Fear Of Commitment

Fear Of Commitment

This past Friday I shared my first impressions of the Colnago Titanio Molto Bene Bititan Doppio Top-Tubio Extravaganzio Con Formaggio, and this past weekend I got to spend a little more time on it:

My impression that this is a stiff, race-oriented bicycle best suited an aggressive rider remains fundamentally unchanged. To be clear, that’s not a bad thing–that’s the whole point of a bike like this, after all. Furthermore, even though I don’t really race anymore, I still get a kick out of riding racing bicycles. This one is particularly exciting, partially because of how it rides, and partially because it crackles with mid-90s extravagance, making the fall foliage seem monochromatic in comparison.

On this particular ride, I headed over the George Washington Bridge, north on the so-called “River Road” that parallels the Hudson, and then back via Route 9W. This is by far the most popular road bike route in the New York City area, and the vintage Colnago certainly stood out among the unceasing stream of S-Works (S-Workses?) which you’d be forgiven for thinking are the only road bicycles available for purchase in the region. I enjoyed every pedal stroke, and on the renowned “Ranger Station Climb” (probably the most hill-repeated incline in the continental United States) I felt like the bike was imbued with some sort of extra-special climbing magic. I’m not saying I was any “faster” than usual (I’m never fast), but I did feel like I was, and I even found myself upshifting on the climb, which never happens.

Then again, maybe I just had a tailwind, because the headwind on Route 9W for my return was formidable. In fact, it was so strong that I even used the Spinacis to help me push through it!

For years I’d look at all those tridorks on 9W and wonder to myself, “Who the hell would want to do a road ride with aerobars?” Well, it turns out that if you’re on a flattish, straight road for a prolonged period of time they can actually be pretty useful, go figure.

(And no, I won’t be fitting Spinacis to my other bikes, I’ll just stick to my policy of avoiding flattish, straight roads as much as possible.)

So much did I enjoy my outing on the Colnago that I almost rode it the next day too, but ultimately I decided it was in my best interest to take things down a few notches and comport myself in a more dignified fashion:

It’s fun being Eurotrash Griswold:

But it also feels profoundly liberating going back to Regular Griswold:

Moving on, the science is settled; everybody knows the planet is doomed and we’re all going to die. Recently, in a last-ditch effort to save us, the world’s richest and most powerful people flew private jets to Scotland where they talked about how everyone else should be eating bugs. The cycling industry is doing its part too, and they’ve even made a commitment to help stop climate change, or something:

Frankly, I think it’s kind of adorable that the cycling industry thinks it has a profound impact on anything, let alone the fate of the entire planet. It’s also cute that a bunch of companies obsessed with using carbon whenever possible are giving themselves credit for “decarbonising our world:”

Unfortunately for the cycling industry, it turns out that building bicycles requries them to commit the unforgivable sins of turning raw materials into products and then sending them to the people who want to use them. So they’re going to do less of that by making stuff that’s more durable and encouraging customers to keep it longer:

This is an amusing pledge coming from companies such as Specialized:

Whose entire corporate identity is “Innovate Or Die:”

Sure, you could read that as, “We must innovate new ways to become more sustainable or we’ll all going to die,” but what it really means is (and I’m paraphrasing), “Crank out new shit constantly”–or, in their own words:

Executing every whim in carbon and resin, doesn’t sound all that sustainable, does it? The same thing goes for pretty much all the signatories. Consider Assos, a company specializing in clothing made from petroleum-based fabric that you can only wear in highly specific situations:

I’m pretty sure everything Assos sells is make from oil–as is Assos Guy himself:

That hair alone requires more oil than a Hyundai Elantra.

To be perfectly clear: I have no problem with Specialized, or Assos, or Dorel, Vittoria, or any of the other signatories to this commitment. They all make cool stuff that you can buy or not buy, and ultimately their drive to constantly develop and market new products benefits us all, whether we choose to buy any of it or not. Sure, the world of cycling is littered with “innovations” that went nowhere (canned-air shifting, anyone?), but many of the products we now consider indispensable were developed in the same spirit: pneumatic tires, steel frame tubing, derailleurs, aluminum rims, and so on. Rivendell may celebrate the “unracer” and eschew carbon fiber, low handlebars, and all the rest of it, yet most of the components on my Homer Hilsen are the product of over a century of race-inspired innovation.

