Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Morons, Maniacs, Evangelists and Taoboys

In my part of the cycling world, and perhaps in yours too, these are the dark days. It may be cold or dark or wet or windy or maybe your favorite roads or trails are buried under meters of snow. And even if, by virtue of geography and fortune, these aren't your dark days, you probably at least understand about times of which I speak. These are the times that try men's (and women's) souls.

And in this age of blogs and electronic forums, of high-speed Internet and instant messages, when we cannot ride we talk in bits and bytes. Messages fly back and forth at lightspeed while our Litespeeds lie dormant or spin out kilometer after boring kilometer on stationary trainers in cold garages. Even if you are out and riding on your Pugsley or your SnowStuds, it is the hard time and you have to guard against bundling too warmly in smug satisfaction. These are dark and cranky times for us all.

I think about this and I write this with both hesitation and repetition, for these feelings and thoughts recur every year about this time. On the lists and the forums and the meetings I attend, one message is repeated, loudly and insistently and often not civilly. It is the mantra of the dark days: "You're doing it wrong!"

On the randon list right now you will find that riding with any kind of support is so very wrong. On the iBOB list you will find that your fondness for threadless stems and tig welds is some kind of moral flaw. On any recumbent forum you can stop by any day and find out that most of the world's bicyclists are complete idiots, except for the low down and laid back, and even then most of them have committed the unpardonable sin of choosing the wrong brand or model of recumbent. And if you ever want to find out how really wrong you are about bicycling, try being a cycle activist and try to get something done like draft a bicycle master plan for your city. Then you find out that if you either wear or don't wear a helmet you are an idiot. You will find that bike lanes are either saving people or killing them (it depends on who is yelling at you right now). You will also find that Critical Mass is either enlightening the masses or laying the seeds for the eventual banning of bicycles from the streets. And Effective Cycling could save the world if only people wouldn't think we were lunatics...

In all these heated discussions I try to keep in mind the word of a very wise man, a man named George Carlin. George's great observation came to him when he was driving. George realized that he always drove perfectly, at exactly the proper speed for conditions. Anyone driving slower than he was obviously a moron. And anyone who sped by him, of course, was a maniac. It's so simple. The world is filled with morons and maniacs.

It's very easy to think that way. Easy, and most probably, wrong. Why in the world should I think I've got it right? Everybody is somebody else's moron or maniac, why should I be different? If you're riding your bike in conditions that would keep me at home, well then you must be a maniac. If I'm out there and you're staying put well then you're a moron.

Nope, I don't think so. Maybe I don't have a lock on the truth and maybe my evangelising my position won't sway you. Maybe I'm not a moron or a maniac and maybe neither are you. Maybe we are all what Buckminster Fuller called "experiments of one".

I don't think I'm a moron or a maniac and I'm really not sure of much. But I am sure of this. I'm not normal. But I also know that it's fine not to be normal. The old taoboy Willie Nelson wrote, "There is no normal. There's only you and me."

My heroes have always been taoboys. I don't have to be normal, I can just be. And I don't have to make you be like me and you don't have to make me be like you. We can disagree and this time of year, we'll argue and post and pontificate because that energy that other times might go into riding has to go somewhere.

Sometimes it goes into long-winded, kinda preachy blog posts.

Sorry about that.

Keep 'em rolling,



Anonymous said...

Good luck on that "master plan"! I've spent the last 3 years dodging cars on glass-filled shoulders in RTP, NC so being back here in Seattle, where bike lanes and routes are common, riding in the rain is a gift! I value the "critical mass" that is behind the scenes pushing for progress and a hopeful future.

Doug said...

Well said...thank you.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great words Kent. They help break up these dark days. "Morons or Maniacs": Yep it's the crabby time of year.

Anonymous said...

Life gets too Macro, we have to get back to more Micro.

I suspect, strongly, this is about 99.1% of all peoples woes.

Make it Smaller, more Meaningful, put ourselves out there just enough that those that give a shit-give a shit, and those that don't... well, they won't miss it, understand-nor ever understood-it in the first place.

Sometimes making a difference and helping others is:

Responding with Silence.

I would, and am, in favor of the best method for erasing the residue of Moronic Humanity being:
Long Rides on ones bike followed by equally long amounts of holding the hand and looking into the eyes of the amazing woman who decided I was perfect enough and right enough to be her husband.


Unknown said...

I like my bicycle.... Whatever it may be

phil varner said...

Preach on, brother.

Joe Biker said...

It's wrong. It's all wrong. Unless you are on this side, then everything is A-OK.

Anonymous said...

Oh, so now you're trying to justify threadless stems!?

Anonymous said...

You always have a way with words, and can write how most of us feel (the "not normal ones" anyhow). I'v been hooked since the dirt rag story and the redline 925 article. I liked it so much I bought one!

I tend to be overly upbeat and optimistic during the dark days, opting to ride my Mt. bike to work and get muddy on the way home. My recumbent friends think I am crazy, and my cyclocross friends call to come with me. Life is a celebration, even in winter.

Thanks for the post

John C

fxdwhl said...

Talking about cycling is almost or more important to some than actually turning the cranks. It would be nice to see a ratio of words typed to miles ridden.

Good post Kent. Keep it up in 07.

Yokota Fritz said...

You're a moron, Kent. Or a maniac! I lost track. Good observations that nobody's right. Or we'll all right. Or something.

Aagh! I think I'll just go ride my bike now.

ScruffySpokes said...

I wonder what George Carlin would actually have to say about cyclists, lol.

Good point about the bike sites and threads, everybody just needs
to hug their bicycle, or maybe even each other, and rest asured that warmer days will come.

"The sun'll come out tomorrow..."

Anonymous said...

Good post. I have thought about writing up a similar observation on the sport of cycling as well. I don't know of any other sport that stereotypes individuals more than cycling. Everybody seems split of into their little camps. It started long before blogging but now people are writing their thoughts down. It's very petty. I prefer to focus on the beautiful aspect of cycling where the kind of bike you ride, how fast you go and how stylish you look doesn't matter.

Anonymous said...

In the old days (note: NOT 'back in the day') it was called cabin fever. There were not bits, no bytes, no TV etc. The sphere within which a person could vent their frustation was much smaller. The disruption of routines and being cooped up in small dark places caused lots of family un-friendly behavior.

Be glad we can toss virtual barbs across the air waves. It is actually theraputic: I have no doubt that some people will wake up the next morning, look at their posts and actually feel a sense of remorse, or at least "what was I thinking"?

Anonymous said...

Kent: As far as I am (and have long been) concerned, anyone who rides is doing it right, and anyone who doesn't ride has the opportunity of doing it right in the future. I love seeing people doing it differently, and almost everyone does it differently than me. Val

Ed W said...

Great post, Kent. And I love this line - "My heroes have always been taoboys. I don't have to be normal, I can just be."

I just might steal it!