Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Bike culture

Much has been said and written about bike culture. The topic is a favorite for infamous bicycle blogger Eben Weiss, aka as the snob. I will leave it to said individual to poke fun of bike culture in all its forms. Personally I just want to address the notion that cyclists are environmentalists. It is a notion that is rather widespread and it is one of the reasons why cyclists evoke the ire of some drivers, in particular those who prefer oversized pickups and SUV's.

People assume that just because one rides a bike one must be opposed to cars and driving. But nothing could be further from the truth. Cyclists, and especially racers, gladly drive hundreds or even thousands of miles to ride their bikes for a few hours at most. As a matter of fact, most California racers drive at least an order of magnitude more miles to get to their races, than they do racing.

And if you think cyclists drive Prius's think again. Most cyclists I know drive monster SUV's or vans. Even when it comes to carpooling the track record is poor. Although most cars arriving at a race venue contain more than one person, the rule is one racer per car. Much the same applies to century and double century riders. Or mountain bikers getting to that trail head, three miles from home...

It is sad to say, but most cyclists are not even what I would call environmentally conscious. They don't even consider the impact their hobby has on the environment. At best, they support a token environmentalism that consists of getting angry at individuals who throw candy bar wrappers and gel packages on the ground.

It is also instructive to note that many cyclists make fun of global warming. None other than Johan Bruyneel posted pictures of his snowy Madrid back yard last winter with the rhetorical question, "Global warming?"

Speaking of cars, none other than Peter van Petegem was seen on the Paris-Roubaix cobbles. This time he wasn't riding his bike with Alberto Contador. Instead he was driving behind Thor Husovd, the current world champion who is dreaming of winning the classic in his rainbow jersey. No word if Husovd is staying at Le Pave.

Van Petegem was quoted as saying," I found it instructive to drive a car over the cobbles. I will do that a few more times, and I will return with Thor after the Tour." The appropriate bike culture hipster response to this (and I warn you, unsafe for work) is:  All you environmentalists (...).

I noted yesterday that Cadel is taking it easy in preparation to become the oldest Tour de France winner in recent history -or much of history for that matter. Not so with missile man Mark Cavendish. The Brit is going to race the Giro, the Tour and the Vuelta this year. Mark may not be the oldest, but he is certainly bringing back old time competitiveness.

When it comes to old and old glory though, nothing can match the return of none other than Alexi Grewal, of 1984 Olympic fame. Alexi's return has rekindled the warm feelings Americans had when one of theirs first won an Olympic gold medal in cycling.

The 1984 Olympic team is also famous, or should I say infamous for the extensive use of blood doping. Although the practice was legal at the time, it is something people would rather forget. Maybe that is why Alexi preferred to hit the issue head on as he did in this (largely forgotten) VeloNews essay.

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