It seems the term "hardcore" gets thrown around pretty loosely in athletic circles these days, especially when it comes to riding bikes. Naturally, some people like to brag about their accomplishments, and often times they describe their adventurous exploits as hardcore to friends, family and anyone else bored enough to listen.
Riding a century, doing a 50-mile mountain bike race, riding a singlespeed or commuting 20 miles to work every day would be considered hardcore in many peoples' books. But is it really? I mean, all four of those activities are no doubt definitely hard to do, and I don't want to take anything away from people who achieve those accomplishments, but they're not hardcore.
Because McMullen is legally blind, he depends on both the verbal instructions of guide riders and his own heightened sense of feel to get him down the trail. Suspension-maker SR Suntour has even tapped into his extraordinary sensitivity to help develop product.
Hardcore is riding a century with a ruptured lung. Hardcore is doing a 50-mile mountain bike race with one leg. Hardcore is riding the truest singlespeed of all-a unicycle-on rocky singletrack. Hardcore is foregoing car ownership and riding your bike everywhere because you have no other choice, not just to work and back because you want to do it for fitness.
What I'm getting at here is, whether or not what you do is truly considered hardcore, we are all physically and mentally capable of a lot more than we think. Perspective is everything, and when we surround ourselves with people who do truly remarkable things, it brings out truly remarkable inspiration in each of us to push ourselves out of our comfort zones, because outside of your comfort zone is when you truly learn who you are as a person.
McMullin sees his health issues simply as part of who he is. In this video from Lezyne, he explains that overcoming them is just something that's on the everyday to-do list.
You know who is hardcore? Bobby McMullen. Bobby has survived diabetes, kidney failure, two kidney and pancreas transplants, open-heart surgery, cancer and, oh yeah, he's legally blind. And guess what else? Bobby races downhill mountain bikes. That's right. He races blind.
So how does Bobby not careen headlong into a tree every time he rides? Bobby rides close behind guides and close friends like Mark Weir and Yuri Hauswald - not to mention his wife Heidi - who call out obstacles and tell him when to turn. Bobby crashes. He crashes hard. He's broken a lot of bones, but being legally blind isn't an excuse he uses to keep him from going out on his bike and making the most of life.
Bobby was the first visually impaired rider to do the legendary Megavalanche-a completely mental downhill race in the Alps with 1,000 crazed lunatics elbow-to-elbow jamming 19 miles off a mountain that drops 10,000 vertical feet. Some think racing the Megavalanche is hardcore. It's not. Racing the Megavalanche blind is hardcore.
So the next time you go out on a ride and think what you're doing is hardcore, think again. I'm sure what you're doing is hard, but is it Bobby McMullen hard? Most likely not. And that's perfectly okay. Being hardcore is reserved for those special few people who give true perspective on life and inspire thousands, even millions, to push themselves a little further and do more than they think they're capable of. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to go on a singlespeed ride that will definitely not be hardcore.
Editor's Note: The Angry Singlespeeder is a collection of mercurial musings from contributing editor Kurt Gensheimer. In no way do his maniacal diatribes about all things bike oriented represent the opinions of Mtbr, RoadBikeReview, or any of their employees, contractors, janitorial staff, family members, household pets, or any other creature, living or dead. You can submit questions or comments to Kurt at [email protected]. And make sure to check out Kurt's previous columns.