Monday, January 28, 2013

Positively Biketastic

Mo and Pinky
When I look back at 2012 (I know it's been a while, but I needed time to take it all in!) I remember it as the year when I started to notice a lot of positive changes in the cycling world around me. Positive changes not only in the widening selection of transport bikes available in local shops and not only in the public perception of bicycling, but also in the increasing amount of rapport, cooperation and even overlap between different "camps" of bicyclists. And I think this latter point is just as important as the others. We cyclists can be tribal and divisive; we can be each other's harshest, cruelest critics. But if we insist on identifying within rigid parameters and lashing out against each other's choice of bike, attire, and riding style, how can we hope for positive changes for cyclists as a group? 

When my cycling club, the Ride Studio Cafe, began to blur the lines between the randonneuring and racing cultures, I remember it felt as if a paradigm shift was taking place. They threw a big party, where cyclists of different stripes interacted with each other with a degree of enthusiasm that showed a genuine eagerness. Dynamo lighting, racks, and wool were discussed. Unexpected common interests were found. It was truly an exciting thing to be witnessing. 

At this same party, I finally met Maureen Bruno Roy, a Massachusetts-based professional cyclocross racer. In her off time Mo leads a regular life, and part of that regular life involves riding her pink mixte for transportation. For me, seeing Mo so happy and casual on her city bike was an encouraging moment: I had not encountered an athlete-cyclist outside of Europe before who saw value and usefulness in such bicycles. But to Mo the value is pretty clear, and she credits her attitude to her time racing in Belgium. "There were these Dutch bikes, and I rode them to get around when I wasn't racing; it was great!" 

Around the same time, a local man named Jeff Palter got himself a Brompton folding bike and began commuting on it, posting excitedly on Twitter about how much he enjoyed that. If you're outside New England that name might not mean anything to you, but Mr. Palter happens to be the CEO of the Northeast Velodrome and the owner of Cycle Loft - one of the biggest roadie shops around. CycleLoft is also the main sponsor of the Northeast Bicycle Club - the largest local racing club and the very club that offers the "infamous" paceline rides that so divided my readership two summers ago. Until recently, it would have been difficult to imagine anyone associated with this camp entertaining the idea of riding around on anything but a racing bike with a backpack. I was more than a little surprised when Jeff approached me about sponsorship, explaining that CycleLoft was expanding into the city bike market. 

"Looks like the war is over," said a local cyclist when I shared this news with her. I guess sometimes, with all the insults flung about, it can indeed feel like a war - especially when some are described as "riding tanks" and others as being "weekend warriors." With a chuckle, I pictured an army of speeding Cervelos clashing with an army of menacingly rolling Workcycles (incidentally - a Dutch bike company founded by an American, who got his start at Fat City). 

Some time in December, I was approached by Bicycling Magazine and invited to write a weekly online column about "city bikes and gear." I was initially skeptical about what they had in mind, but it seemed pretty straightforward: They wanted to expand their coverage beyond racing, to encourage people to commute by bike, introducing them to a variety of bikes and accessories for the purpose. I agreed to write the column. It's a short-term contract and I may not be the one doing it in the long run, but I hope to give it a running start. Or rather, a re-start: Historically, such coverage is not new for Bicycling. A 1978 copy I found of the magazine includes articles such as "Choosing a Three-Speed Commuting Bike" and "Road Test: the Bickerton Folding Bicycle." These things are cyclical. Hopefully the current cycle, with its interest in transportation and city bikes, will be around for a while. 

A few days ago I read a story in the New York Times about a man who, a couple of times a week, commutes from the suburbs outside New York City to his office in Manhattan on his racing bike. It's a 40 mile ride and he uses the milage for training. He does it year round, sometimes in snow. I thought it was a cool story, especially after the cyclist himself provided additional details on Velocipede Salon. Then today I read a story in Atlantic Cities in response to it, about ordinary New Yorkers commuting. The author mentions that some readers criticised the NYT piece for "alienating [ordinary people] who might want to ride to work," but I am glad the author herself did not go that route. Instead she gave examples of some interesting New Yorkers who ride and urged cyclists to unite in promoting their shared interests. 

