First let’s get something straight: What’s extreme to you might not be extreme to the next person. And what’s extreme to that person might be tame to you. You see, “extreme” is relative. It means something different for everybody.
One thing everyone can agree on, however, is that when it comes to extreme sports, mountain biking-riding through the mountains on trails and dirt roads-is definitely one of them. Mountain biking allows riders to challenge themselves on difficult, steep terrain. It takes a vehicle that has been popular for nearly a century-the bike-and turns it into a tool for extreme adventure. Mountain bike racing draws experienced riders who think that just riding off-road isn’t extreme enough.
Even mountain biking itself has changed over time. Years ago if you owned a mountain bike, you were extreme. If you talked about mountain biking, you were living on the edge. You were extreme just because you were different.
Today it’s not that simple. Millions of people ride mountain bikes. To be an extreme mountain biker in 2007, you not only have to have a bike, but you have to know how to rip. You have to know not only how to ride but how to ride fast. Really fast. You have to tear down the steepest slopes, and up the hardest hills. You have to shred the gnarliest single-track and the muddiest forest roads. You have to be able to ride anything out there and do it in style. That’s extreme.
Today there are the X Games, a miniature Olympics for extreme sports. Athletes from around the world gather for this event to show just how extreme they can be. They climb ice cliffs, carve half-pipe walls on their snowboards, and jump out of airplanes with skateboards strapped to their feet. They compete to see who can grab the biggest air, who can hit the highest speeds, and who can perform the most difficult stunts. The winners are given gold medals and the title of “Most Extreme Athlete Planet.” Most extreme, that is, until the next X Games, when new athletes redefine what it means to be extreme.
Another version of extreme sports takes place behind the scenes, away from the glory that comes with television coverage and cheering crowds. These athletes prefer to play in the woods, alone with nature and the elements. They’re the mountain climbers, the backcountry trail riders, the explorers. They’ll never get a gold medal for what they do, and they probably wouldn’t want one anyway. They’re doing what they do because they love it, not because it attracts a crowd.
Most people agree that for a sport to be extreme, it has to be difficult-at least for the beginner. It must require specialized skills and techniques.