Bicycling as an Aesthetic and Ascetic Pursuit

Photo by Jered Gruber

The original title of this post when I started it almost six months ago was “Strava and the continued douchification of bicycling”. But since then enough has been said about Strava and I actually like Strava quite a bit except for the stupid segments. I’m afraid the real problem is the way cycling seems to attract a certain type of person with not just a lack of character, but a lack of basic appreciation for the beauty of our world or other people.

This, I think, is a factor of approaching the sport not just from a competitive standpoint, but one that actually opposes what I would consider a more honorable way: that of riding a bicycle as an aesthetic, and ascetic, pursuit.

I realized that many of my posts about cycling have to do with this aesthetic. Turn; Super Bowl; When in Doubt, Ride Hard; Hell, Let’s Keep Talking About Bikes; Dear Fellow Recreational…; Yet Another Post About Bicycling; L’Eroica; The 2011 Festive 500.

Photo by Jered Gruber

So instead of putting more words to the topic, I thought I’d just share some more examples. Thing is, even though as I recently observed with some friends, “Bike racing attracts a certain kind of douchebag,” it’s not really about racing or not racing. It’s about the central Thing. If that Thing is numbers or ego, then the aesthetic is likely lost. If it is about man, machine and motion, well, that’s a better start. A desire not just for the attainable win, but for the ever-ellusive souplesse.

Photo by Jered Gruber

One of the best ways to understand the aesthetic of which I speak is through photography. One of my favorite photographers in this genre is Jered Gruber. He was kind enough to allow me to use some of his photographs in this post.

Photo by Jered Gruber

Another group of people who get this, despite being some of the fastest people in the world, are those of the Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda professional cycling team. They had a sub-par Tour de France; both their leaders crashed out of the race; although they still later won a stage in dramatic fashion. Here are some highlights from just a month ago, when things were going much better:

The Impossible Hour (or skip to the really good part)

A Sunday in Hell

I Don’t Train:

I don’t even use a computer or speedometer or anything anymore, unless I’m going way out of the Lehigh Valley and figure I’ll want to use a Garmin to find my way home eventually. Sometimes even then, though, I just wing it. I like the idea of winging it. Of being something on the wing. I like that better than knowing how long I spent in zone five.