Friday, May 18, 2012

Bike To Work Day Blues

I bike to work every day, all year long. There's one day, however, that I particularly enjoy biking to work is (you guessed it) BTWD. I love BTWD and everything it stands for; it’s a day where like-minded folks can get together and geek out commuter style. It's also a day where people who are skittish about riding to work can learn the ropes, get advice, and join the protection of a convoy to get used to the road. It's a great thing.

On this lovely Bike To Work Day I fell victim to the DC pollen and was benched on my favorite day of the year to ride to work. This pissed me off. Then my alarm went off and the first voice I heard was that of Rivendell's Grant Petersen being interviewed on NPR. This really pissed me off.

The worst thing about cycling culture or any other culture for that matter is the large number of judgmental shitholes who get off on telling everyone else that they're "doing it" wrong. This behavior is usually reserved for elitist road or mountain bikers touting the latest unobtainium. This morning however we learned there is a new douche bag in town, the elitist commuter. 

I had to listen to the full interview online...

"Wear the clothes that you're going to wear at work," he says. "Don't dress up like an American Bike Geek just to ride a bicycle to work."
"If your commute is reasonable — say, 10 miles or under — no problem," Petersen adds. "Dress the way you're going to dress for the weather, or the day." 
"Bicycle riding doesn't make a lot of demands on your body, your upper body is still when you're riding and your legs are just turning around in small little circles."
Grant Petersen, who's shop is in Walnut Creek, CA just outside of Berkley, (that place with the best weather in the entire country), wants you to bike to work in the clothes you are planning to wear to work. Anyone who's ridden a bike in DC (or most other parts of the country) knows this is bullshit and would only work a few days out of the year. Grant goes on to say we shouldn't dress like and "American Bike Geek", which I'm guessing means we're not aloud to wear cycling jerseys and shorts. I just want to point out that most European countries, where bike commuting is more mainstream, never have a DC summer.

I'm going to stop here because he said too many stupid things to comment on without getting angry. After this, I'm sure the internet will be full of colorful Grant Petersen critiques. More than anything this interview makes me sad. I think Grant's point was that you don't have to buy the latest high tech race gear to commute to work, which would be a good point had it not been lost in the douche bag delivery. The irony is that in saying don't go hi-tech Grant joined the ranks or all the elitists on the other end of the spectrum.

There was a good opportunity here to inform and encourage novice commuters but Grant dropped the ball.

If you want to know how you should dress while bike commuting, don't listen to Grant Petersen, unless you live in Berkley. If you are new to bike commuting and don't know what to wear, get some advice from local commuters and shop employees who have been riding in the same conditions and roads that you plan to. Consider their advice and then do what makes you happy. Finding the right clothes for your commute can take a lot of trial and error and there is no right fit for everybody.

The bottom line is that if you are comfy wearing shorts in the winter, great; if you like the feel of wool and wearing it all year round is your thing, awesome. If you find what works for you, go for it, just don't let some douche bag, whether they're wearing lycra or tweed, tell you you're doing it wrong.


Rachel said...

good points! glad I missed that interview. we were really sad not to see you out at the Bethesda pit stop this morning, sorry you weren't feeling well! :-/

The Candid Cyclist said...

You totally forgot to mention the irony of Grant Peterson saying that you could get a decent bike for $400. I thought that was pretty funny considering the price of the cheapest Rivendell frame only is more than double (triple?) that.

I followed your comment here from the NPR site. - nice blog.

Chris said...

I wouldn't bike commute in my work clothes! I like my coworkers too much to do that. Seriously though, even if you're "not using your upper body" I still carry a backpack (with my work clothes inside it) and I can get pretty sweaty just from that. Maybe if I pedaled really slowly, but I don't have unlimited time in the morning either.

Perry said...

I'd love to see how he looks arriving to work on an average rainy morning here north of the 45th parallel. Wet levis are awesome to wear at work, they don't dry out all day!

nc dirtbag (formerly dc dirtbag) said...

Anytime a person is put in a position to be a voice for an entire non-monolithic and tremendously diverse cross section of the population it is incumbent upon that person to pay respect to the diversity of the group they are "speaking on behalf of."
Obviously he could not be bothered and so did what was natural to him, which is to assume a goodness of fit of his personal social reality over the local conditions of everyone else's reality. At best it's simply ignorant and stupid. At worst it's arrogant and basically chauvinistic and certainly paternalistic.
This is hardly surprising unfortunately. If there is one thing I've certainly learned over the past decade of riding bikes it's that the outspoken cyclist is someone I want to have nothing to do with. There is no "unity of the bike" or some thing that ties us all together in some existential space. I'm not looking for that so I'm not disappointed, by the way.
It seems like we should be able to assume on some basic level we as cyclists have some small essential thing in common. I guess we do but it's often not very deep at all.
I'm not saying that we should all discount each other's existence. What I am saying is the outspoken cyclist, and the evangelical bike commuter are some folks that I personally don't have time for anymore (if I ever did). They are not speaking on my behalf. Additionally, it seems like there are important psychological factors that allow one to self-appoint as "the voice." In our celebrity worshiping culture there is the expectation that if someone is getting attention they are somehow worthy of it and there is some sort of value to what they're saying. Sometimes there really is of course but just as often it's pure self-indulgent drivel. I think that may be the case at least in part here with Mr. Peterson.

nc dirtbag said...

On a lighter note:

Hahaha. I can only imagine after my 40 minute bike commute during a North Carolina summer (or any of the DC summertime commutes or places like it) what we would look/smell like in our office clothes.
I'm just imagining buttoning up the dress shirt, tying the tie, donning freshly ironed dress pants and hopping on the bike for a sweat fest. Who needs moisture wicking fabrics when you can sweat through all of your clothes and marinate in the stinky moisture of your own stale perspiration all day long through meetings with clients, coworkers and bosses. That would really impress people - great for your career.
(don't sit near that guy - he's a "bike commuter")