All Roads Lead To All-Road

I’m pleased to report the singlespeed mountain bike I put together for my son last week suits him quite nicely:

Forcing your kids to ride bikes equipped with primitive 20th century technology is like making them use a phone like this instead of a smartphone–which I also do, of course:

Sure, they can’t download apps, but TikTok’s got nothing on Dial-A-Joke.

It’s costing me a fucking fortune though, and both my kids have already been suspended from school multiple times for telling wife jokes.

Speaking of being stuck in the past, there are too many different kinds of bikes now:

Actually, that’s not fair; at least when it comes to different types of road-oriented bikes, there were probably just as many then (whenever “then” was) as there are now. It’s just that it was once normal for bikes from different builders and companies to be slightly different from each other, whereas now every half-degree requires a new model name and marketing category:

I mean if your riding is more than 50% gravel roads you obviously want the Warroad.

Or maybe the Warbird.

Or the yet another Salsa, such as the Cutthroat or the Fargo or the Journeyer or the Marrakesh or the Stormchaser…

(Oops! They de-gendered the Journeyman Journeyer but not the Journeyman 24!)

That’s a lotta gravel/all-road/whatever bikes, isn’t it?

Well I’m not even done scrolling down!

And that’s not even counting All-City, which is the same company but names their bikes more irreverently:

(If I ever go on the lam I’m changing my name to Space Horse Tiagra.)

Or Surly, which is also the same company:

Though Surly has long had a unique role in formalizing and legitimizing cycling dirtbaggery. When it comes to styles of bikes and marketing niches, basically the way it works is this:

  • Dirtbags cobble a new style of bike together out of their parts bins for some new dirtbag style of riding
  • Some framebuilder starts making a dedicated frame forthem
  • Surly makes a prefab frame with overly complicated dropouts that will accept every single drivetrain in existence to date
  • Every other company adopts it when they see they can sell a more expensive version that is less versatile
  • Specialized steps in, at which point it’s officially over


Singlespeed mountain bikes

Street track bikes

And of course the latest in retro-chic, the non-aero, non-endurance, non-gravel road bike:

What will they think of next?

None of this is to say there’s anything wrong with any of these bikes, or these bike companies, or with companies offering lots of similar models, or even with companies offering lots of similar models that are disconcertingly similar to the models offered by every other company. It is, however, to say the names are really only making things worse by making them more confusing. There’s that old saw about how many words the Eskimos have for snow, but do we really need sixteen different names for a sporty bike with decent tire clearance? I mean sure, in the age of search optimization we’ll never, ever escape them, but the hair-splitting nomenclature is meaningless not only because the bikes are so similar, but also because of “genre drift”–that phenomenon by which a bike that was one thing ten years ago is now something else altogether. Consider my singlespeed mountain bike:

Which on paper has way more in common with a “flat-bar gravel bike” than with anything sold as a mountain bike today:


In fact, if you look at the geometry of that 2011 Specialized 29er it’s got pretty much the same frame angles as the current Diverge.

But I guess that’s just the way it works. The word “phone” used to mean this:

But now it means a hand-held screen that makes you lazy and stupid:

I check the weather on my phone instead of looking out the window, and if my eyes tell me it’s raining but my phone tells me it’s not then I side with the phone. (Though that may be less about phones and more about the strange, delusional mindset of being a cyclist: “Looks pretty wet but phone says it’s not raining, I’m headed out for a ride.”)

Anyway, I shouldn’t be critical of all these different types of redundant bikes, inasmuch as I have lots of bikes myself, many of which are very similar to each other, and in fact I list many of them here in this interview with Cyclotherapy, probably the last person in the world interested in interviewing me.

Substack!?! Harumph. I remember when that was just called blog…

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