Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Showing Off or Showing How? On Bicycle Blog Exhibitionism

I've been having a discussion with a reader about "the exhibitionist culture of bicycle blogs" and more specifically, about "those girly bike blogs" that, in his view, are the most exhibitionist of all. This is a theme that keeps coming up now and again, and so I would like to say a few words on the subject. Certainly there are elements of exhibitionism to photographing yourself regularly and then posting those pictures on a publicly viewable website. My intent is not to debate this. But consider the possibility, that this element is not the main point.

Human beings tend to learn by doing - or at least by watching someone else demonstrating the doing, which automatically causes the viewer to imagine themselves in the doer's place. Pictures that show a real person - ideally the author of whatever narrative is being presented - performing the behaviour described in the narrative, are more engaging to viewers. In other words, a photo of me cycling through the park, followed by the text "and then I cycled through the park" will make the reader "feel" the experience more poignantly than a photo of the park alone followed by the identical text. This has been demonstrated countless times - mainly within the genre of empathy, motor mimicry, and emotional contagion research - and it is why instructional videos most typically have a human narrator who acts out the instructions.

Even in the absence of visual cues, first person narrative in itself is more engaging to readers than other forms of narrative. That is why fictional stories told in the first person, or personal accounts of events, are more interesting and memorable for most people than scientific writing.

As a graduate student, I once devised an experiment where participants were given sentences to read that contained identical information, but were phrased either in the first person ("I placed the shoe in the bedroom"), in the third person ("She placed the shoe in the bedroom"), or in the passive voice ("The shoe was placed in the bedroom"). When asked questions about the information later ("Where is the shoe?"), participants recalled it best when that information had been embedded in first person sentences.  An interesting side-effect of this, was that people also tended to give more elaborate answers about the first person sentences, frequently adding extra information. For example: "The shoe is in the bedroom, on the rug by the dresser." To me, this means that the first person voice encouraged the reader to use their imagination more, essentially re-enacting the sentence in their mind and picturing themselves taking the shoe to the bedroom. Where would they have put it? Apparently on the rug, by the dresser.

It does not take a huge mental leap to see how this relates to bicycle blogs. By telling personal stories and by posting pictures of themselves engaged in the activities they write about, the so-called "girly bike blogs" make the cycling experience more poignant and memorable to a world wide web audience (especially if the members of this audience are not already bike enthusiasts) than dry, technical blogs ever can. While I seldom post diary-style entries where I discuss what I did that day, what I wore, what I had for lunch, etc., I enjoy other blogs written in that format very much and I find them helpful. Blogs like that do not only introduce ideas as mere concepts: They enable viewers to imagine integrating those ideas into their own lives. To call it gratuitous exhibitionism is to grossly undervalue their impact on audiences.

When it comes to females in particular, there are layers upon layers of self-consciousness about how we are perceived by others - formed by too many social, historical and evolutionary factors to mention here. But... so what? Depicting yourself as an actor - rather than a passive narrator armed with academic phraseology - is a means of connecting with an audience that is emotional and visceral. That might make it disconcerting to some, but it also makes it effective, as it taps into the most basic mechanisms underlying the human desire to communicate and learn. Sure, on some level, it may be showing off. But more significantly, it is showing how.

74 comments:

  1. I've worked in technology for over 10 years and have heard co-workers and managers discuss their opinions about the birth and growth of blogging. Many will immediately say it is about ego, to show the world "hey look at me and what i have, what I do, what I think I should tell you". But, I think the growth of blogging and social networking has proven this wrong. This post hit the nail on the head. People need to learn about things, otherwise how will you know? It's nice when someone else has already invented the wheel. I rather hear a complete review of a product before buying it, if possible. How would I know about the nuances of each bicycle? I certainly can't purchase every make and model out there so I rely on others who have tried particular ones.

    In the end, I think it is the egotistical type themselves who negatively spin the usefulness of a blog. Everyone else is appreciative of the information whereas the truly egotistical doesn't like the spotlight on someone else. :-)

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  2. I find it amazing that anyone needed to question you about this. It certainly never crossed my mind. That the question was even asked though does reflect those layers of social conditioning you refer to, both in female and male minds. Please continue to show how; I appreciate new ideas and new ways of considering what I do and how I do it.

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  3. boomerchop - It's even better than that. This was a friendly reader, and he did not so much question me, as wondered what I thought about those other blogs, "where girls mostly show off their outfits and don't know much about bikes" : ) I think that made me more annoyed than had he been attacking me per se.

    Anyhow, the reader is a good sport and gave me permission to quote him and so on. But comments about this issue at large (not my blog, but more the fashion/bike blogs) pop up online fairly frequently, including a vitriolic thread on bike forums that had to be shut down, with some of the posts removed by moderators.

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  4. This morning I cycled to work in my "normal" clothes surrounded by fluorescent yellow and lycra-clad cyclists. It has felt at times like I need to conform with them... maybe to wear at least a little fluorescent yellow, just to fit in.

