Thursday, March 26, 2009
Anti-Veloism: Weird, Creepy Bike Hate
Obviously, not everybody likes cyclists. In fact, lots of people actually hate cyclists. If you ride a bicycle you've undoubtedly experienced the sting of anti-veloism at least once. Some anti-veloist attacks are fairly straightforward, like when an irate motorist yells at you for being "in the way." Others though are downright bizarre, and can be so strange that instead of being angry you just find yourself confused. A reader recently forwarded me an instance of the latter from Madison, Wisconsin.
In this case, the anti-veloism took the form of a skit on a WJJ0 99.4 radio program, and you can listen to the skit here. Basically, some guy with a goofy Harry Shearer radio voice says he's sick of bicyclists, or "spandex cowboys." He then segues into some skit which is a parody of a hunting show, in which the host goes to the "Wisconsin Bicycle Trail of Death," where he kills bicycles instead of deer "because we feel they're flamers and they should be shot at!" He then launches into some weird homoerotic reverie in which he positions himself near someplace "gay and retarded" because that's where cyclists like to congregate. Once he spies some effeminate male cyclists, he then shoots them and excitedly declares that he "bagged me a nancy boy!" Then the host comes back and says that "if motorcyclists...if we did what bicyclists do we'd be in jail and our bikes impounded." Then they go to commercial.
I suppose on some level this is shocking, and I suppose it should make me angry, but it really doesn't because it's just so weird. Firstly, whoever made the skit seems to have some intense obsession with homosexuals, and I get the sense that he hates gays much more than he hates cyclists. So he's attempting to insult cyclists by saying they're gay. But there's nothing especially insulting about being called a homosexual. Anybody who called some punk kid a "homo" in the 80s was buying Nirvana and Green Day CDs by the mid-90s, and was flexing his brand-new tribal arm band tattoo at Lollapalooza while pretending to like the same bands that the "homo" punk kid was listening to back in the 80s. Usually being called "gay" just means you're ahead of the curve.
Still, for anti-veloists, equating lycra clothing with homosexuality is the go-to insult, so it bears examination. Obviously not all cyclists wear lycra, and those who do don't wear it all the time. But while lycra clothing certainly can look silly, I'm not sure why it's "gay." There are plenty of gay people in New York City, and some of them are quite proud of it and as such want to make sure everybody else knows they're gay too. These people do not dress up as cyclists or wear skin-tight spandex clothing. I have never seen a gay person walking around in full team kit without a bicycle in sight. But they do often dress as motorcyclists, which is what the host of the radio show claims to be:
Meanwhile, traditionally, skin-tight spandex is generally not used to express homosexuality. Actually, it's usually used to underscore heterosexuality. I'm not saying it succeeds, but take comic book characters, wrestlers, or 80s rock bands as examples. All of these things are supposed to be heterosexual:
Of course, not all 80s rock stars were staunchly heterosexual. Some actually did come to openly profess their homosexuality. But they didn't wear spandex or dress as cyclists. They dressed as motorcyclists:
So culturally speaking, it would seem leather and not lycra/spandex is the material of choice when you want to advertise your homosexuality.
Still, let's give the cyclist hunter in the skit the benefit of the doubt. Obviously there are gay cyclists out there, just like there are gay motorcyclists, and gay golfers, and probably even gay curlers (who may even curl while in full biker attire). But that simply does not explain the frequency with which this guy seems to encounter gay cyclists. After all, he hates cyclists. I like cyclists and I am a cyclist and I don't seem to encounter gay cyclists with any more frequency than I encounter any other type of gay person. Generally, when you hate something, you avoid it. This guy must really want to be around gay cyclists for some reason. And I don't think he wants to shoot them. I think he wants to shoot with them. It just makes me think of that Onion headline.
Certainly, if either the host or the guy in the skit has a gay cyclist fetish, they're not going to admit it. Certainly also neither of them ride bicycles themselves. But the host at least does claim to be a motorcyclist. And while he has no experience with bicycles, I do have some experience with motorcycles. Anybody who's spent any time on a motorcycle knows you encounter just as much crap as you do on a bicycle. In fact, in a lot of ways motorcyclists have it worse than cyclists, because when you're on the highway and a driver on a cellphone merges into you without looking, you're going 70mph, not 20mph, and the possible consequences are far worse. Nobody treats you any better when you're on a motorcycle than they do when you're on a bicycle.
So you'd expect a hard-core motorcyclist knows how tough things can be and as such might have some respect for cyclists. You'd also think that maybe the fact that The Great Trek Bicycle Making Company, Harley-Davidson, and the host all share the same home state might also help the host find common ground for his fellow two-wheeled siblings. But owning a motorcycle doesn't necessarily make you a motorcyclist, just like owning a bicycle doesn't necessarily make you a cyclist. It could be that, now that the weather's warming up, the host is just taking his gleaming Harley-Davidson out of storage. Perhaps it's even some fancy "factory custom." (I'm not sure how something can be a "factory custom"--that's like a fixed-gear freewheel.) Maybe he's even got some new chrome bolt-on accessories, like Maltese cross rear-view mirrors or knurled grips, that he's going to pay the local Harley dealer to install. Once they're on, he'll slip on his non-gay made in China official Harley-Davidson brand leather attire and ride for a couple hours on Sunday. On the way to the non-retarded, non-gay bar and grill where all the other local Harley owners go, maybe he'll encounter a hill, where he'll be forced to turn his knurled throttle grip a tiny bit to get around a group of gay cyclists who have gotten bunched up on the climb. This will obviously be tremendously frustrating for him, but he can take solace in the fact that they will be pounded by the sound of his "custom" pipes as he goes by.
Don't get me wrong--I have nothing against motorcyclists, even though when I see some of them riding around sitting on their flatulent bikes I can't help but think they're simply indulging some repressed desire to have people watch them while they go to the bathroom. And I'm not saying these radio guys are like that, but then again you've at least got to consider the possibility that they're exactly the opposite of what they say they are, which is heterosexual motorcyclists.
In any case, we all look equally ridiculous, so hopefully we can at least watch out for each-other on the way to our respective "gay and retarded" hangouts.