Why I Am Not Cool (Part 4 in a continuing series)

As I type these words, I am sitting on my front porch waiting to distribute Halloween candy to the trick-0r-treaters of the neighborhood.  This alone makes me uncool in some cycling circles.  Apparently, many cool riders participate in a Halloween evening ride which removes them from the “bothersome” kids .  Once again, I gladly find myself on the wrong side of a cycling tradition.

But that’s not the subject of this post.  Today’s post concerns my new road bike, the 2011 Trek 2.1, and how it makes me uncool.  One might think that a new road bike would give me many cool points amongst the uber-cyclists, especially when one considers that my previous bike was a Specialized (gasp!) hybrid.  On the whole, this is very true, but it is important to understand that cyclists have an increasingly specific set of discriminators which help them to categorize fellow cyclists.  Cycling has a long history and is full of tradition.  This tradition creates a series of rules and expected behaviors, many of which are perfectly reasonable and many others less so.  An organization called The Velominati has helpfully compiled many of these rules into a simple 82-point reference which can be found here.  Enjoy.

With my Trek, I have committed at least three faux pas which deducts cool points amongst discriminating cyclists:

Saddle Bag.  What’s wrong with a bag to carry your stuff?  Everything, if you are a fanatical cycling aficionado.  The pure cyclist has absolutely nothing on his bike with the possible exception of a cycling computer.  Everything else – pump, spare tubes, car keys, cell phone, energy bars, cue sheets, and anything else a cyclist may wish to carry is to be stowed in one of the three pockets on the back of the cycling jersey.  No exceptions.  Ever.  Sadly, I am not quite willing to part ways with my saddle bag although I will point out that my bag is a rather small one and this helps (to a degree) mitigate against the reprobation which is my due for this violation.

Reflectors.  Notice the reflectors on my bike’s wheels?  They’re shameful.  Likewise, there are reflectors on the front handlebar and the seat post.  You don’t need reflectors on the Tour de France so you certainly don’t need them on your road bike.  Additionally, each reflector weighs several grams and cyclists spend hundreds of dollars removing each and every non-necessary gram from their bike.  It’s a slap in the face to those riders to leave your reflectors on your bike.  Despite this, I find it difficult to part with them.  They hurt absolutely no one and might one day actually reflect light in the direction of a motorist/cyclist who would otherwise collide with me at an unacceptably fast speed.  I think I’ll keep them.

Valve Stem Covers.  My bike has very cool Presta inner tubes.  I’m not sure why these are cool other than the bikes you get at Wal-Mart never have them and therefore this helps set your bike apart from those bikes.  Presta valves are featured on tubes which can hold large amounts of pressure (at and above 120 PSI).  Road bikes typically require this kind of tire and therefore Presta valves are a sign of coolness.  Anyway, the valve stems on these tubes have screw-on covers.  On my bike they’re red.   I’ve read that these covers are required to meet with U.S. shipping regulations and serve no other purpose.  At least that’s what I read on the Internet so it must be true.  Still, I cannot bring myself to discard the things,  so I keep them on and somehow bear the burden of the shame they bring upon me.

I’m really enjoying the Trek 2.1.  It’s a great bike and it’s held up quite nicely over the first 500 miles.  Although there are tell-tale signs of uncoolness on this bike, it could have been MUCH worse: when I bought it I briefly considered having a kickstand installed.  Oh, the horror!!!


14 thoughts on “Why I Am Not Cool (Part 4 in a continuing series)

  1. Hey Steve,
    In racing circles, you may be considered uncool. BUT, there are cyrcles in which it’s very cool to be “FRED”. My touring bike is definitely Fred, but not enough so for me. Some of that attitude has carried over to my “cross” bike, or vice versa, but I’m getting ready to beef up the touring bike with fenders!!!! and trim down the cross bike by removing the rack.
    For a lot of us, our bike is uncool because we have a single bike. Now that I have one for touring and one for fitness, I can trim down the fitness bike. Though it will never be cool to a track cyclist, or a racer.
    You’re cool by virtue of the fact that you realize that your cycling experience and needs are what you need to satisfy.

    • Those who know me well understand that a desire to be considered “cool” is not very high on my list of priorities! Still, I find these little vignettes to be a humorous (to me, at least) way of exploring the world of cycling culture. I learn something after each one of these posts. Heck, Mark (below) just taught me a few things!

