Yesterday, while riding my gravel bike, I had a revelation:
Riding on gravel is So Hot Right Now. We all love it. But why do we love it? Is it the lack of motor vehicle traffic? The bucolic scenery? The inevitable effect of the collective cycling consciousness as it finally loosens its universal sphincter after decades of riding road bikes with skinny tires?
Here’s what’s so great about gravel: it’s the sound.
I’ve said this before, and while as a semi-professional bike blogger I’m way too lazy to delve into my vast archives to find out where, I’d say that something like 75%* of our riding experience is informed by sound. Consider crabon wheels: the whooshing sound they make when you wind them up, the ZZZzzzZZZzzz of a loud freehub, the ker-THUNK when you stop coasting and engage it… It all sounds like raw speed, which in turn makes you feel fast, even though you totally suck.** So crucial is sound to the perception of performance that some automakers even pump fake engine noises into the cabin via the sound system, which sounds like something I just made up, but which is totally true.
It works the other way, too. Let’s say, for example, that your bike is squeaking, or creaking, or ticking. Can you actually feel a bottom bracket that needs to be snugged up a teensy bit, or a bar/stem interface that could use a schmear of grease? Of course not. But it sure seems like you can, and that as much as the sound is what will DRIVE YOU FUCKING INSANE.
Now think about gravel:
Is there a better sound than the soft crunching of gravel under your tires as you turn off a paved road? Well, yeah; “There’ll be no charge for that third Candy Apple Cosmo, Mr Tenovo” is objectively better. (Yes, I am a recovering Girl Drink Drunk.) Still, gravel beneath your wheels is among the most beguiling sounds you’ll ever hear whilst riding a bicycle. It even sounds great when you’re driving a car on it for chrissakes, and that’s saying something.
All of this is by way of sharing with you my revelation. Actually, it’s less of a revelation and more of a brilliant idea that will make me rich. Basically, instead of selling people expensive gravel bikes, simply take a cue from those car companies and sell them small Bluetooth speakers that pipe in the sound of gravel as you ride!
First, download the Sound Of Gravel App:
Then, pair your mobile device with the Sound Of Gravel Bluetooth speaker, which fits neatly under your saddle:
Then just launch the app and ride! Now, no matter what surface you’re on, you’ll feel like you’re riding on gravel. The app allows you to customize your experience by choosing from a number of presets (fine gravel, coarse gravel, dry gravel, wet gravel, etc.) and by using your phone’s GPS the sound will change along with your speed. For added verisimilitude, be sure to lower your tire pressure accordingly.
Of course riding on gravel isn’t all sound; it’s also that cool way your bike looks after you’re done. Admit it, the only thing that looks better than a clean bike is a bike with a light coating of gravel dust on it. So if you order now I’ll send you a discount code for Tan Tenovo’s Bag O’ Dust:
Simply sprinkle some on your bike and a little bit on yourself for good measure and you can roll up at the coffee shop looking like you just finished the Dirty Kanza!
Holy shit I’m gonna be rich.
Moving on, the other day I was shopping in Target (how normcore is that?) when I spied what appeared to be a children’s book about bikes, though as I got closer I realized it was some juvenile hagiography of Joe Biden written by his wife:
I flipped through it to see how much bike content there was, because bikes are the only thing I care about, and it seemed to be limited to the page from which they drew the cover image:
As I always do when I see an image of someone riding a bicycle without wearing a helmet, I noted wryly that someone somewhere would probably point out the lack of any protective headgear in this drawing–though I suppose given that the chronological setting predates helmets the bare head is sort of grandfathered in. Fortunately though, we have watchdogs working overtime to make sure nobody gets away with it today:
None of this stuff happens by accident, so presumably Biden’s campaign managers sat around and said, “Okay, everyone’s hammering Biden for hiding in his basement. And thanks to the Pando bicycles are popular right now. Let’s get him out on a bike.” That’s the easy part. In 2020, if you’re a politician out on a bike (which itself is risky enough), you’ve got to consider all the permutations, to wit:
- Helmet and mask
- Helmet, no mask
- Mask, no helmet
- No helmet, no mask
Presumably Biden (or rather his team, it’s absurd to think he makes these decisions himself, or that he even knows where he is half the time) went with the second choice because Democrats have become the Party of Masks, but Obama got hammered by conservatives for wearing a helmet back in the day–though they gave him a pass on that adjustable quill stem, go figure:
Though it’s worth noting Obama later flip-flopped and went riding without a helmet, which didn’t go over too well either:
Part of the problem here (and I’m speculating because I couldn’t be bothered to actually read the article) may have been that people think it’s somehow doubly irresponsible to ride helmetless when you’re with your kids:
The answer to this question is obviously: “Because they’re taking a fucking bike ride, not playing in the NFL.” (Yes, I realize the inefficacy of football helmets is a whole other issue, but that’s beyond the purview of this post.) Furthermore, when I see helmetless parents riding with helmeted kids, I feel the opposite and wonder why they’re forcing their poor children to wear helmets when they obviously know better.
In any case, while all of this is probably old helmet to most of you by now, let’s look at other American presidents and candidates over the years and their relationship with the bicycle. John Kerry of course was a noted Fred who rode a Serotta and removed his helmet to take phone calls:
Not only does his helmet match his frame, but he’s also using Campagnolo, which probably locked in the vote of the .00000076% of the electorate who have Campagnolo calf tattoos.
Meanwhile, his arch-nemesis, George W. Bush, was an enthusiastic mountain biker, and I don’t think you’ll find as tidy a dichotomy as this Democrat/Republican, Roadie/Mountain Biker match-up in the entirety of American history:
I mean yeah, there was that whole Civil War thing, but that was way more muddled.
Meanwhile, if you’ve got no time for the whole road bike/mountain bike debate, there’s only one way to go, and that’s a Rivendell:
Though even then there’s no escape from the bike dorks:
Riv-dorks are even worse than Freds.
And lest we forget that even the incumbent has a history with bikes:
People have long sought to impugn Trump’s business acumen by citing debacles such as Trump University and Trump Steaks, but it’s hard to think of a more foolhardy investment than putting your name on a bike race:
In some alternate dimension, American sports fans are positively mad for the USFL and the Tour de Trump.
Anyway, lest we descend into partisan bickering (or worse, arguments about fender spacing), let’s take a moment to remember that each of us sees the world differently, which I found myself contemplating during a recent trip to Petco. (More normcore shopping!) For some, a pet looks like this:
While for others, a pet looks like this:
See, some try to kill rats, while others house them:
Some try to kill roaches, while others try to feed them:
As for me, I was buying cat food. So make of that what you will.
*Don’t focus too much on that percentage, it’s a number I just pulled out of my own sphincter
**Science fact: 82% of people who own crabon wheels suck