Are you an Unracer?

One of the few things I miss, living in a small Mexican town, is bike riding. The roads in our town are cobbled, so the riding is bumpy and jostling.

There’s one street here without cobblestones. All the others make for slow, bumpy biking. I have an old beater bike and its chain gets rattled off the sprocket regularly while riding on the cobblestones. Cycling on cobblestones is unpleasant enough that most folks in town don’t ride bikes much. Go to other towns in Mexico without cobbled streets, and there’re plenty of bikers.

I’ve been thinking about biking because I’m reading Just Ride by Grant Petersen,  who’s been biking a lot, for years. He’s in the bike business too, making non-trendy bikes for an enthusiastic niche market of people he calls unracers, which is what most people really are.

Petersen advocates just riding your bike. Like you did as a kid. Don’t concern yourself with bike racing culture and its sway over biking culture and unracers, who share almost nothing in common with race culture.

The bike business: bikes, parts, clothes, magazines, fitness and nutrition is all seen through the lens of bike racing. And that’s become an off-putting but seductive problem for most of the non racing bikers. It’s especially distracting for non bikers who might want to try biking a little bit but are intimidated by the dominating world of bike racers and wanna-be-racers.

Before the sixties unracers and racers had more in common. Those racers had little support during races so their bikes were sturdier and more practical.

Now, pro racers are supported throughout races. And they have multiple, specialized, not-built-for-the-long-haul bikes which are given to them new each year by their sponsors.

What racers need isn’t what unracers need. Petersen makes the case for a common sense approach to biking. A super light bike made of exotic materials, specialized pedals and shoes, biking clothes, or a bike sized for a 21-year-old pro racer aren’t what most people need. Petersen thinks you shouldn’t need to “get ready” to bike. The easier you make riding, the more likely you are to use a bike. Most of the racer culture gear inhibit you from just riding your bike. Make it easy and fun, and you’ll do it.