Monday, December 20, 2010

Book Review: Bike Snob

Christmas is almost here, and some ST members might need to drop some hints to loved ones for some last-minute stocking stuffers. May I suggest a copy of Bike Snob: Systematically and Mercilessly Realigning the World of Cycling, as an ideal choice for under the tree. In this fine volume of satire and wit, the author Eben Weiss explains to cyclist and non-cyclists where cycling and cyclists have it all together and where we have wandered off the straight path. For example:

"bicycles do not have souls. I don't care if was hand-crafted beneath the wooden boards of a velodrome by a master craftsman who was standing knee-deep in a pool of chianti while Fausto Coppi himself was doing laps overhead. That bicycle does not have a soul. Riders have souls; bicycles have wheels, and pedals, and occasionally cool paint jobs." (p. 144)

But, the most useful section of the book might be the chapter titled "A Brief Guide to Etiquette for Non-Cyclists", especially the section headed "Don't Ask Us If We're Going to Ride in the Tour de France":

Organized charity rides are a good thing. They raise money for a cause and they provide an opportunity for cyclists who might not ordinarily ride in a large group or go particularly far to do so with support and guidance. However, the negative aspect of the charity ride is that non -cyclists see them and assume that they're races~even though actual bike races involve riders in tight formation traveling at very high speeds, and charity rides are composed of people in sweatpants and pinnies scattered all over the road and barely pushing 14 mph. A charity ride has about as much in common with a bicycle race as a game of kickball has with a major league baseball game. Still, when people see lots of people on bikes they think it's a race, and no amount of arguing, insisting, or photographic evidence will convince them otherwise.

And since anybody can take part in a charity ride, and since people think charity rides are races, naturally people also think that any cyclist can take part in the most famous bike ride in the world, the Tour de France.

The Tour de France is the most elite road race in the world, and only the top professional teams are invited to attend. And even if you're on a top professional team that's been selected to ride the Tour, your director still has to select you for the Tour squad. Nonetheless, there's not a cyclist alive who hasn't been asked by a non-cyclist if they're ever going to ride the Tour de France. I was once asked by a friend if I was going to ride the Tour de France, and when I laughed and replied "No," she scolded me for my bad attitude and told to think positively or else I'd never make it.

Nobody asks their friend who plays pickup basketball if he's going to be in the NBA All-Star game. But for some reason, people don't understand that professional bike racing is like every other professional sport in that it's highly competitive and the athletes are professionals. If the person you're talking to is not highly paid to race his bike full-time he's not going to be in the Tour de France. Instead, look for him at the local criterium peeling his face off the asphalt along with the rest of us. (p. 211-212)

I actually had a conversation almost exactly like that a few weeks ago over dinner with some friends...

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