Show some humility.

What is it about bike racing that breeds selfishness? Are we just a sport populated by well-to-do, mostly white, mostly spoiled kids who live a sheltered life of titanium and carbon? I have interacted with a number of fast racers in my cycling tenure. While I have met many amazing, interesting, humble riders, I am usually left with the same reoccurring question at the end of the day. Do these guys care about anyone but themselves?

I’ve kept quiet about the sickening pretentiousness of upper-tier cyclists. This is my appeal to bike racers everywhere. Shed your sense of self worth and consider that your struggles in the face of the local Cat 2 field are important only as much as they make you a better person. Your wattage, your bikes, your results, they matter but likely do not define your existence and surely do not justify your conceit.

I have a treasure chest of examples of cyclists whose selfishness makes me cringe. My family once hosted a few guys from Columbia University who ate our food, dirtied our sheets and towels, pissed on the side of my house, and forgot to say any kind of thanks after it all. I have hosted bratty (but oh so promising!) junior riders who cared too much about their cycling development to share gratitude for the free housing and personal inconveniences. I have raced the collegiate scene for six years, during which I’ve seen many A riders who are just too fast to get up early and cheer for their slower teammates. I raced for four years with a guy named Andrew who never once asked me how my race went. Andrew had thousands of dollars worth of carbon TT equipment and all the cycling entitlement in the world. He also had a team who couldn’t give a shit if his threshold improved by four watts or if he won the race.

Today I was blown away by a blog post from a past ECCC champion about the first weekend of racing this year. I can’t help but cite a few choice quotes, at the risk of breaking anonymity. I’ve never met this guy personally. He is very fast. He is probably genuine and well-intentioned. Yet, all we get is a pretentious air of elitism. About his unique bamboo bike he writes,

…it attracted such incredible crowds of people that I could barely warm up for my races!

I was there. This was just not true. Next, he humbly says,

I personally had great sensations and am clearly the strongest in the field.

Oh really? That’s nice to hear (he did not win any of the races). Even if he was holding back, or not peaking, or whatever reason you want to put forward, what is the point of saying this? Hey everyone, I’m so fast that I could have beaten you if I wanted!

Finally, he sells us this gem of untruth,

Bamboo is just an amazing material because nature has found a way to optimize stiffness, strength, durability, and pliability over millions of years of evolution.

Ummm, no. Bamboo is “optimized” by evolutionary pressures to grow more bamboo. Bamboo does not care about bicycles. There is no a priori reason to assume bamboo gives a rat’s anus about the demands put on a bike frame. But I digress; we’re getting off topic…

I am continually amused at the number of semi-pros, elite amateurs, and self-professed awesome riders who maintain blog shrines to themselves. These blogs can be identified by tables of personal wattage conquests, self-centered race/training babbling, and the distinct feeling that nobody is reading them. To be clear, I’m not against setting personal goals, tracking progress, and sharing training thoughts with the world. I am against boring posts, inflated egos, and the thinking that going fast somehow qualifies one to be a pompous ass.

I love cycling and am anything but bitter about the people with whom I share the activity. Yet there persists an ugly hubris amongst its upper ranks. These people forget that fitness is frail and a privilege. They have forgotten, or never experienced, what it is like to get dropped from every race one enters. They operate under the disillusion that the world watches their threshold power progress with bated breath. Their passion for the sport is wed to a desire to accumulate gear and count kilo Joules.

I’ll end with a quote from the website of a successful professional rider and convicted doper who once stayed at my house. His website puts forth this quote from Thoreau,

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

And don’t forget to wear your palmares on your sleeve.

 

~ by wcuk on March 4, 2008.

19 Responses to “Show some humility.”

  1. bamboo is also a very invasive and problematic plant to most ecosystems.

  2. “These blogs can be identified by tables of personal wattage conquests, self-centered race/training babbling, and the distinct feeling that nobody is reading them.”

