Friday, July 6, 2007

Six Signs You May Be Missing the Entire Point of Cycling

There is a certain type of judgmental, arrogant, and annoying person who somehow feels like he or she is in tune to the ineffable, intangible truths of cycling, and consequently acts like he or she has a profound understanding of riding that the rest of the world does not.

I am one of these people.

And as the weekend approaches and the throngs of both the wise and the clueless set out to choke our nation’s roads, trails and bike paths, they will be silently judging each-other as they pass. And I think that’s just fine, as long as they're enjoying themselves. But not everybody seems to be, and these are some common examples:

You've Just Gotten Your First Fixed Gear and You're "Never Going Back To Gears"

I see this one all the time, mostly in the introductory notes to fixedgeargallery submissions. Hey, despite my denigration I will readily acknowledge the pleasure of riding a fixed gear bicycle. But pledging to ride fixed and fixed only is the kind of overzealous commitment a teenager makes to a genre of music or a style of shoe. I’m not sure when riding anything besides a fixed gear bicycle became the equivalent of Mommy and Daddy making you eat your greens—maybe it’s when people found out the President rides a mountain bike. Perhaps coasting represents letting go of your adolescent convictions and succumbing to the system. Whatever, get over it. You can put dayglo Velocitys on a road bike too.

You're a Dyed-in-the-Wool Roadie Who Eschews the Dirt

Lots of roadies, at least around these parts, have an innate, almost preternatural aversion to riding on anything that isn't pavement. Just riding over sand, gravel, or a bit of road salt is enough to send them sprawling. Many of them will spend thousands of dollars on a TT bike that they may use twice a season, but won't buy an inexpensive mountain bike and try a type of riding that is: 1) fun; 2) great for training; 3) immensely more enjoyable than road riding in the icy winds of winter; and 4) teaches important bike handling skills. Yes, bike handling skills—some of these people find riding off a curb daunting. I realize that many of them have spent a lot of money on precious and colorful kits in order to look like pros, and that they don’t want them to get dirty. But I get the unsettling feeling from this type of cyclist that there is a significant other at home who is very frustrated sexually.

You Make Fun of Lycra

Lots of baggy-shorted mountain bikers of the free-riding variety, as well as urban fixed-gear riders, make jokes about lycra-clad "spandex warriors." And as I've said before, I have not and will not ever try to convince anybody that lycra kits look good. However, making fun of lycra is like making fun of your friend in the life vest on the Titanic. If you've actually ridden more than a couple hours at a time you will understand that there's nothing particularly pleasurable about wet cotton, or snagging your voluminous nylon bermuda shorts on tree branches, or crotch fungus. These lycra-bashers are the same people who would visit Chernobyl and go, "Hey! Look at the idiot in the radiation suit!"

Your Primary Bicycle is a TT or Tri Bike

The tri thing is literally exploding here in NYC. If you're not on a fixed-gear with lime-green Velocitys, you're on a Cervelo with a bento box and two water bottles behind your saddle. (I encourage all riders upon approaching these people to grab one of these bottles, take a swig, and replace it as you pass.) Like the fixie riders, the tri riders also have a slavish devotion to their poorly-handling, awkward bicycles and use them in circumstances for which they are not appropriate. I personally do not see the point of struggling up a climb on aerobars while trying to reach behind yourself to take a drink. Maybe instead of the Zipp 808s you should have used some money to buy an inexpensive road bike. You might actually have some fun--and take out a few less people the next time you try to get in a paceline.

You Are Obsessed With Numbers

I realize and acknowledge that there are much stronger riders than me. In fact, “DNF” has appeared after my name so often on results sheets that people think I have an advanced degree. I also acknowledge that people with actual race results warrant more serious training and attention to detail, and that Power Taps, SRMs, and whatever else people are using these days are useful tools for maximizing this training. But when these numbers are literally running your life and you’re doing things like posting them on the internet or holding back on a ride with friends because you can’t go past a certain threshold that day, it may be time to loosen up a little. If you're not a full-time pro making a living from riding your bike, take a break from geeking out once in a while and take a normal ride. Like the dirt-averse riders, your significant other is probably having an affair.

