If I never lose readers I'm pulling my punches, never revealing in print how I really feel. If a writer has strong feelings and speaks up in print, he or she will upset a reader now and then. Gotta happen.
Not every critical comment will alienate readers. It's interesting to reflect on what will provoke a reader to swear off your work, and what will hardly make a ripple.
To upset cycling's true believers: Criticize an old bike part. Criticize Brooks saddles. Suggest that some bike owners are posers (shock, horror), pretending to be something they are not.
Statements like those mentioned above are the ONLY way I've lost readers.
I've lost readers because I questioned the iconic nature of every old bike part. I've lost readers because I've pointed out the ridiculous use of pricey, heavy "comfort" saddles on bikes that'll never be ridden far enough for comfort to matter - or far enough to break-in the saddles.
I'm losing Reader Jon because I've suggested that thrift-store wool absorbs tobacco odor and preserves it in those natural fibers for years. I've said that the guy who looks good in knickers has not been born. I've said that the hipsters he defends so bravely seem to serve only to set a bad example.
Statements like those and almost no others have cost me readers.
On the other hand, I can pick on bike shop employees for all sorts of valid reasons. I can pick on Harley-Davidsons or Ducatis and their riders in motorcycle magazines. I can pick on bike racers of moderate talent who behave like prima donnas, unlike most pros. I can say awful things about SUV drivers or guys on loud motorcycles or guys in loud import cars. And no one cares.
No one cares.
Clearly, ex-reader Jon is upset that I find fault with my neighbors who ride single-speed bikes. I find fault with them, sure enough. Opinion-expressers all over this great nation find fault with them. It's a cheap shot, finding fault with them; they're ducks in a barrel.
They want to look like bike riders but they want to pee in the pool, create a hostile environment for all of us who pedal the streets of our cities.
They want to wear the uniform but they don't want anyone to notice that they all look alike. Or form opinions about them after seeing them, one after the other, scoff at the laws, riding without brakes or lights or helmets or simple grownup good sense.
We're not talking about looking both ways and soft-pedaling through a country intersection. No country intersections for these folks - they're an urban phenomenon, riding strictly where folks by the thousands can see them. We wonder: Would they ride if no one watched?
You could be forgiven for thinking that they ride the way they do to piss people off.
They succeed. Intentionally or not, they've pissed me off, and I for one should be glad to see so many new riders on our streets. They piss me off and when I say so, when I say that I'm pissed at them, then it's my fault. I've got to mellow out, dude. Breathe through my nose.
Soon, as Larry says, they'll go on to whatever's next. There'll be lots of shoddily built fixies for sale on Craigslist. Cheap. Free to good home.