What's My Motivation? Pick a Cause, Any Cause

Why do you ride a bike?  Is it for fun?  Is it for fitness?  Is it to get to work or school?  Is it because you like the way the saddle rubs up against your private parts?  Or is it because "bi-keen" is good for the environment and you think you're singlehandedly staving off climate change?  Well, I was visiting Streetsblog recently, where I saw a preview for a show that will no doubt appeal to those cyclists in that last category:

I don't want bad stuff to happen to the environment--at least until they make the Moon habitable, because I would totally live there.  Unfortunately, with the Space Shuttle program suspended, it could be years before lunar gentrification finally occurs, and it's doubtful that amenities like fair trade coffee houses and restaurants that serve organic cuisine will be established there during our lifetimes.  Therefore, in the meantime, I'm in complete agreement with the notion that the Earth should remain able to sustain human life.  (But obviously, once the Moon turns into a great big Portland in the sky, then fuck it.)

At the same time, while I've mounted a bicycle for fun, and for fitness, and for transportation (and obviously for crotchal stimulation, because I mean like really, who doesn't?), I don't think I've ever thought to myself, "I really should ride my bike today because of this whole climate change thing."  You can criticize me all you want, but I'm just being honest.  In fact, it would be far easier for me to lie and say I'm doing my part for the environment, because I'm going to ride no matter what.  Therefore, retroactively ascribing lofty motives to my actions is merely a matter of convenience--like accidentally catching a baby thrown from a burning building and then saying, "I meant to do that."

But ask yourself this: what if it were the other way around?  What if cycling were demonstrably bad for the environment--worse even than driving a car?  Would you drive instead?  Or, what if you knew that every year a baby seal would be clubbed in your name because you rode a bicycle?  You'd never actually have to see it, but you would get a certificate in the mail.  Would you give up riding, or would you manage to rationalize it or ignore it?

Suck on that one, seal-killer.

As it is, I'm not all that convinced that cycling is so environmentally friendly anyway--at least as it's practiced by Americans.  The constant eBaying, the incessant upgrades, the frenzied redemption of Nashbar discount codes...  All of this stuff is flown and trucked to and from your door.  It's not like it falls from a tree and then gets carted to the local greenmarket in a bakfiets.  And who consumes more avidly than American cyclists?  Show me an American cyclist who has not taken delivery of some sort of bike bauble or custom bag or technical garment or eBay find in the last two weeks and I will call you on your fraud and expose that cyclist for the Dutchman he is.  Anyway, the guy with the MSNBC show better be careful, because the NYPD is going to knock the smugness out of him for all that sidewalk riding:

Dooring a cyclist to death is no bid deal, but riding a bike on the sidewalk can land you in criminal court.

Ultimately though, more even than buying stuff, Cycling American Style is about the pursuit of glory, whether that glory is the glory of unassailable smugness, or it is the glory of defeating your fellow cyclists in the rigors of competition. Of course, sometimes it can be hard to find a fellow cyclist to defeat, which is why we now have Strava.  As it happens, Strava is now being sued, and while I'm personally not a fan of Strava I do think this lawsuit is utterly ridiculous:

Here's what happened:

Flint was apparently going for a new record on South Park Drive in the hills east of Berkeley, California when he slammed into a car, and speculation began almost immediately that Strava might share part of the blame.

Again, I think it's inappropriate to blame Strava for this cyclist's death in the same way that it's inappropriate to blame the porn industry for death by auto-erotic strangulation, though at the same time I was kind of stunned by the following reader comment on the article:

I'm not so sure the lawsuit is frivolous.. I was recently a Strava KOM on a descent.. when my record was broken I received a direct email that notified me and expressed I needed to get back out there and 'show them who was boss'. Strava isn't taking into account that I was already blowing the posted speed limit by 20+ mph on State property. As harmless as Strava can be it's has a strange was of playing to the ego.. Sort of the Drink, Drink, Drink... College days.

Wow.  So basically, if I have this right, Freds are cresting climbs with their eyes glued to their smartphones, and if they don't "win" they immediately get an email telling them that they need to do it all over again.  I certainly don't think this is tantamount to killing somebody, but I do think it's incredibly pathetic and dorky.

This comment was even more stunning:

The only thing that Strava posts up if you are fastest, is an image of a Burger King hat....and if you upgrade you can filter the list by age and weight classifications so you don't have to compare yourself to some Pro or 27yr old Cat 1 racer......so this lawsuit is complete B$ by an opportunist.