For those of us who have been cycling in major North American cities over the past few years, it is hard not to notice that things are changing. Now more than ever, I feel there is room for everyone who loves to be on a bike to promote their style of riding without criticising others in the process. Whether 4 miles or 40, whether in a business suit or a skin suit, whether on a cheap or expensive bike, bottom line is: It's all positively biketastic. The more we understand that, the better off we will be.

52 comments:

  1. I think this piece is right on the mark when you talk about the breakdown of our various tribes. I ride/commute/train in San Francisco and for a long time there have been uncomfortable moments as I pass between tribes ( I draw the line at lycra, so my roadie friends wrestle with that anyway.)

    In the last two years, though, I feel a ton of tribalism has simply evaporated. Nobody cares what mode you're in as long as you're on two wheels. Something important happened and people just lightened up.

    The only place where the roadie semi-hostility remains is when crossing the Golden Gate bridge (always an unpleasant ride, although scenic as hell). Beyond that, roadie, commuter, fixie, messanger, rich bike, poor bike doesn't matter much any more.

    Thank god.

    Now if only the cabs would chill some....

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  2. This phrase... I don't know why a few years ago, and some of my friends before that, and certain commentators, felt it so necessary to establish their camp.

    I wonder what val they belong to now: car, buys maybe?

    Its interesting to see the 4000th iteration of Bicycling, the revelations that cycling is just cycling, that people can be pretty narrow when it comes to their tastes.

    That story on Christian was such a throw away piece on some guy who occasionally rides his bike a long way to work but was corralled as a story piece because he is active on line. Same goes for you and for me.ridiculous - people aren't allowed to do normal things and have it not be seen as news-worthy our eccentric. So fluffy.

    I'd like to see someone do a real story detailing how many have left cycling, how many have died, who has regrets, etc. I have personally known way too many people injured on a bike - including deaths and paraplegia.

    I'm all for cycling but tribal fights pale in comparison to real people's stories.






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    1. 'For me, seeing Mo so happy and casual on her city bike was an encouraging moment: I had not encountered an athlete-cyclist outside of Europe before who saw value and usefulness in such bicycles'

      Not that I'm anywhere close to Mo's ability but you've encountered them here for years.

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    1. When I think advocacy, I think of it in terms of concrete causes, objectives and goals. What I am doing is just expressing vague, emotive opinions. Sure what I write may suit some advocacy agendas (maybe different ones at different points) and I have no problem with that. But actual advocacy would require a level of commitment and clarity of purpose which I do not possess.

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    2. In due time.

      In the mean time what's wrong with becoming a bike coalition member and signing petitions that would, say, hold public works departments accountable for the sand they dump on the streets?

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    3. I am involved in some of it marginally. Problem is, there are several coalitions, groups and departments responsible for this stuff around here. They have different, complicated, sometimes conflicting agendas. Because of that, I feel it is easy for well meaning cyclists to be misled into advocating for things they may not necessarily want. Myself, I am not even sure where I stand on some of the issues, including the salt/sand and other stuff, and that is part of the problem. You might read about this in more detail soon.

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    4. Politicization is such a progress-stopper.

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  4. The common theme here is that all types of cyclist are also taking up transportation cycling. That in itself is creating camaraderie. It's all good and about time. Go cycling!

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  5. ...Workcycles (incidentally - a Dutch bike company founded by an American, who got his start at Fat City...

    No way!

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    1. Way. And a couple of Americans run a taqueria in Berlin.

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    2. Sort of Yes Way! I worked for a short and highly memorable period at Fat City in the late 1980's. But it wasn't really my start in the bike biz. I started working in bike shops in 1979 at the tender age of 12 and later did stints with several framebuilders also including Moots when it was still in a cinder cone in Steamboat Springs, CO.

      Thanks very much V for the occasional mentions!

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    3. Ooh I did not know that other stuff. You started young! Thanks for the info.

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  6. Good luck with your column.

    Bicycling, and Outside for that matter, used to be fun reads full of divergent well written and wonderfully opinionated pieces. I gaveup reading both years ago, not for the focus on one tribe or the other, but rather because the writing on whole was little more than bland corporate PR.

    It would be swell indeed to find real writing in a popular monthly.

