We humans are funny creatures. We can’t help but divide, then divide again, into ever smaller groups, pulling up the drawbridges and fortifying the ramparts after each successive cell division. This strange behavior seems to be hardwired into our psyche.
Cyclists, being the highly-evolved members of the human race that they are (ha!), take this behavior out to the edge of absurdity. First we have bikes; then we have road bikes and dirt bikes; then we branch off into the various subdivisions of single speeds, 3-speeds, cruisers, recumbents, roadsters, folders, tri-bikes, road racing bikes, BMX bikes, crit bikes, cyclocross bikes, commuters, cargo bikes, etc. Then finally, it gets crazy, with long-wheelbase recumbents versus short wheelbase recumbents, 16″ folders versus 20″ folders, 29ers versus downhillers, and on-and-on, ad infinitum.
Don’t get me wrong, I love diversity. Having such a plethora of bikes to choose from is incredible. But it’s pretty weird how we quickly gather into our little groups and defend our ground against the “others” on their strange bikes. And as much as it bugs me, mostly I’m as susceptible as the next guy to this odd form of bicycle induced xenophobia, though at least my position as a bicycle double-agent places me in a unique position to see the absurdity of it all.
See, I’m a bike defector; I crossed enemy lines from uprights (what recumbent riders call “wedgies” with a snicker) to recumbents (what upright riders call “lawn chair bikes” with a sneer), and now I’ve come full-circle back to uprights. Well, I shouldn’t really say “I’ve come full-circle”; it’s more like I drank the Kool-Aid and the Crystal Light. I still ride bents and uprights, as well as folders and roadsters and tandems and…
Somewhere along the way, after all this sleeping with the enemy, I figured out that all bicycles are really cool. Fixies, velomobiles, trikes, SUBs, Chinese roadsters, Dutch city bikes, bents, tandems, unicycles (really!), you name it; I think they’re all amazing. As I outlined in this rant from a couple of months ago, it would be very nice if mainstream dealers stocked a more balanced selection of bikes, but in actuality, we’re pretty damned lucky to have such a smorgasbord of bike goodness at our fingertips.
So maybe we should try expanding the borders a bit, out to a place just this side of car culture. Maybe we should attempt to be more inclusive and focus on all the good things we have in common, instead of getting lost in the minutiae of our differences. Maybe we should take a risk and take a ride on one of those strange bikes sometime, just to see how the other half lives. Who knows, we might be pleasantly surprised by what we find.