuff in private, and then when it flopped because this Paul Rosolie Herpetologist guy got cold feet at any sign of danger, the head honchos at Discovery said, "damn, that didn't work, I guess we'll just throw all this footage out and chalk this one up as a big miss." But they didn't do that, did they?
"Paul, our latest numbers show that if we just lie a bunch we can still get people to tune in."
Who knows, maybe they didn't think they were lying. That possibility is somehow even worse. Maybe they thought this whole thing would be "educational" no matter what the outcome was. So even though we don't get to see anything that could even be construed as scary or dangerous, or as I like to call it "interesting," maybe the bigwigs at Discovery bought their own BS and thought the 4.1 million people who tuned in would learn a lot of useful stuff about snakes and nature and conservation. So Discovery didn't "lie" (which is such a dirty word anyway) so much as they fudged the truth a little. It may not have lived up to our expectations, but weren't our expectations a little unrealistic in the first place? I mean, who actually thought that this guy was going to get entirely eaten by a snake anyway? I mean, sure, Discovery's own marketing materials were constructed in such a way as to lead you directly to that conclusion, but that's a little naive on your part as the viewer, isn't it? And really, it was for our own benefit after all, wasn't it? We all learned something.
Pinocchio never mastered the art of rationalizing and self-deception.
Yes, it's more disturbing and much more dangerous to deal with people who believe their own BS than people who just lie to your face for their own benefit. If you're able to lie to yourself, even a little bit, you can justify doing insane things in the pursuit of your chosen cause. The ends justify the means, right? And anyone who takes issue with all those pesky little facts and half truths along the way, well, they're just standing in the way of progress.
Great examples of little lies and half truths that, unchecked, got way out of control:
The Spanish Inquisition.
The Salem Witch Trials.
The rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, and ultimately WW2 and the Holocaust.
Matthew McConnaughey winning an Oscar. Someone should have said something before it came to this. Someone has to tell him he's not a real actor, right? Really, nobody's going to do it?!?
Anyway, that's what it's like talking to the IMBA.
In the Pinkbike comments everyone seems upset about the fact that Levi Leipheimer, a former roadie doper, was featured in the video as a representative of our industry.
Me personally, I'm more worried that everyone involved seems to think Levi's cornering form (as featured above) is acceptable for use in mass media. Riding as pictured above could set the entire industry back 10-20 years, back to the days of highposting with Johnny T in "ReTread."
I'll give it to Levi, though, his form is certainly "dynamic."
He's also a leading member of the Peter Verdone school of stem sizing:
Dan Atherton just finished answering questions over on Pinkbike, and I think I'm supposed to rush over there, watch Red Bull's new FREAKING TWENTY MINUTE video about him making trails, and then ask him a bunch of questions about Rach and Gee and reveal the borderline creepy amount we all know about their family.
On Reddit "Ask me anything" actually means ask me anything, so I took that to heart and delved into the serious questions TEAM ROBOT readers have been pining to ask Dan, or "Affy" as his friends and lots of people on the internet who've never met him but feel a close bond with him after watching hours of him riding and talking about riding call him.
Do you think Clay Porter's films are a little boring? Just a little? Maybe?
Why do Germans love Richie Schley so much?
What's your favorite Earthed movie?
What tire pressure do you run?
Would you consider going out with Madonna? She's really old, but she was married to Guy Ritchie once, and he's British. You're British. You two have a lot in common.
Your old Commencal team kits from animal had those concentric circles around the shoulders, and it kind of looked like you had body armor on even though you didn't. How do you feel about that?
What's your favorite Van Halen album?
You were sponsored by Nissan for a while. Do you have a bunch of sweet Nissans now? I really like the Maxima, it seems like a good blend of drivable power and good fuel efficiency.
Do you remember the Queen's diamond jubilee two years ago? That was great. Paul McCartney's still got it.
Do you run your suspension soft or do you like big front tires?
When you built hardline did you think Danny was going to win? He's short.
Do you prefer Chinese food or Mexican when you're in the states?
I'm guessing you're at Red Bull HQ right now in Santa Monica. Have you ridden the Ferris Wheel on the boardwalk yet? It's great, you can see so far from the top.
You guys were sponsored by Contour but they went out of business and then they got bought by Sony. Do you ever think about that before a race run?
A lot of companies have been going with much longer front centers, slacker head angles, and shorter stems lately. Being British, does it bother you that I said "centers" instead of "centres?"
How do you say Innerleithen?
How do you say Ruaridh?
Why does Richard Cunynghame spell his name so weird? Is that so people don't think he's Richard Cunningham? Did you ever confuse Richard Cunynghame with Richard Cunningham? Richie Cunningham was Ron Howard's character on "Happy Days."
Do you run wide handlebars compared to Greg Minnaar? I heard he runs 808's, which is also a great bass effect for hip hop.
Why do you use such a short shovel? My shovel has a way longer handle.
Do you drink beers ever, or are you always training? I train a lot, too, so we have that in common.
Do you like football at all? Or futbol? I don't speak spanish.
If you came to a fork in the road and one way said "Red Bull Hardline" and the other way said "Red Bull Crashed Ice" how much low speed compression would you run on your new 2015 Fox 36?
We didn't get a full list of answers to our most pressing questions, but Dan did take time to answer a few:
On his Hardline predictions (no mention of Danny Hart's height): No - I thought Brendan was going to win but he f**ked up.
On Richard Cunynghame's name: cos his mum and dad are posh
On Clay Porter's movies and whether they're boring: only the ones about me
Thanks for your time, Dan. We're here if you ever want the exclusive TEAM ROBOT interview.