Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Touchy, Touchy: Catching Up With "The Climb"

Everybody wants attention. It's human nature. However, we all differ in the kind of attention we want. Personally, I don't like attention for attention's sake. That's why I don't celebrate my birthday, or write about my purchases, or dress outlandishly. (I do ride in a chicken suit, but I assure you that's simply a practical choice.) However, I freely admit I relish attention when it's paid to my blog. Unlike, say, being born, my blog is something in which I actually play an active role. So I was excited to learn that there's a new blog out there called "The Truth Hurts," because it talks a lot about mine.

Of course, if you're not me, you probably aren't particularly interested in reading about my blog. But I am me, and I plan to visit "The Truth Hurts" regularly, if only to read things like this:

For instance, bikesnob always complains about fixed gear riders and their lack of breaks. But why? We all know that us devout fixed gear riders hate brakes for one reason or another. Maybe he never took the time to learn to ride is bike properly. Or maybe he has a similar problem as some so called friends of mine, unable to grasp the concept of efficiently stopping without breaks.

Actually, I like to think I prefer brakes because I did learn to ride my bike properly. When you ride and race in all sorts of conditions you come to appreciate things like having as much control over your bike as possible and being able to apply stopping force to each wheel independently. Also, while I do "grasp the concept of efficiently stopping without breaks [sic]" I have yet to see it done. What I do see is people zig-zagging and fishtailing all over the place in order to do what you can accomplish with the flick of an index finger. I'm also not sure what's so efficient about using your tire as a brake pad. I was checking out the latest issue of Fixed magazine when I saw this:

"We have seen the light! Gone are the days of skidding through your Rubino's in a couple of weeks! Say nay to Gatorskins and their flimsy sidewalls! All hail the Conti Top Contact, which has two layers of Vectran anti puncture material and a large amount of rubber on the tread. Conti are so confident that if you get a puncture in the first year, they'll replace the tyre and tube, free of charge."

Hey, I'm all for durable tires (though I do get uncomfortable hailing something German), and there are certainly situations (like touring or commuting) when you want durability over performance. However, when you're using a tire on your track bike that weighs twice as much as a typical road tire just because you don't want to use a brake you're saying "I don't need to stop quickly or corner quickly." Part of being a smart cyclist is distributing weight as effectively as possible. If you want to go fast, put the extra 200 grams into a brake and a lever, not your tire. And if you want durability and couldn't care less about speed and performance, by all means use the heavy tire and the brake. That way the tire will last even longer. Using excessive amounts of rubber (or Vectran) instead of a brake is like using three condoms. If you need that much protection, maybe you should think about sleeping with someone else.

But mine isn't the only blog you can read about on "The Truth Hurts." You can also read about Prolly's:

Probablys blog is a little more interesting for several reasons. The main one being the simple fact that he posts a handful of pictures of riders doing tricks at spots that I used to frequent several years ago when I used to rollerblade.

Ah, I see. He's coming from a freestyle Rollerblading background. That would explain his firm grasp on bicycle performance.

But while "The Truth Hurts" and I may have different opinions when it comes to bikes (and to blogging) I like to think we both respect each-other. After all, a free exchange of ideas in which one party is clearly wrong is essential for the proliferation of intelligent discourse. And who could argue with this well-stated sentiment:

All of that being said, I simply want to offer a different approach then all of the previous bloggers. So I shall.

Alas, if only all bloggers felt this way. Despite the fact that "The Truth Hurts" seems to have it in for me to some degree (or perhaps because of it), I respect it vastly more than Robert Mackey's "The Climb," which you may remember from this past summer. Sadly, "The Climb" was a short-lived endeavor, probably because Mackey's interest in cycling was also short-lived. However, he's still out there. In fact, a reader informs me he was recently quoted in the Village Voice:

"A lot of those people almost ruined that experience for me," notes Robert Mackey, a writer for The New York Times website, referring to writing The Climb, a blogged account of his time riding much of the Tour de France route this summer as a novice cyclist. While the overwhelming number of comments were positive, Mackey found that a group of self-described "bike snobs" kept sparking dozens of "weird, angry" comments that he had to edit, including the bizarre contention that he had no "right" to do what he was doing, or even that he should hand over his bike to a poorer, more "worthy" cyclist—a demand made by the cyclist himself. It was a black-hole conversation, one that produced infinite heat and no light.

