A customer recently lent me a book, “Just Ride, a Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike,” by Grant Peterson. I read it last week and have since spent a good amount of time thinking about the book’s content and tone. This is not a traditional book review.
The premise of the book is that modern cycling is largely led by bike racers: we buy the bikes that professional racers buy and we wear the things that racers wear and in the process we make it too darn expensive, too darn uncomfortable, too darn silly (e.g., the clothes), too darn exclusive. The author paints a picture (very well, I might add) of a more relaxed style of cycling with comfortable bikes, normal clothes and lower speeds — cycling as lifestyle or activity or mode of transportation as opposed to cycling as capital-s Sport. I am 100% in agreement. Cycling can be for anyone with any budget and any (or no) aspirations. Cycling should be inclusive.
The thing that sticks in my craw is that the author portrays bicycle racing as the villain, the thing to be avoided, The Devil. Maybe he didn’t intend for his book to have an us-vs.-them feel to it, but it does. C’mon, dude! Different strokes for different folks. I have raced my bike and worn silly-looking clothes, but that’s the equipment appropriate to the task at hand. When I ride the shop’s lunch-getter bike to (yup) get lunch, I wear whatever I’m wearing: jeans or shorts, normal (non-cycling) shoes, a T-shirt and my shop shirt. I ride a bike and wear clothing appropriate to the task at hand. Guess what: I have experienced great joy in both circumstances.
I appreciate Mr. Peterson’s advocation of a comfortable, less competitive brand of cycling, but I am not impressed with his divisive tone. Strike that: I find his tone gratuitous at best, irresponsible at worst. We, as cyclists, face some pretty significant challenges with regard to urban and suburban infrastructure, distracted driving, trail usage and sometimes public perception. We cyclists will stand up to these challenges best if we stand together. There just aren’t enough cyclists in the country — much less our small city — for us to get bogged down in arguments about racer vs. commuter, gears vs. fixie, road vs. mountain, etc.
Instead, let’s just ride.