    So I'm grateful to those bike blogs who show me that I don't, and that I can still just be me and wear what I want whilst riding a bike! :) I think these blogs are doing well to encourage people to take up, and keep up cycling by showing another way of doing things, which for many of us isn't the one that we'll see when we're going about our day.

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  5. That's exactly what my wife says:
    "you, put your shoes in the bedroom!"
    but it is hard to remember.

    I like the last picture, are you in trouble? Is someone following you? Ride, you fool, ride!

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  6. I appreciate your reader's willingness to put himself out there, if anonymously.

    There is probably something threatening about good-looking, well-dressed women talking about some aspect of bicycling that the reader and his ilk look down on. I don't know if it's because they feel superior because they think they've opted out of the style system, or if they feel like their interest in bicycling is more "pure" because it is more technical. . . who knows? I do think, though, that there's room at the party for everyone and no need to deride someone else's way of engaging something. I like both kinds of blog and this one especially because it allows for intelligent commentary on ALL things related to bicycling.

    Truth: People who *choose* to wear a sack-like linen bag dress out of some idea about being antifashion do not like it when you blow them out of the water whilst wearing an old, but very excellent, McQueen suit :).

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  7. As a woman who has started biking more as a result of significant changes in domestic, employment and financial circumstances in the last year, I have to say suddenly NEEDING to bike has been really intimidating. There is a big difference between pedaling around the neighborhood when you are 10, and taking you bike and toddler to go to doctors appointments, buy groceries and generally get through a day without a car.

    There isn't a friendly bike shop (that I have found) in my town. I didn't know that having your hands go to sleep while biking wasn't just part of biking until I read it here. When I went into the local shop to ask about adjustments, the 20 something sales GUY (sorry, but I just can't call him a gentleman), told me that was just a byproduct of upright bikes and tried to sell me on a $2000 high performance mountain type bike. He was completely baffled by and tried to deflect my questions about grocery carrying capacity. Although, he was sure to point out that they could sell me a back rack capable of supporting 200lbs of gear, when I asked how I would use it to carry a jug of milk, he looked at me like I had started speaking Klingon.

    I don't have the budget for the bikes you review here, but I do have similar transportation needs and I appreciate that you can teach me things without being condescending. I like that you talk about biking as transport not a recreation and that you address practical issues to help make it work on a daily basis.

    Reading this blog every morning encourages me when it is -30 outside and I am snowbound, that I will be able to make this whole no car thing work again. So..... a great big thank you from somebody's mom.

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  8. Incredibly well written :)

    When I started to become interested in bikes as everyday transport I was intimidated by the overall image of fast, aggressive, lycra clad cyclists I saw around and read on the Internet. I slowly gave it a go, but always timidly (i.e. using my bike rarely). My turning point was coming across the LGRAB blog, when I saw and read Dottie's and Trisha's stories and experiences I thought I wasn't so mad after all in wanting to use my bike, everyday in my 'normal' clothes, so I gained confidence...

    By reading such 'showing how/off' blogs enabled me to persist in my bike interest and eventually become part of those 'showing how/off' women cyclists' blogs, who want to record and share that bikes are for everyday use with fun as well as being a very efficient mode of transport!

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  9. That's exactly what my wife says:
    "you, put your shoes in the bedroom!"
    but it is hard to remember.


    : ))

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  10. If this man disapproves of the blogs, he does not have to read them. I recognize the subtext of his comment is the ethos of modesty I grew up with: wear a slip with that dress; speak in a soft voice; don't call attention to yourself. There is nothing wrong with that way of life. And there is nothing wrong with a (braver?) more public life.

    By the way, V.: I see nothing immodest about your blog. You do not set yourself up as an expert, but take us along with you as you learn. Thank you.

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  11. I "sometimes" leave my shoes under the coffee table in the family room. "Sometimes" I can't find them where I left them. The wife says she put them upstairs, leaving me to hunt through 4 bedrooms upstairs to find them.

    But seriously, I started riding about a year ago and found a handful of blogs to read. I look at yours everyday and really enjoy the pictures you post, sometimes for content, sometimes for more artistic reasons. Case in point, the first picture with this article, I love that you are the right frame but your face is not seen. Your face would have pulled the viewers attention to you, instead of the scene.

    I have also learned a lot that will go into my next bike purchase, for that I sincerely thank you.

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  12. Excellent but...
    "...genre of empathy, motor mimicry, and emotional contagion research"
    threw me for a minute, or two... ahem. :^)

    I am amazed that no matter what is said there will be someone who takes issue with it. I am happy that there are blogs showing people in their "normal" outfits. Sometimes I wonder how bloggers make it without throwing up their hands in frustration. For me, pictures are always very helpful. When I buy a bicycle part I am really pleased if there is a video showing someone putting the part together/on. It makes a huge difference to me to SEE how it's done as opposed to just reading directions. I remember when I first saw a blogger wearing a dress in heels riding a Dutch City Bike. I was amazed. I had to show my wife and others the video. Yes, you can read that it is possible but to see it done sold me. I figured if she could ride in her normal clothes my regular clothes would be no problem at all. I then bought one myself!