"It was an unbelievable experience—like editing graffiti," remembers Mackey. "It makes you feel awful about the world."

I was very pleased to read this for two reasons. The first reason is that, as I mentioned above, I like attention when it's paid to my blog. Yet despite the fact that I wrote about Mackey's blog repeatedly I never heard from him, nor did he make any mention of it. Could it be that, despite the fact that both "The Climb" and The New York Times website must have experienced an increase in visitors, they took no notice of my blog? Sure, I wasn't praising "The Climb," but I was bringing it to the attention of a number of cyclists and readers who might not have learned about it otherwise. And, amazing as it may seem, intelligent people actually do check things out for themselves and form their own opinions even after they read the negative opinions of others. Actually, sometimes they do it because they've read the negative opinions of others. I'm sure there were plenty of people who learned about "The Climb" here and then went and left some of those positive comments he mentions. You're welcome. Hey, even an angry email from him would have been nice. Well, I never got one, but finally in December I at least know he was aware of me.

The second reason I was pleased to read this is that I now know I was absolutely right about Mackey. Just like Mackey's approach to climbing the Tourmalet was to circumvent the path of pain and experience by buying a Cervelo, paying for coaching, and traveling to London for a custom insole, his approach to blogging was simply to delete any negative feedback he received like he was "editing graffiti." I'm not sure why some people have difficulty accepting the fact that some things can be painful--even the fun things, like cycling. Nor can some people accept the fact that just because you put yourself out there in public doesn't mean that everybody is going to like you. Yes, when you're eight years old you should expect to put on a show for your family in the living room without getting heckled. But once you're an adult you really should come to terms with the knowledge that when you put something out there for public consumption not everybody is going to like it--especially when that something is a blog about a really, really expensive bicycle trip. And hey, a blog without negative comments is like a 'cross race without barriers. Sure, they hurt to get over sometimes, but they're part of the experience and in the end they're part of what makes it fun. And calling someone a dilettante for spending too much money on a vacation is not a violation of their human rights.

One of my favorite things about cycling is that it can reward suffering with joy. Another thing I love about it is that it often rejects those who don't understand this. Cycling teaches you that there's such a thing as necessary suffering and such a thing as unnecessary suffering, and that sometimes a short cut is a dead end. I'm sorry the hardships Mackey encountered while cycling and blogging made him "feel awful about the world." If he'd looked at them differently, they would have made him love it.


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Anonymous said...


booo yaaa!

I've decided that it's much too common to be on the podium or the top three or top ten, i'm 200, now THAT's an acomplishment!!!

by the way, congrats to snob, i never saw 200 comments in any of your posts... well, i havent been reading for so long but still...!!!

ant1 said...

sorry anon 194-199, I did not notice you were going for two hundredth, and didn't think I would be it. It's like you pulled all race and I just came around you at the last second. What a douche.

Anonymous said...

real talk, i just bought three sets of campy super record and i plan on putting them on huffy frames and ride col du galibier on a moped and writing a book about being a hardman classics rider
maybe rapha will let me be a copy editor?

bookie said...

In any case you are better off wearing only one condom. Wearing multiple creates friction between the layers which can lead to breakage.

ant1 said...

does the same apply to bags over the head?

Anonymous said...

I hate to break it to you but there's nothing special about a fixed gear.

But it doesn't coast!!!

I'm not responding so much to you, but as a hardcore gay ex-punk brakeless-fixed-gear-Cervelo-riding dentist, I find this comment section extremely hostile.


But trust me, I can rock those skinny jeans, because the riding helps my ass look even sweeter.

I'm sure this works for straights, too. I get digits all the time from my female patients.

I'm thinking about putting laminated business cards in my spokes, but I could only park the bike in public while I watched it.

I've been getting more young men in the office(!) with broken front teeth lately. In the past we'd have nothing to talk about, but now I can break the ice by telling them about riding fixed.

