Brain Fart: Peer Pressure

When Laird Knight of Granny Gear Productions invented 24-hour mountain bike racing, he aimed to provide a format that engendered the camaraderie that pervades mountain biking culture. Harkening back to the early days of the 24 Hours of Canaan—with virtually the entire field camping side-by-side in a lumpy, muddy field just outside of Davis, WV and sharing the agony and ecstasy of a brutally challenging course—I’d say Mr. Knight got the formula correct from the get go.

At the time of those first Canaan races, tag-team racing was pretty much a foreign concept to mountain bike racers. But the format has proven wildly popular and has grown to the point where, on any given weekend, you can find teams competing in a 6, 12 or 24 hour race somewhere within striking distance.

Why has the tag-team format become so popular? Certainly different racers will have unique responses to that question, but for me it boils down to one simple concept: peer pressure. In a conventional, solo race, the only person I’m accountable to is me. Depending on how I feel on a given day, I might crush it until I feel like puking, or I might throttle back and keep the vital signs well below the red line—and feel not a bit guilty either way, regardless of the outcome. But, throw teammates into the mix, and it’s a whole new ballgame. Peer pressure rears is goading head, and urges one to drop the hammer and push beyond their comfort zone. And there is something magically liberating about those forays beyond the comfort zone.

For instance, in a conventional race I’d never have taken a half-dozen stitches to close a gash in my knee, and then get back on the bike and ride another lap. But that’s exactly what I did a few years ago at the 24 Hours of Snowshoe—on a very ugly course. Perhaps that was not the wisest decision I’ve ever made, but the pressure to not let my teammates down pushed me to keep riding at all costs. It’s all about the team.

Stitches

Riding through a minor medical situation is just one manifestation of peer pressure at 24-hour races. You can bet that peer pressure is part of the equation any time a racer with aching, lead-filled legs suits up and takes another lap, instead of throwing in the towel. I’d never have crawled out of a warm, dry tent to ride in a rain-storm at Allamuchy at 3:00 a.m. were it not for peer pressure. And god bless those poor, disoriented souls that I’ve seen pushing/riding their bikes on what appears to be their first-ever nighttime lap—now that’s taking one for the team.

The 2008 edition of the 24 Hours of Big Bear is exactly one month away, and I’m already feeling the pressure of being on a team. I’m not one to kill myself with training rides, but with Big Bear approaching, I’ve already penciled a couple "training races" into my calendar, to try and whip my slack ass into some semblance of race-shape for the event. I’ll still be the slowest guy on the 4-man team, but I figure owe it to my teammates to be in peak condition. It’s the peer pressure.

Bontrager Masters Team 2005

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