As I understand it, the more you "upgrade" the more you can slice and dice your "competition" into a smaller group, thus making "winning" even easier.  Presumably you can keep "upgrading" to the point at which victory is all but assured, and I wonder how much you have to pay to be the KOM of 50-50 1/2 year old Sagittarius dentists who ride Serottas and wear red socks.

Of course, you don't need Strava to engage in competition with your fellow riders, since you can always just "Cat 6" them instead--just try not to crash into the side of a bridge while you're doing it:

Vanderbilt Ave on our bikes - m4w - 25 (Manhattan Bridge to Vanderbilt Ave)
Date: 2012-06-19, 12:20AM EDT
Reply to: [deleted]

You passed me on the Manhattan Bridge. Then you passed some other dude, too. I thought you guys knew each other cause he tried to keep pace with you, and was like totally smiling at you like it was a game. But then he almost killed both of us when he lost control and crashed into the side of the bridge. I thought he was a jerk. Also his button-down shirt was open like a tool. What a jerk.

Anyway, I think you thought I was trying to pass you on Vanderbilt because I was on the other side of the street and you said that I could go in front of you. But I was just over there cause I was turning left on Gates. I'm not like that other guy. I wouldn't pass you just to flirt. I'd much rather write a thing on the internet.

Your bike was squeaky and you are pretty.

Let me buy you a beverage, please?

PS. If you DO know that guy, I'm sorry I called him a jerk and a tool. But he is.

I'm not sure who you sue in the event of a non-Strava related "Cat 6" mishap, though I suppose I'd either start with the Department of Transportation, or, in the event the pursuit was inspired by alluring "coin slot" exposure, the manufacturer of the female cyclist's pants.

Or, in lieu of legal action, just hurl your u-lock at the offending party:

Cyclist who hurled bike lock at cab - w4m - 31 (Lower East Side)
Date: 2012-06-17, 12:26AM EDT
Reply to: [deleted]

Just wanted you to know... you were in the right, that cab driver was nuts. He ran a red light shortly after he nearly killed you. I took down his information and reported him to the taxi commission. That said, I'm glad your bike lock didn't break the rear window as it was aimed at my not-so-hard-head.

It's good to know the passenger was on the cyclist's side.

And if instead of throwing a u-lock at a taxi cab you'd rather throw money somebody, here's your chance for I recently received the following [edited] email:

I know you take great pleasure in admiring Portland's ridiculous 'culture' and are a huge fan of the smug that we are known for.  I want to give you the opportunity to help us continue arguably the best cycling community on the planet.  Then you can make fun of us for it.

My best friend, riding partner and team mate had an unfortunate accident during a single speed short track race last week leaving him paralyzed from the chest down.  He is a tremendous and successful racer and the nicest guy in town.  ...  We all love him to death and are doing all we can to make things easier for him.  A donation site has been established for his recovery fund (www.bartonpdx.com).  He has a wife and amazing family, as well as tons of friends who are all by his side - but this is bigger than us.  Once the bartonpdx.com site was launched with a $50,000 goal we were half way there in just over a day.  Folks are donating for raffles, selling mountain bike frames, printing t-shirts... That is community!  Dare I say that is the cycling community... in Portland.

So - you have free reign to make fun of short track, single speed mountain bikes, Portland, organic hops, etc... I just ask that you link to www.bartonpdx.com to help us get the word out and raise money for his recovery.

Wow, an opportunity to make fun of Portland in the context of a horrible accident?!?  Thanks for nothing.  Nevertheless, I'm happy to honor the request (though I'll withhold the ridicule), and if you'd like more information you can find it here.

Or, if you prefer to give even more irreverently, there's always this:

Dear Bike Snob NYC,

In July I will be raising money for scholarships at my university, Imperial College London, by cycling a life-sized skeleton on a tandem the entire length of the United Kingdom. I’d really appreciate if you could help spread the word in any way possible – I’ve included more information about the cycle below, and I've attached a photo of how ridiculous a guy on a tandem with a skeleton looks. Thanks for your time.


Here's more on his endeavor:

Including the disclosure that he's not ready:

My body is not ready…

With less than two weeks to go it’s quickly dawning on me that this is going to be a pretty difficult challenge to complete. I barely cycled across London today, probably two hours cycling in total, and my legs are feeling pretty tired.

Good to see he's thinking this through, though if he had opted for a living human in a skeleton suit he'd have a much easier time of it.  Or, if he doesn't mind some musculature along with his skeleton, there's always Mario Cipollini:

I'm sure he'd be willing to do it as long as there's access to university girls, and I can't think of a better way to raise scholarship funds than with a video series called "Mario Cipollini's British College Girls Gone Wild."
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