Saturday, February 2, 2008

I dreamed I saw the knights in armor comin'

Because of the two posts I put up on my blog last week, I have encouraged the true-believer Knights of Cycling's Old Days to rediscover me as their enemy. Welcome back, boys.

When I write about cars 'n' bikes or about cycling clubs or cycling etiquette, the KOCOD pays me no heed. I have to conclude that they don't do a lot of cycling. Rather they keep the Old Days flame flickering, no matter which way the wind blows - for which purpose they do not have to leave their computers.

It's indoor work and so often leads to overweight, but someone has to do it. No tan lines on true-believers.

If you do not ride, you can use one bike for everything, as the KOCOD claim was done in the Old Days. They're wrong. We didn't use one bike for everything - very few of us did everything - but embracing that fantasy evidently gets guys through the night. The reality of what was done is not so helpful.

I've been writing about cycling since 1983, two columns per month. That's 25 years. Hundreds of columns.

I've never done tests or fitness articles. Only opinion pieces about the culture. I've written about every damn thing you could imagine, and starting as I did in the years before blogs and extreme views expressed in bike magazines, I was often out on what passed in that era for the edge.

I hardly ever pissed anyone off. I remember angering a pedal-and-shoe manufacturer. After raving on the phone about how well his system worked, I suggested that there were aesthetic aspects of his (truly ugly) shoes that might prove troublesome sales-wise. He screamed at me.

I upset a few people when I wrote about my difficulties with mid-'80s Campagnolo parts. I'd been a faithful Campy user and advocate for years but they lost me for half a decade back then. Only one crazed, raised voice disturbed the silence as the Shimano years began.

Perhaps, you might suggest, I have not been forceful enough in expressing my feelings. That could be why I have not heard more screaming. I've preferred to believe that reasonable people can disagree - as the saying goes.

We're done talking about reasonable people now. We can begin talking about the KOCOD.

I saw an article in the Rivendell Reader years ago about an old French pedal, a pedal I knew to be so flawed in design and function as to render it useless. The article raved about the pedal. It was clear that the writer had never set foot on one of those pedals, but felt qualified to write at length about them anyway.

So I wrote about the rose-colored glasses of the Knights of Cycling's Old Days. I mentioned the rewriting of history for personal or commercial reasons. I loved those old days, I wrote, but I didn't love everything about them. No one loved everything about them - then. Now...

I had not realized that I had offended the righteous. I had placed myself outside the pale. I was called unflattering names. My journalistic credentials, never questioned in the past, were thrown to the ground and trampled by the KOCOD herd.

I promised myself that I would never write about Old Stuff again. And I didn't, until I saw that an amazing preponderance of the Rivendell bicycles pictured on the owners forum were topped by Brooks leather saddles. Have all these people, I asked myself, tried lots of saddles? Have 90% settled on the same heavy, expensive, high-maintenance ones?

So I wrote about that phenomenon on my blog and heard the email equivalent of loud voices.

Just last week, I saw a revisionist piece on a bike company's web site. It claimed that back in those glorious Old Days when we rode that wonderful Old Stuff, we each had one bike that did it all. Whichever way our cycling led us, we rode that same trusty, sturdy, versatile bicycle.

We toured, we commuted, we pedaled to the Tour de France start line. We cyclo-crossed in winter and picnicked in summer. We rode club rides and Paris-Brest-Paris.

We had multiple lives in cycling, but we had one bike. Steel. Short enough to race, long enough for fat tires and fenders. Light and responsive but unbreakable. Fitted with eyelets for racks and heel clearance for panniers.

I began noticing bicycles in late '74 and continued noticing them until I sat down at the computer today to write this post. I never saw those bikes I described in the above three paragraphs, nor did I know anyone who even wanted one. We wanted purposeful bikes, not bikes-for-all-seasons.

If you read about how common those bikes were, or how we each used our one bike for all missions, ask yourself why anyone would want to mislead you about how things were.

Ask yourself if that person is reciting some KOCOD party line, or if someone very close is trying to sell you something by invoking a romanticized, false image of the Old Days and the Old Stuff.

Please buy a bike if you feel the urge. Choose what bike to buy on its own merits, not because of something someone tells you about the past.

There were always bikes that claimed to do it all. Close-outs, they were called.


Christopher Johnson said...

Let's see now. We have someone else's version of the past (the one you reject), or your version of the past. How is a reader to know which is more credible? For some of us, who have discovered through years of experimentation, that Brooks saddles (among other older ways) offer significant advantages, you have more work to do.

Maynard said...

How to know whose version to believe? Notice who's got nothing to sell.

And notice too that I don't hate old stuff and love new stuff. I do recall that for 25 years no one talked to me about leather saddles. THOSE were the good old days.

Christopher Johnson said...

Ah...I see your point. Sales pitches in general can really grate on us. Whether it is the latest so-called advancement or something old simply because it is different from the mainstream, sales pitches can annoy and mislead. I'm with you regarding some sales pitches. Fortunately, I've had the testimony of a few experienced individuals with nothing to sell to help me experiment and find what works well for me. Often times it is the older technology for one reason or another. That said, I'll admit that I'd make several changes if I were racing again.

Maynard said...

The same thing has happened to me. I would never have thought about using tire sealant - too dorky. And if I were racing again (that's a stretch) nothing I own would be suitable.

All the proofhide aside, Christopher, thanks for reading my blog!


club-velo said...

"Saying something about a queen...."

Gotta go w/ Maynard here......some old stuff was good (Lugged frames and ...uhh.....ummm....) and some was not, (cheap tubys, Ideale saddles, wool shorts w/ leather chamois, nail-on cleats..)

As someone that regrets pointing out to MH that his Riv was "un-Riv-like" when we met for a ride (Ultegra bits, STI and even Shimano wheels) I have since learned that "run what'cha brung" oughta be the law of the land.

Our land anyways.

I love the look of a Brooks on a Rivendell or a Heron or a bamboo Calfee for that matter. The saying around our shop is that "saddles are a very personal thing" and that sometimes means more than just how it fits your butt, I guess.


Maynard said...

To rush you up to date: the Riv now has old Shimano 600 with indexed downtube levers. The Shimano wheels, oldtimers now, are on my Lighthouse. The Ultegra STI stuff is on my Bike Friday. Five-dollar saddles from the take-off bucket. Hope all's well!

Kent Peterson said...

Hey Maynard,

I gotta say that "I guess they don't do a lot of cycling" comes off as a cheap shot. Like any group within the KOCOD, some do, some don't. For some folks, Brooks saddles really work, for some they don't and yeah, some folks are just dedicated followers of some fashion.

But you've discovered the secret of blog ratings, just piss somebody off! I recently wrote a piece just suggesting that SOME recumbent folks come off as a bit too zealous and MAYBE that's hurting their cause and suggesting that folks who ride diamond frame bikes (like me) might actually be comfortable on our bikes. I've never gotten so many comments on a post.

Keep 'em rolling, but remember that guy on the 1948 Rene Herse maybe doesn't spend all his time on the net and maybe he knew what he was doing when he picked that bike to ride.

Maynard said...

Hi Kent,

Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I'm going down to the bike path now - it's only a few blocks away - and wait for the guy on the Herse. I'll wave him down and ask him why he picked that particular bike.

I'm sorry if I took a cheap shot. What's the expression? Temptation's the hardest thing to resist...

Thanks again, enjoy your riding,