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  13. I am a female reader in my mid-40s, and I read several "girls and bikes" blogs. To my taste some (definitely not all) posts on these blogs do strike me as showing off rather than showing how. I think a lot has to do with the style and subject of an individual photo. (I rarely have issues with text.) I respond more favorably to documentary-style photography, even of clothing choices, than I do to would-be fashion shoots of the author, which make me squirm in a blogging context. But...chacun a son gout! I'm obviously not the target audience for such things.

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  14. This is all very interesting, and definitely pertinent, given the recent proliferation of cycling blogs out there-- both technical and, um... "girly" (not my words, but referencing above).

    But I wonder how much difference gender makes when absorbing information and how ques that are visual, textual, or other, get integrated and processed in males versus females. For example, I am far more visual than textual, and have a limited attention span (too much TV growing up?). Therefore I tend to "scan" the more "girly" blogs, barely reading the text unless I can't get the gist of the information directly from the photos. It is only IF I can't get enough information from pictures that I bother to read the text, and even then, I only read what I need to get the gist of what's being presented. For these blogs, there's only a few that I scan, and I don't come away with much of what *I* would consider useful (that is not to say that others wouldn't). If anything, most of what I come away with is ideas and notions of photographic form. I learn to take better photographs because I am studying more photographs. I'm not necessarily looking for more.

    Your blog, on the other hand, is different, in that you often present mini-dissertations on social phenomena, and use photographs to complement the ideas presented in the text and provide some loose context for them, not to reiterate or explain them per se. Does that make any sense?

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  15. "What is the use of a blog," thought KFG, "without pictures or conversations?"

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  16. somervillain - Speaking in terms of statistical tendencies, females tend to be more visual, they tend to have better developed empathy-related processes, and they generally tend to process "social information" (i.e. information about people) better than "abstract information," which is probably why such blogs appeal more to women than to men in the first place. But it would be more accurate to say that people overall tend to learn better via visual/social/empathy-based channels than via abstract ones, and that in women specifically this preference is even stronger. And of course there are exceptions to it all as well...

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  17. Anon 10:04 - I know what you mean about awkward would-be fashion shots (my last picture attempting to be an ironic example of such). But on the other hand, it is rather fascinating to see "real women," whatever that might mean, reclaiming the sphere of modeling. For the first time in a long time, there is real variety of body shapes and ethnicities out there for other women to look at when they are seeking fashion inspiration. That strikes me as a good thing.

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  18. Velouria, that is an interesting point I hadn't considered. I guess I have been old-fashioned enough to feel as though trying to rig a fashion shoot of yourself (as opposed to just taking a snapshot of your outfit that day) was pretty darned "forward." But I like your interpretation of it as taking over the modelling world. I can definitely get behind it in that context! ;}

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  19. What kind of twist of one's knickers would prompt someone to criticize how you write your blog? You write well, the photos are fine and I lean things about bicycling here.
    Keep up the good work.

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  20. I look at fashion mags because I like the photography from a technical point of view, but for fashion I just browse street shots from around the world on the web.

    Fashion mags are full of things somebody wants you to buy; street shots are full to things people want to wear.

    Where do you think the fashion designers get most of their ideas about what people might buy from?

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  21. I agree with a lot of what @somervillain says. I have ZERO interest in fashion. I almost never wear skirts anymore. But after seeing women biking in skirts, I went to the thrift store and bought a couple and tried it. I wouldn't have done that if I hadn't seen other women do it. High heels, OTOH, are a no-go for ME! The last time I wore heels was when I got married 7 years ago.

    But on the whole I'm lots more interested in the how-to, why-to, and what-works discussions.

    But like Velouria, I do like seeing women of all shapes & sizes and ages on bikes these days.

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  22. Anon 11:07 - The way fashion influences real women and vise versa is a complicated - and, to me, very interesting - process. When I was younger, I dabbled in modeling very briefly. The way it works, is that you are basically paid to be a walking vessel for a particular designer's vision. You are not you, you are the dress - that is made very clear by the people directing you. You project whatever personality, emotion, and body type is envisioned by the designer for that dress, or that collection. With that much emphasis on the garment over the individual wearing it, even at the consumer level women get the message that it is about the clothing and not about them. They are expected to conform to the clothing - And if they don't look good in it, then it is their fault for not "looking right", rather than the designer's fault for not accommodating to realistic body types.