You Are Intimidated By Your Bike

Yes, it’s pathetic but true—a lot of people are afraid of their bikes. They’re afraid to try simple repairs themselves. They’re afraid to scratch them. They’re afraid to get them wet. They put them on a pedestal, take pictures of them, and submit them to websites. Being scared of your bike is as almost as pathetic as when it came out that Lionel Ritchie was being beaten by his wife. If you’re one of these people, do yourself a favor—get it over with and ghost-ride your bike down a flight of steps. Then pick it up, straighten the handlebars and the seat, make quick peace with the scratches and scuffs, and ride the goddamn thing!


e* said...

fantastic post. in my neck of the woods, lots of our weekend rides involve unannounced high-speed detours down dirt, gravel, or dirt-gravel-and-mud roads. the powertap-and-zipp crowd always lose their shit, which is a real shame, because there's hardly anything more fun than blasting a road bike down a dirt road, flogging a big gear belgian-style. plus, finishing a 4-hour training ride with road grit and dirt crusted on your legs will make you feel like you've really done something epic.

fixed-gear mania hasn't taken over here yet, thank god, because where people actually ride their bikes, they find they actually need gears and brakes. you know, for getting over hills. and going fast. and stopping.

Anonymous said...

"But I get the unsettling feeling from this type of cyclist that there is a significant other at home who is very frustrated sexually".
That is funny as hell

verlaine said...

Fixies are dead anyways because they went beyond the realm hipsterdom sometime about last fall. People barely coordinated enough to ride a normal bike are riding brakeless fixies at night with no lights to bars and I see them at intersections struggling because their pedals are in the wrong position.

Anybody who actually rides a lot realizes that while fixies have their time and place it is a real drag to ride them down hills or up steep hills and it isn't very comfortable to ride around in jeans with a rolled up leg and that you do actually have to have skills to bring out the beauty of the fixie.

These are the same people who argue that brakeless fixies defy all known laws of physics by being "safer" because "maaan the zen of brakeless makes me floooow maaaan."

I dig riding fixie and do much of the time, but the typical fixie rider's self-deluded bullshit is astounding.

Anonymous said...

awesome. bike snob, your practically a pimp. i just raced a cross bike for the first time in a XC race and it was great. well my head thought it was great, my wrists didnt.

Colin R said...

Next time I read someone's blog and find nothing but graphs of wattage from their latest training ride, I'm sending them here. Thanks man!

Anonymous said...

well done! i was going to say you hit a home run with that one but i won't. i think it's more appropriate to say you lapped the field with that one.
i knew i looked at all the riders you've discribed with disdain but had a hard time verbalizing why i knew i was right and they're wrong. a little part of me says 'it's all good', 'they're on bikes, isn't that great' but most of me seethed and was annoyed, now i know why, i was right.

Fritz said...

Heh heh heh. Oh I love it. This post is a masterpiece.

Anonymous said...

Great Post. When I moved to Missoula two years ago (with fixie, 21-speed and unicycle in tow), trucker hats were just starting to hit big. So yeah, it's behind a little. I used to notice the one or two other fixies parked on the street, and they were usually straight-up function conversions of old ten speeds that looked well-ridden. Now suddenly this summer I'm seeing these fashion-plate bikes, I'm seeing the pantleg thing, the running red lights and enmegency right turn thing (hint: it's not "flowing" when you have to make a panic right turn because you can't stop). I've also seen at least one brakeless freewheel bike out here (though not recently, so maybe Darwin got ahold of him). You know, I have my commuterized, geared mountain bike. I have my fixie, I have an old mountain bike with the singlespeed conversion, and I have a 29er unicycle. I judge a good week as one in which each of those gets a significant ride. Honestly, I'm torn on what do to for my next bike, but it will have gears and barkes, either in the form of a real road bike or a 29'er 1X9. Fixies make you learn to spin all the time and not coast too much. This translates beautifully over to geared bikes.

El said...

the tri thing is not "literally exploding." in fact this is the very essence of figurative usage.

other than that, thanks for continuing to post transcripts from your nightly readings my mind.

Anonymous said...


Here are some hipster fixie riders rolling around MPLS in there undies and drinking beer. Hopefully your head doesn't explode.

Actually I am pretty sure you could have about 2-3 months of material from this site.

racer x said...

and one big sign you may be missing the point of it too!

blogging about what other people do haha, though it's entertaining. i suppose we have to criticize a touch on that point.
i could care less what you ride or how you ride it.. so long as you're in controll (hipsters with no brakes and not a clue how to ride take note, keep your brake on till you master your art)

hell i beat my fixie. i prefer to call it a 700CMX bike. because thats how i do my thing. banks, jumps, curbcuts,skateparks, its all fun fixed!

Rob in Queens said...

"I encourage all riders upon approaching these people to grab one of these bottles, take a swig, and replace it as you pass" That's good shit right there. Fuck TT bikes.

Ed W said...

