Probably the biggest reason for this hostility is the fixed-gear trend. Right now the fixed-gear bicycle combined with the so-called “hipster” is the most vilified combination in bike culture—together they’ve become the Iran of cycling. For this reason, I think cycling should have a summit meeting. I’m imagining something between a UN General Assembly debate and a mafia-style sit-down. At this meeting will be present representatives from the Five Families of Cycling: Roadies, Mountain Bikers, Messengers, Fixed-Gear Riders, and Commuters. I think with a few simple resolutions and trade-offs among these groups we can alleviate a lot of this tension and resentment, and get back to the business of riding.
(I know, “So what about Cyclocrossers? Or Trackies? or Tourists?" For the purposes of what we’re setting out to accomplish here, they don’t need to be present. As largely self-sustaining subcultures, they can continue to geek out in their little bubbles for now.)
As irritating as some of the new breed of fixed-gear bicycles and riders can be, I think the problem is largely one of nomenclature. In particular, I think the fact that many of these riders still refer to their bicycles as “track bikes” and say that they “ride track” is the reason other cyclists resent them. There is nothing “track” about a bike with riser bars and a top tube pad, for example, nor is there anything “track” about riding in tight jeans and a flat-brim baseball cap. Furthermore, many of these riders use their bikes primarily for doing stunts and skids, and have no intention of racing them on the track at all. It’s this contradiction in terminology that’s making so many people angry.
So I move that the fixed-gear riders agree to permanently expunge the word “track” from all references to their bicycles and riding style. Since their bikes are essentially fixed-gear BMX freestyle bikes, I suggest they call them “fixed-gear freestylers,” or something to that effect. After all, you don’t hear people complaining about BMXers, and that’s because they don’t go around calling their bikes something they’re not.
(A pink and black fixed-gear freestyler...now isn't that better?)
(It's just a Hutch Trickstar with bigger wheels...nothing to get angry about!)
In many ways, fixed-gear freestyle equipment has not yet caught up with the style of riding. Because of the incorrect use of the word “track,” manufacturers are still speccing these bikes with inappropriate components like 700c wheels. The reality is that there’s no reason for them to be using wheels this big. These bikes are ridden for short distances only, and smaller wheels would be better for the stunt riding they’re doing. (Some of these riders are already using 650c/26" wheels on the front anyway.)
Meanwhile, mountain bikes seem to be moving to the 29er (700c) wheel size. This is why a mountain bike representative needs to be at the summit. I’d like the fixed-gear freestylers and the mountain bikers to agree to a wheel-size exchange. The fixed-gear freestylers will take the 26" wheels, which seem to be falling out of favor with mountain bikers anyway, and the mountain bikers will take the 700cs. (This has the added benefit of making fixed-gear freestylers look even less like track bikes.)
Maintaining StandardsOn the surface, roadies and messengers are very different. Roadies are fastidiously clean; messengers are inevitably grimy. Roadies get as far away from the city as they can in order to traverse hill and dale; messengers spend their days and nights in the urban jungle. Roadies wish they were paid to ride; messengers are actually paid to ride.
What both groups have in common though is a long, inscrutable list of rules and criteria which one must follow and fit in order to belong. In the roadie world, something as esoteric as wearing the wrong length sock can be enough to get you banished forever. In the messenger world, simply having the audacity to use a messenger bag or attempt a track stand without being a bona-fide courier is sufficient to make you the object of scorn.
Shouldn’t both of these groups loosen up a bit and become more accommodating? Absolutely not! As cycling’s ultra-orthodox it’s crucial they continue to bear their rigorous standards with borderline psychotic devotion. They are the sun and moon of the cycling firmament, and if either wavers at all in their steadfastness the Earth will be plunged into chaos. This is why, at the summit, I suggest they sign a Joint Pact of Self-Righteousness, and commit once and for all to maintain their rigorous standards and bloated sense of self-importance forever. It is a crucial stabilizing force.
Whether you’re a road racer-slash-commuter, a mountain biker-slash-commuter, a fixed gear freestyler-slash-commuter, or just a plain commuter, you must agree to obey one simple rule: do not race people on your commute. Whether you’re a roadie on a Madone or a guy in khakis and a polo shirt on a hybrid, you look equally stupid trying to drop somebody on the Brooklyn bridge.
That's it--it's that simple. If we can adopt these four simple articles, I think the cycling world will be a better place.