    But once in a while we see a phenomenon where a real-life woman, usually because she is famous, comes along and undermines the garment-centered approach, and real women everywhere rejoice, as a period of the fashion industry catering to "normal shapes" sets in. One stereotypical example is Jackie Kennedy, who did not have a typical model's face or figure, yet became a style icon not only for women at the consumer level, but for the fashion industry itself. Jackie's body type and non-standard facial features led to a change from the formulaic beauty of the 1950s that was welcomed by many.

    Today, the "fashion blog" universe, be it with bikes or without, are doing the same, only on a massive scale. Gorgeous women with pear-shaped figures and popular blogs are making designers realise that if they don't create outfits that look flattering to that figure, the self-made fashion icon won't wear it, and thousands of viewers a day won't be exposed to it - being instead exposed to their competitor's outfit. And, well, you get the idea. "The people" are changing fashion to cater to them - hopefully once and for all.

    Okay, I think I am done now : )

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  23. Good point, but I still have two questions. Are these rail tracks? And what are you doing on them? :)

    Nico

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  24. I just recently had a free print giveaway on my photography blog, in which I asked entrants to write a comment about a place they have traveled, or would like to travel. I picked the winner randomly, and after announcing the winner, a guy who hadn't entered the giveaway felt the need to comment and tell me that it was stupid that I asked people to write an "essay," as he put it, and then didn't grade them on their essay, but rather chose randomly. To him, having people share their stories was completely pointless because I didn't pick the winner based on the stories.

    I think this betrays a similar issue - I feel it's important for people to share their stories, their lives, to know each other and be known by each other. Obviously, you need to do that with people who are close to you physically, who you spend time with, etc. But I think the Internet promotes a level of anonymity that is unhealthy for communication, so I think trying to break that up a bit is good, and I think visibly reminding people that there is a person behind the writing and ideas is helpful in fostering rational, reasonable discussion. The more it feels like people are talking to you (and each other) face to face, the better the discussion will be.

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  25. To answer Dave at 9:27 and Zweiradler at 12:30:
    What you see on the last picture is the cable along which V pulls herself forward when the going gets tough, i.e. when the rail tracks go uphill. Here in Holland we have foot and bike ferries that work on the same principle.

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  26. I once had a teacher who justified his subscription to Playboy magazine because he "liked the articles." I suspect that I would continue to read Lovely Bicycle! even if it was all text and no pictures because I appreciate the eclectic bike-related topics, and of course the commentary from readers. Alas, I'm hopelessly addicted to bike porn, so please keep doing what you're doing.

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  27. This post is so spot on.

    You know, I am a girl that doesn't know A LOT about bicycling. But I can honestly say that by reading blogs that showed other women cycling on their beautiful bikes in their beautiful clothes inspired me. I still may not know a lot of the technical bits, but I am riding a lot more because of these kind of blogs. So how can these blogs be anything but a good thing?

    What's more, most of these blogs have more substance than just their looks. They are smart and pretty. Definitely an intimidating combination.

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  28. I have been a journalist, author and travel writer for quite a while now, about 25 years, and for some pretty decent publications,and what's more I know a fair bit about cycling and touring, and frankly I think you do a damn fine job with this blog. Yours is the only blog on any topic that I read and I read it regularly. And while it has a feminine slant, there is something in here for everybody. It's very skillfully balanced in that regard, and the use of the first person is well done and well judged.

    In short, a nice piece of work - long may you continue.

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  29. FWIW, I find your blog most refreshing in all of it aspects. I find the lack of mega doses of testosterone that often make simple discussions a chore because all involved simply have to be "right" when there is no "right" there is only opinions.

    I like the lay out and I really like the well taken photos that help share your point of view with all of us.

    If someone were to ask me what I'd change about your blog all I could say is........Not a thing. Not a thing. :))

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  30. I can't think of another blogger who could have addressed this as you did, without defensiveness.

    This topic normally leads to screeds and rants, which I skip over as though they were pop-up ads. The only thing less bearable than someone taking time to criticize a blog is listening someone defend a blog against peanut-gallery criticism.

    On LB, however, it becomes a teachable moment and is the subject of rational, patient examination. Well done.

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  31. MT cyclist: the design directors of the big three auto firms always gave their industrial designers Playboy to read before designing new cars. Both cars and Playboy were better looking back then, I think.

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  32. You don't have to apologize for anything, esp. to a mean man. This is a great blog.

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  33. Hoo-ray!
    Think about all the crap on the internet, then think about "Lovely Bicycle"...

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  34. And I am surprised by the hostility of some of the commentators to the anonymous correspondent. It sounds as though he was civil and raised a reasonable question.

    What precisely is wrong with critique and debate? It seems to me that a blog, by its very nature, is an invitation to comment. All comments will not be sycophantic. So much the better.

    I would be more intrigued by comments on the actual issue he raised of exhibitionism (yes/no) then vapid what-a-nice-blog comments. But then again, I love a thought provoking debate.

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  35. This is one of two blogs that I read every day. Need I say more?

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  36. "Both cars and Playboy were better looking back then, I think."

