Over at BikeSnob (aka “the guy who enthralls cyclists by telling them that they suck”) there’s an entry up about the horrifically bad iBike Dash commercial that ran during the Tour. (And for the record I do want to state that the commercial is horrible—but that’s a fault of the production values and direction, not the riders.)
In true deconstructionist style Snob picks apart the commercial, harping mostly on the fact that the guy with the iBike Dash is riding a bike with flat handlebars, and says “… this is the expression a Fred with a flat bar bike makes when he sees he just cranked out eight freaking miles:” (Emphasis original.)
What the hell is wrong with riding eight miles? Why is a cyclist not in full team kit a “Fred” and what’s wrong with flat bars?
I spent eight years as the President of the Rockland Bicycling Club and during those terms I saw many, many riders yearning to get to eight miles in a day, and being justifiably happy when they did. Invariably the guys who would come to club rides with $5000 bikes and new kit were the same folks that would get bored of cycling after a season or two and go off on their own. The guys who worked their way up from scratch, the people who saw eight miles as a killer distance but managed to make it, those were the ones that stuck with cycling.
My very first bike ride as an adult was two miles long. I was in my 20’s, weighed 215 lbs and stood an average 5’7”. After a year of that I was doing full-day event rides and was down to 150 lbs. But I wouldn’t have gotten there without eight-mile rides.
I think most of my rides were done in a t-shirt, I didn’t have a ton of money back then. But somehow Performance clothing is bad, it’s much more “Fred” than riding a multi-colored world-champ jersey you didn’t win in an actually world championship. You can’t be a real cyclist without wearing bright-pink Giro colors or the emblazoned name of some team you don’t belong to, I guess.
And flat bars? Eff that, why should you be comfortable when you ride? Clearly drop bars are the only acceptable choice.
68% of Americans are overweight or obese. (Source) Take your average 150-pound male and have them ride around 9mph and they’ll burn about 550 calories on that ride. Four times a week and that’s 2000 calories, most of the way to a pound. There are more than 235,000,000 people in the U.S. (Source), which makes more than 140,000,000 overweight or obese citizens. If they all did an eight mile bike ride the collective calorie burn would be around 76,300,000,000 (assuming they’re all our average 150-pound male, for ease of calculation). Do you see what that number is? That’s seventy-six billion. That comes out to about 21,800,000 pounds.
What cycling needs, in order to be more widely accepted, is for people to stop judging handlebars or jersey selection. We need to not keep marginalizing part of the cycling community for being a “Fred” because they can’t keep up with us real riders (while ignoring that to professional cyclists we look just as “Fred” as the guy in Performance clothing does to Snob.) We need more people riding their bikes for eight miles. We need more people feeling good about themselves for exercising.
You want to ride your bike with me and wear clothes from Performance? Great, let’s go for a ride. Hell, you want to wear a TuTu and a tiara, let’s go. You want to ride on a bike with upside-down road handlebars and drop-tube shifters? Great, I’m all over it.
You want to criticize people for being happy, healthy cyclists? Well then go ride by yourself.