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Are You a Dirtbag Mountain Biker?

Maybe it takes living in a mountain biking town to see the stratification so clearly, but no matter where you live it’s practically guaranteed there are some mountain bikers we like to call “dirtbags.” If there are trails, all you have to do is look and know what you’re looking for. You might be one yourself and not even know it.


Dirtbagging isn’t about money. You can be broke as a joke or riding around on $10,000 worth of carbon fiber. We know lots of guys and gals who drop serious coin on equipment and thrash the hell out of it. We also know riders who live on canned beans and slay it on full-rigid steel. Dirtbag culture isn’t about what you can afford; it’s about how you do it and why, and even the most deluxe of riders will understand what we’re talking about if they have enough miles in the saddle.

Dirtbag isn’t an insult—it’s a cherished moniker, fully embraced by those who understand that it’s not about how much you spend on your bike or your gear, it’s about how much you ride and how much you love it.    


Anyone can be a dirtbag. Doctor, lawyer, librarian, construction worker, dominatrix, CEO, graffiti artist—it doesn’t matter. It’s not what you do 9 to 5, it’s what you do before and after (and, OK, sometimes during). It’s about moving appointments around so you can squeeze in a longer lunchtime ride. It’s about getting dirty, sweaty, worn-out, and wasted on the feeling of ripping high-speed berms with a buddy hot on your back tire. It’s about cranking out endless dusty uphill switchbacks while the sweat pours into your eyes and the burn in your quads makes you want to puke, and (kind of) loving it. It’s about sneaking out of the office at 4:55 to beat the traffic jam on your local singletrack, and seeing a chainring grease tattoo on your calf the next day and feeling pretty good about it.

If you’re still wondering what a dirtbag is, and whether or not you qualify, here’s an easy yes-or-no quiz to help you figure it out (tally up your “yes” score and check the scale below for your results.):

Are You a Dirtbag?

  1. Have you ever eaten an energy bar from your pack that’s so old, it’s petrified into banana-flavored concrete?
  2. Do you keep patching your old tubes time and time again because the brand-new ones in your closet are “too nice to use?”
  3. Have you ever been on a “riding date” and been so stoked for the next section that you rode past the junction where you’d promised to wait for him/her, losing both your date and any chance of a make-out session?
  4. Do you wear only cutoffs and sleeveless shirts when you ride, and wonder why everyone else is so slow?
  5. Do you have a collection of 9/10ths-bald tires hanging somewhere in your garage, reeking of old sealant, “just in case?”
  6. Do you ever wish the purple-anodized-bling-bits fad would come back so you’d have something to do with your dusty KOOKA collection?
  7. Do you own, or wish you owned, a Pro-Flex frame?
  8. Was your steel hardtail frame made by a local guy who sells weed on the side to make ends meet?
  9. Does “tacky” describe a good thing in your mind?
  10. Do you have a secret potion made of hairspray, pixie dust, and yak urine to help keep your grips from twisting?
  11. Do you have a regular riding buddy who wears only cutoff jean shorts and sleeveless t- shirts and who crushes the whole group?
  12. Do you ever wish you could get your hands on some of that EPO, or whatever it is the Tour guys are using, just so you could crush that brutal climb on your favorite long loop?
  13. Do you rely on your participation in local riding events to keep your supply of riding socks fully stocked?
  14. Have scientists from the CDC asked to sample the bacteria growing in your chamois?
  15. Last but not least: would your farmer tan put actual farmers to shame?



Sorry, but you’re clean. You’re going to have to get a lot filthier to qualify for dirtbag status.


You’ve had some dirtbag moments, but you probably have a ton of other hobbies like macramé or fly fishing taking up valuable trail time. Get your priorities straight.


You can definitely call yourself a dirtbag, so long as there aren’t any real dirtbags around to show you what’s what. Welcome to the extended family.


You’re officially a dirtbag. Take a shower for chrissakes.

13 +

You’re practically a deity in the mountain bike world. Other dirtbags aspire to ride and live like you, if they didn’t have, you know, jobs and families and insurance and stuff.


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Photo Credit: Re Wikstrom