The Contrarian…

I don’t “hate”. At least I try not to use that word very much. I used to use it a lot in varying ways. But I was a bit angrier back in the day. Now, “dis-like”?… yeah, I do that quite a bit. So much so, that some people may think that I oppose popular opinion simply to oppose it. But that could not be farther from the truth. Well, at least not super close to the truth.

OK. I will admit that sometimes, in my head, I’ll dismiss a “new” idea before even hearing the explanation or the details of it. And the kicker is, that I will dismiss said new idea simply because it’s just that: “new”. Still, this only happens sometimes. And even when that does happen, I will usually end up listening to the idea which, then results in me not actually hating it. Dis-like it? Sure. Reject it? You bet. But not hate it…unless it’s dumb…then….well, that’s another post all together.

Now that I am writing this out, and really thinking about it, it is kind of odd that I have a default setting that has me instantly not like something “new.” Right? I mean, we can agree that that’s odd, right? I dunno, is it?

Let’s take a moment and discuss. Seriously, just for a second, let’s spit ball this.

Is it just me being skeptical? Because I have been skeptical my whole life. Well, at least as long as I can remember. Hmm, maybe. I do know that I’m non-transitional, and believe me, all that know me know that. Plus they get a kick outta pointing it out too, like it’s a crime. So what? I really do not like “change”…hell, I have lived in the same small, neighboring cities for the last 43 years…like within a 2-3 mile radius of where I grew up. So there’s that aspect to consider. Plus, people that know me also know that I am nostalgic…so much so, that it’s almost to a fault. Again…so what!? …I like the way things were…it feels comfortable the way things were. They say that “you can never go home”. Is this what they mean? That you shouldn’t long for the way things were? I think it is what they meant. But I think I have the intelligence to know that the past has it’s flaws and that the future is not promised. So I usually pick and choose what I pine for in the past, try to live in the present and know that the future doesn’t have all of the answers. Anyway, as far as longing for the past goes….it’s really not my fault that a lot of things from a long time ago are done better than they are now or in some cases, were done better than they will ever be done again. Who can dispute that?

Nobody I know.

I mean please don’t mistake what I am saying. I am not burying my head in the “old school” sand and closed off to all change. Just the change that I deem unnecessary. That just happens to be most of it. For me. Sorry, I guess I’m a weirdo.

Alright, enough about me, let’s talk about the bike. I mean, that’s why we’re here right?

When it comes to changing the bicycle, in my opinion, there has been very little done in the way of actually improving the bicycle. And when I say that, I mean actually improving on the initial design of the bicycle. Now, there have been some monumentally significant inventions that have vastly improved our riding experience. I am not going to go into all of them. Hell, I really shouldn’t go into any of them. Mostly because it’s going to be different for most people about most of the “improvements.” that I mention. But since I am #1) not scared and #2) a glutton for punishment via social media badgering, I will name a few.


Here are just a few recent milestones that I personally think most of us can agree made a big impact:

  • The 1 1/8″ thread less steer tube and the thread less 1 1/8″ headset to go along with it.
  • The invention of linear-pull “V” brakes
  • Disc brakes.

And I know there are a few more, but I think these are some that, for sure 99% of us can agree on. The products that are associated with these milestones are things that we have come to take for granted on our bikes now. Even if you were around to watch the standards change because of these new milestones, I bet you mount up now and still forget how it was before they were an everyday deal.

Let’s talk about the disc brake for example. Right off the bat there was going to be a giant improvement to braking performance with the birth of the bicycles hydraulic disc brake over the current canti-lever and linear pull rim brake systems that had become the standard of the time. Two major benefits that would be provided to even the biggest retro-grouch-canti-loving rider that were solid,tangible and undeniable: #1) If you rode in shitty, wet, snowy weather, you were going to stop better. Period. Fact. And #2) If you tweaked your rim outta true on your ride 20 miles from a truing stand, you were going to ride that 20 miles back home gleefully with zero negative effect to your braking performance. Zero. Period. Fact.

So the disc brake took almost 20 years to really come down in price and to become more user friendly. When they hit big in the late 90’s they were noisy, heavy, bulky and a pain for the everyday rider to adjust and bleed. And then there was adjusting the hose length. Cripes! At this point they were almost exclusively spec’d on down hill rigs or the bike industries ill fated Freeride long travel, dual suspension, cross country beast…*snicker*… Anywhoozle, presently both the hydraulic and cable actuated disc brake continue to make leaps and bounds in stopping power, quality, availability and value. Matter of fact, the cost to benefit ratio for both hydros and cable actuated disc brakes are so great that product managers are finally able to start trickling the spec down bike model lines to almost all disciplines and all price points available to the end user. Pretty exciting stuff and what I call a real change to the initial design of the bicycle. And a real honest to goodness benefit to the rider.

Alright, that was a long point…OK, so quick re-cap.

Those few improvements I mentioned (even though I only touched on one) above with the disc brake happening right now, as we speak, became industry standards in their category. And I honestly believe that we would all agree that they were really beneficial to the bicycle and that they actually improved the ride quality and safety for the rider. Not just some stupid gimmick to sell more bikes. And believe me, I know that that kind of marketing is just the nature of the beast. And I accept that. I am just saying think for yourself. Don’t let your local bike shop professional tell you, or the bike industry bully you about what kind of cyclist you will or will not be depending on what gear you chose to ride with…or without.

All right I believe I made my point in showing you what I mean by a real change for the better. If I didn’t or it was long winded and boring…I am sorry. But not really though…and I am sure you probably already knew that.

But wait…This isn’t quite over, I’m not quite done.

I know that there are some cyclists out there that still use a mountain bike with a 1″ threaded steer tube and headset with poor stopping cantilever brakes. And you know what…they are riding a technical trail with grace and precision and an ear to ear smile plastered on their mug. And right now, there’s a road cyclist in the middle of riding a double century on a beautifully lugged steel road bike with an antiquated and beautiful 1″ quill stem. That beautiful stem is clamping a vintage Nitto road bar, all the while, ripping down a gravel decent with no disc brakes in sight, with an ear to ear smile plastered on their mug as well. And there is nothing, I repeat nothing wrong with that. That to me, is what it is ALL about.

It’s cycling’s beautifully glorious past. It should never be forgotten or scoffed at. The gear should be treasured, collected, ridden and preserved. The cyclists that choose to hold on to, embrace and celebrate the past should be respected and not laughed at. We need to remember where we came from, even where our bikes and components evolved from. Whether we are riding a restored beauty from the past, enjoying a bike with the latest greatest or on the hunt for the next futuristic wonder bike, please try to remember: although we are sharing the same thing, we are all on our own journey. Be your own cyclist. Ride what feels right to you. Ride what feels good to you and allows you to have the best two wheeled experience you can have while on…well….two wheels.

We are all cyclists. Love what you do and love one another.

That’s it. See ya next time.

Brycie's tattoo

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