Saturday, November 12, 2016

double lament

Grant Petersen, owner of Rivendell Bicycle, has often expressed the idea that "racing culture" is taking the fun out of bicycle riding.  That many cyclists, adopting racers as role models, bring an intensity and an attitude to riding that turns every ride into a competition.

I think: well, you want to be a racer, great, go for it. Find a place you can safely race and have fun. As long as you don't hurt anyone. And as long as you're not racing in commute traffic. And...I could go on, but I believe you understand.

Going fast is fun, indeed it is. Pushing pedestrians and slower commute bikers out of the way in a dangerous manner is less fun. thing....try to realize when you're biking during commute hours that it is extremely unlikely that other people on bikes want to compete with you. 

And Mr. Racer, I can pretty much assure you that the families on the multi-use path that you travel at 30 mph are not there to race you. Or even to see you race.

Ok, that was it. I'll stop yelling now.

Or not.

I believe that another harmful side effect of the trend towards racing culture it that bicycle-makers now feel that they must cater to the racing crowd. It might be something as benign sounding as using a compact crankset on a bike that is ostensibly for touring (and has a 9-speed cassette). Or the trend toward 1x11 drivetrains (which I've heard is a cyclocross thing).

The end effect of all this is that bicycle manufacturers are not making real-world bikes. They're giving us "lifestyle" bikes, but with a high performance SRAM drivetrain. Or touring bikes with 2x9 gearing, when a 3x9 setup would make the bike a more serious contender for touring.

I do realize that bike companies stay in business by offering the latest and greatest. But here's an idea: what if a bicycle maker put out a series of bikes advertised as "real bikes for your real life"? Bikes that would make it easier for the average person to get on a bike and do the shopping or run errands? Maybe start the line with a step-through or compact frame bike with a seven-speed internal gear hub? Perhaps make sure that the parts on the bike are easily replaceable standard components? And start them at five hundred dollars, not seven hundred.

Or perhaps there's someone making a bike like that right now, and I just don't know about it. If you know, please share the knowledge.


  1. And from a woman's point of view I've discovered there are even less bikes made for our preferences - try finding a fat-tired step through bicycle that fits a tall woman with a reasonable price! I eventually found it at Rivendell. Of course, if you think about it, transportation options weren't even available 20 years ago, so the industry is making some progress.

    1. My wife has the opposite problem -- at just under five feet, her choices are very limited. And no, she will _not_ ride a children's bike.