Mountain Bikes and Art

In my late-night wanderings across the internet, I happened across an article by Michael Shoaf, who is known for his work with automotive visuals and design. In one of his blog posts (which the more adventurous can read HERE), he poses an interesting question: why is there no mountain-bike art.

I’ve been puzzling this question for two days now, and I still don’t have a definitive answer. That being said, I think I may have a few reasons as to why we don’t have a MTB section in the AGO.

The first reason that popped into my head was “oh, well, biking is already so well-documented through photo and video!” This statement is true. In fact, I reckon that apart from BMX and snowboarding, mountain biking is quite possibly the most self-documented sport of the modern era. I myself have had several punts at the photography gig, with some being more successful than others.

One can thus argue that the works of photographers like Sterling Lorence, Dan Barham, and Sven Martin constitute art. In my opinion, they most certainly do. The same can be said with films like From the Inside Out, and Life Cycles. These people work hard to capture the soul of our sport, and I think they do a fantastic job of it.

The next thought I had was “well, maybe traditional art forms don’t know how to react to bicycles.”

Then I caught myself, and realized that SRAM’s pART PROJECT is a perfect example of traditional art working with bicycles. Out of this project, there has been a ton of really cool pieces that have emerged. Crafted from bicycle parts, the gallery of these art endeavours is truly fantastic.

Still, there seems to be a hole where more traditional art forms like paint sit. To be honest, I don’t know why more people haven’t picked up a brush and tried to create a mtb-focused painting.

Perhaps, it has to do with mountain biking’s history, and image as an “outsider” sport. We’re not like hockey or baseball, with nearly a century of history to draw on, and a massive following of fans to buy the related merchandise. Actually, I suspect that the reason there isn’t more commercial art is the fact that there aren’t millions of rabid fans to snap it up the second it comes out.

As an aside to that, I also suspect that mountain biking’s lack of art may also have to do with the fractious nature of our sport. People who love UCI XC racing may despise backcountry freeriders, and vice versa.

In the end, I think it comes down to a combination of all these things. As bikers, we’re spoiled with jaw-dropping images from the world’s best photo and videographers. There is some cool traditional art related to mountain biking starting to emerge, and given time, I think that section of the art world will grow. Ours is a new sport, with many divisions between its members. As it ages, and those who helped kick-start the sport grow older with it, a market for massive oil paintings of Geoff Kabush or Cameron Zink may yet emerge.

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2 comments

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. I’m still pretty new to MTB, so you bring up some points I hadn’t considered.

    I’m not sure if there really is an answer to all of this, but I’m working out some ideas I have. If nothing else, maybe I can use the pictures I’ll make as a way to share my experience on the bike?

    • Photos are some of the best ways of sharing our experiences on a bicycle. It’s hard to explain to someone that has never experienced mountain biking what the sensation feels like, but a photo can cross all barriers instantly. Take photos, lots of photos! Share them with friends and family, co-workers, people on the street. The best way to grow our sport is to share it, because you never know what may spark someone’s interest.

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