    Once upon a time I had a blog that parodied such blogs. Then it was no longer a parody, so I quit.

    Can we get some awkard explanations why something is funny or another boring science post? I haven’t had one o’ thems in a while.

  3. I have been around bikers for almost 7 years and I still haven’t come across any biker who isn’t selfish or conceited *wink*. I also have 10+ years of experience with swimmers, and the same self-centered attitude applies to all those swimmers out there who made it to Junior Olympics or the Olympic trials. Perhaps one day they will learn, although I doubt it.

  4. You know what panda bears eat for lunch, don’t you?

    They eat-a bamboo!

  5. At some point, isn’t having an inflated sense of your ability and importance to the world part and parcel of being successfully competitive? So says this unsuccessfully competitive Sport class MTB racer.

  6. Heh, one of your boy’s bamboo bikes got skewered on BSNYC a while back:

    http://bikesnobnyc.blogspot.com/2008/02/fixedgeargalleryof-pop-quizzes.html

  7. I think a lot of it has to do with the teeny tiny sliver of a world they live in. You’re only a ‘god’ in the the little cycling world. Go to a track meet and they could give a fuck about you. There’s already a sprinter there who thinks they’re The Man.

    But true, the phenomenon does seem particularly true of cyclists. I half wonder if it’s high price of bikes and bike clothing that breeds the snobby, materialistic elitism.

  8. “Bike jocks are still jocks”. Sticker that seems to pretty much sum it up. To keep perspective, though, bike racers don’t seem as prone to rape and misogyny as, for instance, college football players. So, maybe cycle racing actually creates a more refined breed of jock, and we shouldn’t ask for much more?

  9. When the epic battle of your sports pinnacle race is sandwiched between bow hunting and bull riding shows, you have no right to gloat.

    s.

  10. I’d say bike racers are just as prone to misogyny as football players – the seeming absence of physical violence (off the playing field) may have more to do with the diminutive size of most bike jocks than with any refinement within cycling culture.

  11. i personally have great sensations and the best hair in the field

  12. Aaah jeez, yup being a contrarian I always enjoy being conscientious on the bike, racing or otherwise, even if it’s just some grunts from the pain cave, I mean to extend the love one way or another. One of the funnniest things I remember from racing ECCC was one of the kids i was always racing against telling me that he felt good and that he was going to beat me, I responded that I wasn’t felling real hot and he probably could. Then I won, whatev,, now we’ve got a grand ol idea out here in colorado, the STompArillaz, of whom I am one, are going to race in the 18 hours of Fruita in May. Except we’re gonna race our xtra cycles, so any and all type a bike lust b.s. will be gladly strapped to the back and then tossed off into the colorado river, HA! Oh and because we’re on the subject, I’ll tell you the secret sign, especially useful in NYC when encountering hipster fixsters, and or for pretensious roadies, take your hand and place your thumb on your nose and waggle your fingers, pretty much the best thing I’ve ever done for the cycling elite…. m

  13. i’m curious why he is riding a sol bamboo bike when he is on the time team and thus should be riding, and generating press for, the time carbon bike?

  14. I wish Colin did not lead me here, but since I dropped by… Why is it the sites that ‘skewer’ cycling get the most readers? It is the neck bender ‘phänomene’, we can’t help to commiserate with others. Granted, one needs a certain amount of self-confidence and belief to race at the upper levels or with certain expectations, but I don’t believe that automatically makes you and elitest or arrogant. IE. Travis Brown, if anyone had a reason to be stoked on thyself, it would be he. But he is rather a pleasant person, friendly to others, always willing to talk to whom ever approaches him. I could go one and draw out a list of riders who are equally as approachable and downright nice people, but who could also kick your ass every day including on Sunday. BUT, there is one point that needs to be made, to be good takes sacrifice. Sacrifice of time to have with family and friends. Sacrifice of going out because you need to rest for tomorrows training or race. Sacrifice of sweets or alcohol to keep the motor running clean. And so on. If you cannot understand these sacrifices, or this self-imposed exile, dosen’t make it wrong, just different. Quit being so quick to label and shun other different you and practice tolerance, I know t won’t drive readers to your blog, but it will make you that nice cyclist that you seem to be seeking.

