Dirt Rag: Culture of Dirt

Cycling is famous - or maybe infamous -  for its various “tribes”: roadies with shaved legs, tattooed, beer-swilling messengers, and fixie-mounted hipsters, to name just a few among many. Author Mike Magnuson has even written a humorous guidebook to these cliched groups called Bike Tribes.


It wasn’t always this way. The first breakaway tribe were mountain bikers, who rode on the first real alternative to the drop-bar ten or twelve speed road bike. With their fresh, free-spirited take on cycling that took them off roads and into the backcountry came a unique culture that almost - but not quite - became mainstream as the numbers of mountain bikers proliferated in the 1990s.


Philly Bike Expo sponsor Dirt Rag was there nearly from the start of the mountain bike boom. Based in Pittsburgh since its beginning in 1989, the magazine under the tutelage of publisher Maurice Tierney has always covered more than just the bicycles that are ridden off-road. Dirt Rag has both chronicled and promulgated the ethos of mountain biking, deftly probing the spiritual dimensions of a day spent pedaling in the woods.  


Which is not to say that the bicycle itself isn’t important to the mountain bike subculture. It was the development of the mountain bike that gave us things like suspension, better tire treads, optimal (and non-standard) wheel sizes, cassette cogs, stronger seatposts and stems, sealed bearings and disc brakes. The early efforts of pioneers like Tom Ritchey and Gary Fisher inspired scores of other indie builders who followed, many of whom will be exhibitors at the Expo.


It’s this independent spirit that Dirt Rag both nourishes and feeds from, and it’s the same spirit that’s never left the magazine. Always relevant but never mainstream, opinionated and often irreverent, Dirt Rag continues to place its journalistic digit on the pulse of this most American discipline of cycling.