Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The commodification of a culture.

Mr Burt Hoovis and I and a few others were riding the other week while he was visiting Pittsburgh. We were talking about Rapha Clothing and their version of cycling. From what the group could gather, it is an overpriced clothing line, similar to Assos, but with the street cred of spoke punchers or some other basement done DIY clothing.

Their advertising seems to push the idea that all riding is epic, and epic rides are best done with lots of photos showing 200 dollar bib shorts. Fine. People need clothing. I have expensive bike stuff. Whatever.

However I am going to share a few stories. These are proof that you dont need any of that stuff to be Epic, and chances are people doing Epic stuff dont really have it.

Story One: Summer 2000. Western North Dakota / Eastern Montana.

If you ever have the chance to cycle across the country, do it. If you follow a prescribed route that is mapped out by Adventure Cycling, the people along the route are familiar with your type. When we stopped in stores or cafes people would tell us that we were 2 days behind somebody, or that somebody going the other way had just stopped in.

Anyway, we had a group chasing us for over a month before they caught us. They were good kids from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Without knowing it, they were some of the most DIY people ever. They all rode low end mountain bikes, one huffy. They were about 2500 miles into a 4000 mile trip. Instead of racks and panniers, they outfitted their bikes with garden hose holders, clamped to their seat stays, filled with their gear wrapped inside tarps. The only word I can use to describe it was "punk" but they were not punk at all, they were just enthusiastic kids with no money making the best of it.

I know they were cheaper than us, and I spent 800 dollars in 70 days. Total.

Next story is the Chew man. Right now.

As you probably have read, Danny is riding to Alaska and back. 10,000 miles or so round trip. Danny is also doing it on minimal money and equipment. Danny still has shorts with suede chamois. Danny gets 10,000 miles out of a chain.

I guess that I just want to point out the bottom line. Epic is relative. A single day century can be as epic for some as racing the Tour Divide is for others. Either way, buying stuff does not make epic experiences. Likewise selling a product as "epic" hardly makes you down. If you are considering buying 250 dollar bibs, maybe buy the 80 dollar bibs, and put 170 toward entering the Shenandoah 100, or taking your dream bike tour, or buy 2 and give the other to a junior rider.


Jason said...

Well said.

Anonymous said...

Yo - does this "chew" fella have a job? / how does he support his 100 mile a day habit?