Let’s see, we have the lycra/roady tribe, the urban/fixie tribe, the commuter/utility/cargo tribe, the mountain/downhiller tribe, the recumbent/velomobile/trike tribe, the ultra-endurance/randonneur tribe, the cycle chic/vélo-couture tribe, the electric assist tribe, the friction shift tribe, the twist shift tribe, the platform pedal tribe, the clipless pedal tribe, the people-who-only-ride-cheap-bikes tribe, the people-who-only-ride-expensive-bikes tribe, and on, and on. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget the two biggies: the pro-helmet tribe, and the anti-helmet tribe.
Divisions among divisions are by no means unique to bicycling, you see them in almost every walk of life. Music, art, sports, politics, religion, you name it; if we can set ourselves apart and exclude others by setting some arbitrary and obscure boundary, by gosh, we’re going to do it. Since this phenomenon is so widespread, I suppose it must be some normal part of the human psyche, but I have to think it’s counter-productive in many situations.
The above classifications focus on differences, instead of looking at what we bicyclists all have in common. If we flip this way of thinking on its head, it’s not difficult to see how much we all share, both technically and, more importantly, in our over-arching goals as devotees of human powered transport.
So what are some of the commonalities shared by bicyclists from different tribes? We all make our way either partially or fully under human power. We all face the same challenges on the road with regard to automobiles, infrastructure, weather, and terrain. We all love our machines, regardless of what kind they are and how they’re used. We’d all like to see more bicycles and fewer automobiles on our roads. We’d all like to see more bicycle-specific infrastructure. And, whether or not we consider ourselves environmentalists, most of us realize we can’t continue to pollute the planet and consume natural resources at the same rate we have for the past 100 years.
Seeing how much we have in common, I’d like to suggest that we spend a little less time defending our personal tribes and a little more time thinking about ourselves as part of the larger group of all bicyclists. There’s no need to sub-divide and criticize — we have common interests and common concerns! Oil is going to run out. The environment is in a shambles. Bicycles and bicyclists of all sorts can be a part of the solution. We can work together to spread the word about health, conservation, the environment, and yes, even fun. Criticizing one another for our equipment choices does nothing but divide us and distract us from the more important issues we all want to tackle.