I’ll freely admit that I have never been one to pay much attention to the culture of cycling. I’ve never been interested in riding, let alone owning, a fixed gear bike. I don’t care about sleek stainless steel flasks that can be carried in sleek stainless steel bottle cages. And while I appreciate the artistic aesthetics inherent in something like this, I tend to scoff, if for no other reason than the unfair nature of first impressions, at a disaster such as this. I’m not heavily into advocacy—road or mountain*—and I rarely read any of the spectacularly popular urban cycling blogs. In short, it’s just not what I’m drawn to about cycling. And this is not some urban-centric diatribe from a hillbilly dirtbag**. Indeed, the same can be said of BMX, track, and for the most part, even the ProTour. I don’t even follow professional mountain biking much. Which leads me to wonder… does “professional” mountain biking on a national stage still exist?
*This is not entirely accurate. I’ve worked quite a bit with the local USFS in their trail work.
**Which is not to say that I am not a hillybilly dirtbag. Only that this is not anti-urban.
What’s my point? I don’t really know. Except that I’m largely becoming engulfed in a more local scene, if it can be called even that. And naturally, that is what I know best. When I think of the traditional messenger or hipster imagery, I don’t necessarily see a “fellow” cyclist. And I’d (perhaps unfairly) assume that they look at the lycra clad mountain biker more or less the same way—as a foreign entity. Like softball and baseball. Similar, but not really. I can’t relate to an environment that I’ve never experienced. Not without massive assumptions and leaps to probably undocumented conclusions. And so the easy solution is to simply not pay any attention.
However, I’ve witnessed one rather fantastic combination of the two worlds: Dave Nice.***
He slogs up and over mountain passes, through States and across rivers on his fixed gear mountain bike. He dresses the part of the urban street monger, but rides the remote and sandy terrain of… a hillbilly dirtbag. If you’ve never had the chance to ride the slickrock of Moab or the domes of Gooseberry with Dave, you are missing out on a wonder of the world. His technical skills are mind boggling—consider how often you coast while descending Porcupine Rim, for example.
***And Team Dicky, of course.
Which, perhaps, actually does bring me to a point. I may not appreciate or understand, or be much interested in that scene (see, I don’t even know how to refer to “it”) but there is an undeniable fact: many of those cats (do they use that word?) can flat out ride. With no brakes, fixed rear hubs, and an angry mob of motorists and buses and street cars and delivery trucks and lots and lots of concrete, I fear I’d last no more than an hour. Which is why I prefer the lonesome, wide-angled dependency of the mountains and the deserts. Trees and rocks are not driven by human beings.
But then, maybe we are more related and more similar than I realize.
We both ride a bike.
We both do it on our own terms.
And we both draw the derision of “others”.
And, if it were not for the fact that my mom often drops by, I’d have a couple of rather choice words for them. (Hi mom!)
In other words, we are different, but we are one.
No, we are not one. Not at all. But (eureka!) that is the point. The diversity of the cycling world is what makes it a beautiful, interesting, varied landscape. That one can cross continents, or through lanes of buzzing traffic on the world’s most efficient, most economical machine—powered no less by nature’s most efficient, most economical machine—is the point. Which is to say that Lance Armstrong was completely wrong: It most certainly is about the bike.