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  7. I agree with you -- the climate is generally much more polite and inclusive than it was a couple of years ago. In New York, at least, the fever pitch of tabloid war against cycling and cycling infrastructure seems to have quelled a bit. I think with bike share cycling will continue to become more of an ordinary activity that people can choose to do or not do in the ways they like. At least I hope that will be the case.

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  8. Yes, it seems that cycle tribalism is declining. It always seemed to be a few cyclists that perpetuated the notion against the better intentions of most cyclists (I even found myself caught up in the tribalism every so often).

    Veloria, you deserve credit for explaining many of these 'tribes' to each other, sharing the stories of those who crossed between them, and encouraging all of us to appreciate all types of cycling.
    Thanks, ~Brian

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    1. I have to say you are quite an inspiration, riding D2R2, Kearsarge and the like in "regular clothes" : )

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  9. I also appreciate the improving climate, but in my experience, the true upper-level racers, especially the older ones who race for a love of the sport, and not to work out their juvenile urges, always were nice and respectful of all kinds of cycling. I raced from 1989 until '99, and most of the racers I met were quite interested in other forms of cycling.

    As you get more connected in the cycling world, you meet more of them, and fewer of the weekend warriors, who are trying to hide their insecurity about their lack of speed with their snobbery. Like bullies beating up younger children on the playground, many weekend warriors consider a riders on a bike with fenders and a handlebar bag a convenient target... only to be surprised sometimes, if the "slow" rider is in the mood to teach a lesson.

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    1. My first contact with a custom builder and specialty parts supplier was with Mike Barry of Mariposa Cycles.

      Mike raced in Europe in the 50s and 60s emigrating to Canada to make some wonderful bikes. His genuine passion mixed with polite and thoughtful demeanor helped cement my bike enthusiasm. (he also contributed to some swell early builds!)

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  10. There are plenty of examples of balkanization in our lives, though -- fans of different sports and pro teams, adherents to car brands, dog vs. cat people, diet and lifestyle choices... Why expect sub-groups within bikes to be any different? I was part of the "10-speed" crowd as a kid, not the BMX crowd, and I became a "roadie" after college. After my first MTB (20 years ago) showed me that alternatives to high-strung racing bikes could be fun, and especially since I began tinkering with and building bikes myself, I've gotten to a place where I can find something redeeming in just about any bike. But I certainly didn't start out that way.

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    1. I can stomach liking different kinds of bicycles, but don't anyone dare make me consider that cats might not be the be-all-end-all of companion animals, and that dog people are of a lesser intellect.

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  11. As a psychologist, you are probably aware that many cultural shifts are led by the preferences and interests of attractive young women.

    Using this to promote something worthwhile like bicycling is a very good thing.

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    1. I don't know whether I agree; or at least I would say it's not that simple. Overall I would say more depends on charisma than on gender. Handsome, charismatic men have huge power over other men, in a way that society today does not like to acknowledge because of the homo-erotic implications. Many examples of this in bicycle industry & culture.

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    2. A sure sign of the bicycling resurgence is that new smart people are coming in! Like you and Copenhagenize.

      I used to be really into pocket computers. Psion was the best. As Psion started to lose their pre-eminence, the tone among fans got nastier and people fractured off into groups. The reverse might be happening with cycling.

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  12. Congratulations on the Bicycling column! They have been running city-themed pieces (in particular they did mention the infamous leather wine bottle holder for the top tube) but extra taste never hurts.

    It's great that the war's over and peace has broken out. I wonder though if the woman has signed the peace terms too. You know her: drives an SUV and has a phone stuck to her ear at all times (and isn't a very accomplished driver even with both hands on the wheel)...

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    1. I have seen city bike and accessory reviews there in the past, but they've always come across as written by someone who does not actually ride such bikes or use such products. A bit like me reviewing a roadbike 3 years ago.

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  13. Constance Winters? Une autre nom de plume?

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    1. Been around for a while; see Bicycle Quarterly 2011.

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  14. It's funny, whenever I read these culture clash pieces online, they are riddled with stories of roadies being hostile to "everyday" cyclists. This has been quite the opposite of my experience (as someone who does both). The sporty cyclists I know understand that the "everyday" types are out there for transport and are doing something completely different and shouldn't be expected to dress like a roadie or ride a carbon road bike.

