Last week I was banging on about how much I’ve learned about riding in the last eighteen months, since I started riding with the group I ride with now. The occasion for my rant/ observations was spawned by twitter conversation I had earlier in the day, in which the current state of amateur racing was being compared unfavourably with the way it was done in the past. I tried, and most likely failed to respond in a way that wasn’t defensive.
My defensive stance was a protective one. I would agree with the premise that the way people are taught now (I won’t say young ones, since for the most part people in their 30s are not young, nor are they old, but they are the people stepping into cycling for the first time)doesn’t make them better riders, which in some ways isn’t their fault at all. Cycling has gone from a way out of poverty and life off the farm, to a sport with a perceived high barrier to entry and goods that are not only expensive, but also disposable.
Instead they worry–like their team mates–about how cool their kit looks (will it be one WTF Kits?, Will Prolly think it’s cool how we look like we don’t give a fuck? Will he use the royal “We” when he posts about us? Will people who we’ve never met want to buy it off us?) whether or not their socks are boring or follow someone else’s idea of being “creative”, and of course; how many watts they are putting out. The pursuit of bigger power numbers and KOMs. “I’m a better rider than you because: of my numbers; because I can ride you off my wheel through Leschi; because I drop you on the climbs”. Never mind the fact that they can’t ride close to someone; don’t point out pot holes; can’t ride in straight line as they fish that rice cake out of their jersey pocket; and have to stop to put their jacket on when a rain shower passes over head.
In short, I guess I’m saying that the last of the “Old Guard” is right. People getting into the sport today (I consider myself a portion of this group)–speaking generally here– don’t give a hoot about the history of cycle racing, don’t care to spend time learning how to pace line properly. What they care about is increasing their speed/ power at threshold, whether or not they look cool, and the mother of all reasons to join up with a team: how big a discount you get at sponsoring shop.
If you think I’m being smug, or judgemental, then please know that I spent a lot of misdirected time and energy worrying about the above ranted about subjects. But in the last eighteen months, riding with guys who, for the most part are removed from caring about the items most newer riders care about. They may wear the hip gear, but it is unaccompanied by a string of look at me hash tags. The gear maybe new, the bikes might be high end, but the focus is on riding smoothly, and staying together: close to the wheel next to and ahead of you. A focus on being a better rider, not a faster rider. These are now my primary concerns.
They are concerns that have become anachronistic. Ideas I want to spend more time exploring and inhabiting with my own riding. With less time devoted to the new shiny things. They aren’t popular concerns–no one gives you kudos for pulling through smoothly–but they are part of the important ones.