'90s version of jousting Updated sport: Boy Scout Explorers in Pasadena replace horses and lances with mountain bikes and foam rods attached to helmets. They use their skills to spear dangling rings suspended from arches.

April 26, 1996|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Jousting ain't what it used to be.

Forget the knight in shining armor atop his fiery steed and brandishing a deadly lance.

Here comes Jason Heath, cutting a dashing figure in his T-shirt and jeans astride his tangerine Fuji Discover SX mountain bike. His eyes narrow as he draws a bead on his target. Lowering his head he charges -- whoosh -- and snags his prey on his lance, a foam rod attached to the top of his bicycling helmet.

Saturday, Jason and five other members of Boy Scout Explorer Post 101 in Pasadena will put on two one-hour mountain bike jousting demonstrations at a rally for Cycle Across Maryland at Liberty High School in Carroll County.

The group of teen-age boys will be the first to admit that they aren't professional jousters.

"It was hard at first," said Jason, 13, a seventh-grader at Chesapeake Bay Middle School. "But after a couple of times, it got easier."

The purpose of mountain bike jousting is not to throw the opponent off his bike, said Mike McGee, owner of Mike's Bike Shop on Fort Smallwood Road and sponsor of the Explorer group.

Rather, the jousters make several passes through three arches to spear as many rings dangling from the arches as they can.

The winner is the rider who can snare the most rings, which are smaller and smaller in successive rounds.

Actual jousting "was phased out," Mr. McGee said with a wry smile. "We're talking about teen-age boys and liability suits."

Mr. McGee said the pairing of jousting and CAM is a perfect match.

"Jousting is the state sport, and the CAM people base everything in Maryland," he said. "I figure it's something Maryland can call its own."

He said he got the idea for the sport two years ago, after one of his customers who makes lances for jousting kept returning to the Pasadena store to buy handlebar tape for the lances.

Mr. McGee contacted CAM executive director Pat Bernstein, who immediately signed on for the demonstration.

"It's like the '90s version of the state sport," Ms. Bernstein said. "Jousting has this otherworldly image of 16th-century folks in heavy armor riding their horses. And having the kids update that and knowing that kids would be heavily involved appealed to me."

But not everyone can see the marriage between them.

"People at school think I'm nuts," said Patrick Ellis, 14, a ninth-grader at Glen Burnie High School.

"Jousting and bicycling -- they don't think they mix."

Chris Fountaine agreed.

"It's sort of an exotic idea," said Chris, 14, an eighth-grader at St. Mark School in Catonsville. "But it's imaginative."

Mr. McGee does lament the tradition that seems to be lost in the modern-day version of jousting.

"We're missing the pageantry," he said.

"Each knight was named and wore the color of his fair maiden. And kings were there. And the knights wore sashes. But that didn't go over too well. We're talking about boys here."

Pub Date: 4/26/96

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