Cycling Is Only As Elitist As You Make It

It’s been a warm January, which has allowed me to partake in more road cycling than I might otherwise do at this time of year:

As I’ve written with characteristic insight, road cycling–much maligned for its perceived wankitude–is in fact our most fundamentally accessible form of riding, and this occurred to me yet again this past Friday as I toured the countryside astride the very 34 year-old glued aluminum bicycle I mention in the aforelinked column:

Of course, road riding also happens to encompass the most popular form of competitive cycling, so there are plenty of people who resent it:

He makes good points, the video is more nuanced than the title wold imply, and as a fellow victim of Petersenesque brainwashing I generally relate to what he has to say. At the same time, for all the laid-back inclusiveness of the “Partypace” ethos, its just as rarefied and exclusive in its own way as any other cycling niche, and in fact the whole bikepacking/”alt” cycling/gravel/whatever-it-is scene is increasingly steeped in excess. Are people who spend thousands of dollars on boutique components from Paul and White Industries and Rene Herse so they can boast about how slowly and non-competitively they ride their Crust bicycles any more relatable or down-to-earth or true to the spirit of cycling than the roadies with their crabon bikes and electronic shifting? I don’t think they are–especially when you consider that relatively few people live someplace where they can traipse into the wilderness on their comically wide bars and enjoy sustainably-harvested marijuana and painstakingly-brewed coffee from their ginormous ironically-named Ultraromance-curated handlebar bags for hours if not days on end. Meanwhile there’s not much difference between the typical roadie group ride and a game of softball or the local bowling league, and you never hear anybody complaining about how the language of bowling discourages newcomers. (“Srike!” “Gutterball!” Such toxic masculinity!)

By no means am I trying to impugn anybody here; it’s just human nature to go all in on leisure activities. Remember how the whole fixie trend started out being about simplicity and urban resourcefulness, and then before you knew it people were riding around on ridiculously expensive keirin bikes and pursuit bikes and stupid art bike collabos? If anything it’s reassuringly endearing that we’re all the same in that way, whether we ride at race pace or party pace. I know I am, and not only am I no stranger to the world of roadiedom, but I also boast numerous fancy bikes designed specifically to show how much of a hurry I’m not in:

I feel smugly superior to roadies in Lycra when I’m riding this, despite the fact I’m just as likely to be found on a road bike in Lycra myself. Because, like everyone else, I’m totally full of it.

Speaking of the above photo, that’s the Bronx River, and you can almost imagine what it must have been like around here in the olden days, if it weren’t for all the abandoned Citi Bikes:

I’ll certainly concede that I’m much more likely to stop and consider my surroundings when riding the Platypus than I am when I’m riding a road bike. Consider this plaque for example, which I’ve ridden by like eleventy billion times but finally stopped to read on Saturday:

For those of you who were born in the Internet age, a plaque is sort of like a real-life mouseover.

Just as Washington’s men once surveyed the surrounding landscape from atop that rocky redoubt, shortly after reading it I ascended a modern-day retail fortress:

Where I procured some merriment munitions:

And gazed sentry-like upon the valley below:

Then later my older son and I rode north, not to the Trails Behind The Mall…

…but to the very Mall Itself:

Here, we partook in my younger son’s birthday party, and were no doubt the only people in the entire mall to have arrived by bicycle.

By the way, can you find the bikes?

Here’s a clue:

There’s no greater smugness than being the only people to have ridden to the mall, though to be honest the real reason we did was that The Car That We Own was full, otherwise we’d have driven there like everyone else. But smugness is as smugness does.

Anyway, it was still warm on Sunday, so I reverted to road mode once again:

I can assure you no hammers were dropped in the riding of this bicycle.

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