Many people talk of mainstream media making people live in fear, and the bike trade does the same. If you want to be fast or cool, then you need the latest doodah. If you’re going to be taken seriously, you need to buy all the gear. You’ll never get up hills without a 50 tooth cog on your cassette. You’ll never get up a mountain unless you’re riding an e-bike.
The marketing is designed to play on our insecurities. It is designed to highlight them and make us feel terrible. The only way for you to beat these insecurities is to consume. The bike trade needs you to consume. Look at all the fads we’ve had over the last decade.
We had fixed gear. We had fat bikes. We then had gravel bikes.
Out of those three, only gravel bikes had real longevity. That is not to say that people stopped riding fat bikes or fixed gear bikes; it is just that the “trade” discarded them. Why did it do that?
Every year there are new bike launches. People need to buy the latest model, even if the only difference is the paint scheme from the bike that is sitting in their garage. Fixed gear and fat bike customers did not fall for that trap. The bike trade quickly worked that out and started to scale back offerings and media.
The previous media sources that were praising these new forms turned back to a giggle at the niche forms of cycling. The trade was upset that they couldn’t make these “weirdos” spend more cash, so now they have to be ridiculed. It is a grown-up version of being a school bully.
Check this video by GMBN. It admittedly is supposed to be a funny look at fixed gear riding. Look though at the way Blake changes his idea during the course of the video.
His attitude turned from mockery to something positive. They then had to make a second video, partly to kill the first video’s passion and bring back ridicule.
We could also look at when they tested a fat bike against an XC bike and an enduro bike. The fat bike did pretty well, and yet they still had to snigger at it and make a joke about it. There is also the fact that the fat bikes were way cheaper than the other bikes in the group, which given the final scores should really have meant it won.
Obviously, bike companies will still make bikes in these genres as people still buy them. You will though face ridicule from friends and family for having a “stupid” bike, even if it is the bike that suits you best.
What about tracklocross?
Tracklocross being a niche within a niche has mostly been glossed over, but you will get a load of fixed gear hipster stuff thrown at you. You’ll also get, “Fixed gear is terrible on the road, so why do it offroad?” “You’ll not be as fast as on a mountain bike.” “You’ll die.”
Let’s look at these. Fixed gear isn’t terrible on the road. People think it is harder. Part of this is due to the bike trade telling you need to have more gears and now, you need a wider spread of gears. It makes people think they might have to get off and push and, therefore, die of shame on some climb somewhere.
There is no shame in getting off and pushing. Cycling is about fun. If you don’t feel like killing yourself to make a climb, then don’t. In reality, no one cares if you get off and push and if people do, well they were dicks anyway. There is also the fact that you don’t need super low gears to clear a huge majority of climbs. Trust yourself and you’ll get there.
Now why ride fixed offroad? Simply put, it is fun. Sometimes it might not be, but you can get off and push or sit down and look at nature. It is also cheaper than a 12-speed bike with pivots and bearings everywhere. You’ll not have to do regular maintenance during the winter either. Less time in a garage tinkering or sitting on the sofa waiting on parts, and more time out shredding (lightly). This will bring you more smiles.
The “you’ll not be fast” comment is another remanent of cycling marketing. Marketing in cycling is all about you being the fastest. It is like they can’t think of any other reason to sell you a bike. Mountain biking is also about destroying the trail. You can only do that by being fast. This is what the media tells you.
You’ll be slower. I know this, you know this, everyone knows this. It isn’t a problem, though. Cycling is fun. Going fast can be fun, but it generally it isn’t for a lot of people. Going and riding through the woods is fun. Look at the world and see what is happening, that will make you feel good. Blasting through the woods and seeing nothing, just to come 5th on a Strava section is not fun, and is literally like not seeing the woods for the trees.
“You’ll die.” Well, we all have to die at some point. I might even make that point that riding flowy trails on a fixed gear is a lot safer than riding on roads or at least feels that way. On a tracklocross bike, you know the bike is not designed for what you’re doing, and you have to pay more attention to your bike skills.
When I used to go to trail centres, you’d see someone buy a many thousand-pound full suspension bike as their first bike. These people never learn bike handling skills. The bike does all the work for them, until the point it doesn’t. These people then don’t know what to do and invariably get an ambulance ride, yet they will get praised for their bike choice.
Now, I might sound bitter, and maybe I am, but what I want you to do is properly think out your next bike choice and why you’re buying it.
Oh, I also made a little Instagram video to go with this blog.