A Little Casual Anarchy

A magician never gives up the trick, and a gambler never shows their cards, so I’m not sure what I’m doing here today. Let’s call it the little wink before the cards do something you never expected. Or maybe let’s just call it editorial transparency.

I’m trying to break cycling culture. There, I said it.

This is not an all-out campaign of destruction, which, given my talents for organization, would be more like Don Quixote tilting at windmills anyway, but rather a slow, intentional wearing away at the more rigid tenets of the cycling faith. This is also not about harming cycling culture, but rather diluting the “rules” and the influence of the dominant players enough that people who have not yet felt comfortable calling themselves a cyclist, might start to feel like they fit in.

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I was at a flea market in Western Mass a few decades back, and I had wandered past the guy with the tube socks and the dude with all the “antique” tools, when I happened upon a couple selling I-don’t-even-remember what. The reason I noticed them was a bumper sticker on the back of their ancient car that said, “There’s no government quite like no government.” I asked a friend who lived nearby what that was about, and was told that Western Mass has a large contingent of anarchists left over from the late ’60s, and that you’d see them here at the flea market or at the food coop, because of course you would.

I could smell the patchouli.

And then last week, another friend of mine told me they thought I was some kind of insider anarchist in the bike world, which is pretty close to the best thing I’ve been called in the last decade, that I knew all the rules, that I could pass for a serious cyclist, but that in my heart I was anti-establishment, which isn’t really the same thing as being anarchic. I’m just trying to let the air out of our self-important ways and to push back on the received wisdom of generations who might have made riding a bike a little too precious.

The bicycle is naturally anarchic. Here is a machine that frees you of your gravitational bonds, that you may steer in whatever direction you choose, that can carry you away from conflict, away from the constraints imposed upon you by other people. I’m about so down with that I’m looking up at it from below. And I want to maintain that attitude everywhere in my life.

For you Dungeons and Dragons kids out there, I’m trying to live a chaotic good alignment <wink>.

I really am trying to introduce some chaos into cycling culture. I really am trying to weaken the rules. The magic trick, if there is one, is to keep what’s good, the rich history, the unwritten rules that keep us safe, but to bend and adapt those things to a freer, more inclusive bike culture, because the last thing we all need from this thing is parochialism, exclusivity, and snobbery. I’ve been that guy, and I didn’t like him.

Join the conversation
  1. Jeff vdD says

    Hmm, I just noticed that I’ve never seen Robot and Bike Snob NYC in a room together …

    Keep up the anarchy! The Rules are fine and the Rules are fun … but only if we all know that and never apply them for real, especially in the presence of newcomers or the insecure.

  2. eborling says

    You know why hippies wear patchouli?

    So blind people can hate them too.

    1. Emlyn Lewis says

      @eborling – My hippy grandmother wore patchouli. She was a real piece of work.

  3. cramissor says

    I’ve been the bike snob and that guy is a knobber. Thankfully that period of my cycling life was short lived. Now I just love seeing people on bikes and stopping for snacks.

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