    Back then Playboy was even worth saving for the articles. Now I'm not so sure it's worth saving for the pictures. Someone there is really into Ivanna Trump, Paris Hilton and watches way too much CSI. Enough with the frickin' orange filters already.

    Anyway, back when Playboy looked good they made a big point of not using "models" for their models (well, at least for the models they were actually selling, rather than the models they were using to sell other things). There really was no Playboy "type" (well, other than young) at all. I think this was more influential along that line than Jackie B-K was, although I'll give Jackie credit for making it OK for a proper lady to wear pants.

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  37. "Both cars and Playboy were better looking back then, I think."
    ...
    "Back then Playboy was even worth saving for the articles. "


    I don't know, but I've never liked the pictures in Playboy; there is something overly saccharine and staged about them. I prefer it when a magazine picks a genre and commits to it, as opposed to trying to be something in between. As for the articles, I wouldn't know - can't really get past not liking the pictures.

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  38. Anon - It was not my intent to evoke compliments, or to suggest that the person whom I quoted was criticising me. He was asking my opinion on the topic and we discussed it over the course of a few emails. I do not agree with his perception of the women's bike blogs he mentioned. But I also know that he is not alone in his views. It is an interesting topic, is all, and the point where I grow annoyed is when people get mean or disrespectful. There is a difference between that and debate.

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  39. Velouria - Maybe you had to be there at the time, it was totally unlike anything there had ever been before. Kinda like Sgt. Pepper or Star Wars.

    A lot of the photography was actually rather like that seen . . . here.

    It changed in the mid 70's and I've never much cared for it since then. It changed again about the turn of the century, into something I think your description matches more than it used to. I'd even call it "plastic" now, which they used to take great pains in avoiding.

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  40. Anon - "I would be more intrigued by comments on the actual issue he raised of exhibitionism"

    I would say there is a difference between showing yourself and showing yourself off.

    There are cultures in which nails are not supposed to stick up. Scots and Irish are among these and these had a huge influence in developing American culture. It's one of the reasons why American culture can seem so "schizo," worshiping celebrities, but loving when they get "knocked down" even more.

    I'd point out that back in the day nails on roofs were intentionally left sticking up. It kept snow on the roof, which kept the house warm, which kept society congenial; and we are social animals.

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  41. Erin (9:34) - It took me several months after I first started visiting bike shops to actually be able to ride a bike again for the first time as an adult. The reason being, that none of the bikes I tried made me feel comfortable to even test ride them, let alone buy them - and this was only 2 1/2 years ago. Later it turned out that most bike shops in the area actually did have "regular" upright transportation bikes, but you had to know how to ask for them. Crazy.

    As for racks, it makes more sense financially for a bike shop to sell you an inadequate bike and then sell accessories separately, than to sell you a complete bike for which you will never need accessories. Sad but true. A good bike shop sacrifices short term financial interest for the customer's best interest, but not all bike shops are good bike shops.

    I do try to review bikes that are affordable - see for example the D2R Boogie, the Trek Belleville, the Specialized Globe, and the KHS Green, the Batavus Old Dutch, and the Abici test ride reports - all bikes in the $300-850 range. What bicycle did you end up getting?

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  42. Why did you even have the conversation with this person in the first place!? There´s nothing here to defend or explain as far as I can see? "girly blog"!? Is this a girly blog? Not as far as I can see! It about bikes written by a woman...

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  43. As a bike blogger myself, I can emphathize. however, you must realize that "bike as a fashion accessory" certainly exists as does "bikes as a technical accomplishment", "bikes as transport", and "bikes as an athletic tool".

    There are probably other points on this radar chart of velocipede appeal as well.

    To which part of this radar chart any particular rider gravitates will probably determine their amount of appeal or disdain for the points of attraction.

    And like so many things, that appeal/disdain is a matter of degree.

    So while you may not think of the blog as much of a fashion blog, to someone who is attracted to biking for a different reason, it may seem just that.

    "C'mon! It's called LOVELY Bicycle." they might say. "How can it NOT be about fashion?"

    Or, to an occasional leisure rider, the blog may seem like it appeals to a hardcore athlete.

    "She doesn't drive a car! She rides everywhere. This blog is for hardcore riders."

    Etc, etc, yadda, yadda. It's a matter of degree.

    Cheers and keep up the good writing.

    JS

    http://www.flyingpigeonproject.org

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  44. as a "girly bike" blogger i think it's crazy to even try to accuse us of being an "exhibitionist culture," like if a bike is something that we can all just jump on and smile the whole way through from point a to point b and say "wow! that was like so easy and fun!" we don't need another opinion of us, we get enough on a daily basis so show us some respect! either way we've got nothing to prove to anyone or to another man because we deal with too many of you on the road anyways, don't hate. xoxo, cgr.