  15. re: 34×18

    will is too nice to respond (or too lazy), but i’m appalled enough by your comment to respond myself.

    first of all, the broad brush:
    you accuse him of grouping cyclists together and “skewering” them (insert QR joke here), and in doing so, painting guys like Brown with the same broad brushstroke. so, what, he can’t comment on the jerks without calling all cyclists jerks? does he not concede early on that he’s met “many amazing, interesting, humble riders?” i submit that the only way to interpret this post as an overgeneralization is to have ignored what the author actually wrote.

    the non sequitor:
    how does arrogance follow from sacrifice? sure, healthy living, social life of a monk, blah blah great. how does that lead to selfishness? which brings me to my next point: fender stratocasters are better than any gibson ever made. you should buy a stratocaster. it would make you a better guitarist.

    last but not least, the ad hominem attack:
    “Quit being so quick to label and shun other different you and practice tolerance… it will make you that nice cyclist that you seem to be seeking”
    wow. wow. you must be fun to hang out with. will you be my friend?

  16. re:Don

    The lady doth protest too much. OK, lets peel the onion here. 1) the author does use a broad brush to paint all cyclists in the light he has chosen, you conveniently left out the second half of the quote above, “I am usually left with the same reoccurring question at the end of the day. Do these guys care about anyone but themselves?” Ergo – “What is it about bike racing that breeds selfishness?” Bike racing doesn’t breed selfishness nor more than listening to Rock N’ Roll breeds juvenile delinquency. My reference to Travis was one made to someone you might recognize, I could have easily have fired off a laundry list of top riders in Colorado you would have no reference to. Most of the people I know who race, started with a passion for the sport, and took it from there, and further more these people, even those with ‘real’ day jobs realize their own fortune. My point is that bike racing is not the issue here, the author and his circle of friends and acquaintances are at the core of the issue here.

    I am not saying there are not assholes and self-serving riders in our ranks, I just see them as the exception, not the rule.

    2) I never said that sacrifice leads to arrogance, it can be misinterpreted that way, though I don’t see that is the case with the examples listed by the author. I was mearly making that point because I have seen that misunderstanding before between riders, but knowing better of both parties.

    3) As per you final request- to quote Seinfeld- “No thanks, I have enough friends.”

  17. Don (and others that I’m sure are eager to respond), there’s no point arguing with this guy . . . he has all the hallmarks of hippie pothead MTBer (mtb, singlespeed, flaky, liar, etc) and as I can assure you from personal experience, conducting a logical argument is not possible because they’re not rational.

    Now that I’ve made my own ad hominem attack, let the record show that I myself am one of those “upper-tier racers” who has no humility. Sometimes it’s for real, sometimes it’s for kicks but one thing I sure can tell you is there are far more “me’s” out here on the Right Coast than there are “Travis Browns”. Perhaps it’s a function of geographical attitude, as I’ve heard secondhand that, out in the West, “it’s all about riding the bike, maaaan.”

    love forever,
    the “34×18? you must be some kind of superhuman” Jenksster

    p.s. man i love teh internets . . . i haven’t participated in a flamewar like this since the infamous LKML microkernal debate of ‘aught four!

  18. So I am Nick Frey, the egotistical and pretentious fast-guy. A friend of mine found this blog and told me to read the post, and I must say, I am surprised at how pissed-off people can get. I write about cycling, both racing and training, on my blog so that others (it was created for friends and family to keep up) can see what I am up to, how racing and life in general is going, etc. I never write boastfully or to put my numbers or performances up against others to say that I am better. As one gets faster and moves up the ranks, it is even more apparent how slow he is relative to the fastest guys. This is why you have to be humble, understand that the sport is the most demanding in the world, and just stick with it. That said, you have to have self-confidence to know that you are a good rider, that you are learning and improving, or you will just be pack-fill, a rider who just gets pissed at the fastest guys for winning the races.