"...“DNF” has appeared after my name so often on results sheets that people think I have an advanced degree."

That's so good I may have to steal it!

One other thing, are us old bike geeks the only ones who know how to use the shift key?

Jim said...

from your nightly readings my mind

el, was that meant to be an ironic typo/usage error, or a genuine mistake? Because if it was unintentional, it was the very essence of hoisting one's self on one's own petard. Figuratively speaking, of course.

casual entropy said...

"Whatever, get over it." People do, and not because you say so. But because they get really enthusiastic about lots of biking, with the same enthusiasm that led them to love fixed gears (and, eventually, other ways to ride) the way you gripe on. Why begrudge their temporal enthusiasm?

I ride a fix and recall saying something like that when I got my first wretchedly ugly conversion. It was also my entrance into cycling, quitting smoking, drinking less, being a better person, doing more, having more fun, and being in good shape. Racing, too.

Do you have fun on your bike?

bother yam said...

i like to think of fixies as one of darwin's sharpest knives, right after snowmobiles and donorcycles (rice burners). night time, fixies and hipsters are just nature's way to keep hipsters from making more hipsters...

El said...


my petard has been self-hoisted so many times it has stretchmarks.

yes it is a typo.


Shane said...

YouTube 'Build a Dumptster Fixie' video. Enjoy:

They missed the bit where you put back in the dumpster once you're finished.

BikeSnobNYC said...


You are too right on "literally exploding." I'm so embarassed I'm tempted to delete it, but I will let the error stand as a penance.

Casual Entropy,

I begrudge nobody's temporal enthusiasm and your point is well-taken of course--I'm just cursed in that I can only express myself with sarcasm and derision. I'm kinda like the guy who can't climb so instead he goes too hard on the flats. Your excitement for riding led you to try more, and that's what it's all about. I do have fun on the bike, though I've also suffered horribly, which I think many of us can relate to and is also "fun" in its way.

Thanks everyone for the comments.


meh-wee-uhn said...

So, it's my first season racing on the road going into my 3rd season of 'cross.

Holy crap, I show up to my first couple of women's Cat 4 races on my alum 'cross bike (+ slicks), the Axis of ShEvil, and I feel like I showed up to a black tie event in a dress I bought at the Goodwill. I think I might have been one of the only people riding 9spd 105. Oh the horrors.

And holy mother of god, what is up with all of the PowerTaps?

(Ok, I'll admit it. Part of my bitching stems from the fact that I'm broke and just a little bit jealous that people can throw their money around on things like $100 bottle cages, $1200 PowerTaps, and whatnot.)

Pascii said...

I guess what we are all talking about and shaking our heads at is the difference between cyclists and people who just like bikes. The former might care less about the fact that he hasn't taken off his spring fenders yet and would equally enjoy a weekend of shredding trail or riding mixed country roads. The latter might spend his Sunday afternoon practicing trackstands in a parking lot (sweet baby!) or sitting on a chairlift at the ski hill (Woo! MTB ACTION!)

BTW, big thanks to DC for pointing us here a while back - Good eye.

BikeSnobNYC said...


Yes, the road scene is definitely white shoes, white bar tape, and this season's showcase jewels. I applaud your throwing a brick through the window with your rude equipment, and I hope there were plenty of gasps and murmurs. (But don't you know you can't be competitive with only 9 speeds?!?)

It all stops mattering once the race starts though.


todd said...

this is my new favorite blog. keep up the good work. you might want to hire protection from girl's jeans wearing guys with mustaches though.

Rodrigo said...

Oi, achei teu blog pelo google tá bem interessante gostei desse post. Quando der dá uma passada pelo meu blog, é sobre camisetas personalizadas, mostra passo a passo como criar uma camiseta personalizada bem maneira. Se você quiser linkar meu blog no seu eu ficaria agradecido, até mais e sucesso. (If you speak English can see the version in English of the Camiseta Personalizada. If he will be possible add my blog in your blogroll I thankful, bye friend).

MRussell said...

Ridin' Fixie... uh oh there's a soundtrack now.

Anonymous said...

Just what we need--another megalomaniac blogger extolling his cultural superiority and the blanket stupidity of everyone else. Como se dice "Peter Braunstein"?

GhostRider said...

Anonymous 3:31 -- you're right...BikeSnob is EXACTLY what we need! Someone to say out loud what a lot of long-time cyclists have been thinking about in their heads, but were too shy or reticent to say ourselves!

alliwannadoisbicycle said...

i was walking down st marks place last night and came up with a good ide for a contest that you might wanna run- the fine citizens of the interwebs should go around and take a picture of the ugliest hipster fixie they can find- i found a few choice candidates on my way.

anyway, this post rocks. dead on again.

