Thursday, May 19, 2011

On Beginners Helping Beginners and the Paradox of Expertise

[image via Thomas Hawk]

It's been over two years now since I began cycling as an adult and writing this blog, and I still think of myself as a novice: Two years isn't much. Looking at some of the other female-authored cycling blogs that appeared around the same time as mine, I see a similar pattern: The authors start the blog not to give advice, but to share their experiences as eager, clueless beginners. And over time they become more knowledgeable - helping their readers along the way just as much as their readers help them.

This approach tends to evoke polarised reactions. On the one hand, I've noticed that beginners - and particularly female readers who are just getting into cycling - respond to blogs written by other beginners more than they do to blogs written by experts. On the other hand, there is a great deal of scorn aimed at such blogs in some internet circles - mainly on male-dominated cycling forums. The other day I received a link to a venomous thread where the forum members basically take turns quoting snippets from my posts and mocking my writing. It might have upset me, if I hadn't witnessed a near-identical thread attacking another woman's blog on a different cycling forum several months earlier. The bashing we get from these guys is predictable: We are silly, we are consumerist, we know nothing about cycling yet presume to advise others, and our writing is annoying. Whether they have a point is not for me to judge, and it's useless to defend myself against grown men who get off on mocking other human beings. But I'd like to explore the question of why a beginner's writing about cycling can be more compelling to some audiences than that of an expert.

[image via acme59]

Beginners are enthusiastic. 
When we are in the process of learning about something new that excites us, we tend to be more interested in that thing than once we already know everything there is to know about it. The eagerness to learn is what drives us to research and experiment, and then to share our discoveries with others. Once the learning is done, that eagerness subsides and we become less motivated to discuss the topic. We become jaded, we know it all. Why bother write about something that is old news to us? Enthusiasm is contagious, and so is jadedness. That is why a beginner's blog - that gushes about things that seem boring or even silly to experts - is more engaging for those who are trying to learn about the same topic.

[image via simplybike]

Beginners offer documentation. 
Blogs written by novices are a bit like note-taking sessions made public. When was the last time you felt compelled to take notes on a process you already knew by heart? There is no motivation for it. Doing things like taking pictures of yourself on your bicycle and describing short rides in elaborate detail seems ridiculous to someone who has done it all thousands of times. But to those for whom cycling is a learning process, documentation is helpful. Novice readers seek out blogs that provide detailed documentation, and those blogs are usually written by other novices, precisely because experts wouldn't bother.

[image via mtwash125]

Beginners are more relatable to other beginners. 
Today's post from Dottie on Let's Go Ride a Bike provides some great insight into this one. Dottie describes a commute to work that to her was "just perfect," yet to a novice cyclist was an absolute nightmare. It was a funny discrepancy, but also a telling one. After several years of cycling for transportation, we no longer even notice things like exhaust fumes, vehicles blocking the bike lane, car doors suddenly swinging open into our path, and cars cutting us off.  Our methods of dealing with these problems become so automatised that we take them in stride: Overall, it is still a great commute, because nothing unusually horrible has happened. But to beginners who are just mustering up the courage to cycle for transportation, other cyclists are no longer relatable once they reach that level of comfort. And this goes for everything - from transportation cycling, to roadcycling skills, to understanding frame geometry, to being able to work on our own bikes. Little by little, we begin to take stuff for granted and stop bothering to explain it, losing the readers who find our very ineptitude relatable. Paradoxically, while experts know more, they also come across as less approachable and they often write about things in a way that is difficult for non-experts to understand.

[image via Bart Omeu]

Beginners are unselfconscious. 
As we gain knowledge in any given topic, there is often a degree of self-cosnciousness and competitiveness that sets in. We want to show that we are not "newbies" anymore and so we become more careful about what we write and how we present ourselves - lest the "cool people" make fun of us. But the nice thing about blogs that haven't reached that stage yet is their sincerity. They don't even know what the right vs the wrong thing to say is, so they express what they actually think.

Despite my two years of writing Lovely Bicycle, I feel that I have somehow managed to remain in that state. I am so remarkably uncool as far as "cycling culture" goes, that I cannot even fathom the full extent of my uncoolness. That's one of the things that keeps me going and allows me to continue writing this blog, so as far as I'm concerned it's for the best. I enjoy novice cycling blogs of all types. And I hope that beginners continue to feel motivated to document their growing love of bicycles in their unique, authentic voices without worrying about coming across as silly. Beginners helping other beginners can be of greater value than expert knowledge.

119 comments:

  1. OMG you are so much of a help to other women, like myself, those who would degrade your kindness and assistance can be told to go jump in a lake.

    People who denigrate others tend to be small inside. Very sad. You offer so much of a world into cycling and encouragement to myself to learn about my bike and other styles of riding and bikes. I finally took a repair class and can fix so many basic things on my bike because I read you and am encouraged!

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  2. Pay no attention to the peanut gallery. Someone that has nothing better to do than badmouth others is not worthy of your attention or concern. You've got the best blog out there for traditional bikes and transportation. I've yet to discover a better. Day after day you post new material that is wonderfully written and beautifully photographed. The "cycling culture" to which you refer is of little interest to many of us. They're just unhappy they are not the center of everyones universe.

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  3. I love your elegant, eloquent prose, humor and "amateur" helpfulness. Helps me reconnect to the vital enthusiasms that have sustained me in 25 years of riding as an adult, especially important as I am now in the trade: a notorious killing field of passion.

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  4. You make some valid points, although i am once again disturbed by the injection of gender issues into the topic.

    But, enough of the girls vs boys stuff; please link us to the forum in which you're heckled!

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  5. The internet is so vast and life is so busy. Imagine grown adults having so much free time on their hands that they can visit others’ blogs for the sole purpose of criticizing and mocking. Good for you for demonstrating grace and taking the high road. I am not as generous as you are. I would like to thump them.

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  6. Oops didn't mean to solicit praise, uncomfortable with praise!

    Screech - I know you don't like when I evoke gender, but in this case i do believe it plays a role.

    Not linking to it, sorry : )

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  7. This female says bravo! Yours and other "beginner" bicycle blogs have helped me join in this great lovely bicycle obsession. For that, I am happy, fit, and grateful.

    Gender absolutely plays a role in all this business (and it often drives me crazy as well). Thank you for the post and for calling those boys out!

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  8. They made fun of your writing? I can't remember how I stumbled onto your blog because I only cycle a couple of times a year but I stayed because I enjoy your focused writing and beautiful pictures. I'll read about toasters if the writing caputures me.
    Some of the hard core cyclists I know seem very aggressive by nature, so the fact that they would attack another blogger makes sense to me.

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  9. I really appreciate this blog post. I have been following your blog for a short time and your enthusiasm has been a big inspiration for me - a 40 something who is returning to her love of cycling after being away from it for 20 years.

    Your exhuberance and willingness to share your bike love with those of us in the blog-o-sphere is a breath of fresh air and resonates on a level that many bike-related blogs do not.

    My own observation is that there are several breeds and cultures of cyclist out there. We all range from people who ride for the sheer joy and freedom our bikes give us to Olympic-level athletes. There's not one true and correct path for all cyclists.

    The one type of cyclist I never want to be is the holier than thou type who thinks his/her own approach the only way or more righteous than others. These people can be such a turn-off for folks like me who are just getting started or coming back to the pedals after a long absence. The snobbery among some in the cycling world is outrageous.

    I recently went to my LBS (see, I do know some of the lingo already) to get acquainted with them and see what they had to offer. When the man heard I was building my own bike from an old frame and was planning to use it as transport to work, he acted like I wasn't a "real" customer. I could almost see the letters "BSO" flash in his eyes. If I wasn't buying something off his show floor or had some hoity-toity brand cycle, he wasn't interested in my business nor could he help me order a particular tire I wanted (or suggest an alternative). It's doubtful that I'll feel comfortable going to that shop again.

    I am not looking for the latest in technology or the latest high-tech frame. I just want a bike that gets me to and from work and maybe eventually to the grocery store while looking (to my eye) like a work of art. I am returning to a love I had lost sight of in the course of becoming a grown up and am having so much fun!

    Who knows where I'll be in two years? Hopefully, I'll still have the joy in my heart when I hop onto the seat and will still experience that free feeling you can only get while on a bike.

    I'd rather be an inspiration to others - an uplifting voice - like you, than a miserable, santimonious jerk who belittles those who choose a different path than their own. Those folks are not nearly as "cool" as they think they are... and they're not encouraging others to hop on a bike, either.

    I am impressed that their snobbery didn't drag you down or have you consider a change to the voice of your blog. Keep doing what you're doing - it's a kick-butt blog. I am willing to spend my valuable time here. I avoid the snarky blogs like the plague - life is too short and I'd rather ride my bike than subject myself to their odious rants.

    -LanzaMarie

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  10. I hope that you'll hold on to your beginner's enthusiasm for as long as you possibly can. It's refreshing! (For the record, I think your uncoolness is cool. But then, I'm a geek.)

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  11. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I am an expert - and I very much enjoy your blog, and the comments that it inspires and find it/them thought provoking.

    I dare say the slagging to which you refer comes from the ranks of insecure wanna-be experts whose knowledge and expertise is suspect at the very least; there is a lot of that around. That is why I do not bother with blogs or forums as a rule - yours being a notable exception.

    You might be a 'beginner' in the sense that you have been seriously cycling as an adult for two years, but all modesty aside you would have to say your learning curve has been an exceptionally steep one.

    I do take exception to the idea that columns or blogs by experts are necessarily going to be written over the heads of beginners. They needn't be. An expert - a real expert - should be comfortable enough with his/her material to be able to pitch it to any audience. I recall a physics professor I had at university many years ago, an absolute genius who was also a leading nuclear scientist. His lectures were so interesting and accessible you would find yourself absorbed and forgetting to take notes - but then again they were also so memorably presented that it didn't really matter since it all fell into place in our brains and come test time, easy to remember.

    That was an expert.

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  12. Oh boy... I meant for the reference to that thing to be a fairly small part of this post, but I guess including it was misguided of me. I don't want to backtrack now, so I'll leave it, but I did not mean to disparage them or to solicit reassurance. I understand why they are attacking me and it's not a big deal.

    I agree with Roff's comment about the physics professor. But I think it takes a particular kind of talent to do that: to be an expert and still communicate in a way that is engaging to beginners. I don't think I have that talent - at least my own experience in academia makes me believe that I don't have it. If and when I gain actual expertise in cycling, Lovely Bicycle will probably either morph into something other than what it is now, or die out. But we'll see : )

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  13. @Lanza Teague - Most LBS staff are snobs by nature. They treat you like a piece dung if your a women or if your buying a "lesser" bike or bike parts. One of the reasons why women are so afraid to go to bike shops.

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  14. It's my favourite blog too, and a B.S. free zone to boot - I'm always checking it out. Thanks ( and sorry about the praise ... ).

