bakfiets, racing bikes, and my sense of self-worth

Between competitive cycling and bicycle transport we can draw a connection, not by necessity, and not for everyone who turns a crank, but for the edification of a great many cyclists regardless. A friend of mine, with a dream of increasing bicycle transport in this country where most people don’t want it, made a quip, that competitive cycling has about as much to do with bicycle transport as soccer, or any other competitive sport.

I think that’s the kind of thing you say because cycling for transport needs to come out of the shadow of sports cycling. You say it because some bike shops still steer buyers with bigger budgets toward race worthy bikes, rather than bikes with SON lights or Brooks saddles. You say it because people wear lycra to ride in the park and because bikes not sold for racing get sold without mudguards. But suppose we removed these low-grade preconceptions? The need to heavy-handedly delineate between what Lance Armstrong does, and how I do my shopping, would disappear.

My friend is speaking the rhetoric of bicycle transport evangelism. He is adjusting in deference to unwashed souls who, if they went out tomorrow to buy a bike for commuting, would look at mountain bikes with nobbly tires, then wonder why pedalling kills them, or else look at racing bikes, then wonder why puddles find their way from the road to their trousers. But with all due respect to people of average intelligence, it is fitting that they be kept on leashes, by work and consumption. Let them buy the wrong bike, not use it, and retire to lives of eating biscuits in front of the telly. Adjusting for their ignorance, even for a moment, is like death to the mind. I mean, what is to be done with these people, who have made it to 2012, without cottoning on to the comeback just made by bikes with mudguards and racks? Do we even want them counted among us? Perhaps, for their votes, but then under sufferance, and only on the proviso that we don’t have to mingle. (Like many over educated intellectual snobs, I got my annual dose of regular people, on Christmas day. Dear family, spouses of family members, and other cling-ons, ahhhhhh, you are truly confounding!)

So where was I? Yes, I was saying we should be able to go forward in our thinking and conversation, without feeling we need to explain the basics to retards (no offence to real retards, who in any case, have others to help them). An advanced conversation about cycling, among aware peers, should be able to admit that competitive cycling and utility cycling, can be symbiotic. They certainly have been for me.

Okay, so I am a unique case: the most physically and mentally disciplined/evolved cyclist, in the whole world; a risk in any B-grade local club race; commuting 30km daily regardless of weather, and on a balloon bike; smarter and wittier than Bike Snob or Copenhaganize, and they both know it! I have convinced wifey to auction the car this coming Tuesday, because our new Bakfiet will be here Wednesday.

So, rather than talking any more about the prejudices of those who don’t cycle, should we not just talk about me?

And now that I am your Moses in cycling, I guess it would interest you all to know, that I race to be fit for commuting, and commute to be fit for racing. Your leader delights in closed-loop systems. So I must say to those of you whose identity is too closely locked to your racing, that you now need to buy a bike with mudguards and non-battery lights. To those of you who ride for transport solely: “my children, you need an entry level race worthy bike, then the outfit.” Most clubs will give you an opportunity to participate in a trial race, on a day-licence (to cover insurance). If you have been using a bike for transportation, you are probably already as fit as some lower grade riders.

I guess I’m the bicycling equivalent of someone upgrading the carburetor on their family car, the kind of exercise that, despite being superficially vain, has motivated many men to look after their cars, and save their families money. We all need motivation. Taking pride in everyday chores—like transporting the kids, or changing the car oil—has a cumulative effect on our sense of self-worth.

5 Comments

  1. For me, the more I get into roadcycling the more polarised my views of recreational vs transportational cycling become, which makes it especially interesting to read your take on this.

    Based on personal experience, I do not necessarily agree that “If you have been using a bike for transportation, you are probably already as fit as some lower grade riders.” I think that really depends on the kind of transportation cycling you do (distance, terrain, type of bike). I had been riding for transportation for 2 years on a daily basis *and* doing some recreational riding, and I nearly died on my first paceline ride (not a race!) last summer. Everyone is different though, and your POV is quite interesting.

  2. Steven says:

    I was recently made captain of my bike racing club, and kind of dream I might entice riders like you to try racing F-grade. They average 28km p/h in a group, which is like riding alone at around 24km p/h, for half an hour. Copenhageners do that riding to work in their jeans with their luggage.
    You might have just joined an unfriendly/merciless bunch ride?

  3. In the groups I now ride with, we also average around 16-18mph, but here that is nowhere near good enough to race. I would love to race actually, longer road races especially. But it would be another couple of years at this rate. Congratulations on being made captain!

    • Steven says:

      Come to the land of non-extreme sport. Actually, bring your whole riding crew. Our numbers in F-grade have been a bit low. But seriously, I would be surprised if there aren’t racing clubs near you with grades and handicap races to suit new or elderly riders, or just those who are happy with the fitness they have. That is why god gave cycling grades.

  4. […] journalists and some like to discuss its relationship to transportation bicycling in the form of a self-important rant with no clear […]

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