“Look fast, ride slow.”me. circa 2017
Cycling is a journey, both literally and figuratively. The more we ride, the more we learn about ourselves, our bikes, and what works for our needs.
As the miles rack up, we learn how our bodies and minds react to highs, lows, inclement weather, failure, and exhaustion. While the bike that you bring along for those miles can make a difference, the real thing being tested is you.
There are a lot of people in the cycling world who want you to believe that if you just had that new component, shoe, or bike, all of your rides would be absolutely awesome and you’d always be happy. Many of those people need you to believe that because it’s literally their job and their ability to pay their bills depends on you buying stuff.
I’m one of those people; I work in a shop. I sell bikes, components, and accessories to people every day. I’m also a capable mechanic. However, I’m here to tell you that there is a large grey area between entry-level and race-ready stuff, and you absolutely do not need carbon wheels and $300 bibs just to ride the bike path on fair-weather Saturdays.
A large part of my job is to keep old bikes running, and there are few greater moments than seeing the look on a client’s face when you roll out their mid-90s mountain bike after it’s been washed, waxed, tuned, and modified for city riding.
Anyway (I’m getting off-subject here), the point is: Will spending several hundred dollars on something that’s 20 grams lighter and 10% stiffer make you faster or happier?
Maybe, but in my experience the answer is almost always no.
I know people who ride 15lb bikes who can’t keep up with me on their best day. I also know people who will quickly drop me on their 30lb flat-bar steel bike.
*also, why are we always trying to race each other?
It’s far too easy to get caught up in the arms-race that is the bike industry; If you just had the newest/lightest/stiffest/most aero thing, you’d be faster, right? But what happens when the newer version comes out next year? What do you do then?
Now, does that mean that it’s bad to be excited about your bike or a new bike, or to get stoked off cool vintage parts or upgrades?
Of course not! I’m an absolute gearhead and to me, upgrading and working on my bikes is almost as much fun as riding them… almost.
What it does mean, is that you shouldn’t hold everyone to your bike standards. Dig what you dig, but let other folks do their thing the way they want.
There is an awful lot of elitism and snobbery in the bike world, which can be off-putting and downright unwelcoming at times. It stems in large part from a mixture of the racing heritage and history, coupled with the wealth and class required to buy upper level bikes and accessories.
The industry as a whole has an awful lot to come to terms with; sexism, racism, and ableism have run rampant for years. Body shaming, and the idea that cyclists should look a certain way (ie: male, thin, and white) has been an accepted norm for far too long.
But things are starting to change, albeit slowly, and different voices are rising and it’s beautiful to see. Cycling doesn’t belong to rich guys with European names on the downtube of their $8,000 road bike. Cycling doesn’t belong to the bro drinking a craft beer at the summit with his $4,500 enduro.
Cycling belongs to the people who ride bikes; ALL OF THEM.
That person who commutes every day, rain or shine, on a filthy old beater with $30 wire-bead tires and a cobbled together drivetrain? They are a cyclist, and one could argue that they are more of a cyclist than the kitted up weekend warrior going for personal records on the local bike path. *putting out 600 watts on your local climb is difficult, but I truly believe that no cyclist knows suffering more than the commuter who’s slogging along, alone in the dark, when it’s 38 degrees and pouring rain.
Everyone is on their own journey (literally and figuratively).
Who cares about mismatched kits?
Who cares if that lady at the MTB park has 26″ wheels?
The drivetrain choices on other people’s bikes do not affect you!
*unless they’re dry and squeaking and you’re riding next to them. But then you should just be a good friend and lend them some chain lube instead of silently shaming and judging them.
Ride your bike. Ride your bike with friends. Ride your bike and meet new friends. Ride whatever bike you’ve got and have fun. Ride your bike slow, or ride your bike fast. Ride your bike and wave at other people on bikes.
Just go ride.