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  45. The funny thing is, that human civilisation has always been an "exhibition culture", as well as a "voyeurist culture"; this is not a phenomenon new to blogs or even televised media! People have been dressing up in their best to promenade along the main streets for centuries, people have been inventing games, performances, balls, feasts and other events just to be seen by others and to see others. It is in our nature and every new media invents new ways of facilitating it.

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  46. "human civilisation has always been an "exhibition culture". . ."

    Yes, and there's always been a Diogenes to say, "Poo!" at it; as well as a Plato to point out that that is just Diogenes' way of showing off. :)

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  47. This is such an interesting discussion.

    What is exhibitionism, really, but self-display devoid of context or for its own sake? On the other hand, one cannot engage in any artistic pursuit without revealing oneself in some very important ways -- not doing so ends up being a dissertation vs a poem, or literary story. For a poem to be a poem (or a story to even begin to earn the "literary" label), it needs to make an emotional connection with the reader. And no example of writing can achieve that emotional connection if the author did not feel it; did not find some magical combination of words and images and narrative to give it voice. Such writers have to be fearless, of course, to reveal themselves in this way, even if fictionally. But it is not exhibitionism because it is for a larger purpose -- to explore emotional truth in an artistic (and entertaining) way.

    Your blog does something analagous. It's not bike porn or self-display for its own sake. That's pretty self-evident. Keep doing what you are doing, please!

    (As far as the memorability of "third person vs first person" goes -- that's fascinating....though perhaps to quibble: a writer can adopt a literary technique whereby s/he uses a distant 1st person narrator OR a close 3rd person one, and then, arguably, as a reader you'd remember the latter better since you'd be more "inside the head" of that close 3rd person narrator. These are the questions that keep literary appreciators (not sure about the lit exhibitionists!)happily occupied for hours..... almost but not quite as good as reading a really good bicycle blog that is full of intelligence, information and surprises.

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  48. I'm not a girl and I'm not particularly interested in fashion or photography, but I do very much enjoy this blog and have been reading it regularly for months. Keep up the good work, Velouria. Ransom V.

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  49. The more I think about this, the more I can't help feeling that two different issues are being confused. One is the use of illustrative photographs as a visual teaching tool ("showing how"). The other is the use of photography as a medium for self-expression and self-affirmation -- perhaps even self-promotion, depending on the aspirations of the blogger. Others may see this as "showing off." (At the least it is fair to say that the blogger herself, rather than "today's lesson," is both subject and object of this second kind of photograph.) Nothing inherently wrong with this, but "showing how, to the best of your ability" and "showing yourself to the best advantage" are simply two different agendas. If you are not drawn to the latter style of photograph, it doesn't (necessarily) mean you are "missing the point" of using photos to teach, which is what it seemed as though Velouria's post was suggesting. Did I read it incorrectly? By the way, I genuinely appreciate the photography and written detail on this particular blog.

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  50. Deborah - I would say that it isn't possible to separate or disentangle the two. A picture does not have to be intentionally "trying" to teach or show how to do something; our brains simulate what the person in the picture is doing regardless of intent, because it is an automatic process. So I guess my point is that even blogs with the explicit agenda of self-promotion and exhibitionism, can be greatly useful to viewers - more useful than blogs with "nobler" causes that do not offer the same degree of the author's personal involvement.

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  51. Er, write on! Feminism and the other liberationist critiques of modernity have pretty much done in its myth/cult of objectivity. The obituary hasn't been read by everyone yet, though. For my part, I want to hear from a subject. Thanks, Velouria.

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  52. living your life out loud allows others to begin to do the same. thank you, velouria.

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  53. To me, it seems like another one of those cases, where something is discounted or seen as "lesser" because it's something women do. Yes, there are a lot of blogs of women discovering bikes, women who ride loop-frames, women who like clothes.

    When I first started biking I wanted to tell everyone about it--I had discovered this amazing thing! And now that I hope to get more seriously into touring, I wanted to start writing a blog. I have a livejournal that I use as a, well, journal; but so many of the entries became about nothing but bicycles, and things I did on my bicycle, and there was maybe three of my friends who really read those entries! So I started a blog.

    Mine doesn't have any kind of emphasis the way this one does, and that's fine. I think the growth of women blogging about bicycles--whether they're racing, or carrying kids and groceries, or showing off the fashionable outfits they ride in, or better yet all of the above, is just fantastic! In most American cities, men still far outnumber women in the bike lane, so anything that encourages ladies to get on two wheels is a good thing.

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  54. It really just strikes me as a silly question to begin with. Different blogs serve different purposes. My own is completely self-serving. I was going for rides, which I enjoyed, but my family was DONE hearing about them. I like to write, and cycling interests me right now. I didn't want to mimic what you do, much as I love it, and I'm no Dottie et al. So I write modestly funny little ride stories, and I throw a few pics in as I go. I have no desire to be in every picture (I'm no Oprah), but I try to make the photos a fun part of the narrative. Folks seem to like the blog, though it's still new. I enjoy writing it. Win-win.