    On the other hand, I'm hard-pressed to read an article advocating "everyday" bicycling that doesn't throw shade at the "lycra-clad" roadies (always with the lycra...). There seems to be much less understanding from the transport crowd that these "lycra-clad" folks are usually out riding for sport, and as such their kit/bike choice is made to optimize comfort/performance for this activity. This attitude has always bothered me, as it seems to imply that sporty cyclists are somehow less deserving of the road rights, safety, and cycling infrastructure that bicycle advocates so often demand.

    As cycling, for all purposes, increases in popularity, I too am excited to see these tribal barriers come down. Loved this post. There's no wrong way to ride a bike. We're all in this together.

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  15. nextSibling's Law of Internet Argument states that the more similar two things are, the more people will argue over the inconsequential differences between them. Chevy vs. Ford, Mac vs. PC, Nikon vs. Canon, Trek vs. Specialized, Campagnolo vs. Shimano, helmet wearing or not, ad infinitum.

    The corollary to the LIA implies that the more the dissimilarities between things are recognized and understood, the more proponents of those things will be willing to exist in relative harmony. The Internet has also helped to disseminate and expose a far wider variety of attitudes, approaches, motivations and styles of bicycling than the old information sources (bike brands, bike shops and the magazines they supported) ever dared to acknowledge. Consequently, the social validity and acceptability of any mode of bicycling is now far less questionable or threatenable.

    Particularly, I suspect, pre-Internet bike companies and media are at last realizing that the closed and exclusive enclave of athletic superiority, body-image, youth, and veneration of the mythical 'pro' will no longer contain their fresher, more egalitarian, more imaginative rivals. Bicycling Magazine's confusion at their decline in subscriptions despite headlines such as "Why YOU need hydraulic discs for commuting", "10 winning workouts for traffic light time-trial victory", "Make your cargo bike look PRO with huge sans-serif decals", "Best clipless systems for biking to school", will inevitably persist.

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  16. "We cyclists can be tribal and divisive; we can be each other's harshest, cruelest critics."


    lets be honest here, the bulk of the criticism is coming from one side...the side that constantly and incessantly whines about any type of clothing or cycling equipment associated with technological progress. for a while this criticism used to bother me, but i've slowly learned to enjoy the way bike paths miraculous empty out as i discourage "normal" people from riding. lycra tights and carbon fiber are powerful juju, indeed.

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  17. "many weekend warriors consider a riders on a bike with fenders and a handlebar bag a convenient target... "

    in 30+ years of "transportation" cycling i have never once seen a weekend warrior berate or mock someone on a fendered bike. i know these memes can provide a sense of identity but please get a grip. the snearing MAMIL and the foaming at the mouth VCer do not exist. they are bugaboos.

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    1. Purely in my personal, local experience: I have met zero roadie bugaboos (though I've encountered them online), but I have met plenty of unpleasant VCers. Not so much as of late, but when I first began cycling. Men in their 50s would actually approach me and try to school me re my bike/clothing/saddle height (hint: I was doing it wrong).

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    2. It's surprising how many people will pass us when we return on our randonneur bikes from a long ride, spinning along the trail at 17 mph. We are just below the speed that a typical "roadie" can hold for a while, and so we become a target.

      You can tell they just wanted to pass us, because the slow down a lot when they run out of steam after they've put about 300 feet on us. Inevitably, we begin to reel them in without even changing our speed...

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    3. Agree with Anon...It's been a similar experience. Started riding in '77, worked in a bike shop for eight years and got to know everyone who raced and road and worked on bikes. We had the utmost respect for those folks with fenders, lights, baskets and who rode no matter what. I've not experienced this tribe mentality to any real degree other than to say there are jerks everywhere and they make themselves known. I can say that in my experience of bicycle commuting on the west coast, east coast, and now the midwest ninety five percent of folks on bikes (all types) are a joy to meet and talk with.....But as you say, no one likes to hear from someone who thinks too highly of themselves and their knowledge, no matter the subject :)

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    4. Except when they pass at unsafe locations - and these seem to come from equal parts roadie, commuter, and fixie tribes - I really do not notice.

