Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Things I Hate About Bicycles

What Atheism and Bicycles have in Common:

Is that they are things that if you employ them at all in your identity you really are identifying with something that needs identifying simply because it isn't the status quo. Or in effective words - you have a special name for not believing in something, when it really should be irrelevant/taken for granted that you simply don't do something - specifically believe in a personal God.
Just as nobody calls themselves a theist, nobody calls themselves 'drivests' just as Harvard points out, people who don't own a blackberry or iPhone don't refer to their phone as a 'Samsung', eg. let me just answer my Samsung.
So it's annoying that cycling is something so left of center that people need to proclaim that they are a cyclist, which will excuse them presumably from all sorts of stuff you would expect of somebody who drives a Camry.
Cycling is fetishised...which leads to -

Of Course Brunswick St is filled with Fixed Gears:

I had an inarticulate thought epiphany today when whilst browsing for something for my sister for Xmas, I walked past a guy thoughtfully photographing a fixed gear in a shop window.
Turning my head through about 47 degrees I chanced upon more fixed gears locked up along the street. And all I could think of was 'Of course'.
I was thinking, really that I should be grateful, these douchebags and dickwads and frappots were douchebags, dickwads and frappots before they bought themselves a fixed gear, but now they have one and are easily identified.
Like going on a blind date and your date looks stunning, but really they would be doing you a bigger favour if the wore a frumpy shirt that said 'Jesus is my best friend' so you knew exactly where they stood and exactly how your relationship is going to fall apart.
I think my problem with fixed gears, why they bring out the worst in me, is just another expression of fashion in general. They are fetishes, fashion items, trends. They are not BMXs or Skateboards, why? because with fixed gears there are no posers, or perhaps there are only posers. They are like the scooter in that they require little to no skill to ride and do tricks, but have the advantage of being customisable that you may 'express yourself'.
So really they are just a fashion item.
What bothers me, is that here is what I know, and now, we know - fixed gears were once known as trackbikes, useful for riding around and around a velodram (the apocriphal 'track') because they only had one gear option, no derailer and really only ever got coverage in any form of media during the olympic games.
For reasons unknown, but probably due to the low maintenence of track bikes, they became popular with bike messengers who plied their trade in NYC, San Francisco etc. a profession that dates back almost as far as unemployment itself, and took off with the invention of the 'quarter life crisis'.
At some point in the 2000's a New York kid started riding a track bike instead of one of the more pragmatic and popular models who was not a messenger. That kid is whatever 'cool' is or we hope it to be. Then with NYC gentrifying new kids moved to Williamsburg, created a scene (now well documented) and en masse adopted fixed gear bicycles. Whether the cool hunters came next or later on doesn't matter, fact is fixed gears spread cross the state, and then 'organic' cool hunters, such as Japanese independant fashion designers noticed kids doing it when they went to New York to figure out new 'ideas' (presumably not their own) and then took it back to Japan where a new trend can actually achieve 100% market penetration, and ironically New York culture co-opted by Japan has a unique feedback effect, where US people feel validated by Japans imitation, and may even take their cognitive dissonance so far as to think it is cool because Japanese people are doing it.
Anyway, point is 2-3 years ago you could pick up a Japanese fashion mags, and the thumbnails of models wearing outfit after outfit would dutifully be standing beside some customized fixed gear bicycle.
Which tells you its prime functionality - as a fashion accessory.
Then or before I don't know and don't care 'inorganic' cool hunters came along, people who don't even pretend they are innocently looking for inspiration, but instead bandy around terms like 'cultural profiling' and 'opinion leaders' etc. People like Nike with skate shoes, who practically invented 'sneakerheads' by bombarding the market with 'limited edition' skate shoes, that really are what people were collecting before they were saved by fixed gears.
Of course being saved from sneakers by fixed gears is like quitting smoking by taking up drinking. The same amount of obligatory accessories and what not come with. I just suspect fixed gears aren't the profit machines limited edition shoes were. Since you could get someone from buying 1-2 pairs of sneakers a year, to 11 and they only wore one.
But I'm getting sidetracked, fixed gears and bikes are fetishised, and people inevitably come to the totem to pray that I hate about bikes...

The People that Ride them:

Are just people, except for the fixed gear.
Marketing 101, you can divide people into two groups. One big group, one small group. The small group is 'self referential' and the big group is 'group referential'. In marketing we call the small group 'opinion leaders' and the large group 'target market'. All the sexy jobs in marketing consist of the banal and laborious process of picking up the 'opinion leaders' opinion and delivering it to the 'target market'.
Here's how to diagnose if you are an opinion leader - you turn up to school wearing the same cut of jeans you wore all last year (because its the same pair). Your friends are all in this seasons cut. They ridicule you, Do you respond:

A) OMG! I could die! (to self: Please wake up, please wake up, please wake up)
B) Yeah so what? I like my jeans like this.

Some tonality is missed, for example if you read B in an overly defensive tone, the point will be missed which is why you should never diagnose yourself via the internet.
What annoys me about bikes, is that the 'target market' is something I have never understood. I'm not saying I'm ahead of the fashion curve, but fact is opinion leaders have to be trend setters, because you can't set a trend when everybody else is already doing it (otherwise I set the trend of eating, sleeping and showering this week). Which means you need an opinion leader somewhere, then amplify the message by getting your 'target market' to accept and adopt their opinion.
There used to be trend setters in every town, prior to the internet and the ability to pick up 'underground' fashion magazines in just about every newsagent and bookstore everywhere.
It used to be that some local opinion leader would sort this shit out for everybody in town. Now its possible to ampliphy the opinion of somebody in Williamsburg NYC out to the entire world.
As I've said, I've never understood the compulsion people have to put on a uniform. Nor do I really understand why, no matter how popular something is, every season it is possible for someone like me to buy clothes that are unfashionable and that nobody else seems to be wearing.
But I hate these people picking up bikes, fetishising bikes and becoming 'bike advocates' when really, their behaviour (specifically buying an impractical, unversatile track bike and painting it a funny colour and then chopping the handlebars in some way and then putting on purple, pink or blue ones) just says 'I do what I am told'.
These are the people that make noise about the road rules and other bullshit whilst not wearing bike helmets, not having brakes and not riding on the right side of the road.
What bicycling as a practical movement needs is the Camry, not the hot-rod. It needs the dirt cheap, 3 colour bike that working stiffs will ride instead of using a car. Utile bicycles that whilst ugly are not embarassing.
This would then relegate the people who currently ride bicycles and call themselves 'cyclists' to their proper automobile equivalent of 'petrol heads' people who customise and personalise their bikes, buy special riding gloves, sleeves, jerseys and shit. Lash out for expensive lubricants and beeswax to stick in the lugs. That polish their bikes in winter and hand scrub their magazine with a new toothbrush.
They are the annoying minority that are unfortunately the annoying majority of the current cycling profession.

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