Thursday, March 10, 2016

How To Be An Unhelpful Cyclist

Going up K Avenue in Tama County. It's gravel. It's a grind.
Recently I have come across a lot of chatter in the cycling media that is fairly derogatory, unhelpful, and downright negative. Much of it under the guise of "being funny" or from a pompous attitude of entitlement that is pretty easy to see through. You know, stuff like the editor's opening salvo in most "big time" publications where they sometimes give you an overview of the issue you are looking at, but more often than not these days, use as a platform for trying to be clever and drive the narrative on a bigger level. Like they know where it should go, and you, the rider, have no clue. That sort of thing.

Following are a few examples and my comments.  I should say that, yes, you can point a finger at me and say I am in the "cycling media". You could say that because I am a partner in and it would be you, the readers here, pointing said finger at me. However; I happen to know that there are more than a few "media" folks who wish I wasn't "in the cycling media", either because I'm not perceived as "a real journalist" or because, simply, I am a pain in the ass sometimes. Those folks might also point a finger at me, but it probably wouldn't be the index finger. So, with that out of the way then.......

First up we have a perennial offender in the term gravel grinder. You can find all sorts of folk that will get their anger on and start spewing derisive comments at the mere mention of that term. Recently I heard a podcast where a prominent set of cycling's cognoscenti were making pronouncements on which terms in cycling should be permanently banned. Yep! You guessed it! Gravel grinding was right up there with the several other terms tossed in the trash bin on that podcast. I still find it amusing that the term gets folks all out of sorts.

"They" say I must be using these wheels because I "lack skills".
Consider, if you will, the term "mountain bike". It was a brand name, at first, for the original off-road, down hill machines made by Tom Ritchey and assembled and sold by Charlie Kelly and Gary Fisher. Then everyone started calling these things "mountain bikes". How ridiculous is that? most folks never use their bikes on mountains, nor do the mountains cover all of this nation, or the world. Heck, you don't even really need a so called "mountain bike" when your standard, steel lightweight will do all of the same things anyway. I mean, people rode on mountains and off-road long before "mountain bikes" were ever made up by those folks just trying to get more money out of you for a bicycle you'll never need. It's a "made up category". A stupid niche.

See what I mean? Gravel grinding, while not even possible to do in many places, since they have no gravel roads, is the term folks use. It's the vernacular driven by the grassroots of the riding populace. Just like "mountain bike" was back in the 80's.

Then there was the comment made by a prominent editor of a storied title to the effect that unless you use B+ wheels on really gnarly terrain, you are just making up for a lack of skills by choosing those wheels.

Gee. I guess this guy knows what everyone should be riding since he knows "what real skills are". Thanks for the diss, dude. That will certainly encourage others to be on their bikes and be using them to get fitter and use less polluting forms of recreation and transportation. Yeah......a super-uplifting comment there. That's real helpful. So what if folks dig 27.5+ wheels? They are fun, they have benefits and compromises, just like anything else we use. You know, the more I thought about that comment, the more I realized that maybe I am wrong about the guy who made that statement. He probably rides a totally rigid, fixed wheel, fat tired bike on rocky, mountainous down hill terrain and is just a super "psick", skilled rider. Why else would this man spew such drivel?

Gravel bikes don't need mud clearance because they will never see the mud-pits that cyclo cross bikes do.
The final one I'll hit on today has more to do with being completely out of touch with reality more than it does with a negative attitude toward some forms of cycling or cycling componentry. This was from a feature on what the differences are between a "gravel bike" and a cyclo cross bike. The feature showed two bikes and had bullet points at certain spots on the images to call out where the differences are and why they are different to suit each individual bike's job. The line about how a gravel bike doesn't need mud clearances like a cyclo cross bike caught my eye here. It was said that a gravel bike will "never see mud pits like a cyclo cross bike does".

Really?! Check out any early season 2015 gravel race in the middle of this great country for a refutation of that statement! There were several, really long mud pits at a lot of gravel events last year. We usually have a few at Trans Iowa, and ask any of the almost 2000 participants at last year's Dirty Kanza 200 how long that mud pit was. I'd say it was about 200 miles long.

Yeah, forget about it. Gravel bikes would never need a lot of mud clearance. Pffft! 

The ironic thing about all of this for me is that all of the people saying these things are cyclists and probably really do want cycling to grow and get stronger. You know........that way they would make more money from another niche we..... Oh! wait a minute. Let me rephrase that....

They would stand to gain from helping cycling grow, but their comments are not geared toward that end many times, as I have hopefully shown here. Many times the narrative is derogatory, unnecessarily uninformed, or just downright negative. I guess if you want to become an unhelpful cyclist, these are great examples to follow.


Johann Rissik said...

Please continue being a pain in the ass, keeping it real is what you're good at. I've always regarded your site as a source of real information, not industry hype. Gravel roads get muddy? Just a little........ ;)

Exhausted_Auk said...

Marvelous! Please do keep on doing what you're doing!

john said...

Words words words - don't we all love words, ideas, thoughts ...and usually, I think we like them better when they are just personal thoughts. Throw in a picture and you really have something.

jkruse said...


Rannier Wolfcastle said...

You're bicycle cycling wrong. Do it right or get off the internets.

Evan Baird said...

Until recently the print media consisted primarily of marketing wank. Blogs twentynineinches became the "bike media" in the face of a jornalistic vacuum.

Anonymous said...

Love this post. Agree strongly with everything you say. Thanks for this. And for the blog generally!

Repack Rider said...

If the trademark attorney hadn't screwed up a two-page form in 1979, I would have owned the name "MountainBikes."

Bikes are bikes, and the mountain bike revolution of the early '80s showed cyclists that there are a lot more ways o think about bicycles than road bikes. My Ritchey P-21 would have been called a mountain bike 20 years ago, but now, equipped with 1.5" tires, it is a "gravel grinder."

I don't care. I just ride bikes.