By Richard J. Cunningham
?It’s Goth appreciation month,? Rex whispered to me as we swilled espresso at Java N Jazz. A pack of twenty-something locals cruised through the cafe totally vamped out in black–lace, leather, lipstick and hair. The guys were virtual pin-cushions, the Gothettes looked a little better in heels than their male friends. The room grew silent. The Goths ordered drinks, paid for them and left without acknowledging the angst their costumes inspired among the onlookers.
?Yeah,? I chuckled, ?That’s us, riding in the bay area.?
?Say what?? Rex didn?t get it.
?Take a trail ride in Marin, You?ll find out quick.? I said, ?Every time I ride in Marin, I get treated like I?m a criminal element by the other trail users.?
?I was under the impression that Marin was the promised land for mountain bikers.” Rex stated. “Were you riding an illegal singletrack? I hear the locals are divided about what’s legal and what isn’t?”
“I stay legal in the Bay Area, but its tough to figure it out. The signs are removed regularly by cycling zealots and you can?t just walk up and ask anyone you meet if the trail you?re on is OK. Bikers maybe, but if you ask a hiker or an equestrian, the trail will always be closed to mountain bikes.? I assured Rex.
?You?re just bagging on Nor-Cal because you are a So-Cal guy.? Rex wasn?t buying my line, ?There are as many anti-bike people here as there are anywhere else.?
?No way.? I said, ?The folks I?m talking about don?t exist anywhere else on earth. The hikers dress in khaki-colored LL Bean pro bird watching outfits, They all use ski-poles or custom walking staffs. When you meet them on the trail they jump off the path like you?re gonna kill them–even if you pull to a complete stop.?
?I see hikers like that every once and a while,? Rex leaned back in his chair, ?I just say hello and ask where they are going and they spark right up.?
?Doesn?t work in the Bay Area.? I warned. ?If you say anything, the typical response is black silence. If you are lucky enough to illicit a verbal answer, it’s sure to be a lecture about how mountain bikes have no place in the wilderness and bla bla blah.? ?We?re not really talking about a lot of people here?? Rex smiled, ?Just a chance meeting every once and a while??
?No way,? I maintained, ?they?re crawling all over the woods out there–three and five at a time. Like somebody’s filming a British B-movie about Africa every weekend. It gives me the creeps. After a while you begin to develop a complex, like everyone hates you, or that you have some kind of disfigurement that sparks revulsion in non cyclists. You learn to avoid eye contact and pass by without exchanging words.?
?Just like that pack of Goths.? Laughed Rex, ?Maybe Marin should announce a Mountain biker appreciation month.?
?Or perhaps Mountain bikers should stage a Be kind to birdwatchers? event.?
I can feel the love already!