The two sporting passions of my adult life have been cycling and alpine climbing. Both pursuits, at their respective times, were the thing I centered my life around. Their rich histories deepened my love of the sport and the pursuit of those ideals have enriched my life. Both are also sports that some feel are in danger of losing those traditions in the pursuit of easier, stiffer, shorter race/approach, more disposable experiences all at the cost of culture that grew up around the sport.
I’m not the first person to point this out. I’m not going to be the last person to point this out. Despite what I may have implied above I don’t think carbon bikes are bad (though I dislike their lack of road feel), the science and engineering brought into cycling means that, at least from a consumer goods standpoint things are good. You only need to look at Trek’s latest product launch to see that.
What gets lost in that rush, and dare I say it, the rush to get people on bikes, is tradition. Races like Paris – Roubaix, Liege, and the Tour of Flanders will always be there. But there are smaller, more local races that were important dates for cycling’s early heroes are being lost. Most without much notice.
Losing these races, even if they are category two, hurts the tradition. Every shuffle of the calendar hurts the tradition. Every time the route of a monument gets change hurts the tradition.
There are people who are trying to keep this necessary cultural heritage alive. Rouleur does an excellent job. The writer Herbie Sykes who has authored three books, and a multitude of columns on the minutia in cycling’s history. This clip released from an upcoming film looks to be trying to do its part as well.
I doubt this will happen, since there are product releases to copy, pedals to speculate about or some other Lance story to write but cycling’s mass media has a part to play in keeping the tradition alive. Though I will say some are doing better than others. Its not just their job though.
It’s kind of my job as well. Not as the author of this blog, though I can certainly give it more pixels, but as someone who sells bikes. I first learned about shaving my legs, the ins and outs of a pace line by hanging out at a shop.
I make it a point to tell every Roubaix customer why the bike is named Roubaix. A big shop like mine, that doesn’t host a group ride, doesn’t give me a lot of opportunities to impart the small amount of knowledge that I have, but I’m going to keep trying. Tradition matters.