Over-thinking the practical bicycle and the dangers of marketing (yes, I’m looking at you, hipsters).

Never quite content with whats par for the course, I had to get something made by Nitto.

Never quite content with whats par for the course, I had to get something made by Nitto.

I’ll be the first to admit, you don’t need a bike from Rivendell Bicycle Works, or namely, any special, new, expensive, or otherwise over thought gear to use a bicycle in a practical manner. In fact, it’s been harmful with what marketing pressure of lifestyle advertising has done to promote ‘practical cycling’ in the latest bicycling trend.

All you need is a sturdy, reliable  bike, with provisions to carry you and your stuff, from point A to point B in relative comfort (racks, bags, fenders); the ignominies of being a cycling commuter in traffic set aside. Parsimonious frugality withheld as the other extreme.

What you don’t need is US$200 designer cycling jeans and jacket, an overpriced, overhauled track bike with no capability to mount practical accessories, and a selection of enough fancy baggage (in the likely form of canvas messenger bags) to cost more than the bike itself. And yet that is what we have happening in urban, suburban, and metro centers all over the country. The gentrification of an ‘authentic cycling experience’ is denigrating the origin of the practical rider, to the point that the only people that ride practical are the poor and the fashionably inept–usually both at once.

Not to take away from people that invest in quality gear to make practical bike use more pleasant and enjoyable, but there is a point of silliness that exudes much more emphasis on style rather than substance with that acquisition of cycling gear. Yes, everyone knows (and generally hates) this classification of rider (and person) as the hipster. Driven, compelled, and even magnifying the push of lifestyle marketing, they have become a force unto themselves.

While I may malign other forms of cycling just as much, it’s this mutation of practical cycling that has me worried the most. We all stand to benefit from it, should it pass into the mainstream as viable alternate transportation. But much the way the smug divers of hybrid cars have done to change the eco message of hybrid cars into a quasi social statement of superiority. There is a counter-culture against this counter-culture as expected, and in the end, there is no clear winner, or more importantly, any tangible benefit.

So yes, I understand the conflicting message of riding a fancy, multi-thousand dollar bike around, and espousing the practical benefits.

Yes, my bike was that expensive.

The obligatory garage door shot.

The obligatory garage door shot.

However, it covers not only practical needs, but also a bit of my self indulgent needs to keep me motivated to use a generally infrastructure hampered mode of transportation. Perhaps that is the part of myself I’m not exactly comfortable with. I too have fallen (a bit) for that hipster culture as well.

Now excuse me while I pedal myself on a lugged steel steed of conspicuous consumerism. It is the American way, as much as I complain. And perhaps a little is necessary. Just that I’m right on the mark and everyone else is too much.

– Michael

Work Cited

Weiss, Eben. The Enlightened Cyclist. San Franciso: Chronicle Books LLC, 2012. Print.

Petersen, Grant. Just Ride. New York: Workman Publishing Company, Inc., 2012. Print.

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