    On the other hand, BikeSnob bores me to tears. I don't have any desire to read as someone complains cynically about everything. I have friends who LOVE that blog, though. I find Dottie's blog a bit too basic for my tastes. I already know how to dress when it's cold. But I suppose others don't, so I don't begrudge her handing out advice. In the end, if I don't want to read a blog, then I don't read it. No skin off my nose. The internet is a very big place.

    I don't usually post this here in my responses, but it seems topical: http://rideblog.wordpress.com/

    I love Lovely Bicycle! If it weren't for this blog, I wouldn't be riding what I ride, or writing what I'm writing. So write on. Girly blog, my butt. I know girly blogs, Veloria, and you're no girly blog. Some people just need to fuss about things that don't need fussing over.

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  55. Velouria - since you asked, I have this bike

    http://www.giant-bicycles.com/en-us/bikes/model/cypress.ex.w/940/24704/

    There are a lot of thing I like about it. It is nicely upright, not to heavy, has nice shifting, I don't have to worry about the chain falling off, etc...

    It is a hugely adjustable bike, but it isn't adjusted right for me, and I don't know if it can be. I have tried twiddling every possible adjustment and I can't find the right combination.

    If you ever do a post on how to adjust the seat height and tilt and whatever the forward or backwardness is called and handle bar angle and all of those things to fit a person, I would appreciate it.

    I haven't replaced it, but I'm considering it...

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  56. "it isn't adjusted right for me, and I don't know if it can be."

    Step 1: Get rid of those damned hybrid bars and fit a swept back style. North Roads, Wald Touring, French city bike, whatever so long as it isn't a mountain bikey type thingamajig.

    Try scavenging a variety of chromed steel bars from cheap old bikes until you find something you like.

    I think you'll find it makes all the difference in the world.

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  57. I will echo your earlier commenters by saying: really well written! I cannot tell you how wonderful I think your bike is, and how helpful you have been to me as my cycling-life has grown and changed. I love that you write the blog from a woman's perspective, and I find the scripting of "girly bike blog" a little hilarious (albeit offensive, too)....are you supposed to have a gender-free blog? ;-) Thanks and keep it up!!!!

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  58. kfg/ Erin - I've ridden a bike like the one Erin shows, and I don't think swept back bars would work well on it. The reason being, that these bikes have very short virtual top tubes - the swept back bars tend to start hitting parts of the body. So if she does replace the bars, she would also need to replace the stem (with a much longer one) - and we don't know how that might change the bike's handling. Even if it works, it could all get rather expensive.

    Patience - I have to admit that I kind of like it that readers often send me their thoughts without censoring themselves. I agree that the concept of "girly blogs" is offensive. But it's also good to know what people out there really think.

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  59. Extraordinarily well-written and thoughtful post, as usual. Knowing that I'll always find sharp and intelligent discussions here, along with beautifully presented images, is the reason Lovely Bicycle is my favorite blog.

    Because you consistently display some of the best woman-and-bike photos and the reader does not take issue with your blog, I find his focus on posting pictures a red herring, used to shame women for not being sufficiently modest to his liking, while distracting from his real issue, which is disdain for anything he perceives as feminine, i.e. girly. Photos are fine, as long as they're accompanied by discussions of bike build and other suitably intellectual bike topics that interest a male reader. Stepping outside that box to connect with a community of women on a wide variety of daily topics is not tolerated and means that a woman - no, "girl" - "doesn't know much about bikes."

    There's a word for that: sexism. There's another word not far behind: misogyny. The goal is to silence women. I am not interested in listening to such critics. If I worried about what every random man thought, I'd be frozen in fear and never accomplish anything. I only hope that such criticism does not silence other women, especially all of the new female bike bloggers. Their voices are too valuable.

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  60. I think your 2nd paragraph sums up nicely why I am offended by the criticism, despite (or especially because of) its not being aimed at me. It made me feel as if somehow I had been vying for approval of a male audience by making sure to add what they considered "real content" to my posts. It felt a bit like being told "I usually don't like jews/blacks/gays, but don't worry - you're okay". No thanks to that kind of "approval".

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  61. I'm a guy who keeps a bike blog too and I enjoy reading your blog. I link to your blog on mine because I feel your voice is important and may help inspire some of the 5 or so people who read mine a day.

    One of the things I really enjoy on your blog is the photography. The old wisdom that one must dress a certain way to be a "serious" cyclist is going away.

    I imagine (hope really) that seeing a professional, attractive woman riding in her street clothes would help others expand their view of what it means to be a cyclist, maybe even to the point where they can now envision themselves riding their bikes.