So no, I have nothing against these companies whatsoever; it’s just amusing to watch an industry that really doesn’t have to make any excuses for itself joining in the ritualistic hand-wringing demanded by the climate change death cult. It’s also completely at odds with their actual ethos: in recent years we’ve seen the demise of the quick release skewer, the “narrow” rim and tire, the rim brake, and the mechanical drivetrain–killed not by some fundamental deficiency but by marketing that exploits consumers’ willingness to emulate the riders at the pointy end of the sport. We’ve also seen the battery become an integral part of not only ebikes but pretty much any high-end bicycle, to the point that SRAM is now pushing it on mountain bike suspensions. Again, I have no problem with any of this–in fact bring it on!–but it’s wholly incompatible with creating “products that will last longer” or “lifetime extension.” Until recently the bicycle required nothing but human power and some air in the tires in order to move, but now it’s fully on the grid.

Of course, cleaner and more efficient manufacturing processes and shipping methods are hugely important–forget the climate, who the hell likes having to go around all those trucks in the bike lane??? Also there are probably lots of bikes floating around in boats off the coast of California right now. But those things aren’t going to get better because some companies signed a pledge, or because we need to play “beat the clock” against the latest doomsday prediction. Ironically, a more efficient bike industry will be the result of the same “kids in the sandbox coming up with crazy shit” spirit companies like Specialized espouse in their less sanctimonious moments–they’ll keep improving all that for the simple reason that more efficiency equals greater prosperity.

While I personally find the contradictions inherent in the commitment irksome, I certainly don’t blame the companies for issuing this statement–hey, they sell bikes, and you gotta say what you gotta say if you wanna keep doing business with the kinds of people who ride them! As for a real “climate commitment,” if this situation is truly this dire, these companies should immediately sign the following pledge:

An “Innovation” Freeze

We in the cycling industry recognize that the basic idea of the bicycle is almost 150 years old. While we’ve improved on it considerably over that time, most of these improvements are essentially refinements of the original concept. Therefore, given how well the bicycle works now, and in the interest of preventing obsolescence, which in turn creates waste, we will no longer design or execute any new products or ideas, effective immediately.

Sustainable Materials Commitment

As much as we’d like to sell you a new bike, we regret it takes tremendous resources to create the materials for our frames, whether they’re made from carbon fiber, steel, aluminum, or titanium. Therefore, we will be suspending frame production immediately and referring all customers looking for a new bicycle to Craig Calfee, who has been building bamboo bikes for decades–provided of course you furnish us with documentation that you first made a good-faith attempt to obtain a used bicycle.

Leading The Carge By Eliminating The Need To Charge

All signatories of this pledge agree that their bicycles and products will be 100% battery-free, the exception being cargo bicycles designed to carry a payload of at least 300lbs, which may be equipped with a pedal assist. Any customer purchasing such a bike must present proof that it has replaced at least one motor vehicle in their household, and that said vehicle has been crushed and recycled.

Wear It Out

In the case of consumables, we will of course sell you replacements, but only after you present us with the worn item. Upon receipt, we will determine that it is indeed fully worn, or if it can be repaired, before selling you a direct replacement. Please note that upgrading is not a valid reason for replacement–sadly, we cannot justify the additional resources given the dire state of the climate. However, you can take satisfaction in knowing your worn items will be recycled if possible.

Attire Pledge

Assos and Rapha, both signatories of the original Climate Commitment, recognize that maintaining separate on-the-bike and off-the-bike wardrobes is profoundly wasteful. They also recognize it’s entirely possible to ride a bicycle while wearing ordinary clothes and without a foam pad in your crotch, and that the materials used for cycling clothes are often not sustainable. (See: that foam pad in your crotch.) Therefore, all production of technical bike-specific attire–including but not limited to bib shorts, arm and leg warmers, gilets, tight-fitting jerseys, etc.–will cease, effective immediately. This will mean the end of our companies, but it’s a small price to pay to secure our collective future. Thank you for your patronage, it has been a pleasure to serve you.

Goodbye Helmets!

Bicycle helmets are of dubious effectiveness yet are made from petroleum-based EPS foam and must be replaced on a regular basis or if structurally compromised. This is deeply wasteful and antithetical to our attempt to save the planet. We hereby pledge to end the sale, manufacture, and promotion of bicycle helmets immediately. In the future we’re building, we won’t need them.

OK, bike companies, now step right up and sign!

No takers, huh?

Yeah, I thought so.

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