TCI Friday

I was talking with Stevil about a possible future project. We don’t really know each other, so we were just trying to see if we had enough common mental ground to “work” together. What became clear pretty quickly is that neither of us really wanted to talk about bikes. We both talk about bikes a lot already.

One of the things that’s exhausting about bikes is the divisions between cycling’s cultures, the various tribes and cabals. Roadies aren’t mountain bikers. Even mountain bikers come in enough flavors to crowd a Baskin & Robbins. Commuters don’t see themselves as anything like roadies. BMX is still a thing. Tandeming. Folks seem to need to burrow deep into whichever tribe they’ve chosen for themselves and reject all others.

Humans, am I right?

Leonid Brezhnev amuses Richard Nixon with a joke about the Baltic States and 5-Year Wheat Yields

It makes talking about bikes and cycling more like talking about the various Soviet Socialist Republics and satellite states of influence, vis a vis international trade, common interests, and the suppression of democratic norms in the 1970s. You need to speak a few different languages, have an advanced degree or two, and possess a steel trap mind for minutia. I don’t have any of that, and it’s also kinda boring.

Quite why it’s like this I don’t know. It might have something to do with cycling’s role as sport, recreation, transportation and art. It’s too multivariate in its purposes to be unified in its culture. People are looking for different things from the bike, and they define themselves and what they do in different ways. This all presupposes you can define yourself by the things you do, but that’s getting into ontological philosophy, a topic I did study, but without distinction.

I will save you the suspense and tell you that Stevil and I did not arrive at any solutions during our conversation. We agreed that it’s sad though, the lack of a unified cycling culture, the sense that every cyclist is supporting every other cyclist. Maybe we’re romantics, or utopian fantasists, or maybe we just prefer that everyone get along.

Life is short, and we just wanna dance like no one’s watching. I hope no one’s watching.

This week’s TCIF asks, what tribe(s) do you belong to? What OTHER tribes could you belong to? Are there groups of cyclists you don’t like? Are there groups you think are too exclusive? Or am I just crazy? Are cyclists a more coherent whole than I give them credit for being?

Join the conversation
  1. khal spencer says

    To paraphrase Groucho Marx, I refuse to join any tribe that would accept me as a member. And you are right about cyclists being the two-wheeled version of that old Monty Python Life of Brian scene:

  2. Jeff vdD says

    I’m tribe gravel … despite not being particularly enamored of the term. Not that I have a better one … adventure, I guess. I started road, got a bit into MTB, settled in the “middle.” I race CX (Cat 4 for Life) and a bit of MTB, plus ride in gravel races. I commute (but not far–one way is a shade less than a mile). No TT, track, BMX, or bike dancing.

    I like all cyclists, even if I sometimes have a kneejerk reaction to the contrary before my right mind settles in. Roadies are probably the most exclusive, but I credit gravel for loosening them up a bit and creating a space where most of the recreational tribes can convene and intermingle.

    Yes, cyclists are a more coherent whole than you’re giving credit. Certainly not highly coherent, though, and that’s okay.

  3. TominAlbany says

    I ride. I used to ascribe to tribes. Now, I just ride.
    I road ride because I like to go far and “fast” sometimes and see the countryside.
    I mountain bike because I like to fall down and see all sorts of great nature stuff.
    I bike commute because I like to ride and can’t ride enough.’
    I ride to the store to do small errands because I like to do that sort of thing and, why waste the car?
    I like to ride with my kids because that’s just being human.
    I want to learn to ride a unicycle before I risk blowing out a hip. Because I like to ride and do interesting things that some might find silly.
    Mostly, I like to ride whatever wherever. I’ve decided you ride or you don’t. You ride with friends and people you like, mostly, or people like you anyway.
    But ride!!

  4. bluezurich says

    35 years a roadie… former mtb, former commuter, former failed unicyclist. I ride hard and fast for exercise. I ride slow and take it all in for the sheer joy of being on a bicycle…sometimes I combine both. I even ride around my neighborhood without a helmet, GASP!

    I wave to all cyclists unless it’s not safe to do so. All cyclists. Even the same overly carbonized- non waving jerks, day after day who do not wave back. “Hi, it’s me again”

  5. scottg says

    Unified Cycling Culture ?
    Is there Unified Hammer users Culture ?
    Rock Hammerists, Framers and Sledge aficionados ?
    So why should there be a UCC ?

    Lucinda has the answer….

    Sittin’ in the kitchen, a house in Macon
    Loretta’s singing on the radio
    Smell of coffee, eggs and bacon
    Alloy wheels on a gravel road
    Pull the curtains back and look outside
    Somebody somewhere I don’t know
    Come on now child, we’re gonna go for a ride
    Carbon wheels on a gravel road
    Wood wheels on a gravel road
    Prayer wheels on a gravel road

    1. Emlyn Lewis says

      Scott – That’s a good record. I always listen to it when I’m on the way to my Hammer Club meetings.

Leave A Reply

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More