I rode with my friend, who I will call Gone. Gone is an amazing rider and given his high skill and knowledge of engineering and science, there are few who know more about bicycle design and mechanics.
There is one more thing I should mention about Gone: an uncaring, abrading desire to poach trail.
And we poached some trail. He said we are in the “Hot Zone”, meaning heavy patrolling by park rangers, and he advised me if the time comes, he is going one way and I go the other way. And most importantly, the trails we rode were sweet. Quiet single track with interesting rock and root technical features.
We did split up without seeing any rangers, and Gone ran up a staircase with his bike past several angry hikers to another sweet but verboten trail while I dawdled on a legal and non-confrontational fireroad.
Before our ride, I had The Boondock Saints queued up during breakfast. It is about two Irish brothers in Boston who take the law into their own hands to mete out justice to mobsters. Heavily stylized (which means cool looking but totally unbelievable), the central theme of vigilantism reminds me of rationale behind trail poaching.
When vigilantes feel the authorities are not doing their job, they become criminals but to serve good.
As a crime fiction writer, I pay attention to how vigilante stories are told. You need to have heroic figures with righteousness of purpose.
Trail poachers are typically associated with outlaws, riding illegally with no regard for anyone. But I do not see that with the people who poach trail. The trail poachers I know are some of the most active and knowledgeable in the cycling community, and all are trail builders.
Why the contradiction that trail poachers are often builders? Because poachers simply want trail access, and the surest way is to build and maintain sustainable trails.
There is another reason why riders poach trail and why we celebrate vigilantes: the thrill of breaking the law and our admiration of people standing outside the rules.
The evolution of “No Bike” rules are changing. They were created arbitrarily without input from cyclists. For example, national wilderness areas like Denali, 1.3mil acres which is covered with snow most of the year, bans bicycles except for roads and one short trail. Why were bicycles grouped in with motorized vehicles like ATV’s and SUV’s? It wasn’t damage that, let’s say horses, do to the trails, especially in extremely remote locations like in Alaska.
Today, most trail users recognize the strict rules serve little purpose but inertia prevents any quick change to them. Mountain bikers continue their quest for access by through working with the other groups, building new trail, and poaching.
Now real life vigilantes are hardly pure of heart like The Boondock Saints. But real life poachers are. Gone may enjoy annoying hikers and thumbing his nose at the authorities, and I may admire his audacity and his bike skill. But these riders desire to cause no harm. Just freedom from and eventually the riddance of ridiculous rules.
Editor’s Note: Sanjuro is a guest contributor and in no way does his story, point of view or ramblings represent the opinions of Bermstyle.com or any of their contributors, editors, or anyone else, living or dead in this multi-verse or others. His thoughts are his own, and that’s the way he likes it. This is his first contribution to Bermstyle.