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  15. It really is a sad state of affairs when cycling is dominated by both snobbery and fear propaganda from within and outside the cycling community.

    The barrier to entry seems much higher than just getting a bike and riding it. It all seemed so much easier when I was a kid, just enjoying the speed and feel of the wind.

    It took me over a year of reading and researching before I jumped back in just recently. Heard many opinions, but decided that mine mattered the most. It took awhile, but I finally obtained enough confidence in myself to be... well, myself.

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  16. "The other day I received a link to a venomous thread where the forum members basically take turns quoting snippets from my posts and mocking my writing."

    WTF. Ok, the gloves are off. You're gonna here some reassurance and disparagement whether you like it or not. :)

    First of all, you are writing the best cycling blog right now, period. You have a unique voice and your writing is phenomenal. I often read your blog posts aloud to entertain family members and friends, especially ones who are not interested in cycling, because you're pretty much the only author who can engage them on the topic. Please, please don't even think about changing that.

    On the other hand, many of the commenters on cycling forums are the worst of the worst. Not only do they belong to the worst strains of classist, sexist, heterosexist, assimilated, white male dominated cycling culture, but many of them don't even seem all that passionate about riding. Instead, they seem content just sitting around talking shop for hours and hours.

    I wouldn't say anything, but discouragement is a powerful force, and it would be truly awful if you let any of get to you!

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  17. I love your post today because it's very near to where I come from. I'm not only a female beginner learning the engineering and mechanics of bikes while getting my hands very dirty (doing this less than a year)... I'm also an overweight disabled person. When I wear jeans that cover up my leg bracing I get the stares for being a chubby on a bike. When I wear shorts and my leg brace can be seen, I get the more well intentioned stares for being on a bike at all.

    When I go into bike stores I get the "oh you should LOVE this big huge cruiser saddle" (this really happened) and when I said "no.. I want a leather Leppers or Brooks" they acted all shocked that I would even know what those are. I've pretty much stopped shopping in real stores now and only shop online where no one will look at me funny for asking about parts. The truth is- I get very intimidated about something I have grown to love.

    Your blog has been a wonderful resource for me. It introduces me to things I want to know in a friendly and warm manner. It shows me products that are not available here or things I would not notice in a store. It's very inspiring Velouria so don't let those other people get you down. They are very likely jealous under it all and wish they could come up with the photography, insight and readership that you do.

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  18. When I worry about LovelyBike, it is because I think you are already taking on the trappings of expertise, and therefore in danger of losing the enthusiastic beginner's voice that has made the blog so appealing. Fortunately, you are still willing to write about things you know little about, without trying to hide your naivete and inexperience in new areas. For example, last week's post on paceline riding was excellent, and was both informative and revealing in a way that would be difficult to convey by more experienced riders.

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  19. One of the many joys of your blog is its open honesty. Your joy of cycling shines through and I often point "newbies" in your direction as an example to disprove the "Cycling is difficult" BS. As a beginner to cycling I was lucky enough to have a welcoming and encouraging club and endeavour to be the same now. Being able to show people that experienced riders from unsure newbies grow with the aid of your blog is priceless.

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  20. Anon 4:32 - That is exactly the sort of thing I mean. Once we get comfortable with something, it is often impossible to reconstruct our former way of looking at it, back when we found it scary. I remember when I first got my Rivendell and was too scared to ride it until I raised the stem so high it looked like a giraffe's neck. Now I have it shoved all the way down and still consider it a "relaxed" position. I try to evoke the feeling of how scary it was to cycle with drop bars at first, how it made me feel like my face was too close to the pavement and I couldn't balance properly. That feeling is far gone now and even the memory doesn't seem real. I'm actually glad to have those old posts to remind me that I really did feel that way once!

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  21. Only had time to read your post briefly, but I wonder why you keep calling them experts. Who decided that the insects have all the answers? Empty drums make a lot of noice. Real eksperts have no time to spend on the internet reading blogs they do not like and then commenting about them.
    badmother

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  22. I think there's a certain amount of jealousy/competition in the response to your writing. Many of the writers may consider themselves better cyclists and writers than you, so why can't they be writing a successful blog? Writing about bicycling, reviewing bikes, etc., is kind of a dream job. So they may resent you for your success.

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  23. Velouria,

    This is one grown man (54, ouch!!) who reads Lovely Bicycle faithfully for its information, its beautiful photos, and its elegant prose. No offense to anyone else, but it's my favorite blog. As an academic, myself, it is evident that you have a rare gift for communicating with clarity and enthusiasm. I don't worry too much that you will lose this gift, because I strongly suspect that, like any good teacher and scholar -- you will never consider yourself to be fully educated. There is always more to learn! People who know it all -- or think they do -- must be really bored. Perhaps that's why they're so cranky?

    Regarding the gender dimension to the criticism you seem to be encountering elsewhere, which several readers have mentioned . . . As a man, I get really tired of hearing this sort of thing, but I'm afraid there's some truth to it. Having spent nearly a quarter century in the hallowed halls of academe (and in college classrooms), my sense is that in general -- and there are plenty of exceptions -- men are more critical and more apt to lapse into condescension than are women.

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  24. I am a commuter, a competative cyclist and a former bike shop employee. I am also a member of the forum you referenced earlier.

    As a cyclist, I can remember my first few years of cycling and I can recall going through the same issues that you are facing. I saught out what I thought were experts and listened to their advice. Even when it came with some ridicule, I listened and learned. I aspired to know as much as I could about all types of cycling, not just the niche that I thought myself a part of.

    As a bike shop employee at high and low-end shops for several years, I can say that my greatest days at work were accompanied by people coming in looking for their first commuter bikes. I got much more enjoyment out of selling someone a $600 steel road bike that I knew they would use to get to work or school or the store than selling a $3,000 carbon bike that would only be used on group rides. I loved to see people walk in with a cool old frame and ask how they could build it up. And I am not alone in this. What was annoying to us was someone who came in thinking that they knew all the answers. Someone who was unwilling to listen to the advice of poeple who had much more experience. And someone who came in with the presupposition that we were all elitest snobs who only cared about the latest carbon bikes. I race and worked in a shop, but when I rode to work, I did it on an old fixed gear or a steel road bike. There are a lot of shop employees like me out there. Don't write us off just because we know what we are talking about and want to keep you from making some of the same mistakes we did.

    As a member of the referenced forum, I do not wish to defend our actions in any way. We make fun of a lot of cycling blogs out there. But, if you would look beyond the facade of ridicule, you would find that the majority of us are commuters. Many of us have bikes with fenders and racks that we ride every day. If you look in the threads dedicated to posting pictures of your bike or those you find attractive, you will see that they are full of cummter, rando and touring bikes similar to yours.

    And please stop commenting that you are uncool. Light touring bikes with bags or baskets are the most hip thing going right now. I understand that to be a proper hipster, you must maintain a sense that you are not trying to be cool, but if you take a look at the Handmade Bicycle Show and even Interbike, you'll see that the type of rider that you are is exactly what the market is focusing on right now. You may be uncool to the roadie crowd, but if you're not trying to be one, what does that matter?

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  25. Ha Ha Ha!!! What tickles me is that these jerks must read your blog... and read it a lot. Oh well, where would we be without the macho, testosterone driven know-it-alls. You are a btter sport than me. I would be pissed. But that would just drag me down to their gutter level and there's more fun, up here in the light, talking about bicycles!
    Love your blog and this un-cool beginner has, and continues to learn lots about bikes and cycling just by participating in your blog. Keep up the great work.

    best,

    JinmP

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  26. Some people really do not want their subculture "discovered" -- or to discover it's not a subculture.

    Most true experts are confident enough to maintain a beginner's perspective anyway. I think it's more about tone than anything else.

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  27. Who are these mean-spirited and self-congratulatory commentators? I imagine they publish their comments anonymously. Your enthusiasm brings me back here daily. Oh, and after years of cycling, I still keep my handlebars high.

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  28. I was blogging before I started biking a lot and you're right, for me my blog is really notes on what I'm learning in all facets of my life. Because I'm bike obsessed it's usually what I'm learning about bikes. I've learned a lot by writing about not knowing what I'm doing and getting feedback from people who do. I learned how to fix a twisted chain, I learned how to change a tube with hardcase tires, I'm learning how to ride clipless now. I think the problem with learning as adults is that we're all too afraid to admit we don't know everything.

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  29. I remember, many years ago, when I was still new to cycling ... a friend of mine in Newton Lower Falls was having a cookout and I came up with the audacious plan of riding all the way out there from Cambridge. 10 miles! Crossing over Rt. 128! Beyond access to the T! What an odyssey.

    I still hold on to that memory, even now, when 10 miles doesn't break a sweat, and crossing 128 is just to get to the start of some 250 mile foolishness; so that when I talk to other folks who are also starting out, I remember how big a deal it is for them to go so far. We all had to start somewhere.

    Honestly, when I first came across your blog from Chic Cyclist and saw those grandiloquent statements about how the only bicycle worth having in the city was something lovely and dignified, and only upright bicycles qualified; I kind of shook my head and moved on. But, you know, I'd come back from time to time to see what you'd been up to because, at least, you had curiosity and inquisitiveness and while I disagreed with some of your positions (are you at least packing a tire iron and pump when you're riding the Seven?) I felt that at least they were based on some sense of introspection, and weren't (usually) just a blind acceptance of the status quo. And when you need to correct something that you may have said earlier, you're fairly upfront about it.

    I find that, especially with online fora, there's such an adversarial relationship to much of the traffic. People invest way too much energy in proving themselves right or the other person wrong, and in many ways fence themselves off from questioning their own assumptions lest their foes and rivals jump on that as weakness. That, coupled with the constant churn of lurkers and newbies, and the frequency with which certain basic questions keep coming up -- and it becomes fairly easy to see how a few forum veterans just develop this myopic view that they are the experts because they've fought their way to the top of this hill and everyone else is just a naive idiot who has nothing to contribute.

    Which, of course, mostly serves to help the expert's ego and does little to help the beginner who doesn't hope to bask in the reflected radiance of their authority.

    I just try to remember what it was like when I rode 10 miles for the first time and try to recall what that version of me would want to hear.

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  30. I (ok.. a little praise here) adore that post about being afraid of Graham! I have it book marked and go back and read it before I go test ride a road or touring bike. The are still kind of scary but I want to expand my cycling skills.

    Even if you can't remember what that was like now, that you wrote about it then is helping me. When no one talks about over coming her fears as a beginner, then beginners think the fear is abnormal and just give up as not being "cut out for it."

    Or there was one post (that I have never been able to find again) that described pushing back into your saddle to go up hills. It was a one line throw away type comment you made. I have never seen that description anywhere else, but it somehow stuck with me. It got me a rough spot when my route had to change. I think I would have given up if I hadn't remembered that tip.

    Snarky - if you are lurking here, I find the same wonderful little throw away details in your blog.

