I really had no idea, was so naïve, out of step with the times, no doubt. The thing is, I’ve ridden my bike nearly daily for 53 years— a fact, not a brag, and worth mentioning because it suggests that I’m not talking completely out of my ass. My opinions don’t have to be yours. I have no gospel. But over the years I have formed views on bikes and riding that I think might be worth sharing. Maybe not to you, maybe not to any of your friends, either, but to somebody.
I’m not locked in, because I’m still riding and observing and changing. But I’ve been “non-mainstream” my whole life, even before bikes, but especially with bikes. I’ve always loved the simple mechanics of bikes, and operating them, and going places and getting tired because of them.
One sentence per thought is not a lot to work with. It doesn’t allow for exceptions, qualifications, rounding up or down. I thought, “people will sort it out. If this thing isn’t their piece of cake, they’ll mold it around some until it makes sense, then move on. Meanwhile, they’re thinking about a bike thing, good.”
The point of my book, Just Ride — as stated in the introduction — is to ride your bike without the often oppressing, high-pressure to go fast and win (what?) and look like a packfiller. I think the racing look turns off people who don’t ride. I have not conducted surveys. So racing is part of it the range of riding, but it’s best a fringe: Not many people are able to or want to pedal their bikes at 85 to 100 percent effort for 20,000 miles a year. Let what used to be fringe stay fringe.
Because when the exceptions infringe in on recreational riders, commuters, shoppers, and travelers who aren’t speed-and-efficiency obsessed, things go haywire lickety-split. People go into shops wanting some exercise and they come out with 23mm tires, low drop bars, an outfit that looks like a costume, shoes they can barely walk in, and thousands poorer. Some of them survive, a few thrive, but many never get used to the position or the clothes or the rigmarole of getting dressed up for a ride, so they stop.
I’m in a hotel in Marin now on, heaven forbid, a writing retreat. (I can’t do it at work or home.) On the way over, on the ferry, was a guy in spandex, with a fat-tire eBike with clipless pedals and $250 Sidi road shoes. It’s not my business how he gets his rig together, but one doesn’t come up with a combination like that without expert help. I didn’t snicker to myself or think low thoughts. I blamed the unidentified shop or person or persons who sold him that. No skin off my nose what he rode. I didn’t ask him how he liked it. Maybe the curse of being me is seeing wrongness where there isn’t any, kind of like speech therapists hear marbles in most mouths. But to take that stance you have to see rightness everywhere you look, and…do you? Is everything always just right?
The bicycle, at its best, is an easy machine to swing a leg over (or through). It lets you ride in a comfortable position—which is not a wind-cheating one. It can survive potholes and unseen bumps, is somewhat forgiving of bad technique because we all have that now and then; it’s useful for sport, joy, and chores, and it feels great all of the time. On top of that, it’s ready for you almost without regard to whatever you’re wearing, from head to toe.
I’m not saying this is the only good kind of bike. I’m saying that in my opinion, this is, for many people, a really good kind of bike. It’s kind to their purpose and body.
If you’re young and athletic and out of school and team sports and still competitive, you probably want a different kind of bike. If you ride with a club, you probably feel more comfortable riding the same kind of bike everybody else rides. Competition and fast-club riding use different tools. I want them to exist, I just don’t want to provide our version of them.
So…that’s what Rivendell is about. We do our thing, and it’s been unusual, not mainstream, for 28 years. We’re adding to the diversity, and that’s the plan going forward, too. We sell one out of every 19,500 bikes sold in the U.S. this year. Clearly no threat to anybody .
Backing off the sentences for a while. Back with a vengeance in a month. Meanwhile, photos and normal stuff.