To throw in a few climbing analogies:
To me, trials is like bouldering or sport climbing - it’s straightforward to quantify difficulty so it’s not hard to measure progression in a sport.
Muni is like mountaineering. There are so many variables that it’s impossible to make general statements about what “hard” means, or what constitues progress, if you consider the entire genre of riding offroad.
For example - what’s harder, riding a 5 cm ladderbridge to a 3 metre drop, or 3000 m vertical of climbing on a 80 km trail ride? Hard riding in your local area, versus having the creativity and experience to take that same riding to a remote region in the world? High consequence easier riding versus low consequence but technically harder riding? Difficulty comparisons like that are pretty much useless, as is claiming that a particular competition type might determine a "best’ rider.
At minimum we have to limit comparisons to be kept within sub-genres in the sport, such as Freeriding, All-Mountain, or Cross Country. Even then it’s hard.
Correct me if I’m wrong but Justin I’m guessing you are talking specifically about Freeriding - ie. riding (mostly downhill) through the hardest terrain possible. And (separately) about films that manage to capture that part of the sport. For this side of the sport, progression is limited IMO by two things:
- That most people don’t have access to this kind of riding
- That in this kind of riding, harder usually equals higher risk, or at least higher consequence. That’s not necessarily the case for trials.
Both these factors limit the rate that the standard hard freeriding can grow, compared to other styles.
Also - the inevitable next step in freeriding is just barely starting now in our sport - slopestyle like in Freeride mountain biking, with riders pulling tricks on hard trails. For example what you’re doing on the north Shore and Mike Parenthea’s doing in Nelson, and a few European riders are doing. But that hasn’t really started much yet.
Also, there isn’t a culture of videography amongst muni riders like there is with street and trials. So the majority of technical muni riders pushing standards don’t shoot videos or participate on newsgroups. It’s important not to equate video popularity with sport popularity.
In terms of average technical riding standards, muni is definitely getting stronger. The 3 rides we did at the Cali muni weekend this year would not have been collectively doable by a similar size group 5 years ago.
In terms of riders pushing worldclass technical freeride standards, I’d say it’s growing slowly but not as fast as trials and street due to the limitations of #1 and #2 above.
What will always be the least popular muni styles will be the riding styles requiring multiple skillsets that usually aren’t present in the same person - hard technical combined with hard endurance combined with a hard place to get to; in other words All Mountain riding.
So, based on 24" to 29" muni sales, conversations with riders off the newsgroup, and general gut feel, I don’t think muni is dead at all, although I think you’re right that Freeriding standards are growing more slowly. I do think that the sport is currently diversifying and evolving and we have yet to see how many riders like to do the different parts of the sport.