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  31. When I started riding a bicycle again as an adult, I got a flat and didn't know what to do. I took it into Kraynick's Bike Shop in Pittsburgh, and Mr. Kraynick helped me with it. When he gave me back the wheel, he said, "Hey - don't be afraid to work on your bike, there's nothing to it." I started working on my bicycle, and I liked the feeling of learning about it so much that it carried over to the plumbing in my house and everything else in my life.

    I like riding my bicycle well enough. I'm much more grateful for what my bicycle gave me: the willingness to be a beginner and to be curious. It was life-changing and one of the best things that ever happened to me. I feel for those people who consider themselves experts.

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  32. Your post reminded me of someone who really helped me with riding bikes. My friend Marion helped me learn to ride without training wheels (ok we were about 8) and I promptly rode right through her mother's rose garden. Mom wasn't happy, but I gained a skill that helped me get everywhere I needed to go in my pre-car life... I didn't get a car until age 25.

    I really enjoy your blog and your personal and NON-elitist way of sharing your bicycle knowledge with the world.

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  33. Haters gonna hate.

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  34. Kyle - Regarding the "$3,000 carbon bike that would only be used on group rides," that is an issues that seems to come up with many of my readers recently. I receive emails saying that they are now considering one, because their vintage bike seems inadequate for certain things. My own paceline ride experience paralleled that: I was made to understand that anything but a light modern roadbike would be incorrect for the ride.

    This is one reason I decided to use my contacts and borrow a so-called appropriate bike: I would like to see what it is like and determine for myself whether I or others like me really "need" it. Rejecting an idea outright (in this case the idea that modern roadbikes might be more appropriate), to me seems like being afraid of it possibly being true.

    Do I want a $3K modern bike for myself? No. And I certainly can't afford it even if I did. But I am not afraid of the possibility that if I try it I might change my mind. I'd like to know for sure, as opposed to just thinking I don't like it out of aesthetic preference for lugged steel.

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  35. Velouria: Please show me the link to that that forum. If bikeheads want to talk rot about your blog, they deserve the wrath of both genders. And I can give it to them, but good.

    What you say about beginners vs. experts is interesting. That is the reason why I sometimes have trouble coming up with a good post for my blog: I take a lot for granted that a newer cyclist wouldn't.

    Lanza: Your response is great. I can identify with it, in much the same way I can identify with Velouria. Although I never left cycling for an extended period of time, I have morphed (literally and figuratively) into a different cyclist from what I was in my youth.

    And, I can also appreciate what you say about bicycle shops. I go to them much less frequently than I did when I was younger. Part of the reason is that I have other things going on in my life. But more important, I think, is the way too many shop staff treat female cyclists. I had heard about it from female friends, but now that I've "gone over to the other side", I understand. And I realize I was once one of those arrogant jerks, too.

    Fortunately, I have found a couple of shops locally where I'm treated with respect. Other female cyclists aren't so lucky.

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  36. Velouria, like so many others here, I read your blog for the refreshingly ... different perspective. I don't mean to slam all bike shops or experts but there really is a problem out there in terms of getting "into" commuter bicycling and the attitudes and prejudices that you can face, even in cities or towns that are typically considered bike friendly.

    I just referred a friend of mine to your blog and Dotty's blog. She didn't know that there was such a thing as being able to ride a bike without being hunched over with sweat and tears. ;) I was happy to share this little corner of the cycling community with her and hope that more people will do the same. Ultimately, though it is kind of a catch-22. If you don't tell your LBS what you want and what type of cycling/parts/services etc you are looking for, how can you later criticize them for not providing them? Yeah, it may be awkward and weird, but I guess we have to start somewhere.

    Oh, and a sense of humor is key. I always use that when I get the (yes, somewhat sexist) "LBS treatment". You have to have a sense of humor about it though, just as you do dealing with any issues in life that are traditionally considered outside the realm of women's expertise.

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  37. Meh, there are haters everywhere. That's funny because I find you very "technical" from where I'm coming from. I can barely properly calculate the distances that I cycle. I also like your blogging and writing style because up until very recently I was an academic too, and I recognize that voice sometimes.

    And I feel you are very detailed and disciplined overall. I think you have lots of useful information about different kinds of bikes (which is very helpful to those with the bike lust who might not get to see some of these beauties up close).

    Also, I feel as though you have improved and grown as a photographer and that's really nice to see - a bunch of us growing together!

    But like I said, there will always be haters. I didn't realize there was no room in the cycling-blog world for all of us. Duly noted, haters!

    S

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  38. It is very common for cyclists to expand their horizons after some time spent in a niche. I started riding fixed gear and it took me a year or so to get a road bike. Taking the initiative to step outside of your comfort zone in order to experience more of what cycling is about is a sure sign that you actuall enjoy the sport as opposed to just the style.

    As for the appropriateness of a modern road bike for group rides, there isn't really much of a debate. The idea of riding quickly is to use as little energy as possible to overcome things like friction and wind resistance while applying as much of your energy as possible into moving you forward. Modern road bikes are the pinnacle of this type of design. But a $700 road bike will give you 90% of the advantage to be gained by a $3000 bike. The other 10% is really only taken advantage of by an elite group of very strong riders. You can do a long, fast road ride on any bike, but you will be able to ride faster and finish stronger on a properly fit road bike.

    So, keep learning and growing in the sport. Be ready to take advice from more experienced riders, even if you don't like they way they give it. And don't get side-tracked by the gear and the style. Anyone can look good on a bike by throwing around a bunch of money. Being a strong rider who is comfortable on a bike for a long period of time often means you're often not going to look good (unless you're willing to throw down a whole lot more money) and doesn't really have much to do with the quality of your gear.

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  39. Steve R said...
    "Regarding the gender dimension to the criticism you seem to be encountering elsewhere, which several readers have mentioned . . . As a man, I get really tired of hearing this sort of thing, but I'm afraid there's some truth to it. Having spent nearly a quarter century in the hallowed halls of academe (and in college classrooms), my sense is that in general -- and there are plenty of exceptions -- men are more critical and more apt to lapse into condescension than are women."


    The thing is - and I know that may be hard to believe given how many "gender" posts I now have here - that I've never been big on gender issues until I began cycling and writing this blog. To me, gender has always been a fluid and performative concept and I never took any of it seriously. I do not feel that my gender figured much in my academic career, and I always took it for granted that my work spoke for itself. Also, more than half of my friends are male and in many ways I relate to them more than to females. And I never, ever thought of there as being an "us" consisting of females, of which I was a part.

    But the "us females" thing did develop in me over the past two years as a direct result of my experience with cycling and bicycles. When I began to interact with male cyclists as a beginner - both online and off - I noticed that there was a particular rhetoric about "wives and girlfriends," as well as women in general, that made me uncomfortable. I don't know how to describe it in a way that's fair and accurate, but it strikes me as a form of mysogyny and it puts me on guard about my gender like nothing has ever done before. Even when they praise women for being able to ride a bike, fix bikes, whatever, it has the feeling of the sort of delight I'd experience if my cat learned to ride a bike. How cool that the cat can do it... considering that it's a cat.

    The notorious "LBS treatment" is not a myth either. I've learned to deal with it by coming in and immediately asking a very specific technical question which usually makes it clear that I know more than the person trying to help me, after which I am blissfully left alone.

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  40. I think one thing that is refreshing for me about talking with sort of "beginners" about any subject, is that they are just trying to figure out what will work for them. People are so unique and have different preferences, comfort levels, and ways of looking at issues - once a person has become an expert, essentially, they have settled into a particular view, whatever they have found works well for them, and *tend* (this is not universal) to take that view as the correct one. Even if their view is helpful to consider, it becomes hard for them to see it as simply one of potentially many helpful points of view.

    Something I try to be very careful about in writing is not presenting a particular way of doing things as an absolute, unless I'm simply stating some kind of fact (like that old Raleighs use 9.5mm cotters). I don't always succeed at that, and that is usually when I get push-back from people. Anyway, I still hope that my point of view can be helpful to people, and I certainly find help and inspiration from others.

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  41. "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few."
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zen_Mind,_Beginner%27s_Mind

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  42. Kyle - I hope to God I didn't come off as a know it all when I was at the local bike shop. I went in there hoping to establish a relationship with a local merchant. I'm fairly competent when it comes to fixing things but am far from an expert on bikes and know it. I am humble by nature and honestly went in there seeking help on picking the right tire. I am overweight, female and building my own bike... probably not a common animal at the LBS.

    I was also a perspective customer in a small town where there aren't many bikes out on the streets. I would have welcomed any kind of advice from this guy and feel strongly about supporting local businesses over chain stores or the internet. The man barely talked to me, was dismissive and unwilling to engage in a dialogue about anything bike related. It was just a weird experience. Maybe I caught him on an off day.

    Justine and Velouria - thanks for your responses. Perhaps women don't speak uber-cycle very well and some of us just haven't learned how to communicate with bike shop staff properly. I dunno. All I know is I love my bike, am enjoying reworking a classic frame with my husband (the first hobby we've ever shared), have written a couple of blogs about it (mostly for my own amusement) and am absorbing as much information on bikes as I possibly can.

    I enjoy Lovely Bicycle a great deal and many of the blogs it links to. I never thought of the above post as pandering for compliments, but decided this was the appropriate post to come out of lurkdom and express appreciation for the encouragement and information I've received here.

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  43. Interesting post, though I'm not sure that I totally agree w/ your view. I started a blog about a year ago, but not because I was a woman new to cycling and wanted to share my eager clueless beginner experiences. Rather, I thought it would be a fun exercise (mental) and challenge to write about something not work-related that I care about that I have been doing for years(cycling, randonneuring, commuting in D.C.) and see how it evolved. It is experience-based, but not to share my experience as a beginner. It has also not evolved into an advice-giving blog, although if anybody e-mails or comments w/ a question, I'm happy to provide my input. Anyway, you got me thinking w/ this one...

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  44. Kyle said...
    "...a $700 road bike will give you 90% of the advantage to be gained by a $3000 bike. The other 10% is really only taken advantage of by an elite group of very strong riders."


    I agree with you in terms of speed. But you are forgetting about the issue of comfort. I think that women have a huge problem with comfort when it comes to cycling in general, and road cycling in particular. A $700 LBS roadbike is going to be what? Aluminum frame with possibly a cheap carbon fork, and 23mm tires. I cannot ride that. It hurts, with every bit of unevenness in the road surface feeling like my joints are being pounded with hammers. I cannot do a 20 mile ride if I am continuously in pain whilst on the bike, it's masochism. And I hear the same feedback from many, many women over email. Their husband or boyfriend takes them to a bike shop and gets them a typical modern roadbike, and they feel so awful on it that they give up. Sometimes it's a matter of fit and can be resolved, but more often it's the harshness of the ride quality. In that respect, higher end bikes do make a difference.

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  45. Did you do a wife/girlfriend/husband/boyfriend post? I can't find one.

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  46. Do you mean this one from "back in the day"?

