Many, many thoughts come to mind when finding the right words to describe a hardened soul. Whether through loss, opportunity, privilege, hard work, or happenstance, the cream has, and will continue to rise to the top.
Going back and forth between the metaphorical pendulum of how serious someone takes the realm of cycling, I am at a place where there was a sect of cycling I to this day still identify strongly with.
Having first entered cycling by ways of the “far left” party ride scene then shifting towards the more conservative, competitive route, I can say that I am able to, and still hold many of the views of bike shop culture with that of my own. Being noticed by a bike shop is equivalent to the local skate shop looking at your demo tape and offering you a sponsorship (and all of the pipe dreams that come with it.) There are perks both physical and ideological one can gain as a result. Unfortunately, things seem to be taking a turn in a different direction.
At the current age of brand ambassador based marketing and retail turning towards the digital age, I cannot help but pay close attention to how I am being marketed based on my close relationship with bikes. In that same respect I’m trying to figure out what was one of my first experiences with this type of culture. Then through my own type of reflection I was reminded of that all too familiar branch of cycling that (to me) was the perfect balance of strength, talent, and humility.
They may give off a bad, pretentious vibe to some circles, but there was a point when the people who BA’d for Rapha made it very clear that their special group of mostly British based cyclist rode long and hard, while downplaying the seriousness of their craft. Covering large distances, sometimes spanning over several days, all for the sake of the love of the lifestyle. I know when I’m being marketed to, and this type of riding spoke to me.
While currently swinging away from the formal competitive route, I find that I am coming back into contact with this familiar interest in hardened cycling with little to no aspirations of the pipe dream that is competitive racing. Reserving the space to go beyond what you may be capable of in a less conventional setting is something I can definitely get on board with. If there was a brand out there that catered to this fringe audience, let them know I’m interested.
One of the reasons I feel the big R get a bad rep is like most brands that become successful, growth is often inevitable. More demand means that new goals must be met, and new audiences must be accessed. This (in the eyes of a SoCal based rider) has manifested itself by speaking to the 30+ weekend warrior crowd, and those who want to race competitively in a more formal setting. This combination of crowds can be seen as good overall. However the consumers are quite different in many respects. I can’t for example imagine seeing these different branches who all stand behind the same type of cloth getting together at the same social gathering. Yes I know they all ride bikes, but the distinction between how these different groups of people get their kicks from pedalling pedals begins to lead the sects astray.
I’m here to say I miss the glory days of hardened souls who knew they had the ability to go above and beyond, but showed it in a different way that doesnt involve podiums. However you’ve come to be the hardened soul you are now is your own unique experience and should be embraced, celebrated, and enriched with like minded people. Maybe there are groups like what I am describing and are just not on my radar. Maybe they exist, but are separated by their locations, or a simple lack of communication between those with like minded interested. I want those people to know I am on the search for you. If I have touched on something above that speaks to you in a special way, please let me know. People with similar interests who come together can create a positive and enlightening experience for all whom they surround themselves.
The tentative goal is centered around talented riders with equal parts humility, that don’t necessarily need to prove their worth by taking part in every local race under the sun. Humility cannot be emphasised enough. Recognise that you are not as entitled to anything more than your own abilities. With that being said, if you want to participate in any type of formal racing, that is your choice and will not be looked down upon. I would love to seek a group of people who enjoy lengthy rides on the road or the dirt, who aren’t afraid to push themselves and keep a balanced perspective on the world of bikes while still being able to prove through your own talents that you’ve got chops. Know anybody that might be interested? Asking for a friend.
Until next time….