cyclofiend.com - peripheral thoughts & notes

January 2008
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Setting The Pace
Filed under: general, rides
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 9:38 am

After enjoying the thread last week on the RBW List about the CTC “ideal” of a day’s country ramble, as well as Beth’s LJ post -


I’ve kept thinking a bit about the whole idea of - for the lack of a better term - noncompetitive riding, what we can do about it and where we sit.

I’m not sure all these notes flow, but they do seem related.

The thought I’ve come back to is that a lot of what gets talked about in the Rivendell Readers - the “Country Bike” idea, useful and practical designs and accessories, and the whole S24O idea - are precisely the type of perspective that could lead to a true bicycling lifestyle approach.

One of the weird things that happens is that through my work (not in the bike industry), I’ve had people I know pretty well begin biking regularly. From their descriptions, they’ve reached a decent level of fitness and I’ve been trying to encourage them to go with me on a ride (we’ve never ridden together).  This has continued to be a fizzling proposition. The reasons are vague, but it has come out that they both feel “they’d be holding me back” on the ride - simply that they weren’t fast enough.

I try to explain that when riding “with” someone, I ride with someone. Clearly I am using the wrong verb or modifier, or some inappropriate tone of voice, because this hasn’t worked.  But, I keep cajoling and hopfully it will.

And I think that’s the level of effort needed.  We (as members of the RBW list) are a desparately small slice of a subset of cycling as it is practiced. I think however if we go out and have a visibly great time riding, other folks will act to resolve the disconnect between what fun we are having and the approach that they have found that might not be working as well.

In our area (SF Bay) there are a ton of clubs and group rides and fast kids flitting about.  Most seem to hold onto that “racing heritage”* that permeates bicycling, but there are smart folks out there who can learn by example.  

As JimG & I rolled back onto the road in Pt. Reyes Station, there were probably 40 riders lolling around eating and chatting.  As we moved away, Jim said that he loved to watch people react to our bikes, because they looked confused. Fenders and decent sized bags will do that to people. But, we were out, enjoying the sun and fine weather and having at least as much fun as the Bento Box and Gel crowd.

I’m sure people looked at us and thought “mmm…heavy bikes”. Now, “heavy” is easy to quantify and consider, but it doesn’t stand a chance against “fun”.

Riding around on a “different looking” bike, it’s easy to be regarded as “cliquish” - there are such easy visual markings
of modern tribalism. So, I think it is important to reach across such divisions whenever possible.  We’ve got to be the “fun” people to ride with, whether by demeanor, deed or bringing appropriate beverages and  baked goods.

Being able to fill a rail car (or a bus, large van, etc.) starts with a few like-minded people building into a group that shares the same values. It begins with a concrete idea of what the ride should be like, or it will devolve into a much more competitive endeavour. Let’s call this goal a “meander”.

It probably starts with one person saying, “I’m going to ride to there, and I’m going to go at a pace that lets me see hawks and rolling fog banks, winds and wildflowers.” Maybe you get some like-minded folks, maybe you end up riding alone once or twice.

Take photos, write it up, email the participants afterward and share with this distributed tribe. Have Fun. Give people ideas and the energy to do the same in their neck of the woods. The “three-speed” ride was a great example, and there are a ton more if you start looking. WOMBATS rides, mixed-terrain outings, all good stuff, all easy to set in motion.

It’s all there if we just start to nudge it a little.

Saturday’s Ride Shots:

*and I reckon you already know this, but I’ve got nothing against racing or riding fast, just the fact that it seems to be the only way to “enjoy” the sport.  It’s like writing using only verbs.