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  47. I'm also a member of the forum in question. Of course people were being abrasive (it's the internet!), but along with a lot of appreciation for the aims of the site there is a serious criticism there that goes past your use of italics. I think posters are using the word "consumerist" as shorthand for the mentality that this site purveys, which would suggest, whether or not you intend it, to a new rider that you need a Rivendell, custom bags and other expensive gear to be doing it right. That's just not true, and it's actually pretty elitist.

    Most strong riders—and I don't mean fast ones, necessarily, but just people who are confident on a bike and skilled enough to do what they want to do with it, be it a fast road ride, a commute, a run to the grocery store, or a 600 km brevet—can get by just fine with a relatively inexpensive Surly/Soma, a grotty old fixed gear, a souped-up 3-speed or whatever. There's nothing wrong with appreciating a lovely bike, but sometimes I think this site and some others like it go overboard in the direction of making readers think they need a lot of fancy gear that they absolutely don't need. That's not a personal criticism—we like what we like—but this is a popular site and it's something to be aware of. Not every new cyclist can afford or is interested in a $3000 bicycle, and very very few cyclists will get more out of such a machine than they will out of a sensibly designed stock bike like a Salsa Casseroll.

    Keep experimenting and take the guff in the spirit it's given, and you're always welcome to post at that forum, which is full of superficially rude people but ones whose taste in bikes and riding is probably a lot closer to yours than you suspect.

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  48. Ground Round Jim,

    D'oh! You beat me to it. The Beginner's Mind is such an important concept. I study karate and it is often invoked there. But there are times when experts do know of more possibilities than the beginner.

    Velouria, et. al,

    I'm a pretty experienced bicyclist and bicycle commuter, yet I find this blog one of the few I read due to the thoughtful nature of the posts. Sure, I disagree with some things and agree with others. But if you never say anything with which somebody disagrees, you're not really taking much of a stand.

    Dan.

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  49. Well, if these forums are giving you bad publicity you know in the end, it's only going to turn out good, because once they start reading your blog, you know that they won't be able to stop, and will keep coming back. So, the laugh is on them.

    As always thanks for being supportive to all us newbies and encouraging us all to learn from each other. And thanks to all the supportive non-newbies too!

    Yuck, sorry for spewing all this praise.

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  50. Yeah, I had to blow a bunch of dust off of it to read. These dudes are doing an excellent job as a dying indicator species. I'm not going to make a comment about them being light in the loafers, because that would be offensive to loafers. Fun comments.

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  51. Anon 12:58 - From my POV, they made semi-valid points about two things: the consumerism issue and my wiritng style. The latter I cannot argue with: My writing is not for everyone. Some like the eccentric syntax, others don't. Okay. The consumerism argument I don't agree with on a number of levels, but that is a long conversation. I will only say that most readers find it tremendously helpful to learn about the types of products I discuss here, and especially, about how one product compares to another. And so I acquire - usually temporarily! - products with this in mind, specifically for the purpose of reviewing them. I also give a lot of feedback about products I own myself, which seems only natural. This format is hardly unique to my blog, so I feel the whole debate is rather hackneyed. If you don't like blogs that frequently review products, don't read them. If you don't like blogs that display sponsored banners, don't read them. It's pretty simple.

    However, I do not believe that their attack on me was really about any of that, which is why it's pointless for me to argue or defend myself. It was more like they were grasping at straws until, after a round of general mean-spiritedness, they finally stumbled upon something that seemed kinda legitimate. So they ran with it in an attempt to backtrack and seem more reasonable. But prior to that, their attacks included mocking everything - from my relative newness at cycling, to my profession. The tone was vicious, not good-natured. I can tell the difference.

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  52. love.

    and spot on- although I feel far more novice than you are!!! But I also feel like I am STILL trying to figure out the perfect family bike so in that I am still beginning... searching....

    and I think you are super cool- sorry to compliment you :-)

    it's true- I read perhaps maybe one "expert" blog but that's b/c I like his voice and appreciate his words on mine. And even then sometimes I don't know what he's talking about! I was thinking we newbies need more video out there. I have been digging Miss Sarah's vids of her riding around. Not sure if I can video myself though- I can barely take a panda....

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  53. I think there's one other very important aspect to "beginner blogs" -- they are REASSURING and UNINTIMIDATING. If blogger X can get off the couch, go buy a bike, and actually keep riding it, then so can I. She doesn't know all the terminology either, and she is starting out no more athletic, brave, or experienced than I am, but she's still out there hauling groceries and smiling in her pictures. It's inspiring instead of intimidating, and it makes biking look like a leisure activity instead of a hard-core sport that requires intensive training and special clothes. It's the same reason I'd rather read a food blog by a home cook than by a professional chef -- I want tips on how to cook for myself, not how to cook in an industrial kitchen and turn 800 tables a night.

    Funnily enough, I have never thought of Lovely Bicycle as one of those "beginner blogs"! I guess because I started reading it after you'd been riding several years, and you knew and cared what "lugs" were.

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  54. "Of course people were being abrasive (it's the internet!)"

    Um - this is the biggest reason I hesitate to write anything on the internet. Can we please do something to *change* this instead of just accept it as the appropriate form of electronic communication?

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  55. Right on girl! Let us all remain newbie cycle dorks and just have fun learning and sharing. :)

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  56. Criticism is fine -- meanness not so much. I would be interested in a consumerist post! You'd be getting into my field, then :) Minefields, yo.

    One thing I found interesting was the "advice" from the men who visited. I do find the inclusion of unsolicited advice about how you might "grow in the sport" to be an online parallel to the joyless and exclusive LBS experience.

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  57. So don't do it portland. Good luck getting a publisher.

    Change the localized habits of individuals who frequent a certain forum about bicycles, by asking the question on someone's personal blog.

    Bril.

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  58. Velouria, as the Anonymous to whom you're responding, the issue is obviously not whether or not you review products. It is whether reviewing extremely expensive bicycles and extremely specialized gear really serves the needs of the new cyclists for whom you purport to write and whom you purport to represent. Much of the equipment you write about is significantly more expensive than what a full on, carbon-and-lycra-equipped racer would use. There really is something slightly off-putting about representing yourself as the champion of the everyday cyclist while fetishizing this kind of needlessly fancy equipment. Does presenting a retro-styled bike that costs several thousand dollars as the ideal really make cycling more accessible to inexperienced riders than presenting a less expensive race bike that does? Is there really a difference?

    As someone to whom novice riders are responding, these are in my opinion questions you should think about, rather than dismissing as the griping of people who don't like banner ads. This may not all have been spelled out in a few snarky forum posts written by people writing in shorthand, but they're issues that come to mind for at least some of your readers.

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  59. Anon 12:58 - Forgot to address this:

    "Not every new cyclist can afford or is interested in a $3000 bicycle, and very very few cyclists will get more out of such a machine than they will out of a sensibly designed stock bike like a Salsa Casseroll"

    As you state, we write about what compels us, so my writing is guided by my own interests and not by the general population's interest. And price has nothing to do with it. As I explicitly state in numerous posts (for example, this one), I am interested in classic, comfortable bicycles made to high standards of quality, preferably by real people and not by lifeless corporations with enormous profit margins. I explicitly try to promote framebuilders and small hands-on manufacturers whose products I believe in. Bicycles and products in that category are not cheap. Check how much hand-made costs. Check how much domestically-made costs. But by cutting down on other expenses (shoes, handbags, clothing, car, beer, etc., etc.) I am willing to give my money and my attention to these products in leu of the cheaper options. As a human being with free will, it is my right to have this point of view and to express it to my readers. Those who aren't interested are free to browse the gazillion of other blogs with a different focus. Seems reasonable to me...

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  60. As others have said this is by far my favorite and to be all honest really the only blog I read. I was at one point a once in a while reader now I check it every morning over coffee. I really dig your style of bike riding I for one like one of your posts am not one to do group rides they have always been solo for me.

    I am toying cause of your blog of joining up with a club if I can find one that isn't all snobbish ya know?

    You have given me a great number of ideas I wanna use on my bike style wise also have to say I really dig the B+W photos you take.


    Anyways not much different than others have said but it is refreshing to read from the point of a non pro type bike.

    Cheers
    Jim

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  61. Anon 1:57 - See my 1:59 reply as well. I do not represent all new cyclists nor do I presume a general audience. I myself happen to be a newish cyclist - but one who is specifically interested in classic, vintage, and hand-made bicycles and bicycle-relayed products, as well as various aspects of the cycling experience with emphasis on comfort. This blog should be interpreted as a niche voice, and nothing more grandiose than that. It is not my fault if I've attracted an audience that partly falls outside of that niche - my interests still lie firmly within it.

    Having said that, I do review less expensive bicycles and products on occasion. I also regularly recommend making vintage purchases over new ones. This blog is multi-faceted, but the emphasis on classic, vintage and hand-made has remained the same from the beginning.

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  62. ^ "relayed products" = related products

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  63. The rhetoric about image and substance here would probably be a bit more convincing if, for example, the Sam Hillborne were a fine, custom-crafted frame made by hand in America, rather than being a production model made in the same factory that makes Surly and Jamis bicycles. (By talented tradespeople who support their families with this honest work, I'll add.)

    I don't question your right to write about what tickles your fancy, nor do I think you have any responsibility to steer new cyclists toward inexpensive, sensible bicycles. I do think that your aesthetic and your writing raise some issues that are a bit more nuanced and perhaps interesting than you sometimes seem to think.

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  64. I suppose we've all hijacked your post a bit as you state the point is to address "beginners helping beginners," but forgive us, we can't help but give a person whose perspective, creativity, and aesthetic we all enjoy some well-deserved encouragement. And let's not forget work ethic- a blog of this quality is no joke!

    As a person who rediscovered cycling (and purchased a Pashley, oddly enough) right around the same time you did, I have found your blog immensely encouraging and informative, so thanks!

    I imagine I am not alone in saying that I also get great enjoyment out of your readers' comments, most of which are also friendly, eloquent, and helpful. You can tell a lot about a blogger by their cyber friends. ; )

    As you are a person who is not only a cyclist, but an artist and designer, I suspect it would take more than becoming an "expert" to diminish your enthusiasm. The history/design/cycling relationship aspect of your blog is very strong and your increasing knowledge and passion of each facet in turn will only serve to highlight new ways of exploring the others.

    Incidentally, it would make me soooo happy if Peppy were to turn up on the referenced forum.

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  65. I agree with Steve R.: "who reads Lovely Bicycle faithfully for its information, its beautiful photos, and its elegant prose."
    The anon at 1:57 doesn't get it. Velouria clearly states what this blog is about in About: "At times frivolous and self-indulgent, this weblog is ultimately about beautiful, functional, and comfortable bicycles. I am especially partial to classic and vintage lugged steel, and to loop frame and mixte construction." Anon, before you comment, do the universe a favor and actually pay attention. Velouria, may you keep on following your heart and continue keeping this blog lovely.

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  66. Anon 2:28 - Agree with 90% of your comment. The Riv made in Taiwan thing is complicated. As you point out, the factory is one that uses hand-building practices; in my opinion the frame is exceptionally well made compared to even other high-end modern frames. The philosophy of the frame construction and the lugwork is unique, which I value. The bicycle is unusually comfortable and accepts wide tires, which I value as well. Other bikes made in the same factory do not necessarily use the same process, but that is yet another topic.

    The points you Anonymous commenters raise here are valid, and so are mine. We can agree to disagree and let each other be. Criticism doesn't bother me. My reference to the "venom" of the thread in the post had to do with its tone, and its initial emphasis on "newbiness" - which later morphed into something else.

    I think that is probably enough on the subject from me.

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  67. Velo, the comment that you simply cannot ride an inexpensive road bike is quite a troubling one. How much time have you spent riding a properly fit inexpensive aluminum road bike? I personally discovered that the majority of the online distaste for aluminum as a frame material was entirely unfounded when I began riding an inexpensive aluminum frame. Yes, there is a difference. The aluminum frame is more efficient in the power transfer so I was able to ride longer and more difficult routes without tiring as easily. I did notice a slight difference in the feel of the bike, but a rough road was still a rough road, a smooth one was still smooth. Do not allow internet banter to sway you against something. If you think you might like a road bike and you don't think you would like to spend several thousand dollars on one, then you might be better served borrowing an inexpensive bike to test the feel of rather than a bike that is well out of the price range for nearly all amature cyclists.

    Here, at least I feel that I can give some advice, albeit unsolicited, that may help you find road rides to be more comfortable. Larger tires and lower pressure will eliminate any percieved harshness in a frame. Using high tpi 25-27mm tires at less than 105psi will make for a more comfortable ride on any bike with little, if any, noticable difference in rolling resistance.

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  68. Experts do help beginners. Experts should help beginners. An expert who isn't helpful probably isn't much an expert.
    Go for a ride with Greg Lemond. Yes, he rides with beginners. Seems to prefer it. The guy is continuously interested in how everybody he meets experiences cycling. He'll talk your ear off.
    Once I saw Eddy Merckx take over a retail customer from a somewhat snotty abusive LBS employee. Eddy's remark that I overheard: "Riding bike is not all that. Riding bike is fun."

    Beginner for beginner yes. Expert for beginner yes.
    Ride bike yes.

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  69. I'm male, I learn lots from your blog, I think you're cool and I think your writing style is interesting! (Anyway, those mean guys are just jealous you get so many comments on your blog)

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  70. I would be cautious about attributing to sexism what stupid/standard internet trollism can adequately account for. I'm male, and have written a grand total of three cycling related blog posts and have received rude / hysterical / condescending emails in response to every one of them.

    My day job is building pipe organs, and until I encountered the online culture of cyclists I used to think pipe organ geeks were the people who had the biggest most caustic arguments over the smallest matters, but our squabbles pale next to cycling forums, truly...

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  71. Kyle, though I agree with some of your thoughts about alu frames you're coming off as the LBS guy a lot of people don't like.

    Say the LBS you work for just gave you a 7. Just for being Kyle. I don't think you'd kick it out of bed.

    That's the sitch here.

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  72. Well, I have to admit that I started out reacting to this site in much the same way as Anonymous 12:58, but now find myself looking for a loop frame to renovate and rebuild as a 3-speed for my daughter. So to a large extent you have converted me to your point of view. However, I have a lot more time, skill, and interest than the average rider, who must make do with what is available at their LBS or big box store, and this is where I still find fault with this site -- or perhaps, this site finds fault with the world as it is. It would be really hard for a new cyclist to find a bike that you would recommend unless they lived in an area with a strong cycling culture like, say, where you live (e.g., try to find a local outlet for Abici.) The average newcomer is likely to find themselves forced to choose between hybrid comfort, mountain, and road bikes, none of which you think appropriate, and some of which you positively warn against. And so your advice may lead them away from cycling, rather than making do. I think they'd be better off starting with, say, a hybrid comfort bike, recognizing its deficiencies, then moving on to a better bike once they find they are using it for more than the occasional trip to the store or the cafe -- which is, after all, what it is design for.

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  73. Yesterday I rode my old Raleigh DL1 on the big "Ride Of Silence" since I don't get to ride it very much and this was going to just be 8 miles at 8 miles an hour.

    So I show up in a longsleeve shirt, khaki shorts and soccer shoes instead of the boy-racer lycra and spaceman spiff helmet and glasses. A bunch of the bike-club semi-regulars didn't recognize me and started making fun of my bike. One guy who rides with us enough to know who I am rolled over and asked me if I really wanted to try a ride this long before I could get a new bike. He warned me that the tires were probably too old to be safe. When I told him they were newer than the tires on his bike he just laughed and assured me that they hadn't made tires that size in years. I thought he was joking at first but he was perfectly serious. He even asked how I found out about this ride since it was sort of just a "Regulars only" ride. I am SO going to kick his ass up EVERY hill next week on the Wed. night ride. I'm even going to make a clip to carry an umbrella on my roadbike since he seemed to find that so ridiculous on my old Raleigh. Then I'm going to do my best "Lance stares down Jan Ulrich with his alien eyes of scorn"
    when I pass him even if I have to cough up a lung in the car on the way home.

    I know that this guy(and some other riders)has given new riders a hard time like this before but I never really paid that much attention. I think it's been enough years since I was so obnoxious to newbies that my victims are all dead or wandering aimlessly around golf courses, so I hope it wont be asking for "The Big Karmic Dope-Slap" if I show up in my khakis and flappy white shirt next week with my umbrella strapped to the fork of my 30 year old Racebike and see if they make the connection. They aren't bad guys but it is so easy to want our hobbies and interests to define and validate us at the expense of others. So next week I'm going to define and validate myself by beating up on some guys who happen to be slower than me while trying not to look stupid to the guys that are faster than me. Pretty noble, eh.

    It's either that or start hanging out on "THE BEST FREAKING BIKEBLOG IN THE UNIVERSE" and making fun of everyone who trims his beard different than me.

    Spindizzy

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  74. ^ "Lance stares down Jan Ulrich with his alien eyes of scorn"
    Spindizzy, I'm STILL laughing.
    Kick ass and take his name! (And then come back and tell us all about it.) ; )

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  75. Jon Webb - I have to respectfully disagree. I thought I was "upgrading" from a vintage Raleigh sports to a hybrid in 2007. My trusted LBS told me so. If I hadn't previously had a good biking experience to look back on, that bike would have had me throw in the towel. The harder I tried, the worst it got. I didn't get stronger on that bike. It broke me. Once I figured out the problem, I spent over a year looking for a replacement vintage bike to get back the joy of riding.

    We don't all have the money to buy a starter bike to throw away once we start riding further or the experience to know what to do when riding becomes uncomfortable. Complaining that riding my bike far was causing me pain on the forums just got me the advice that I was out of shape and it was just muscle fatigue. No one told me this was a common complaint about hybrids. I learned that from V and the commentators here.

    If people are going to spend even $500 on a bike (over a month of grocery money at my house) they should know what they are getting into.

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  76. Ground Round Jim, I have no idea what the second half of your comment means.

    I suppose I can come across a little preachy sometimes. Information must be passed along somehow though. This blog is probably not the best place to do so, but if you come into a shop and tell them that you can't ride low end aluminum bikes, I hope that you wouldn't react poorly if they asked how much time you'd spent on aluminum bikes and recommended that you lower your tire pressure.

    Anyway, Velo, have fun riding. Your bikes are immaculate and all your clothes and bags and baskets and accessories are super hip. A lot of us are jealous and wish we could afford the kinds of things you have. I hope you find a way to tolerate road rides without being forced to buy a $5,000 titanium bike.

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  77. Wow, the posting and the comments have covered a lot of ground. Bikes and apparently bike-related blogs are just like shoes, sunglasses, haircuts, and football teams in that everything comes down to tribalism, with mine being better than yours. Find something to dislike, frame the remarks in humor, and you have an internet snarkfest.

    You like fancy/beautiful bikes (and funny-shaped yellow ones) and write about it online, what's so tough to understand about that. It's pretty obvious up front and I'm sure folks that don't like fancy/beautiful bikes or have different definitions of what fancy & beautiful are have other places to read up on crucial bike information on the interwebs.

    As for LBS treatment of women, mine is awful. They ignore my wife when she goes in there. But you know what, while they don't ignore me ("Hey, broooo...") they're still incompetent and can't order parts I need w/out multiple tries. I now spend my discretionary income elsewhere. This doesn't seem to bother them in the least.

    And posting as an a-non-y-mouse... really, come on guys, own your comments.

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  78. I don't know if it's because I'm a dorky fan girl of Lovely Bicycle, or if it's because I've carefully read (and even re-read) most of the pages and posts on this blog, but I have NEVER gotten the impression that I needed to spend thousands of dollars on a Rivendell and expensive bags to be considered a legit and happy cyclist. Hello, the co-Hab just built up a Surly, and many of Velouria's bicycles are vintage and were purchased for very little. The road bike give-away, praise for the vintage Lady Sports models, and Urbana bike review seemed really far away from representing "retro-styled bike that costs several thousand dollars as the ideal." Those are just a few examples that I can think of at the moment.

    Perhaps some are jealous and threatened that a young woman who is "new" to cycling, and who also happens to be smart and a good writer has a gem of a blog and the success and attention that comes with it, not to mention a gorgeous stable of bikes. And there's nothing wrong with having a bunch of really nice bikes, sheesh.

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  79. I think of myself as a reasonably experienced cyclist, and have spent over a decade working full- and part-time as a bike mechanic, and I certainly enjoy your blog.

    There are always certain elements in any pursuit who, having reached a certain level of knowledge, feel entitled to look down on anyone who hasn't achieved their level of enlightenment. Some of them outgrow that, many do not, and as a result don't seem to actually enjoy their hobby all that much.

    Cycling if FUN. I think everybody should do it, and part of what I like about this blog is that it's really about getting out and enjoying your ride.

    Yes, the bikes and accessories you feature aren't necessarily inexpensive, but I did happen to notice the title of the blog is "Lovely Bicycle," as opposed to "Budget Bicycle" or "Cycle Commuting on the Cheap" (maybe I should start a cheap commuting blog, the economy has certainly taught me a lot about THAT lately!).

    I think it's important that new cyclists find a friendly voice, whether it's online or in the LBS (FWIW, those snobbish shop rats tend to be jerks to their co-workers as well, I've worked with a few). This is especially true in the case of female cyclists, who are tragically underrepresented in transportation biking in the US (I think the numbers come out to less than 25% of cycle commuters being female, which is terrible).

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  80. Kyle, V's got a free ride on a 7 for a bit. Not too many people would turn that down. Valid points on alu.