BikeSnobNYC said...

Anonymous 7/7 3:31pm,

I believe it's said the same as it is in English: "Peter Braunstein."

Hope I was able to help.


PC said...

Yeesh, guys, I'm just rolling up my pant leg so the darned thing won't get caught in my drivetrain. Not jerking off onto a picture of your mother. Why does this have such an effect on your collective blood pressure?

Stuart said...

If you find that Bike Snob is getting under your skin, quit reading his blog immediately and go ride your fad-tastic hipster fixie. Why torture yourself here?

steven is a slob said...

from one snob to another.. the blogger template is wack! put your money where your mouth is man, and get a proper url and blog.. fer christ sakes.. it's hard to take anybodies style rantings seriously when they use the default new york knickerbockers blogger template and url.. style up, bike snob!

Anonymous said...

I think what PC is trying to say is it's function over fashion even if it seems the other way. No one ever liked chain grease on their pants. Isn't that what BikeSnob is mostly about, function over fashion?

Anonymous said...

Very funny, but do try and spell correctly. A blogger who can't spell is like a cyclist with gears - they're trying but they just don't get it quite right.

It's kerb, not curb.

Anonymous said...

I guess when I refer to the "pantleg thing" in my previous post, I mean the guys who walk around like that all day, even though they are wll off their bike for a couple hours at a time.

I love bikes, I can't stand vapid hipsters and other fad-types (tri geeks!).

Seriously, the next desperate housewife who comes into the store I work at asking about "tri gear" might trigger a retail breakdown on my part.

Anonymous said...

My fixie takes me on a daily 52-mile ride that has cat 4 and cat 3 climbs. When I detour onto a cat 2 climb, it takes me 30 seconds to flip the wheel for an easier gear. Not all fixie riders are posers.

Anonymous said...

kerbs are kewl. omg i just was like wtf and then...pos.

ok. gtrmfn (going to ride my fixie now). kewl.

Anonymous said...

thanks for all the laughs. As an industry choad I fully apreciate the irony of $100 swobo knickers designed to look like cut off carharts. Every couple of years cycling trys to re-image it self as some cool new lifestyle &/or extreme sport. Well folks it's just not cool and never will be (at least since the 1890s) cool to be a cyclist. So cyclists please just embrace your inner dork. Your not impressing anyone with the double leather toe straps and NJS whatnots.

Jimm said...

Bravo! Good fun and you managed to pick at nearly every segment of the cycling world.

giantcu92 said...

You are the man. I am now a devoted reader.

Hipsters on fixed gear bikes suck. I see them snearing down their nose at me as I'm finishing up my 5 hour training ride through the middle of town, while I blow past them (not moving very fast by the way) while they're trying to figure out this "biking" thing. And the best part, in the town that I live in, all the smelly hipster kids are trying to desperately be bike messengers, with their Chrome bags, rolled up pants, fixed gears, and riding about, oh, 500 feet. Hey! Guess what kids? You're not a messenger, and you don't like in Manhattan you live in Chapel Hill, NC, and you're not cool. And well, neither am I. But at least I know it.

stendhalian said...

the last paragraph. wow.

Mr No Blogger said...

Stuart at 7.25.. get fucked! I rollup my pants leg so it doesn't get chewed in the chain regardless of if I ride my geared MTB or my fixed road bike. I don't want to get to work with a chewed pants leg just because dicks like you think it's a fad.

Anonymous said...

Bike Snob!

Being that you are well on your way to becoming a net bike-guru I wonder if you’d answer a question from a totally lame novice biker?

I’m a totally lame biker and have no intention of riding in traffic or up mountains, I do however enjoy dawdling along the many pretty bike paths that my city is blessed with.

The crux of my problem is that after having been bikeless since childhood I got caught up in the “fixed gear” hype and, totally misunderstanding the whole thing, ended up buying a real cheapskate one-speed Chinese bike. This bike weighs about the same as the type 96 tank and I have an asthma attack going up disabled ramps.

I need some gears, but eighteen gears just sounds too overcomplicated to me. I’m thinking of buying a six-gear girls bike. As well as a fear of traffic I have a fear of bruising my nuts on cross bars and absolutely no shame about being perceived as totally gay to people passing me on £500 mountain bikes who only use them to go to Asda to buy croissants for breakfast on Sunday morning.

Would a six-speed be up to the task of taking on modest inclines at average speeds?

Great blog even for the occasional cyclist BTW



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