    I find your three quotes from my Rutgers post quite interesting–the first is meant to elaborate on how many people were asking me about the bike and how much interest it generated. Obviously I can warm up and talk at the same time, sorry for EXAGGERATING. I am proud of the bike because MY FRIENDS AND I BUILT IT. We didn’t go out and drop $2695 for a Bamboo Calfee, we freaking went to the river and cut down bamboo and tested and tried and built it. You call that pretentious and elitist?

    The second quote, touche. I agree, that statement definitely compares myself to others and I purport to be the strongest. Well, you know what? Strongest does not mean fastest or the winner. Strongest means I had a ton of training with no anaerobic top-end, as well as being so marked by the field that “FREY!” was yelled every time I attacked. Sorry for being *slightly* frustrated at such negative racing, as well as describing the first test of the season in which I obviously didn’t win and was trying to both make myself feel better about it as well as learn from it and move forward.

    The third quote, about bamboo naturally being optimized, IS TRUE. I am sorry that you do not understand how bamboo “grows more bamboo” . . . it does so by not being knocked down by the wind, by growing quickly and spreading quickly and maximizing its height in order to rise above other brush and get sunlight. Wind’s forces cause it to naturally optimize its cross-sectional shape and move its high-tensile-strength lignin fibers to the perimeter of the shaft for maximum second moment of inertia, a basic principle you would have learned in solid mechanics if you had any type of an engineering background. A bike frame requires stiff, light tubes–bamboo doesn’t give a shit if it will be made into a bike frame, and it has not evolved specifically for that purpose, but that doesn’t mean a creative group of engineers can’t make use of it in that capacity.

    Finally, in response to one of the comments, yes I race for Time Pro Cycling, and yes I am sponsored by Time and part of my obligations is to promote their brand. However, in collegiate cycling, I am not racing for Time, and it is obviously not on the same level as an NRC race that may be shown in VeloNews or on cyclingnews.com. Erik Saunders has since asked me to just ride the Time, but at that point in the season in a collegiate race, it was fine to ride a homemade bamboo bike.

    I would just like to say that I am an honest, good guy and I only wish to encourage other potential cyclists to discover the sport that is my life’s passion. I think it is ridiculous that you stand up and criticize all “fast” riders as being self-centered and pretentious . . . this sport requires you to be self-centered to succeed, but what pursuit in life does not require that as you get the the highest levels? Even doctors are incredibly self-centered in general, but I do not hear you criticizing them and their actions. Show some intelligence and some maturity in your opinions, and maybe you will no longer be one of those cyclists who just rants and complains about their sport and the people in it.

  19. Commence pwnage:

    “A friend of mine found this blog and told me to read the post”

    Puh-leeze. You were Googling yourself, weren’t you? Come on, we all do it. Just admit it.

    “I find your three quotes from my Rutgers post quite interesting”

    I find your lack of faith . . . disturbing.

    “I am proud of the bike because MY FRIENDS AND I BUILT IT.”

    Sweet, my mom was proud of me when I first learned how not to piss myself. I’ll go blog about it.

    “You call that pretentious and elitist?”

    Yes.

    “The second quote, touche. I agree, that statement definitely compares myself to others and I purport to be the strongest. Well, you know what? Strongest does not mean fastest or the winner. Strongest means I had a ton of training with no anaerobic top-end, as well as being so marked by the field that “FREY!” was yelled every time I attacked. Sorry for being *slightly* frustrated at such negative racing, as well as describing the first test of the season in which I obviously didn’t win and was trying to both make myself feel better about it as well as learn from it and move forward.”