    Dude, I'm thinking you and the other forumites should read through this blog. It will: a) blow your collective minds b) raise some interesting questions and c) give you enough ammo to talk transpo bikes with that hot barista that's not into fixies or roadies.

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  81. Wow, Kyle. No one was saying you're a bad person. There's no need to get personal... and so quickly.

    Anyway.

    The thing about “going further in the sport” is that not everyone wants to do that. Some people have pools just to float around them in summer with a drink, and show off to their neighbours. Some people just enjoy swimming laps and that’s it. Why should they have do put up posters of Michael Phelps/Ian Thorpe to swim a few lengths? The re-iteration of transportation cycling as being an intermediary step to sport cycling is off putting. There are plenty of places where commuter bicycling is the norm, not a gateway drug. Some people in those places love cycle sports, but that‘s as relevant to everyday cycling as Formula 1 to work week gridlock. Racing isn’t an extension of everyday cycling, it (can and does) stand alone.

    The pre-occupation with dialing everything up to eleven is why many people come to low-key blogs like this one. If you want to buy a car, most people won’t care either way if you want a grocery getter or a brand new sports car. That’s because car culture is so pervasive, that there aren’t such specialized niches where you have to join a subculture and swear your undying devotion to it … so you can get to the store in your minivan. And the story about taking the remarks in the spirit they were meant in is just that—a story. There’s this aura of subcultures, particularly ones that appeal to a lot of men, that learning anything has to be a complicated hazing ritual where the acolytes glean tiny crumbs of knowledge at the feet of the masters. And if you don’t learn much that way, then the problem is that you don’t want to learn the subject enough (to jump through a bunch of arbitrary hoops). And some will just hit you up with unsolicited advice. This is very different from adding your voice to a discussion, but trying to turn it toward being the authority on the topic. How could you not be grateful to them for sharing this hard won advice! For free! Wait, don’t go!

    As far as consumerism goes, if this blog posts something I’m not interested in, I can check out some other post. But Velouria is clear about either borrowing or being given items for testing, which many blogs try to obscure. She also tries items so I don’t have to! There's so many manufacturers vying for our money and time, if they want to send blogs stuff so I can narrow my list down from the comfort of home I'm all for it. I wasn’t really interested in panniers and heel strike a couple of months back, but now I’m happily digging in the archives. The same with vintage 3 speeds, which I’d passed happily over for mixtes…until recently :). It’s true some of the specific type of beginner flavour that was in this blog at its inception has blurred somewhat. But if you put this much work into learning about something, surely some of it should stick by now? As long as Velouria keeps learning and communicating her enthusiasm, even about road bikes, this blog will work for me. And if she ever gets further into folding bikes, I will be eager to read about it!


    ohkay

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  82. Christopher FotosMay 19, 2011 at 8:28 PM

    I'm late to this party but that's a very interesting perspective Velouria. I'm a fairly experienced cyclist, and I come here because you have a singular voice. I also didn't know anything about the "city bike" world, and it fascinates me. The real deal is not my cup of tea right now as far as my own bikes are concerned, but you definitely got me thinking about putting fenders on my awesome Soma smoothie ES, which it's now sporting (hideous toe overlap though, I need something else).

    This Sunday is my favorite biking event in Washington, DC: BikeDC. This year they're blocking off 20 miles of streets and highways just for bikes. I know I'm going to see more city bikes this year than last, and if I get into a chat with any of the owners I'll be sure to point them to your blog. (Not that I see you as limited to that at all--but I know with those people I'll get a positive reception. With BikeDC, it's definitely Don't Harsh My Mellow time).

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  83. you go girl! this is a great post, i'm dying to know what they said!! i agree about enthusiasm, and i know for a fact that as a beginning blogger and bike commuter that sharing my experiences and enthusiasm inspires others to get on a bike (that's my blogs purpose, that's the greatest accomplishment i hope to have blogging.) the technical side of biking is not my interest for blogging (i'll leave that to the marketers and paid bloggers) but building that enthusiasm for adventure, community, and giving tools to learn about cycling is definitely why i blog. and i like to think that's why most of us blog, we want to invite others in not out.

    so, let's keep it up, if others want to talk, let them talk. i never let a cycling accident keep me from riding and blogging again so what can a few threads of bad mouthing do. i like being talked about anyways (not saying they did but ooohh it would just tickle me!!)

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  84. Kyle - are you the same Kyle I've met in person?

    Tell me which inexpensive alu roadbike you think is good and I can give it a try at a local bike shop. But the problem I am describing with them is not uncommon; women complain all the time that "the bike hurts" by which they mean a harsh ride quality. My sister got a nice Marin several months ago for around $700 on sale, and while she is more athletic than me and mastered the technique quickly, she also complains that the bike hurts her and she does not enjoy riding it. Anyway - name some models and I'll see whether I can test ride them locally. Would be neat to compare them to the Seven.

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  85. Also, for the love of cats everyone: I am not buying a $5K titanium bike. Or a CF bike. Or an aluminum bike. Not buying any bike; that would be an insane thing to do after not even knowing whether I will stick with these rides.

    Neither am I getting a free ride on a Seven. I offer a service to businesses here, called sponsorship. It has a monetary value: they pay me $X per month and I display their banner. Sometimes, I will exchange this service for goods or services on the manufacturer's part of equivalent value instead of cash. And that is what is happening here. Notice the banner for the Ride Studio Cafe on the righthand side. It appeared last weekend. We have determined a loan period for the Seven that equals the value of this ad placement. Very straightforward.

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  86. I do think you're silly and consumerist, but I still enjoy some of what you have to say. More importantly, your blog gets at the idea that silly consumerist girly-girls can ride bikes, too.

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  87. There is a quote from Ghandi that I find quite appropriate for this post:
    “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

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  88. Thanks a lot, I am now picturing a silly, consumerist Ghandi...

    Girly-girl? Not so much.

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  89. On the "cheap aluminum road bikes" tangent: there used to be a few manufacturers that offered relatively inexpensive steel road bikes in the same price range as those basic aluminum bikes, decent quality but a bit heavy. If you decide you need a dedicated "brifter bike" for those fast group rides you might try test riding a few of those.
    Raleigh makes a few in lugged steel, and Jamis has a couple in three-digit prices. They won't quite compare to the Seven, but neither will the price. I've had good experiences with both companies as an LBS employee (and currently ride a Jamis myself, one of their Commuter models).

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  90. Velo, I don't think we've met. As for the aluminum bikes, I can honestly say that at the $700-$1500 price range, all the frames are pretty much the same. The only difference is in the components. Ride whatever your shop has to offer. I am quite interested to hear your comparison of the inexpensive aluminum bike and the high end titanium. Honestly, titanium is the only material that I have not had the chance to experience on a long ride.

    (If you aren't looking for unsolicited advice, skip to the next comment now. I felt the need to talk a little about discomfort)

    I will say, though, that discomfort experienced by riders new to road bikes has nothing to do with sex. I have had just as many men describe to me in detail how uncomfortable they are on the bike as I have had women. Transitioning to a road bike is difficult. It is not a natural position for our bodies. You must develop flexibility in places you have never needed it before. You must become accustomed to the more prominent feel of the road. No efficient road bike will give you the same smooth ride that 35mm tires will. You must become accustomed to the saddle. Different positions cause your sit bones to contact the saddle in different places. The soft tissue covering them must have time to desensitize. All of this takes time on the bike. If someone is uncomfortable after a few rides and they stop riding for a week, they will be starting back at square one then they get back on.

    Compounding these factors is the fact that you are asking your body to work much harder on a road bike. To do that, it demands a lower tolerance for error. The fit must be much more precise than on an upright bike. This fit cannot be determined in one go, even with the most advanced system. You need to get fit, ride for a bit, make adjustments and ride for a bit more. It should take a few tries to get a proper fit dialed in. Saddles and shoes become very important fit choices as well, not just accessories. Saddles that come on inexpensive road bikes are often too soft for long, strenuous rides. Bike companies put them on because they are cheap and make for a more comfortable test ride. In all actuality, they are very nearly disposable and are one of the first upgrades that I suggest to anyone experiencing discomfort. I would expect to go through 2-3 different quality saddles before finding one that works for you (it took me three years to find the right shape). Proper shoes are not just about better power transfer, they prevent hot spots and foot numbness that can occur on long rides. I would like to stress that once a certain level is reached, it isn't the quality so much as the shape of each of these items that makes a difference.

    Anyone who is truly comfortable on a road bike spends a lot of time on it and has put a good amount of thought into how it is set up. It is very rare for a newer cyclist to be immediately comfortable on a new bike.

    I am sorry to hear that your sister is not enjoying her bike. I hope she at least had fun on her 60 mile ride (which is quite a long ride in anyone's book).

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  91. Veloria, I found your blog because you were writing about your vintage Raleigh Sports. Yeah, you pimped it out with those $75 white tires and that professional tune-up and the $20 worth of lowered gearing... Obviously, you should have started with a $1000 new hybrid, which needed nothing but which cost twice as much to begin with and left you nothing for that Carradice saddlebag (note eye roll here).

    They're vintage or hand-built bikes. You aren't talking about a Ferrari here. Some cost more, some less. Most folks can get a nice vintage ride going that will resemble one of your bikes for under $400. It will last forever, ride beautifully and be adorable.

    Trolls. Who needs 'em?

    And thanks, Erin B. I like writing rideblog. Where else can I create a narrative out of next-to-nothing and find enthusiastic readers? I enjoy the challenge of taking a 1 hour, 10 mile ride on a trail I'm on all the time, and finding the thing that makes that day's experience unique. And then I like having a bikey crowd around to read it, instead of my family sighing and moving away mid-story to do other things. Glad you're enjoying it.

    Veloria, you really do write the best bike blog out there. I'm not into every post, every day. Sometimes I disagree with what you've written. Sometimes you horrify me for days (that paceline ride... I still feel nauseated even considering such a thing), but I'm intrigued and delighted enough to read it every day. I can't say that about anything else but the New York Times.

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  92. snarkypup - "that paceline ride... I still feel nauseated even considering such a thing"

    LOL. I remember the first time Velouria talked about wanting a bike with drop bars, and I was like "OMG! You did not just go there. I'm going to have to stop reading this blog." That must have been like a year ago, or something.

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  93. I've been bicycling for 40+ years as a recreational, touring and utilitarian bicyclist. And I'm male. Yet I enjoy your blog very much. I appreciate being able to follow your experience from starting as a beginner cyclists to your now experienced state.

    I imagine your blog has been useful to many other beginner cyclists.

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  94. I’m just going to echo what so many others have posted about here. I love your blog because it is accessible to real people without the giant insecurities that seem to plague the general road biking community. Your writing is engaging, educational, and never boring. I know you weren’t looking for re-assurance, but don’t let the Spandex Douchebag swarm get you down lady! I know you feel uncomfortable with praise too, but you’ve inspired a lot of people, and for that you should feel proud! : )

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  95. Arguably, a new $15,900 base Toyota Corolla is a much more egregious example of consumerism than a $5,000 road bike. Even a decent used car will generally cost $5k or more. The autocentric, advertising induced, consumerist haze through which modern America stumbles is perhaps the greatest possible indictment of American capitalism.

    Ignoring the exponential reduction in waste between a car and a bicycle, and considering just the bicycle, there are widely varying perspectives. Basic transportation on a bicycle can begin at well less than $100, or even be free. Find a $15 or free bike at a garage sale or dumpster, jury rig some plastic bags over the back like Velouria did the other day, and you're good to go. Are designer leather bags and other fancy accoutrements really less irresponsible than other forms of consumerism, or less indicative of the consumerist culture and perspective in this country? Is even the $700 base road or hybrid or comfort or mountain bike (which likely do not fit and/or do not satisfy basic transportation needs) at the local bike shop an extravagance? As some have noted, the interests of the manufacturers and LBSs are not aligned with those of the basic transpo cyclist (e.g., crappy seats that are only useful for the test ride).

    I think it is hard to overcome our cultural experience, even if we have shifted our focus from cars to bicycles. Yet I would rather have people spending a few thousand dollars on a luxury bicycle than $50k or more on a luxury car. A $3k bike still wins hands down in terms of practicality, health, efficiency, and use of resources. Still, considering buying such a bike myself, I have the niggling thought that I cannot justify such an expense, other than by my own vanity or selfishness.

    I am not an expert about bikes, and not the hardiest soul when it comes to winter weather. Yet I am biking year round now in Illinois, even through blizzards. I started with the old department store mountain bike in my garage, and am now building up an old lugged steel road bike I picked up off of craigslist. I figure these are inexpensive ways to make mistakes and expand my knowledge base. Once I figure out what will be ideal for my needs, I can always spend some real money on it later. After all, I am saving so much biking instead of driving. Yet I am finding it fun to build up an old bike, and it suits my active attempts to reduce consumption. The frame on my old bike is just as well suited to my needs as a new frame, and it would be a shame to see such a fine old steed go to waste while I incur unnecessary resource costs by buying a fancy new one.

    Interestingly, vis a vis Kyle's comments, I had some pain on riding my old mountain bike, most likely because it was not a good fit to my size. My wife won't ride now, because the department store bike she bought at the same time is too painful to ride. Hard to tell a difference between genders or types of bike based on such anecdotes. However, I have had no pain moving to the vintage road bike, possibly because I am in better shape now, and because it actually fits. There was no magic in the fit - I am tall, so I got the biggest frame size they made, enabling me to achieve a proper pedal stroke without having to use the maximum insertion line to balance the seat post on the bike. The rest is falling into place with gradual tweaks. I am starting to think the finickiness of sizing protocols arises mostly from trying to play around with frames that are too small.

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  96. Adopting the bicycle as transportation in this country can be difficult at times. There is a steep learning curve, despite our desire to keep up appearances for the uninitiated. New bike commuters are beset from all sides - rock to the right and left, and low lean thorn between. Your average car commuter is apathetic, patronizing, fearful of bikes (while discounting the risks inherent in their own activities), and sometimes downright scornful, or worse, antagonistic. How to overcome such a deeply ingrained car culture to start getting people on bikes, and to allow them to safely share the roads? On the other side is the disparate and often haughty cycling community. Many consider themselves athletes with specialized technology, and a simple bike commuter without ambition for anything other than a reliable, safe means of transportation is a foreign other to be ignored or scorned. A cyclist in this country is not mainstream or mundane, and we desperately need to make the bicycle both to help begin improving our built environments, consumption of resources, and pollution of the air and water. The LBSs generally don't have resources or merchandise for transpo cyclists (few have even seen a bike with a rack, fenders and lights), and most don't really care (to the extent they even know), because there is so little demand they feel they can't make any money that way (consumerist capitalism at odds with wiser public policy considerations). Between the car and cycling rocks lies the concrete graveyard of the city streets, littered with the bodies of unprepared newbies chewed up and spit out by a merciless autocentric infrastructure, because the only advice they got was an upsell by a LBS to an ill fitting aluminum bike, and the only training they had as to riding or road rules was a poorly remembered session with a parent as a kid and some years behind the wheel of a car.

    The automobile does not make sense on a fundamental level. 90% of the amount of time driving to work saves me over walking, I can get by biking, for 10% or less of the personal financial cost, not to mention the health benefits. The car is destroying our finances, draining our natural resources, and suffocating our way of life. We do not build our spaces to enable humans to enjoy their surroundings, but to enable cars to access every corner of our existences. I am surprised we don't pave the graveyards so we can all be easily buried in our cars. For those few who realize the problem, there are few resources to effect change. That is why I have started writing about some of these issues. That is the value I see in the beginner speaking to the beginner.

    Velouria's points are interesting, particularly those regarding relatability, enthusiasm, and unselfconsciousness. I feel it can be helpful to read about the trials of someone who is similarly situated, and how they overcame obstacles. It inspires hope if an admitted novice in the same boat as you can do it. And all blogs need to have that hint of self-deprecation that beginners often naturally exude. Otherwise blogging seems a rather egotistical and self-aggrandizing act. However, I think it worth risking the slings and arrows of the internet to tell others that unassuming motorists can indeed make it to work or the grocery store on the bike. After all, this unassuming motorist has.

    Garth-

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  97. Surely you used the word "relatable" in a deliberate provocation, knowing that no one would call you out for it in the comments to this particular post...

    ...otherwise, though, your style is admirable, and your syntax in no way eccentric. They are the main reason I keep reading, actually.

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  98. BG - I wasn't talking about myself in the post, but beginner blogs in general. As for me... I am relatable in some ways, not relatable in others. Specifically, I find that the comfort issues I experience are relatable to many women and that can trump the other stuff.

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  99. Velouria, I wrote a big long response to your Blog, but after reading some of the responses I think it was slightly off base, so I am re-tooling it here based on the latest info!  Perhaps it might have helped to know the nature of the comments? I presumed (as others did) that they were coming from the Carbon fiber elitist, but now it appears that you are being accused of being rather high brow!? Correct??

    First to the comment that Sam’s are made in essentially the same factories as Surlys and other lower priced bikes: Sure, that may be true, BUT most of those other bikes are tig welded and not lugged! On top of that I am sure those other bikes are produced in much larger numbers. Because of the character of Rivendells they are not aimed at the high volume, low cost crowd, they have a fairly narrow slice of the overall bike buying pie. Take a Surly and make it using lugs and I am sure the price difference will narrow considerably

    As for newbies being able to afford Sam’s or Pashley’s or some high end handbuilt bikes, it should probably be noted that you did not start with that type of bike either! I have only found your blog a few days ago, but somebody mentioned a Schwinn, there were some Motobecanes, Raleighs and a Trek!! Excuse me!? Those are all nice bikes, but also rather mundane and pretty much standard for the average low budget beginner. As you have pointed out though that was 2+ years ago and like any rabid cyclist it’s onward and upward! Once you have the fever, the only thing that will satisfy it is going to be something nicer and unfortunately more expensive! I have been riding bikes for almost 43 years, but in the last 6 months have started taking it seriously again for health reasons, because my kids are old enough that I can again and also because I love it! I’ve got quite a few bikes, but I just bought another (650B Rawland Drakkar) and I am seriously leaning towards getting a Sam as well! Additionally I can certainly see how there could be a handmade frame in my future, should those other bikes not totally hit the spot. Like you these purchases would be funded by, selling other bikes and taking my lunch to work instead of going out, etc.

    When I don’t have time to go exploring I usually do a quick circumnavigation of the small lake by my house. Out the door and back is almost 14 miles and depending on how long it takes me to deal with traffic I can do it in 60 to 75 minutes depending on the bike I take. On my way I recognize numerous riders who seem to have only one bike, because I always see them on the same one! There’s one guy on a brown late 70’s vintage Raleigh Professional, it’s been well used and does not look like much, but even though he’s older then me, he still passes me like I am standing still on my brand new bike. I have to confess this is rather annoying, because prior to my brief hiatus from vigorous cycling, people on bikes like this did not pass me. But then I think “good for him” he’s riding and by the smile on his face I can tell he’s enjoying himself. Seemingly getting a kick out of passing my pretty new bike with his worn out clunker! O.K. a dose of humility and added incentive to knock off this extra baggage I have packed on in recent years and I really envy him that he still enjoys that old Raleigh after all these years. I enjoy my old bikes, I still have most of them, but new bikes? Well, nothing like a new bike to make you feel good and if it’s also pretty well so much the better!

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  100. MelissaTheRagamuffinMay 20, 2011 at 3:01 PM

    Velouria, it's your blog. Write what you like. Anyone who doesn't like it can feel free not to read it. Personally, I love your blog.

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  101. As the comments began drifting toward the car vs bike debate, I encourage everyone to remember that in our country, the choice to commute by bicycle is a privileged one. We who can make this choice live close enough to work and do not have to carry large amounts of groceries or children long distances.

    The comments I made about fit earlier were intended to be primarily for those who wish to do longer, more strenuous rides. Though a true fit is always helpful, it is not always necessary for someone who rarely, if ever, rides more than 15-20 miles on an aggressive road bike. Most people can feel their way into a good fit for casual riding through experimentation.

    For the continued distrust and distaste aimed toward bike shops, it sounds like everyone in here has a good idea of what they want in a bike. If you tell a shop worker that you want something for commuting and you need to be able to fit fenders and a rack, then there is no reason for them to try to get you on a bike that doesn't fit your needs. If they to guide you toward a road bike, don't assume that they are just trying to sell you something more expensive than you need. Listen to their argument and even take a ride. It may not look like the bike you had in mind, but it may fit your purpose perfectly.

    More and more shops are stocking commuter bikes. Maybe they are not heavy, vintage looking european-styled bikes like the ones preferred by Velo, but they do perform the job quite well. Many came complete with fenders, racks and, in some cases, generator powered lights. Some are steel, but the more popular models were aluminum with more modern components. These are significantly lighter than the steel bikes and because they are made to take large tires, the difference in frame material was hardly noticeable. The weight is very apparent on the hills, which is a major concern where I live.

    So, I urge you all again, please give your shops another try. Not every shop caters to casual riders and commuters, but there is probably more than one in every city that does. Go in with an open mind knowing that the employees there are not working (in most cases) for bike bike manufacturers. They are just as much at the mercy of the big corporations' decisions as you are.

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  102. Oh man, the car vs bike thing is a can of worms.

    Kyle - the term "privileged" is an extremely loaded one and can be wielded any which way we like. Is it really privileged to live close to your work, or is it a choice the underprivileged might be forced to make precisely because they do not have a car? You can spin it either way, so seems best not to spin it at all.

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  103. melissatheragamuffinMay 20, 2011 at 5:10 PM

    Kyle, I moved to where I live now specifically so that I could commute by bike. Yes, moving was expensive, but so was driving a car in from the county every day. I pay over $100 more per month in rent living where I do, but I have more money in my pocket on a day to day basis because I save more than that in gas by riding. That's just the gas part of it. That's not including the decrease in wear and tear on my car. I haven't had to put tires on my car in over two years when I used to do it yearly. I only had to get one oil change last year. Then take into consideration the fact that my car has 190k miles on it. If I was still driving in from the county I would have had to replace it by now, and would be struggling to make a payment and increased insurance in addition to the cost of gas and maintenance.

    I'm a social worker. One of the things I do with people is budgeting and housing counseling, and I always counsel people to try and find affordable housing within biking or even - dare I say it - walking distance of their jobs. When I worked for the Homeless Intervention Program the number 1 reason I heard for people getting behind in their always started with, "The car broke down...." Then, it would be followed up with, "I couldn't get to work and got fired," "I fixed the car instead of paying the rent," "I couldn't fix the car or pay the rent because of missing time..." Cars are nothing more than four wheeled tyrrants that enslave the working class.

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  104. " Cars are nothing more than four wheeled tyrrants that enslave the working class."

    : ))

    We have not had a car since November. Oddest thing: Other stuff suddenly got more affordable.

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  105. The non-monetary value of not having to worry about a car has also been huge for me so far since we sold ours. I think we underestimate how much mental strain it puts on us, between actually driving it, which is difficult and stressful, if sometimes unconsciously - and the added bills, maintenance, parking, feeling obligated to travel long distances because you can, etc.

    I feel like we released a lot of mental baggage when we sold it, even though we could afford to have it financially.

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  106. Oh, I fully support the concept you're talking about -- but that concept just isn't what the word "relatable" traditionally signifies. But don't feel bad: I'm losing that battle with my students, too. And as with lugwork, so with semantics -- the traditional forms never quite die out, but do enter the sad twilight realm of aesthetes and purists. Carry on, carry on.

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  107. "Cars are nothing more than four wheeled tyrants that enslave the working class.

    Truth to power! Melissa, may I use that line?

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  108. @Kyle

    "in our country, the choice to commute by bicycle is a privileged one. We who can make this choice live close enough to work and do not have to carry large amounts of groceries or children long distances."

    No. Half the population of the USA lives within five miles of work. You don't need to get groceries every day and there are school buses for kids.
    1world2wheels.org/get-involved

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  109. melissatheragamuffinMay 20, 2011 at 9:46 PM

    BG - absolutely. I still own a car, but just the money I save with biking anywhere within 3 miles of home makes such a huge difference. If I had to drive the measily 2 miles to work every day, I wouldn't be able to afford cable t.v. anymore, and then I couldn't watch Game of Thrones or True Blood, and then I'd be cranky.

    Unfortunately, my family is really far flung. My sister lives half an hour away by car. Plus, my church is out in the middle of nowhere. Though I really struggle with the gas I spend to go to meeting. That is my single biggest gas expenditure every week, and there's anyone of a dozen churches within biking distance that might not be as good but would be good enough.

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  110. I teach AP Calculus in a Title I school. I've talked to my students about cycling. Many of them live outside the specified bussing district and come to this school specifically to take classes like mine. Those that don't have cars are at the mercy of a public transit system that often takes well over an hour and a half to get them to school. I will tell you that having 17 year olds in class for 1st period that left the house before 6am does not necessarily make for an ideal learning environment. Many of these same students work after school. In order to get a reasonable number of hours, they need to be at work before 5pm. Properly dressed and not covered in sweat. Remember that these students do not work at businesses that have convenient bike parking or showers to clean up in. When they get off, often close to 10pm, they have to get home on fast, dark streets. Would you like to explain to their parents how much better off they would be if they rode a bike?

    Their parents are another story. Often, they drive their children to school on their way to work. They too must arrive at work in clean clothes, generally without the luxury of secure bike parking and showers. If they need to stop by the grocery store on the way home, they need to make sure they have enough space to get all that they need as well as the time to get home and cook dinner. Forget having to go to a PTA meeting or a sports game. Would you really like to go into their home and explain to them how the way they have organized their life is just wrong and that they would be so much better off if they rode a bike everywhere?

    Of course, I live in a major city. Cycling is much easier here. Would you like to ride out to a suburb and explain to the people living there that they really should just ride a bike to the grocery store that is 5 miles away on 50mph roads? And if they scoff, would you like to explain to them that they really should just sell their house and move someplace more convenient for cycling?

    Eric, I can see your point (though I have not been able to find the facts that support this statement). I fully encourage you to visit your nearest low-income community and convince the majority of the population that their lives would be so much better of they simply saw that your way of doing things was much better than their own.

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  111. The key is using the proper tool. The majority of car trips are short without cargo or passengers. Why spend all that extra money to haul a car around with you? Most of the energy spent moves the weight of the car, not you. Then you have to find a place to park it at each destination. Not to mention traffic and exhaust fumes. 75% of U.S. workers drive to work alone. That is simply illogical.

    Driving out of town to visit relatives, or driving with a trunk full of groceries, can still be entirely logical. We need to reduce the illogical trips. The answer to traffic, pollution, and energy consumption is not to villify or eradicate the car, but to limit the number of trips.

    Priorities determine how you live. We may be stuck with poor city planning and the existing built environment(though we can hope for change). But we still have a lot of choice within those restrictions.

    I live in a city with great housing stock within 5 miles of its center. You can find inexpensive housing options easily, in pleasant and safe neighborhoods, even on large lots. The more expensive developments tend to be the suburban areas, farther away. The city keeps building roads out there, and people keep driving in from fancy new developments, but some of us choose a closer, older house with some character and livability.

    I do not think LBSs are evil, or that they are all useless to the commuter. I simply think that most LBS choices are limited to cycling as sport or recreation, for the simple reason that those are the only two viable consumer markets in this country. A few cities are more enlightened, but most are not. There is only one shop in my area that even recognizes transportation as an option. They are nice to me, and they luckily also have the best mechanic in town. But even they do not stock the few commuter options offered by the manufacturers they carry. They recognize the issue, but say there is just no market. And I don't blame them. I understand that they need to make money. It's their business. Sadly, those business incentives are at odds with the goal of making bike transportation options readily accessible. For me, that is the flaw in the brand of capitalism we have. We tend to assume that the free market will encourage what is best for everyone, when it really encourages what is best for the profit margins of the businesses in that market. Capitalism affords a lot of opportunities, but we need to keep our eye on the ball here.

    Sadly, many of the LBSs around here also lack quality and knowledge. I feel like I know more about bikes than the employees of some of these places, which should absolutely not be, since I am no expert. Doing basic research before visiting gives me the edge. I felt the same way when I bought my last cell phone. So I take the easy route of retreating to the internet, and making my purchases there. If the physical stores are not helpful (Verizon or LBS), and just try to upsell me stuff they don't understand and I don't need, I'll just buy it online from a better selection. I would prefer to support the local shop, and I keep visiting them with an open mind, there just isn't a viable option to support. With the exception of my one good LBS mechanic. Not a criticism of any posters here, just a sad commentary on the state of affairs in my neck of the woods.

    Sorry, I seem to have gotten way off topic at this point. However, I think that recognizing the need for and challenges facing adopting the bicycle as transportation, is what makes me, as a beginner, want to talk to other beginners. If the topic were something more mundane like cars, I would not feel the same need. When I learned how to drive, I had an experienced driver teach me. I didn't ask my high school classmates to relate to me in detail their experiences! And I would certainly not have any interest now, as an experienced driver, in reading a blog by a student driver. Though this being the internet, I'm sure there's a popular student driver blog out there somewhere!

    Garth-

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  112. @Kyle I think you are posting on the wrong blog. From your posts here you seem like you are the type of cyclist that sees cycling as a sport (aka Running, Basketball, or Baseball) on this blog for the most part the people here see cycling as transportation and for fun, not competition. There are plenty of blogs out there if you want information about the sporting side of cycling.

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  113. Kyle - This blog is not anti-car, and my view on transportation cycling has no moral connotations. I like cars. They are good at doing the job they were intended to do. And I would not in a million years suggest that a person who works in town but lives 20 miles away in the countryside "should" either cycle to work while hauling their equipment on a cargobike, or move to town. I generally don't believe in "shoulds" and instead believe in personal sovereignty. It is only a "bad" idea to live 20 miles from your job if it affects your life negatively in a way that becomes evident to you.

    Having said that: If and only if one wants, it is absolutely possible to cycle 5 miles to work without getting one's clothes dirty and without possessing any athletic skill. There are bicycles specially designed for this, and those are the type of bicycle I focus on here for transportation. Yes, if you buy new they are more expensive than the bikes without the special commuting features. But you get what you pay for.

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  114. In MA mopeds can legally filter through stopped traffic, and I think in some cases can even legally use on-street bike lanes (but perhaps not wrong-way bike lanes). I think it's a neat idea to use one of those if you don't feel like cycling to work yet don't want to deal with cars/traffic.

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  115. Johnny, you're right of course. I am posting on the wrong blog, but it is not my outlook on transportation cycling that is the issue. I started riding as a means of transportation in 2003 because I greatly disliked driving in the city. In 2005 my car was totaled and I chose not to buy another one. From then until the spring of 2010, I did not own a car. Two of those years I spent in Northern Thailand where I commuted by bike. Even after many warnings about the dangers of the roads and a run-in with a dump truck that left me with a fractured spine, I continued using my bike as my primary transportation (as soon as I was fully healed). I only purchased a car again recently because I was hired by a school that is about 12 miles away. This has not entirely kept me from doing that commute by bike though (I actually did my student teaching at the same school 5 years ago, when I did not own a car, and rode my bike or transit every day). At the moment I am working on building an old Fuji touring frame for just that purpose. On weekends and during the summer, my car rarely moves. Grocery shopping, going out to eat and going to fiends houses are still done on my bike.

    I do race cyclocross now, but that is a recent addition to life. I spent many years insisting that I would never do any sort of organized racing. Now I enjoy riding casually to work or to the store as much as I enjoy going out for a fast ride that challenges me mentally and physically.

    There are many things that make this blog not an ideal place for me to comment, but my lack of respect for transportation cycling is definitely not one of them.

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  116. This is so spot-on. Your writing and the sincerity of your posts is exactly what attracted me to your blog when I was taking the first few steps towards commuting by bike. A year later and I'm a slightly more experienced novice, and I can't tell you how many of your posts have motivated and/or encouraged me. As for all the posts that are over my head (basically anything talking about 'frame geometry'!), I've emailed them to myself so I can read them one day when they might make sense. Basically, I love what you do and am grateful for it. Thanks for keeping at it.

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  117. This blog is called “Lovely Bicycle”.

    I take that to mean the blog is not just about bicycles but about aesthetic qualities as well. To comment on, and admire intrinisically beautiful things is hardly consumerist - which at its core is about the display of status and is indifferent to, if not down right antithetical to, appreciation.

    Tony

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