By Richard J. Cunningham
Ever see an advertisement that shows a cyclist in a huge wind tunnel perched on a bike stand only a few feet away from its giant turbine blades? I’ve seen the image used at least three times. Did you know that the fans in a wind tunnel actually suck air through the tunnel? Yeah, that’s correct. Using a wind tunnel to measure the air flow as it passes around an object would be futile if the air was churned to a boil by a 200 horsepower fan. If the tunnel were actually turned on, the cyclist would be in a 60-mph tail wind.
The image may be ridiculously wrong, but the impression it creates evokes the intended response from the average viewer. Distortion of the truth is called ?artistic license? among photographers and marketing types. Exaggerating the sport with spectacular images is commonplace among mountain bike mags. We rationalize these white lies as entertainment, but ?hype? describes them better.
The truth is, real mountain biking doesn?t translate to film or video very well. Most of the time, we are tooling around on dirt paths, happy enough to be far away from the pressures of urban life. Yeah, we occasionally get some air time, and we even look stylish on occasion–but you never see mountain bikers getting giant air, with grimacing faces, wearing perfectly color-coordinated garb in the back country. For that, you have to visit your local dirt-jumping park, crack open an MBA, or watch the Gravity Games on the tele.
I’m not apologizing for the radical action we show in MBA. I’m setting the record straight: I trust that MBA readers know what real mountain biking is all about. I assume that we don’t want to pay money to see a bunch of snapshots of people just like us, so to amuse and entertain you as you peruse the book, we go to great lengths to stage flashy shots of stunt models who believe that risking their lives is worth the fame of a fleeting appearance in the pages of MBA. It’s cool to see somebody busting an impossible move, or blazing through a wheel-deep water crossing at thirty mph–but test models don’t have to pay for broken bikes and there’s always a photo crew around to rescue them if they get hurt. Real mountain bikers rarely have these options available.
I draw the line when it comes to wanton destruction in the name of a perfect photograph. I won’t put a shot of a downhiller doing helicopter runs down pristine slopes in the Rocky Mountains in MBA. We use motorcycle or ATV areas to shoot our berm-busting sand shots and we don’t rip up hiking trails in search of the perfect image.
MBA is the longest running Mountain bike magazine in the world, and our master plan is to keep the sport (and thus MBA) happy and healthy. We’re all about action, it’s our last name, but we are mountain bikers first. However radical a photograph may be, it won’t run in our book if it will put IMBA’s land access movement back a hundred years–and I promise you that if we ever use a wind tunnel shot, the guy will be facing the correct direction.