      The only time anyone has commented on my riding clothes recently was someone wanting to know where I got my Cyclofiend, 'One Gear, No Excuses' shirt.

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    5. The snobs are still out there but they seem to be the ones that ride for a year or two, get frustrated with everything that isn't the way they want it and wander off to some other "Cooler", more validating activity. There are always a couple about but it's rarely the same ones for long.

      The people who ride for years and years, wearing out bikes and gear like it was their mission in life seem to smile a lot and have lots of friends. I personally think it's because cyclists in general and the life-long cyclist in particular, tend to be just a bit dorky and well, Dorks tend to be friendly and eager for the company of other Dorks. Can I get an "Amen?"

      Spindizzy

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    6. Cycling tribes will come and go, but mansplaining endures the test of time...

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  18. The New York Times had another extreme bike commuter story a while back, and another about how cycle sprinters get huge thighs. Nice stories in themselves, but taken together I think it's a freak show. They can do better. And I should probably support journalism by paying for it, hmm.

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  19. "Men in their 50s would actually approach me and try to school me re my bike/clothing/saddle height (hint: I was doing it wrong."

    Thanks to my Y chromosome I have been largely spared the attentions of the common North American jerk.

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  20. Permit me to add a view where perhaps the overlap in the bike world has not yet become fully universal.

    I observe not so much a war as a Berlin wall dividing cultures: pedal bikes vs pedal-ebikes... bikes with electric assist motors.

    We discovered the electric motor-assist bicycle in Italy in 2011. Unlike the moped-like ebikes seen from time to time, this was a real bicycle with decent components that made riding up 20 degree hills comfortable - sort of like flattening the hill. Pedaling was required, but not the stand up, frame-bending, muscles-screaming, lungs-rasping ride that -it's-just-too-long hill demanded of our normal, un-assisted bikes.

    But once the honeymoon was over and we got used to it, we noticed the bike actually was not that good: Aluminium frame using shock absorbers to do what spring steel does better... An extra six inches to hold the battery that meant it had trouble fitting in elevators... 27kg.

    Next: Buy a bolt-on kit for bikes in the shed. The first kit was a 500W Mac with a 48v battery on our Gary Fisher MTB. Killer kit. Way too fast (53kph), far too powerful to enjoy pedalling, it's a moped with bad brakes.

    Then a series of front motors for the Bella Ciao. Sweet spot was a 39V Bafang SWXK5: The lovely Bella Ciao ride, the elegance of its classic look and the added bonus of enjoying it on hills that otherwise weed out all but the iron-legged.

    After that we began the search for the right rear motor for the Montague Crosstown, our stuff-it-in-the-back-of-the-Honda-wagon when we don't want a bike on the back of the car to get rain-crud. A trip to China found two, the Mac 350 and the Bafang CST, both on 36V. Still playing with them to see what works best.

    In the process of this born-again conversion from pedal to pedal-boost, we encounter many people (interestingly 85% women) who see it, like it, want it. Many are older folk who rode three-speeds when young, lost interest when the 10-speed racer took over but would love to get back into biking - as long as their knees will take it. What they want is today's version of a 1960's Raleigh 3-speed with a quiet, subtle motor to help them up the hills. For them, the newer torque sensing bottom bracket that notices when they are pressing harder on the pedal and adds power accordingly is the ideal. They just want help.

    While we became converts in 2011, it seems we were just ahead of the curve. Consider this review of Interbike 2012: "Interbike is the once-a-year Las Vegas bicycle extravaganza, which until now has been dominated by pedal bicycles, with electric bikes comprising a very small niche. This year electric bikes were everywhere. Imagine the electric bike test track, right next to the pedal bike test track. The electric test track was flooded from end to end with people trying or waiting to try electric bikes. There was usually a wait just to borrow a helmet. The pedal bike test track seemed like a ghost town….not a single bike being ridden most of the time.
    2012 seems to be the breakthrough year for electric bikes at Interbike."

    Our local bike shop views motor kits as a way to get more people into cycling. Perhaps to be more precise, it is a way to get more people who live in hilly districts back on bicycles. Riding the Bella Ciao's in Berlin and then from Dresden to Prague, a three-speed is all that was needed. The ebike discussion is not a flatlander topic.