Sometimes they clench their teeth, sometimes their jaws drop. The latter is better for oral examinations.

Anonymous said...

oohhhh ohhhh more woogie!!! yeah!

Anonymous said...

WOW, excellent post! Sometimes I think you are funny, other times, not so much. But this was excellent writing.

Yr Pal Dr C

Ev said...

great post

Anonymous said...

Say hi to your mom,

Very nice and reasonable. Only it's a shame you couldn't omit the obligatory "I burn geared, spandex-clad roadies on climbs" part.

For the record, unless there's a predetermined end-point, IT DOESN'T MEAN ANYTHING. As if you know how far they're riding, or with what intent.

Just as annoying as fixed-riders' obsession with no brakes: What's with people assuming that anyone wearing spandex is in a race with you? Ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

jealous of lacky..macky..wacky..what ever! just because he is loaded? yeah right! The guy is/was/still is a non-cyclist and he tried to act like he knows what cycling is all about. Trust me! the guy is a wannabe who will never be

AMR said...

What makes someone a true cyclist? Mackay wasn't even trying. It is like assuming all Cervelo riders are rich.

Shiny Flu said...

I'm so glad that we reached 200.

Oh by the way, First. I called the question of 200 first. ALL YOU HATERS SUCK MY BALLS! (AND READ MY CAPS LOCK)

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Mackey,

You are the Douglas Feith of bicycling. That is why you are hated. You represent everything that is wrong with America.. that it values arrogance and money and name over hard work, diligence, and humility.

Anonymous said...

dear bikesnob,
please do everyone a favor and take down the link to the "the truth hurts" blog. the poor kid can't write his way out of a paper bag and the comments section is getting pretty ugly. it's diverting bike blog readers' attention away from important pursuits such as the relative merits of various bar plugs or what chainwheel/cog combo gives the most 'skid patches' (WGAF?).
'break' user

Anonymous said...

Reading comprehension is very low here. There were dozens of negative comments on that Times blog - there's no evidence that any comments were deleted for being negative and that's not what it says in the Voice article quoted in the post. Anyone who posts comments on The Times site knows obscenities are not "fit to print" there - so their bloggers have to screen comments and not post obscene ones. "Editing" doesn't mean deleting.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I'd forgotten all about the Mackey post and the bunch of whining bike snob asshats who posted there. I got some good laughs being reminded about this purity of the pain process nonsense. Face it, you just don't like the fact that he could afford to spend the money doing something he wanted to do. Good for him, he did what he wanted to do and he finished the ride. And if the bike is sitting unused, so what? Lots of bikes end up that way, he just started at a higher price point than most, and he probably accomplished more than most along the way.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:17

Mackey gets what he deserves = the pacifier of his own ego. Had he been willing to suffer the release of his teeny scrap of a vantage point, he'd have a mountain of an experience to speak of.

Both he and you prove what everyone with 1/2 a wit already knows about the world. The only thing *you* know is your own experience and even that is questionable.

Tell me Anon, can you with empirical certainty, and precise accuracy objectify your own experience?

Put differently *God* (The UCI)indirectly and arbitrarily dictates to a large extent what shall be the shared architecture and template for most of the western world's two wheeled experiences.

This is a template, with an understanding thereof, that has been refined through time. It's not something that may be purchased on a Saturday afternoon.

Because of this cycling stands in sharp relief to a world defined by individual construct and whim. What's funny is watching those worlds collide and what's sad is when someone misses the point. Either one is too deft at being daft or vice versa.

Anonymous said...

No... there's nothing special about riding a fixed gear. It's just different and, for some of us, fun. You don't need a $5k carbon fibre bike to enjoy cycling. The $20, ebay, bargain, Italian, steel frame I got and built up gives me just as much joy as any bike I've ever ridden. I rode a paper route morning and night in the 70's on a coaster brake, single speed. Best damn bike I ever had. !!

Anonymous said...

"Using excessive amounts of rubber (or Vectran) instead of a brake is like using three condoms. If you need that much protection, maybe you should think about sleeping with someone else."

After reading comments like that, i've stopped watching the news, reading the paper and have devoted my life to Bike Snob NYC

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