Winning honor (if not companionship).
It’s Saturday night, late, dark, and chilly, with dry leaves rustling on creaking tree branches. And as the reality of the season sets in, single people everywhere begin the annual quest for winter companionship. The only thing colder, darker, and bleaker than a Montana winter, is the idea of spending that winter alone. Of course, even with significantly more women improving Bozeman’s once-dismal suitor-to-sweetheart ratio, a single guy’s search for good company remains difficult.
The answer, of course, comes from the Rico Suave of the animal world: elk. And an elk’s answer to the problem of securing female affection is simple: put your head down and fight off the competition. Of course, two dudes running at each other on foot and butting heads is ridiculous. Not to mention expensive, as very few health-insurance policies cover court-ordered psychotherapy.
On the other hand, two dudes furiously pedaling bicycles at one another while leveling makeshift jousting lances tipped with bright-red boxing gloves—that’s just plain badass, and it’s the most surefire way to win the hearts of women everywhere.
This up-and-coming martial art weds a disorienting smorgasbord of chivalrous ideology, fitness, mountain-town angst, dude-bro competitiveness, hipster bike culture, gear obsession, comedy (because… bike-jousting), and explosive violence. In short, it’s the rut—but for humans. Humans with bikes. And no ladyfriends.
The rules are simple: two suitors battle for the affections of a mate. This mate, in all likelihood, has zero interest in either suitor. It is possible she is not even aware of the battle being fought in her honor. She just wanted a nice night out with her girlfriends and a decent glass of pinot grigio. No matter—the show must go on. Plus, even if the gal in question is oblivious, the spectacle of bike-jousting invariably attracts onlookers, any one of whom may be Ms. Right. Optimism is any unattached Montana man’s greatest ally.
Jousters need, at minimum, a bike and lance. Lances should not be sharpened, tipped, or otherwise modified to inflict serious injury. Remember, the idea is to emulate bull elk: embarrass your opponent and assert your dominance—no killing. Very important: no killing. In fact, we recommend padding lances with boxing gloves, both for safety and humorous effect. (Although urgent, impromptu duels outside the Molly Brown may necessitate broom-handles wrapped with bar towels; just keep the jousting distance short and the speed down.) Goggles, helmets, chest padding, and protective cups are also encouraged. And costumes. Remember, elk antlers are as much for show as they are for battle—so if you can’t be good, you may as well look good. And being at least moderately drunk helps, too.
Starting 30 yards apart, jousters pedal at top speed toward one another with the goal of unseating the opponent. Chest strikes are most effective, but glancing shoulder blows and well-aimed gut shots can work, too. Aiming for the groin, head, or any part of the bicycle merits disqualification. Actual contact with these off-limits areas warrants restitution, payable in beer, the amount commensurate with the pain inflicted.
In the case of a stalemate—both parties coming to their senses, for example—various other knightly challenges may be employed to demonstrate a man’s skill with his lance. Slipping one’s pole through a small metal ring (aka, a “dry run”) is the most common alternative crucible. Either way, the match lasts until one contender is beaten, or both are sober—whichever comes first.
By the time this occurs, the object of the jousters’ affections will probably have left with a smarmy “New Bozeman” guy wearing product in his hair and an ostentatious watch. In this case, it’s tradition for the embattled bike-jousting bros to drown their sorrows in beer, together. Companionship comes in many forms, after all.
Sure, this proud display of bullish desperation and medieval derring-do may be archaic, and machismo, and even a little dumb. But if two lonely guys are going to be ignored by eligible females anyway, they may as well beat the snot out of one another with sticks, on bikes. This is still Montana. Joust do it.