My roommate’s boyfriend works at a bike shop, and he recently discovered a stack of Mountain Bike magazines from 1994 in the back room. They’ve been our bathroom reading material for the last few weeks, and have caused me to come to the following conclusion: I was born in the wrong decade. At least as far as mountain biking is concerned, things were undeniably cooler back then. Here’s why:
1. Awesome Outfits.
Of course this is number one. They say success in sports is 10% talent and 90% determination, but I disagree. Success in sports is 99% looking cool, and .5% each of those other two. If you look cool, you win, even if you don’t have the best time. Yes, this means that 1994 is winning.
2. Better writing
This one is just undeniable. I’ve been thinking my inability to finish any kind of publication lately is due to some sort of brain tumor or my facebook addiction- but I was wrong. I’ve been reading these magazines cover-to-cover, and not just for the pictures. I’m genuinely engaged! What has happened to writing these days? Why does it all suck so bad? In 1994 there actually seemed to be an artistry and some thought put into the pieces. Though maybe it was just that they used words like “biff.”
It’s possible that the reason I’ve had so much fun reading such outdated stuff is that the vibe from most of the mags is overwhelmingly positive. There are articles about people falling and getting up, balancing riding with “real” life, and facing their demons. It may seem a little quaint, or not edgy enough, but it’s actually refreshing. Instead of the latest wattage theory to stress over and fourteen ads for minutely different new seats, there was an article about how to tape your old seat back together. Though they do caution that “if it’s the post, you’re out of luck. Pull the broken post from the frame so it doesn’t, uh, well, you really don’t want to know… Just try not to forget you’re riding bareback.”
(then vs. now)
…Or fewer of them
With today’s economy and attitude towards the written word, most magazines need at least a 50:50 ad:edit ratio if they want to stay afloat. It seems this wasn’t the case in 1994, though it also doesn’t hurt that most of the ads read like articles. In 1994 ads were more like written sales pitches, as opposed to the countless, awkwardly sexualized photos of bike parts we see in most ads today.
5. Cooler Bikes
…Or more dangerous-looking ones.
6. Susan DeMattei
…Or more girls in general
I noticed a shocking number of articles about girls, or by girls, or for girls- and then I realized that the masthead of one magazine included sixteen women and fifteen men. These weren’t just the obligatory articles about a handful of (again) hypersexualized women racers- they were the masters rider with a concussion, the mom, and the girlfriend. Then you also get Susan DeMattei, with incredible talent and an ultra-classy attitude.
There were even articles from dudes encouraging women, or talking about the awesome ones they already knew. It’s a far cry from today’s whiny letters to the editor begging advice on “how to get my girlfriend to keep up.” Or “how to politely ditch my girlfriend without making her cry or break up with me.”
In 1994 there was a full range of role models, both male and female, and it gave things a decidedly more balanced feel. Maybe the reason why it seems that “sexy” is only way you can be a girl in sport these days is because dudes are making all of our media content decisions. It’s difficult to pick out more than one or two girls in the mastheads of any given bike magazine anymore, and it shows. You want to know how to get your girlfriend to understand your bike habit, or even (gasp) ride with you? Get some women in media, and not just the sexy ones.
I just wrote my thesis paper, and I’m in a kind of weird, compulsive citation mode. So for anyone who’s wondering, I got all this photo goodness from the Feb. 1994 issue of Mountain Bike Magazine.