Thursday, August 4, 2011

Competitive cycling is a corporate venture. Part 1

Can I get some Starbucks with my Racing License?

Once upon a time, when we were little, our idea of a race was a sprint down to the stop sign at the end of our street. Many of us rode BMX or department store bikes, because times were simpler then and the market of high end LBS bicycles wasn't well known to us. We rode sneakers instead of clipless shoes, torn jeans instead of spandex. We had more fun back then and still found a way to be competitive.

Now flash forward 20, 30 some odd years later, whatever applies to you in this case. You still want to race the "kids" in your neighborhood, all grown up now with top dollar racing machines. But know you have to register with a national organization, pay their yearly dues, and the fee just to race on top of that. That is with no guarantee that you will win or get your money back. Your competitors look down on you if your bicycle is made of aluminum. "Heaven forbid if he is racing in that thing!" even though they may not say it, that is what your competitors are now thinking. You may get disapproving looks if your bicycle is more than 5 years old, has a quill stem and a chromoly/kenisis fork. "You need to go carbon, titanium, scandium even!" some may tell you. "Why I spent 5K just on my frame!" others might say. The pre-race show is a showy display of what luxuries people own, and how much they spent on them."This isn't fun" you say to yourself, "What a bunch of snobs".

Indeed, this to the average person is new reputation that cycling is getting. Normal people feel marginalized, even rejected, from pursuing cycling as a pastime. Many now think of it as a money trap.

I just had this revelation after cycling for recreation and competition for the last 4 years. I never thought of myself as a snob for doing it. I have bicycles made of aluminum and chromoly, what some snobs in the sport might consider "entry level" or "base model". Yet I love my bikes, and I love the freedom that I get from riding them. My average speed is over 18mph, why would I ever need a carbon or lighter composite frame?

After showing up to my last criterium in my 96' Raleigh R600 (with a quill stem), that I purchased from craigslist for $100, I finally realized why people have such an aversion for cyclists and cycling in general. Cycling shouldn't be about the bike, cycling should be about the rider. Even if my average speed is 18mph and someone else's is 21 or 25mph, cycling isn't about numbers on a computer of wattage generated. Its about seeing who will win in a sprint race of 200 yards to the stop sign, at the end of the street.

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