Faster than Ever: From Dork to Douche in Record Time

Like most people, I am tremendously grateful for the Intering Net. I mean, what's not to love? Remember how annoying it was to watch your favorite shows and movies on a great big box while sitting on the couch? I'd never want to go back to those days. Now, you can stream them directly to your crappy laptop screen with frequent interruptions. Sure, it's an inferior viewing experience, but it's an inferior viewing experience you can have without leaving the toilet.

At the same time, though, the post-Intering Net world has its downside. In particular, it's increasingly difficult to have a "pure" experience. So what is a pure experience, anyway? Well, it's one you find yourself, out in the open air, and that you refine not by following advice and instructions from Intering Net forums, but by good old-fashioned trialling and erroring.

This is particularly true of bikes. Like any nascent rider, there was a time when I would set out on the open road in a cut-off t-shirt and fanny pack, woefully unprepared for the inevitable happenstance of cycling. How did I learn the shirt was a mistake? Because it would get drenched with sweat and my shoulders would get sunburnt. How did I learn to carry sufficient food and drink? Because I would "bonk" spectacularly miles away from the nearest bodega. How did I learn which tools to bring? Because when you flat an hour from home and all you have in your fanny pack is some "Wednesday Weed," you gradually learn how to reorder your packing priorities. As for the fanny pack, I learned that was a mistake because we used to have something called "mirrors," and one day I looked in one and realized I was a gigantic dork. Also, once you actually do start putting tools in it and it starts working its way down your waist due to the weight, you learn the value of jersey pockets and saddle bags, and before you know it you've made the dubious leap from "newbie" to "Fred."

And from there, the refinement continues. Once you're a "Fred," you run into other "Freds." Silently or not so silently, you study and critique each other's appearance, technique, and relative strength. You race each other informally, and then formally under the auspices of some governing body. Soon, you can't believe you were ever a hairy-legged charity-riding "Fred," much less a fanny-packing newbie. Then one day you wake up, and you suddenly realize you've reached the top of the cycling heap. You have attained "gnosis." You are officially an Elitist Douche.

Now, though, much of this process takes place before you even touch a bike. If you're interested in cycling, thousands of blogs and forums will tell you millions of things you "should" or "shouldn't" have or do. Post your bike on some online forum and legions of instant experts will critique its appearance and functionality before you so much as throw a freshly-shaven leg over it. You can buy all manner of component exotica with just a few keytrokes. You'll be contemplating a new bike from a plethora of artisanal custom bike fabricators whose work you've only seen on online photo galleries before it's even time for new bar tape. You'll go from Newbie to Douche in the time it takes to wear out a single tire.

I'm not saying all of this is bad. In fact, arguably it's great. So much information! So much communication! So many choices! So much stuff! At the same time, though, could we be in something of a cycling bubble economy? Isn't it at least a little dangerous that there's so little friction now when it comes to fulfilling our cycling whims? I mean, it wasn't all that long ago that, if you wanted a messenger bags, there were only a few companies to choose from, and you actually had to go to them to get one. Now, not only can you buy a handmade messenger-type bag in pretty much every configuration imaginable, but a reader tells me you can also buy a special pedestal on which to place it:

So what is this? Well, it's:

The perfect place to store your bag and personal belongings at work, while you work.

Now, I realize I'm about to give away my age here, but there was a time when after you took off your messenger bag you just hung it on whatever, or maybe even put it on the fucking floor. Now, though, apparently the floor's not good enough, and you need a $199 bag storage solution. (Or only $169 without the shelf.) Next I imagine someone will come out with some handmade nylon straps so you can carry your bag storage solution on your bike, and then you'll need bag storage storage for your bag storage, and so on, until your life is an unbroken series of modular accessories and you vanish into some sort of herringbone version of "The Matrix."

Of course, having a bunch of shit for your shit is the American way, which is why we also buy protective covers for our car bumpers:

Then again, with all those crazy cyclists out there on the roads, I suppose drivers need all the protection they can get.

The other side-effect of this lack of friction is something becoming The Next Big Thing really quickly--maybe too quickly. For example, remember this video?

Oh, how we laughed and laughed. "Hilpsters? Cyclocross?!? That's high-larious!" Well, it's positively quaint now, and today you can buy a Rock Lobster with white tires and Hold Fast pedal straps on Craigslist:

Goodbye PistaDex, hello CXDex.

Or you can go to Prolly's Purple Bikey Blog, and along with the latest dumb "fixie" you can see the latest dumb cyclocross bike with a top tube that's pointy on the bottom:

And a cantilever brake with the clearance engineered out of it:

Or you can go to any "mainstream" cycling site and read reviews of the scores of identical crabon cyclocross bikes now available, and about how "the underside of the top tube is flattened for easier shouldering" (this is the cyclocross equivalent of "laterally stiff and vertically compliant"), and about which tubular tire is better than the other, and about how the $1,800 Mavic WhateverSys would be a great choice for 'cross.

Again, all this opportunity and choice is great, but at a certain point you have to worry if it will come at a cost. For example, could the days of DIY cyclocross dreadlock storage solutions be numbered?

(The underside of the dreadlock sausage is flattened for easier shouldering.)

A reader forwarded me the above image, and a better use for what appear to be old legwarmers I have not seen. But what happens when Chrome is selling a $250 dreadlock windsock, and Rapha jerseys feature an optional hair slot in the center pocket? Will not yet another subculture of a subculture of a subculture have been undermined?

I don't know. All I know is that the person who really suffers is the Elitist Douche. Whither are they bound? To which cycling discipline shall they flee to maintain their rarefied sense of self-importance? Even pennyfarthing racing has been ruined by corporate sponsorship, as forwarded to me by yet another reader:

What a bunche of Fredericks.

Most of all, I worry that all of this points to a massive conspiracy, since as people become more and more obsessed with equipment and with power meters and with modular stuff for their modular stuff and with "training" for nothing, cycling will become abstracted to the point where people just do it indoors all the time, as in this article on the popularity of "spinning," forwarded by still yet another reader:

The past decade has seen a new strain of realism take hold: so-called "terrain-based" classes, simulating race conditions complete with wind and resistance, have become more popular.

And once they have us all where they want us, inside in one place and plugged into some sort of virtual hive mind, they will imprison us and use the watts we generate to power their evil endeavors. I saw a movie like that once. I don't remember what it was called, but it was something to do with a matrix of some kind.

But will there ever be a real substitute for trying to pick up chicks at the scene of an accident?

Date: 2011-10-17, 8:44PM EDT
Reply to:

You : Brunette gasping at the bicycle/towncar collision and ensuing altercation we both witnessed
Me : Tall bearded fellow smiling at you as I walked passed and quipped "that was crazy"

I feel like we had a little moment, and I would love to know your name and possibly buy you a drink.

Pure class.

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