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.):
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.
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.