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?
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?