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I Don’t Care, Because You Do[1]

November 23, 2010

“Anyone who rides a bike is a friend of mine.”

-Gary Fisher

 

If you hang around the cycling fora, or twitter for long enough, someone will pop up with set of kit dos and don’ts, offered with varying degrees of seriousness.

The Ur-Text of these is, of course, the bafflingly restrictive “Rules of the Eurocyclist” – (I actually rather like that one, it seems to be a tax on  credulity and elitism – I hope the originators of the rules get a kickback from the kit manufacturers).  This happens at the other extreme of the sport/utility divide, with the “normalisers” insisting that those not riding steel roadsters, whilst wearing “normal”[2] clothes are making cycling less attractive, and less safe for everyone else.

 

There are things that matter to me in cycling.  Are you a skilful rider? Can you look ahead and anticipate and read the road? Do you ride like an idiot around other road users?  These are important things, because they affect your safety, and mine.  To a lesser degree, I’m impressed by people that can repair their own/other people’s bikes[3], build wheels, beat me up hills, outpace me on the flat – but not to the degree that I’m dismissive of those who can’t. We all start somewhere, after all – and starting at all in our car centric, exercise is for gyms, society matters.

“Does your kit match” and “Does your bike cost more than mine” (it probably does), have never been things I’ve looked upon as denoting the worth of a fellow rider, or of particular import.  It’s an irrelevance, and thus something I find it hard to care about.  “Sure, he can build a nice wheel, but good lord, he can’t accessorise.”

Round the world cyclist Al Humphreys once made the point that while kit was important, it shouldn’t be important enough to stop you getting out there and having an adventure.  And he did his tour on steel Rockhoppers, not expensive boutique tourers with spendy internally geared hubs.  I’m not about to ride around the world, but you can bet I’m not missing a ride because the jersey I have to hand doesn’t match my helmet either.

 

The quote at the head of this piece comes from an interview with Gary Fisher that I heard a while back, and there’s a lot of truth in it.  I dislike inconsiderate and unsafe cyclists, but beyond that I don’t care if you look like you dressed in the dark from the bargain bin, or ride a £99 Apollo, at least you’re riding.

 

[1] Actually, “I Don’t Care, and I Don’t Care if You Do”, but that’s not as close to an Aphex Twin album title.

[2] For values of “normal” that sometimes include stuff costing more than my dhb bike specific kit.

[3] If you can fettle internally geared hubs, I’m officially impressed.

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From → Cycling

2 Comments
  1. Anonymous permalink

    Way to go John. I like it.Your post reminded me of a time when I first started to ride a bike commuting to a Uni department in Oxford. I remember that I was every so often undertaking stopped buses on pavement, or jumping red lights (after I made sure it was safe). Why? I don’t know… perhaps I was only replicating the behaviour of other people on bikes around me or quite simply I didn’t know better at the time. Thankfully, those bad habits went away very quickly. I am wondering how in those days how I would have reacted to being told off for doing those things. It’s clear in mind that I wasn’t out there to harm others or endanger myself, or break the law.

  2. Anonymous permalink

    I do let people know about undertaking large vehicles – sometimes they’re interested, sometimes not. I quite often tell people if their lights are feeble, or covered by their jackets (very common among students, for some reason, that last).

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