It’s funny how we spend years developing and discovering who we are. Often it starts early as toddlers declare with gusto ‘no!’ with repetitive monotony, which further solidifies in the early teenage years and the discovery that indeed, parents aren’t the boss of you (so i’ll sneak out and go to that party!).
I exist in many circles, all of which have some bearing on my identity and how I see myself in the world. There have been times when all I cared about is being fit and fast, however the wisdom of age and inevitable responsibilities of life that creep up on us all have meant my time is shared with other very important parts of my life that also inform who I am; time as a parent, time as a partner, time as an emergency service worker, time as a freelance writer and a coach.
The title of this post is a misnomer, firstly because it doesn’t state what type of human I am imploring one to be, and secondly, because to err is human so anything goes…right?
Well…not quite. I am speaking about ethics more broadly, and relating to bike racing in particular. The longer I work in emergency services, the greater the grey area becomes in what constitutes being ‘good’. Indeed, life isn’t easily compartmentalised into black and white binaries, which can be difficult for people to process. My job has taught me that all people are faulty, but that doesn’t mean they are bad…just ‘human’. In fact I can honestly say I think I have only met one truly ‘bad’ human, amongst many prisoners and others who would typically be put in the discard box.
I believe it’s important to emphasise to people within the mountain biking community in particular, and in broader society, that being a ‘good human’ is a valuable asset. The mountain biking community has grown from a small group of very inclusive dudes on klunkers to a slightly larger bunch of people of all shapes and sizes riding anything from $200 K-mart bikes to $13,000 halo bikes. With growth comes diversity, and that’s not a bad thing. What can be not-so-good is when riders in the community lose sight of the bigger picture, and the reason mountain bikes exist at all (mates fangin’ around in the bush).
We have a wicked race scene up here in Queensland that, quite frankly, puts the National Series to shame with its accessibility, inclusiveness and participation. The problem both at local and larger events, emerges when we become so wrapped up in reinforcing parts of our identity that we feel are important to us “must race bikes, must not stop, must win bike race” at the expense of acting like a good human. Does anyone really care that you came 5th in B-grade in a local club race, except maybe your mum? (even then she may well be feigning interest).
If you pass a small child who has crashed and is crying in the bushes during a bike race, I know as well as anyone that you’re riding at threshold, your respiratory rate is 30+, and capacity for decision making is small. Do you stop? Ask if they’re ok? Keep riding?
What if you’re racing a local criterium and hear the snap, crackle and pop of carbon frames everywhere happen beside you?
In the end, we’re all just faulty humans living in the grey-zone, but I implore riders to think back to the camaraderie, good-will and spirit of the sport which is the reason many of us were drawn to mountain biking anyway, and make a choice to be the best human they can be. Because when it comes down to it, our identity is built upon our very earliest teachings of ethics (don’t steal, be polite, do unto others etc), and without that, does the other stuff really matter?