Cycling towards a pluralist ethos

field of spring flowersThere’s a saying in alternative sex communities that’s getting wider airplay. It’s acronym is YKINMKBYKIOK. Your kink is not my kink but your kink is okay. It’s a big tent. I might like women with glasses. You might like men in rubber. Whatever. We don’t have to agree. It’s a matter of taste. Let many flowers bloom.

But not in the Maoist sense of letting flowers bloom. I found out last week that the complete version of that sentence is more like, let a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend. The idea is that the truth will out and false flowers will wither. Or in the case of Mao’s regime the false flowers will be taken away to prison camps. But now I’m digressing.

There’s a version of this we taught our kids regarding food. Try new things but if you don’t like it you don’t have to eat it. When they were little, they would say, “Thank you but it’s not to my taste.”

And I recently read the same sentiment expressed by knitter and writer extraordinaire Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. In her Meditations for Women who knit too much she writes,

“As long as there has been knitting, there have been battles about it. There are self-described “yarn snobs” who from on using anything but natural fibers; “gauge snobs” who wouldn’t be caught dead with chunky yarn; and “experience snobs” who claim you can’t call yourself a real knitter until you abandon novelty yarn. The truth is that the knitting world is a tiny metaphor for the real world. It takes all kinds.” p. 111

(Although I’m not a knitter I love Stephanie’s blog The Yarn Harlot and I’m thrilled that I’m on her team for the Friends for Life bike rally.)

My mother even has a version of this saying: “It wouldn’t do if we all liked the same.”

What’s any of this got to do with cycling? Well, cycling is also a big tent with many tribes. See The Bike Snob’s Guide to Cycling Tribes.

There are the track cyclists, the fashionable cruising commuters, the fixed gear hipsters, the cyclocross fanatics, the mountain bikers, trick bikers, the road cyclists…

And where there are differences, then you can get conflict about who counts. Who is the real cyclist? What’s the one best way to ride a bike? As if there’s an answer.

Road cyclists are the fussiest. I asked in a previous blog post whether Road cyclists are to bike riding as analytic philosophers are to philosophy.

Road cyclists don’t just think road cycling is real cycling. They also think there is a right way to do it. For any variable–Where do the arms of your sunglasses go? Water bottles or camel back? Sock colour?–there’s just one way to get it right.

Road cycling’s rules would be funny, except some people take them seriously. A Facebook friend and fellow philosopher cyclist Tim Kenyon proposed an alternative set of rules.

The Real Rules of Cycling

The Primary Rule
1. Ride your bike, because it is amazingly fun, and good for you, and good for others, and good for the environment. Just ride.
i. Ride your bike lots.
ii. Ride your bike safely and legally.
a. Make efforts to learn more about riding well.

Secondary Rules
2. Do not act in ways that tend to obstruct other people’s satisfaction of Rule (1).
i. The sole and strict exception to Rule (2) concerns violations of (1.ii), which are to be discouraged even if this leads to modest short-term reductions in the satisfaction of (1.i).
ii. The usual considerations associated with treating persons as persons apply also in cycling. Rule (2) enjoins reasonable reflection on how other cyclists are apt to dispose themselves with respect to Rule (1) if they encounter aggressiveness, unkindness and assholery as part of their cycling experience.
iii. Rule (2) extends to actions and utterances that involve shaming, ridicule, or pretense to illusory superior knowledge on any matter not strongly empirically connected to the satisfaction of Rule (1). Such matters shall be known as BIKE HOMEOPATHY, and shall be understood as including, but not limited to: leg-shaving; sock length; whether a cyclist’s clothes “match”; the use of helmet visors or helmet mirrors; choices of hydration equipment; the use of seat bags, frame pumps, racks, or fenders; combinations of stem risers and stem orientation; perceived mismatches between equipment choices of various “seriousness”; and whether helmet straps overlap sunglasses.

3. Help other people follow Rule (1) through sound advice, mentorship, example, and encouragement.
i. Give of your time and expertise off-bike to educate and support other riders, including but not limited to their efforts to follow (1.ii.a).
ii. At least occasionally make other people’s satisfaction of Rule (1) your primary aim while riding.
iii. Act in a way that minimizes violations of Rule (2) by others.
a. Do not respond to violations of Rule (2) in ways that themselves violate Rules (2) or (3), while understanding that violators of Rule (2) are apt to be heavily invested in cycling and may be reasonably engaged on their conduct without being dissuaded from cycling.
iv. Violations of (2.ii) and (2.iii) are to be met by bystanders with friendly but unmistakable responses, preferably on par with “We’re here for a fun time!” (for Rule 2.ii), or “Why don’t we teach about real things instead?” (for 2.iii); and in any case not to exceed the penalty of baptism, for a period of not longer than 1 (one) ride and post-ride discussion, with the title of “Crankypants” (Rule 2.ii) or “Doctor of Bike Homeopathy” (Rule 2.iii).”

And even among the community of road cyclists there are differences. I have friends who like the long haul, serious endurance athletes for whom 200 km is a short ride. There are others who crave speed and race up hills, sprint for town signs, any excuse for that competitive urge. All carbon fibre suffer fests, a friend dubbed those rides. Some of my road cyclist friends like riding in tight formation at a good steady clip. With those friends sprinting ahead is bad form. We ride as a unit.

I’m pretty much okay with all of this though my preference is for riding in a nice, tight group, with some regrouping at the tops of hills (Wait for me!) and well designated sprints.

This is a plea for tolerance. We don’t all have to like the same thing. But if we ride bikes, we’re all real cyclists.


Exit mobile version