    On the last tweed run, the Bella Ciao was the only ebike present. It drew fascinated, slightly-disapproving-but-still-interested conversation until we hit the killer hill that saw those dressed in too-thick wool noting how comfortable the Bella Ciao looked going up the hill (the only rider not standing).

    Is there a wall between bikes and ebikes? And if so, is there any interest in breaching it? Happy to provide advice on what kits work better, how to buy and what it may cost (but no, we are not in the business; the advice is free, just like Velouria's).

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  21. More cooperation would be good, but I still see divisions. I live in down hill cross country mecca, very few people actually commute, and roadies only come out in nice weather. The bike shops are geared to downhill/cross country and sneer at commuter bikes and tease me and my husband for our 'old' lugged steel bikes that they won't even work on(maybe don't know how?). I have to go into Vancouver to buy bike stuff, but nobody ever has anything in stock!
    The nYT article was interesting, but did focus on road riders, however at distances like that, it makes sense. The writer could have weaved in stories commuters who ride in regular gear on regular bikes. Shorter distances, all ages and the like. There may also be some apprehension and fear to join the roadie sect, specially if you can't afford the expensive gear and carbon fibre bikes. Roadies could be more kind to their less rich friends on steel, titanium or even aluminium bikes.
    I recently spoke to someone who commutes over 40 km a day 3 days a week plus ferries and he was not overly buff and riding a 'regular' bike with racks and panniers, nothing racy about it. But he was thrilled to be doing it and I was jealous because I had taken the bus into the city.
    And gosh, if carbon fibre bikes are as light and responsive as claimed, those riders should have a bit of respect for the rest of us slogging it on such 'heavy inefficient' machines! We are all out there pedalling, battling the same cars, rude drivers, vehicle exhaust, cold weather and lack of infrastructure, but also seeing the city or nature unfold, being super fit, having moments of endorphin ladled bliss.

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  22. While some bike shops have a steel touring bike or transportation/cross bike, the division still stands here. I've been told what to wear and which bike to get for speed by shops and club members. Most of all- to get clipless pedals, which to me aren't safe for commuting in the city. And you are not a serious commuter unless you commute by bike at least several times per week. I don't really fit in any category.

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  23. I have to admit that in my youth, I contributed to my share of tribalism. When I worked in bikes shops, I told people they needed "better" (i.e., lighter and more expensive) bikes, clipless pedals, lycra, etc. I even told one person she needed to lose weight before she could start cycling.

    I remember straddling the worlds of road and off-road riding. Members of one camp disdained and even distrusted the other. Road riders tended to have been at it for longer, but mountain riders (at least at that time) were more willing to try new things. While I enjoyed riding with both groups, I found that, in time, I disliked the ignorance many off-road riders had for the tradition and culture of cycling, and the disdain roadies showed for the "johnny-come-latelies" of off-road riding.


    I think I lost some of my sense of tribalism simply from getting older. If someone's been riding steadily for a decade or more, I don't really care whether he or she is a commuter, downhiller, road racer, BMX rider or a bicyle polo competitor--or, for that matter, whether he or she delivers pizzas on a bike. I feel they all deserve my respect.

    Plus, it's difficult to stand very long on soapboxes when you're in heels--or cleats!

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    1. I was that guy too at times, I hope I'm as reformed as I like to think I am.

      Tribalism is kinda' fun when you first get into it, then it just becomes a bore.

      Spindizzy

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  24. I haven't experienced much tribalism in my involvement with bicycles and biking. Maybe there's more regional and gender stuff going on here. Older guys in their 50s approaching young women and telling them they are "doing it wrong" doesn't have much to do with bike "tribalism." It's male egos and midlife crises.

    When I was active in the NYC racing scene back in the early 90s, I published a magazine called In Traffic, The Metro Cycling Journal. We covered everything from advocacy to racing to messengering to commuting. One month there would be a messenger turned mountain biker, the next World Champion Mike McCarthy spinning around town on a fixed gear, the next a cover story about work bikes or the head of Transportation Alternatives. It was all good.

    I believe most people a. are not jackasses, and b. think of a bicycle outside the category of just another jet ski (JAJS), and understand and appreciate the many beautiful ways the machine can be enjoyed.