  2. also – never take a picture of your bike in the big Cassette ring – it implies “weakness” – and usually you like to take the photo on the chain side. Not sure why.

    you also have to put your skewers on so that, when clamped, they are aerodynamic – keeping them in a vertical plan simply adds too much wind resistance.

    Come over to the dark side. We have cookies…

    • Wow, the list never ends does it? 🙂 The cassette ring rule seems counterintuitive to me since it is the large ring where the top gears can be found. Although I’ve never heard the “chain side” rule for photos, that does make sense when I think about it. After all, how else are we going to show off the really nice crank that we’ve installed? I have heard of the skewers protocol and I’ve read a few detailed descriptions of the acceptable position, but I’ve never quite figured it out so I just leave ’em where the store put them.

      Cookies sounds very nice! For enough warm chocolate-chip cookies and milk, I’d even be willing to shave my legs!

      Whom am I kidding? There aren’t enough cookies on the planet to get me to do that.

  3. Hi Steve, this is what I have to keep my tools and spare tube in. It holds a mini tool kit, 2 tyre levers and a tube. Not beyond the realms of possibility to cut the top off off an old drinks bottle and ram the stuff in, I have seen some guys have done that in the club I ride with. However this one has the advantage of a screw top. It does mean sacrificing one bottle though but I seldom use more than one anyway.

    • That’s pretty neat, Brian. I’ve never seen one of those before. Of course, reducing my fluid capacity by 50% would increase the likelihood that I might use my Camelbak.

      And yes, I’ve just tipped my hand as to what Part 5 in this series will be about!

  4. These lists/rules are actually NOT put together (nor adhered to) by the truly cool cyclists. The riders paying attention to these type of things are considered the UNcoolest of all from the perspective of the true pro cyclists.

    The riders who pay $50 for carbon fiber bottle cages, and remove anything over .001 ounces to lighten their bikes are known as “Weight Weenies” and are laughed at and mocked by secure cyclists.

    My brother – an elite coach with the company that Lance Armstrong uses, a guy who spends every day around the highest level of cyclists, has a saddle bag on his road bike.

    Levi Leipheimer has reflectors on the road bike he cruises around Santa Rosa on. Are any of these list-making rule-following riders as cool as Levi? I doubt it.

    The truly cool cyclists are the ones that aren’t trying to pretend they’re worthy of riding in the TDF. They are the ones who welcome any new cyclist into the community because they know the more people that ride, the cooler it is.

    You are cool, Steve. Because you ride.

    But yeah, good thing you didn’t do the kickstand… no one could have saved you from that.

    • Thanks for the comment, Fizz. Those are interesting anecdotes. I think most people “get it,” but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun looking at the customs, can we? 🙂 Despite the title of the post, I’m not really concerned about whether or not I am cool. I am interested in learning as much as I can. Having a little fun at my own expense along the way is fine as well!

  5. It is fun to have fun, Steve. You’re right. I just think I’ve run across too many of these “cool” riders who scoff at me and my triple crank, then ride off on their Pinarello Dogma to the nearest cafe to sit and sip instead of ride and sweat.

    And to go off topic a bit, I have met so many cool people this year from cycling. It is really a community of generally great people.

    And FYI… I, too, love my little valve stem covers – something even my brother rolls his eyes about.

  6. Presta valves initially seal themselves simply by the air pressure within pushing the valve closed. The extra knurled bit that you tighten to close the valve seals it more tightly, so leakage is minimized and the tire loses its high pressure less quickly. The cap provides no additional sealing, but does contribute a finished look and keeps the valve clean (not important on the road, but for a mountain bike, yes).

    Schraeder valves seal via air and spring spressure, and lose air more quickly at high pressures (or so goes conventional wisdom). They may be a bit heavier as well. If this is a concern, you can make up for the additional weight by cutting your fingernails a little shorter. 🙂

    • Thanks for the explanation, Peter. That certainly makes sense. I haven’t reached the point in my cycling journey where I am counting grams. It’s hard for me to imagine myself doing that. Of course, I just finished a bike ride in freezing temperatures and a year ago I couldn’t have imagined myself doing THAT…

  7. I am glad I found this blog (though it probably not cool to say things like that). You are a most entertaining writer and cheer me up a lot in the horrible weather we having just now here. You seem pretty cool to me but I have mudguards and don’t wear a club top.

    • Thanks for the kind words! No worries about the mudguards and club tops. We all have our personal demons that we must confront when facing the cycling elite! 🙂

  8. It is great to get to know about the cyclists etiquette! For now I won’t start to explore this question further and will continue on exploring my district.

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