Its not about the Bike May 8, 2010
Its one of those rainy Saturdays so when Mark and Carol came into the shop today and started a conversation about the Bike Snob's new book, I gladly had time to chat. Mark has been a customer here for several years, and originally came in to have us to fix up his old bike in order that he might start commuting on it about 10 miles each way. Back then, I remember his old bike being so completely worn out that the links of his chain had stretched well beyond the scale of my stretch gauge. Considering the overall condition of that bike (its wheels, brakes, etc.), I believe we suggested to him to start saving for a new one. He rode that one for a little while and would occasionally come in for an adjustment here or there. Since then he has bought a new Surly Crosscheck and has had his chain and cogset replaced twice. That's a lot of miles. In his case, its a lot of dirty miles; but he's learning how to take better care of his drivetrain. After all, he was in the store today to buy a chain cleaner and some lube.
And here Mark was asking if we had read Bike Snob's book. I haven't ( I think I will eventually), but I did happen to catch Eban Weiss (Bruce Wayne to BSNY's Batman) on NPR's On Point the other day and I was greatly impressed with where that conversation went. As Bike Snob, his perona lampoons all sorts of cycling trends and fashions. It's hilarious to those intimate with cycling "culture", but the inside jokes may be lost on civilians. As Eban Weiss, he advocates for cycling as lifestyle and transportation option in terms that any rational adult can appreciate. I particularly like his take on good cyclists (and drivers) vs. bad cyclists (drivers).
Along the same vein, Providence recently hosted David Byrne, who was out shucking his recent book Bicycle Diaries. In front of a packed house at Trinity Theater, Byrne talked about his international cycling experiences with a panel that included a local cycling advocate, an urban historian and the Director of Providence's City Planning Department. Despite its title, Bicycle Diaries isn't about bicycles at all. Its a collection of thoughts and ideas inspired by the unique perspective that the bicycle has offered as he visits and explores cities around the world.
In both cases I like where this discussion is going in popular media. It's not about some fringe culture. Its not about "us" cyclists vs "them" motorists. Its about people and the real choices that we are all confronted with. The bicycle is one of those choices. My customer Mark is someone who has made that choice more and more since he first came in to have us look at his bike. He's been a good customer who has introduced us to other good customers. Mark is someone is doing his part to keep the conversation going in a positive direction.