    I agree with Jan--the racers I hung out with (and occasionally still do) had zero interest in denigrating other cyclists. The few cyclists of whatever background who may promote "tribalism" are of course the loudest, but I don't think they are of much consequence (unless they work in a bike shop; but even there most of that attitude is simple ignorance.)

    Now racers and cliques, that be something else altogether...

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  25. Velouria,

    "Lovely Bicycle," "Just Ride," and "The Enlightened Cyclist" collectively got me back on my bike consistently (rather than spottily) for the first time in years. I'm making do with a 10yo low-spec aluminum MTB with slicks, milk crate and lights, surely looking homeless. But it's been convenient and fun thanks to advice from you all on how to manage it without drama, and without acting like it's special or a trial. Keep up the good work.

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  26. I'm now safely in my 60s. I know something about being a male in the 50s. A lot of men answering to that description are jerks. So are a lot of other people.

    Most men in their 50s you'll meet are fathers. Some are grandfathers. By the time you meet them they've spent 20 or 30 years with youngsters 20 or 30 years younger than they are. The youngsters try to learn new things and struggle and dad steps in to help out. Especially dad has been trained to step in before the youngsters hurt themselves. Is this complicated psychology yet?

    Anyone new to the sport from the lycra and crabon tribe looks like Hell on a bike. Sorry, you do. You look like you're about to fall off the bike. Dad would rather you not fall down. And hurt yourself. Perhaps his concerns are misplaced on some occasions but it happens. Habit.

    Then there's the fact that if dad has been at this a long time he remembers when everybody who rode a bike talked to everybody who rode a bike. There weren't all that many of us. For the life of me I will never understand why if I come across another rider out on the road and we're doing the same thing at the same time in the same place it's unthinkably rude for me to say "Hello". Nor will I understand why speaking to a fellow rider is OK if and only if we have first met on the innertoobz. Dad says "Good Morning" to you because he's been saying it for 30 years or longer. It won't hurt you.

    Respect your elders. Your grandmother told you you should. Your grandmother was right.

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  27. I like men in their 50s. Among other things, I happen to think it's a handsome age for them. And I do not think men in their 50s tend to be jerks. If anything, the opposite - often there is a calmness and openness that sets in around then.

    I don't know why I mentioned the age in my initial comment, other than it so happens that most of the "rabid VCers" I've met happen to be that age, and male. But I do not think there is any causality between (a)being a male in his 50s and (b)approaching women on a bike in order to criticise them.

    As far as saying hello... Huge difference between that and approaching a person solely to criticise their outfit or bike fit.

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  28. Velouria wrote: "...I do not think there is any causality between (a)being a male in his 50s and (b)approaching women on a bike in order to criticise them."

    This is true as far as the age goes. But men like to show off their knowledge, and in today's world that's not so easy for most men. Who can fix a car or a coffee maker these days? So when we develop an area of "expertise*" that can sort of be applied to the real world, many of us are prone to share that expertise whenever the opportunity arises. Cycling offers that chance--unlike, say, mountain climbing, it's a more democratic activity, beginners can do it without a guide, and it's in a more social setting. And women make handy subjects, since it is perceived by some men that they may have fewer strong opinions (ha!) than a guy--or at least are less likely to challenge a statement (ha! ha! ha!). Plus some guys like to flirt. So there's my thesis on the matter. It's tribalism, but it's men are from Bob the Builder and women are from Oprah.

    I also think that tribalism, such as it is, has a lot to do with how someone starts on down the road of bicycling. So yeah, like in high school, you might think of yourself as a motorhead or a jock for a couple years, but once you get out in the big world, those demarcations evaporate quickly for most people.

    Finally, in terms of advocacy, your blog does as much or more for cycling than many other examples of the breed, as Dan Miller above is testament to. I know, people argue the chicken and egg thing regarding bicyclists and infrastructure, but the most important factor right now is numbers of riders.

    *Unfortunately, that expertise is often simply an opinion on the best gear to buy.

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  29. I can't tell you how many comments I get on my fendered rando bike.

    "Hey nice commuter"
    "Cool vintage cruiser"
    "It's amazing that you are out here riding on that bike"
    "what's a randonneur?"

    I guess they just like this better than "On your left"

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