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  62. Dottie's comment brought up something for me that I hadn't really consciously thought of before - I think as a male bike-blogger, and person involved in sort of bikey things sometimes, I feel a little bit of an outsider, as I don't know much about bicycles technically, and I really don't feel any need or desire to know anything but the very basics of the bikes I actually own. It inevitably happens when I'm with other people interested in bikes, that the discussion turns to the fine points of sealed bottom brackets vs. cup and spindle or why people don't use quill stems or something, and honestly, though sometimes I understand the very general premise of the conversation, I really have no idea what they're talking about. For instance, I know what a quill stem is, but I couldn't tell you what other types there are.

    I guess by now in life, I should be used to occupying space that is more typically associated with women (that happens a lot to me), but I actually relate much more strongly to the female bike bloggers who are posting their experiences, advice and such than really technically focused informational bike blogs, and I would much rather get involved in a discussion about how best to actually ride a bike than the advantages of some material or type of component over another.

    It's not to say that there is anything wrong with technically focused blogs, they are important as well, because we need people who are interested in fixing and building our bikes, if we want to be the kind of people who just take the bike to the shop if something goes wrong, but I think people get too stuck on a very mathematical and technical definition of "useful information" - and forget that even the development of a relationship to some extent is the giving of useful information, even if there is nothing technical exchanged at all.

    I feel like there are more thoughts in my head with regard to all this, but they haven't settled down enough for me to grab onto them yet, so I'll stop here :)

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  63. @Velouria, that's what put me off, too -- the assumption that you (and your commenters, because a blog is a very collaborative thing, really) are by some extension somehow more tolerable because of an absence of "girly" whatever that means made me shudder. It's not pleasant to be the Wise Guide to something someone looks down on. Like, are you supposed to be flattered?

    @Portlandize -- what you say makes sense to me, especially since your blog is focused on transport and you are in a city. It's a great blog, btw.

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  64. @neighbortease: thanks for the compliment, I'm glad you like it :)

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  65. Yeah, you definitely show off. Sorry, but that's way I see it. I've been thinking about saying something about it for some time, but never figured out the right way to broach the subject.

    Having said that, you can't argue with the results. You have a lot of readers and you put out quality content. From that standpoint I really can't argue with your approach.

    There, now I've gotten it off my chest and can enjoy the blog. Post on, Veloria!

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  66. Doohickie : ))

    portlandize - From my pov, you are definitely unique among the male blogs. Portlandize is neither technical, nor gung-ho advocacy, nor does it leave the weird taste in my mouth that Copenhagen Cycle Chic does. It is just a human sort of blog from a male perspective, and that attracts me as a reader. My one complain: please post more often : )

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  67. @Velouria: I would love to post more often, but I have to say, I'm just a sporadic writer. It's hard for me to just sit down and write something if it isn't something I've been thinking about or wrestling with or whatever. That being said, I should probably try to be a little more regular and post at least once a week or something :)

    I think part of the problem too, is that I've got my fingers into too many things - bikes, photography, music, cooking... I love doing all of those things, but doing them all means there isn't as much time as I might like for each individual one.

    Not to discourage you regarding the frequency of my Portlandize posts, but I've just come across an opportunity to play music with people again (I play cello), and I'm really excited about that. It's totally informal, but that's kind of good too.

    Actually, I probably will be doing two posts in the near future, as we just got a nice front rack for Patrina's DL-1, and I'm going to do a post on riding in the rain (since it doesn't snow here, really). I just need some daylight to take photos in first (ironically, darkness caused by rain clouds) :)

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  68. Velouria - "these bikes have very short virtual top tubes - the swept back bars tend to start hitting parts of the body"

    Interesting. It could be argued that that model is now the default bicycle, they're everywhere (although not always with Giant branding), but I've never ridden one. I might have to give it a go when the opportunity presents itself.

    Portlandize - "I should probably . . post at least once a week or something"

    Or at least once a month. :)

    I think I could make it work, but it might take some experimentation.

    "if it works, it could all get rather expensive."

    'Bought forty bucks for stuff of the same quality. It ain't Nitto.

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  69. Your blog is the only "girl" bike blog I read anymore because it's the only one with interesting text! But as a girl, I've never thought of the photos on any of these blogs as self-indulgent--it's just what we like to see.

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  70. kfg: hey, I had three posts in December, and one so far this month :D

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  71. Upon further reflection, I would say your blog feels like I'm reading something beautiful, but mostly substantive... whereas some blogs are clearly about looking cute and attracting guys (while riding a bike), and some are just about being sexy. There's a spot for all, I suppose.

    Vanity Fair vs. Glamour Magazine vs. Cosmo? :)

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  72. I detest this notion that I see all too often on the web that if a woman is interested in fashion or style or 'looking cute' then she must be a bit vacuous and/or all about 'attracting guys'. As if, how can her tiny mind possibly be big enough to take in being cute/stylish AND be anything else, such as a lawyer, a mother, or an academic with opinions on a whole host of subjects which people might find informative or even inspiring.

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  73. I fail to see how this blog is any more exhibitionist than say, a male in his 50s, having newly arrived to the world of classic cars, blogging about his Ferrari or Maserati purchases.

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