    Ben Showman was pretty strong. Pretty DAMN strong. Are you sure you were the strongest? Who do you think everyone watched for in this year’s edition of Paris-Roubaix? I’m not sure that engineering background to which you later allude will help you out with this one so I’ll give you a hint — his name starts with “T” and ends with “om Boonen”. Ok, maybe that wasn’t fair, I’ll bet Fabian Cancellara thought he was the strongest because he had a ton of training with no anaerobic top-end. Strongest, eh? You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.

    “The third quote, about bamboo naturally being optimized, IS TRUE. I am sorry that you do not understand how bamboo “grows more bamboo” . . . it does so by not being knocked down by the wind, by growing quickly and spreading quickly and maximizing its height in order to rise above other brush and get sunlight. Wind’s forces cause it to naturally optimize its cross-sectional shape and move its high-tensile-strength lignin fibers to the perimeter of the shaft for maximum second moment of inertia, a basic principle you would have learned in solid mechanics if you had any type of an engineering background. A bike frame requires stiff, light tubes–bamboo doesn’t give a shit if it will be made into a bike frame, and it has not evolved specifically for that purpose, but that doesn’t mean a creative group of engineers can’t make use of it in that capacity.”

    Natural selection is a basic principle you would have learned in evolutionary theory if you had any type of a biology background. I often shit some very stiff, light tubes — should I try to make a bike frame out of that? I’ll bet I could get a creative group of fecalphiliacs to make use of it in some capacity or another.

    “Finally, in response to one of the comments, yes I race for Time Pro Cycling, and yes I am sponsored by Time and part of my obligations is to promote their brand. However, in collegiate cycling, I am not racing for Time, and it is obviously not on the same level as an NRC race that may be shown in VeloNews or on cyclingnews.com. Erik Saunders has since asked me to just ride the Time, but at that point in the season in a collegiate race, it was fine to ride a homemade bamboo bike.”

    Erik Saunders head is bigger than the moon . . . ’nuff said. (p.s. wear your helmet — it’d be a shame to waste that Ivy League engineering background of yours because some yuppie on Nassau was too busy sipping his triple decaf double mocha single shot deuce and a half crappucino to notice that wicked fast helmet-less pro bike racer cruising up alongside him).

    “I would just like to say that I am an honest, good guy and I only wish to encourage other potential cyclists to discover the sport that is my life’s passion. I think it is ridiculous that you stand up and criticize all “fast” riders as being self-centered and pretentious . . . this sport requires you to be self-centered to succeed, but what pursuit in life does not require that as you get the the highest levels?”

    So what are you saying here? That you are, in fact, self-centered and pretentious because, let’s be honest, you are at the highest level (give or take)? Why take offense to being called the same, then? I don’t bitch and moan when people call me an asshole.

    “Even doctors are incredibly self-centered in general, but I do not hear you criticizing them and their actions”

    Well you never criticized communists or terrorists or murderers or their actions on your blog! Why do you hate America? I guess that any type of an engineering background doesn’t cover logical fallacies, does it?

    “Show some intelligence and some maturity in your opinions, and maybe you will no longer be one of those cyclists who just rants and complains about their sport and the people in it.”

    The opinion was pretty well fleshed out and supported with initial premise stated, multiple examples cited as well as conclusions drawn and further steps suggested. Didn’t your class on maximum second moment of inertia in solid mechanics teach you to form and support a coherent argument?

    Like I said before, I haven’t had this much fun in an internet flamewar since the ol’ LKML microkernel debate of aught four (only half-joking here). Come on Nick, join the dark side (like I already have) and just admit you’re better than everyone else (except me). Or take the guilty way out and say, “meh, you’re right wcuk, I could stand to be a bit more humble, although I still think my bamboo bike is pretty sweet.”

    Love for always and for ever and always,
    theJenksster

    p.s. if the italics don’t format the quotes right, it’s not my fault. Blame wcuk for not having a preview button!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: