In terms of what they believe and care about, cycling fans usually stand on either side of a great divide. I sometimes pretend that I stand on one side. But there’s proof in my hard drive that I'm don't. I have an Excel spreadsheet on my computer, which contains methodically researched and calculated (not by me) watt/per kilo figures for riders at the Vuelta a Colombia. Some of the figures are simply astonishing. I’ve only looked at the file a handful of times. When I do, I feel much as I did when I was kid in Bogota…when I would try to see if the refrigerator light stayed on once its door was closed. I had to solve that great mystery (I was four or five years old at the time). How did it work? I really wanted to know. To that end, I would close the refrigerator door very slowly, peering through the small crack, to see if the light went out in the process. Eventually, of course, I found the spring-loaded switch that made the light come on or go off as the door was opened or closed. As a result, I realized that the light did in fact go out when the door was closed. There was no mystery. What’s more, I realized that I could make it go on or off at will by hitting the switch. Anyone could. Finding that switch made the avocado-green refrigerator loose much of its mystique. At times, that Excel file has the same effect on me now.
At the risk of making an obvious observation, allow me to say something. I love standardization. I hate proprietary plugs in electronics. In terms of bikes, I’ll let others complain about bottom bracket standards. Me? I simply wish that water bottles all had interchangeable lids. I appreciate that Specialized (grumble) has allowed small vendors and entrepreneurial folk to design and make fairly small runs or their own water bottles. But those lids are not very good when compared to Camelback’s (prone as they are to collect mold). Perhaps you disagree with that assessment; perhaps you think there’s an old school or (god have mercy) euro/PRO charm to the classic water bottle top. If that’s the case, at least we could both agree on one thing: if they were all compatible (by having the same spec of a thread) then all of us could at least pick what top you want to use on any bottle. It wouldn’t matter if we misplaced one or the other either. For that matter, you could simply buy replacement bottles only, and simply keep using the same tops. Which in my experience, hold up significantly longer.
Yes, I’m embarrassed that I just wrote that much about water bottle tops.
When I see more than four articles of varying lengths in a single cycling magazine about how riding a bike is deeply, deeply transformative, how it saved someone’s life, how it healed their mental illness, how it changed their life or some other such thing…I begin to wonder if I’m doing it wrong. If my commitment is second-rate. Or I wonder if people are lying through their teeth. I like riding a bike. It’s a fantastic thing. But the disconnect between what I feel, and what others seem to experience is monumental.
Likewise, I’ve noticed how many people talk about the sense of community they feel within the world of cycling. This brotherhood, this sisterhood, this thing that is welcoming, something that helps them, that nurtures them. Something that is open to all, and potentially transformative for many who give and thus receive. I go to races, and I don’t know anyone. I try to speak with people, I try to break into that world, but as an outsider, I feel the complete opposite of what those (presumably on the inside) feel. I’m open to the fact that this may say more about me and my insecurities than it does about that collective entity. But is it also likely that, like so many other groups, the world of cycling is merely inclusive and welcoming-seeming to those that are already on the inside?
Assos' invention of the "kuku penthouse" seemed like a fun think to make fun of when it was first announced. Well, it was, and still is. But if you've ever seen someone wearing shorts that have one of these genital pouches, you'll realize they are no laughing matter. They are actually kind of horrifying. How can I put this...for men, cycling shorts—for the most part—do their best to sort of smash down the stuff that they cover. Kind of like those devices that stadium landscapers use to create the stripes in the field/pitch which look so attractive on TV broadcasts. These Assos shorts do the opposite, and have the goods hanging out there, perfectly visible, in a fancy pouch that any Dungeon Master would love to keep his dice in.