It seems that growth in the mountain biking "industry" is toward more extreme forms of the sport. Each time I flip through the pages of a cycling or outdoor magazine there are more and more images of mountain bikers soaring off of cliffs, balancing on 6-inch planks, and wearing motorcycle protective gear. Clearly these amazing feats make for some interesting eye-candy, but in the long run I believe these images may alienate the "traditional" mountain biker - riders who are passionate but not extreme.
Don't get me wrong. In every pursuit variety should be encouraged, but how can a sport grow beyond just a few passionate riders if nearly every image portrayed is of some impossible feat that only a few daredevils might ever attempt?
Images such as these Specialized ads will tend to drive most people away from the sport if they have not already been bitten by the mountain biking "bug." Unfortunately, they may also reinforce a largely false notion in the public's eye that mountain bikers are reckless and harmful to trails, hikers, equestrians, etc.
On the other hand, extreme sports are very popular with the 16-24 year-old demographic which could draw a new generation of young people into the sport. Also, extreme mountain biking calls for extreme bikes and components. This means that new and better technologies are developed by manufacturers to serve this high-end niche market and as such are eventually brought to wider markets (even dual suspension and disc brakes can be found on Target and Wal-Mart specials these days).
What do you think? Will images of extreme mounain bike styles such as freeriding, streetriding, and downhill help or hurt the sport in the long run?