I don’t want to pick a tribe, but…

Cyclists can be a hard-core lot, especially when it comes to defending their tribes. The Upright Woolies wouldn’t be caught dead in Lycra, and the Spandex Ballet dancers would never go near a piece of tweed. The Flower Girls love their wicker handlebar baskets and pastel frame colors, and the Fixerati love their stripped-down, one-gear specials.

Rarely do the tribes cross lines. I tried to resist pidgeon-holing, but it’s too late. I like my spandex, and my drop-bar road bike. I like my bikes fast and light, and I wish I could afford a racier one. Totally Spandex Ballet. The trouble is, that whole concept is not so ideal for commuting to work through a Northwest winter, when most of the other Spandex Ballet-ers are inside on their flow trainers. A pseudo-racing bike is not what you want when you’re slushing through leaf-paste on a questionably paved trail.

So I thought about crossing over. I don’t think the Flower girls would take me, and certainly the Fixerati wouldn’t. But the Upright Woolies … why not? They ride more practical machines, typically steel, with big tires, big fenders, racks and baskets. And the truth be told, a lot of those guys are faster than I am, even with all that extra weight and the challenged aerodynamics of flapping wool jackets. There must be some finely tuned calf muscles under all those natural fibers.

My problem is, I hate their bikes. I respect them, I get the purpose and the whole aesthetic, and I keep looking at them, thinking I could make it work during the winter at least.

But today I took a look at a nice steel bike, internal gear hub, racks, fenders, wide tires, leather Brooks saddle. Perfect for winter. And I just shook my head. There was no way in hell I was going to get on that thing. Sigh.

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2 thoughts on “I don’t want to pick a tribe, but…

  1. Oh, come on, Doug! You should know there are tribes within tribes here in Cyclotopia! Myself, I’ve always tended toward the Fred end of things; steel bike with lugs, racks, fenders, saddle about level with the bars as opposed to 4 inches higher, like you wanna-be Racer Boys 🙂 ! Never owned a Brooks saddle, but lots of my co-religionists do. Bridgestone bikes? I’ve owned 4. You get the picture: a Northwest Fred, heavy on practical transportation, with a strong dash of retro aesthetic.

    But I wear Lycra if I’m riding for more than 10 miles or so. I’ve got drop bars on my bike and I can even go aero, if I wanna. I’m usually more focused distance than speed, but I like to put the hammer down from time to time (I especially like to jump on the back of a passing paceline of Racer-Boys. They look back and find the old guy on the steel bike with packs and fenders they thought they dropped a few miles back is sucking their wheel …).

    In short, Doug, be the kinda cyclist you wanna be! By all means, go ahead, join a tribe, buy the uniform, learn the language and the folkways, learn who you’re supposed to look down on; it’s fun! But the lines are very blurry, so you can mix’n’match any way you like to make yourself happy.

    Cuz, in the end, that’s the main reason to ride in the first place …

    — Liam
    “Two wheels good; four wheels bad.”

  2. dougkimster says:

    Thanks Liam. I so want to be a retro guy too. But I don’t know if I can bring myself to get on the bike! I love a good lug as much as the next guy, but some weird force keeps me from getting on one of those things. My favorite bike was one I inherited from my dad, a vintage Peugeot with a leather saddle, beautiful lugs, all Campy components. But it was stolen outside my dorm. Bad day. Never ridden a lugged bike since.

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