Friday, March 5, 2010

Gearing Up For Riding Season

Today I went to the 24th Annual Toroto International Bike Show, and it made me feel grumpy.

Don't get me wrong: I love bikes. But most of my bikes in the past few years have been either tooled up from scratch, or bought from independent dealers in Toronto. The Bike Show is not like either of those things; instead, it's rows upon rows on ungodly expensive cycling machines, ugly jerseys, and things that are labeled with an incomprehensible series of letters and numbers. Shimano Ultegra 6700? Sounds like something that would get into a harbourfront rumble with Godzilla 3000. I saw hundreds of really, really nice bikes...and nothing that got my blood pumping.

I know it's sort of a hipstery thing to be really into your bike, and talk about parts and routes and how you rebuilt your bottom bracket using only, like, dental floss and an avocado pit. But for us lesser peeps, what ends up happening is an us-v.-them style dichotomy, wherein we have the experts - both trained and lay - and then we have everyone who gets nervous entering a bike shop.

Which happens to include me. I'm not a pro: I like riding my bikes, and I'm interested in cycling culture and making our communities safer and more open to those who choose to put the fun between their legs. But I'm certainly not a gearhead, and bikes are machines. Oh, sure, there's more to them then that: increased mobility on a global scale, a healthy alternative to sit-on-your-butt methods of commuting, an economical way of getting around, a fun way to meet people. But they are first and foremost a machine, and machines have parts. And anything with moving parts will inspire a range of low-to-high knowledge bases. I fit in the most awkward part of that: I know how much I don't actually know.

In addition to feeling totally out of place, the Bike Show was super frustrating because it only repped the gearhead side of the cycling community. I would have liked to have seen more stuff, in a wider range: bags and spoke cards, magazines and books, clothes that weren't tacky jerseys (or the line that was designed especially for women-type folks, and I can't decide if that's condescending or cool), family-oriented stuff, more BMX stuff, and maybe a hey-how's-your-bike-running setup. I realize it's a trade show, but unlike the annual auto shows, cycling actually inspires some people to feel part of something. It would have been nice to go and feel included, even though I'm not a pro.

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