Those that know me best have accused me of being a retro grouch or at the very least, cynical when it comes to new bike technology! I have always found this comment to be somewhat unfair and unfounded, however the older I get and the more I look back on my life, I have finally come to the realization that they are right! I AM a retro grouch. That being said, as I contemplate the reason for my cynical and somewhat caustic attitude towards recent bike innovations, recent being over the last 10 years, I began to wonder why I have turned out the way I am: Is it nature or nurture? Was I born this way, or have I formulated my grouchiness based on years of exposure to others that could be considered “caught in the past,” so to speak? I would argue that my attitude is one based upon nurture and that like the blood that courses through our veins, the cynicism can be traced back through a genealogy of sorts!
Because of this recent epiphany, I feel that I owe a lot of people apologies! Over the years I have not been kind to those who have not seen the world of cycling through my eyes. I have formulated opinions and passed judgment on those whom I felt were either mentally challenged, or at the very least unable to make their own choices and form their own opinions. Then it hit me! All of our opinions have been based off of the influence of someone else. Hopefully that someone else was wiser and smarter and their influence was for our betterment. Hopefully, although the cynic in me will probably think otherwise. What I have failed to realize is that as I have been judged, so have I judged others!
Anyhow, in thinking back over the years I must conclude that everything I stand for when it comes to cycling can be attributed to someone else’s influence. I believe that I was one of the lucky ones. I am thankful for those that showed me that steel rides better that any other bike material. I am thankful for those that showed me that one gear can be more fun than 27. I am even thankful for those that showed me that coasting is overrated. I could continue this list for days.
I would argue that this is not a passing observation but a universal truth: Even the “innovators” in the industry have and are formulating thoughts and opinions based upon experiences from their past and from opinions of others that they respect. Does this make them followers rather than leaders, proverbial sheep of sorts? I would say no. This makes them smart for learning from other’s experiences and formulating a rich and meaningful opinion that has added value to the industry. While they might be innovators to those who come after, they will find they must give credit to those that came before them. Although Gary Fisher may be given most of the credit for inventing the mountain bike, there were a whole hell of a lot of people involved in the inception of that specific contraption. I bet if you asked every one who had a hand in it they will tell you that they did not invent anything. They will have someone in their lives to whom they will attribute the achievement or at the very least, the inspiration.
Those that fall on the flip side of this theory are not so lucky. With cycling growing as rapidly as it is, there are a lot of impressionable people who fall victim to what I would say is bad information and massive marketing campaigns. These are those new to the sport that ride what the magazine advertisements or their local commissioned based salesmen tell them to ride. How many Lance Armstrong look alike-riders have you seen over the last few years?? How many $7000.00 team replica bikes have you seen being pedaled down the road on Saturday morning by some 50 year old with a fat wallet?? Too many! Although annoying, we cannot necessarily fault them for their faux pas. At the very least we should be glad that they have decided to trade their Saturday of golf to get out and participate in their new found “fad!”
The others that fall in a similar, yet way more annoying light, are those that have ridden for years, but have always treated bikes a tool, much like a pair of running shoes. These are the riders who have acquired great bike handling skills and massive lungs but have missed the point when it comes to the beauty of cycling. These riders succumb to the latest and greatest bike and accessories to shave grams off their equipment and seconds off of their individual time trial. While they are out there taking themselves way to seriously I will be enjoying my ride, probably at a slower pace but with an emphasis on the “enjoyment” part. (Also, just to clarify, there are many cyclists with a true understanding and love for cycling that are fast riders. Don't come away from this thinking being fat and slow is the reason for my point of view.)
Both the overly ambitious hammerhead weight weenie and the middle aged weekend warrior with the latest and greatest have merely fallen victim to bad influences! At some point in their cycling endeavors I hope they will have the opportunity to ride because it is fun rather than cool or because its good cardio and they are fast! Hopefully they will go to the garage and find that their brain shock with super duper crazy awesome lockout is bleeding weird fluid and they are forced to ride the old fully rigid mountain bike they had forgotten about years before. Hopefully while riding that old bike they will realize that there is more to this sport than the latest gear! Who knows. . . that ride might change their lives! They might find themselves at the bike shop ordering a “new” fully rigid bike with ONE gear!! One gear!! Who knew you could have so much fun without technology?
As they ride their new badass single speed, (single speed being an abstract object representing any non “conventional” rig), I hope they pay homage to those that came before them: Those that they laughed at or at the very least failed to connect with when they passed them on the road or trail years ago riding their “funny bikes!” Those are the people who deserve a kind gesture as we see them on their bikes. Those are the people who deserve the credit! Please take the time to contemplate those that have influence you! Pay tribute to them! As I have written this entry, I cannot help but recall all who have influenced me to be the cynical retro grouch bastard I have become! I will not name names, for the sake of leaving someone out, however know this: You that have influenced me get a silent thank you every time I ride a bike! You will forever be remembered!
As I have contemplated what I would like to get across in this post, what I have ultimately come to realize is that I cannot fault those that do not see the sport of cycling as I do. Those that have to rely on the armchair cyclist as their influences are victims of situation or circumstance. Horrible as it may seem, I must accept those that choose to ride disc brakes and full suspension while scoffing at our skinny tube beauties. I will accept those that ride two days a month but own $7,000 team replica bikes because they are people too! I cannot chastise those that choose to ride the latest and greatest to impress their friends or because Mountain Bike Action says it’s cool or because they specifically want to kick some ass! I am glad to have the influences that I have had because looking around, I have noticed that “Nurture” can be a real bitch!