I’m no Buddhist, but I do love the concept of the Middle Path. You don’t need to eliminate butter from your diet, just go easy. You don’t need to push yourself to 100% all the time on a bike, sometimes rolling along is just fine.
As a representative of the juggernaut that is the Bicycle Industry, it is my job to sell you things. The way we stay in business is to sell you more things – or at least more OF those things to more people. This tends to feed a desire in lots of people – dudes in the main, but plenty of you womens too – to accumulate more and more gear to accomplish what should be a simple task.
I should mention that I am no saint when it comes to this idea. When I took up fly fishing I had to have the whole kit – waders, boots, vest, the right rod, the right reel, the right fly line, and don’t get me started on fly tying gear like vices, hackle pliers, whip finishers, and the millions of colorey bits of fluff and thread that actually comprise the flies. I also have too many bikes.
This leads me back to my title and my theme for the day: maybe there’s some stuff you don’t need for your ride to be fun. What follows are thoughts on some items you might be able to shed. It’s not an indictment of people who use these items, but it may be food for thought about them.
Cleated Shoes and Clipless Pedals
I’m rediscovering flat pedals. You know what? They totally make the bike go. Simplicity incarnate in these guys. Sure, I still slip on the SPDs if I’m going to ride a bunch of miles, or if I'm up in the technical singletrack, but I don’t always HAVE to have them anymore. That frees me up a bit.
Man, this gets to one of my real pet peeves with cycling – and with many other pursuits generally - why does everything have to be a competition? I get that it’s nice to know how far your ride was, and I understand the desire to gather data about something you’re into. But really, aren’t we just riding because it’s fun, or because it’s a good way to get somewhere? Why put on yourself the undue burden of having to up your average speed? If you’re a person who NEEDS to have the computer on every ride, try an experiment and leave that sucker at home once. You might be surprised at what it does for your brain.
The Newest Thing
This one is hard to admit. I love new bikes. I LOVE them. Dreaming about a new bike, assembling it, getting it just right, and then stepping back to really have a good look – this is one of my very favorite things. All the mechanicals are just right and everything is so clean and, well, functional.
But, you probably don’t need it.
We at Surly are some of the biggest offenders for having the right bike for a specific purpose. Hell, we make bikes for snow and sand! We make bikes that aren’t quite fat and aren’t quite skinny. (Maybe the Krampus is the Middle Path – probably not though) We (the bike industry) have bikes and parts that have us all thinking that, “I cannot possibly ride my road bike on this gravel road” or “Good Lord! If I just had a 10th or 11th gear back there” or “This trail would be so much better on a fixed gear off-road rig.”
Can you survive with one bike that does a lot of things? I’m pretty sure you can. Is it nice to have the right tool for the job? Absolutely. Where’s the line though? I mean that as a real question, because I don’t know where that line is. I’ve got so many bikes that I could go “tour” on that it’s freakin’ silly. Sometimes I’ll be packing up the family unit for a ride and ask my wife, “Which bike do you think I should ride.” The eye roll I get from her is a well-deserved comment on my lack of moderation. Sure, I can make all kinds of excuses like it’s my job AND it’s my hobby, and therefore I NEED all of this stuff. I don’t.
This also applies to the newest suspension technology, the newest lightest thing, the sexiest new color, the most expensive internal gear hub (ahem), the newest wheel size standard... you get what I'm saying.
Come on. I know when you’re out all day or when it’s really wet (cold is a different issue altogether) gloves are nice. Still. Try a ride without ‘em.
Gel chews, power foods, drink mixes – you know what? They totally work. They deliver nutrition in the form of easily digestible sugars, proteins, and electrolytes that your body works off in the process of riding hard.
So does a Snickers bar. So does a banana. So does a PB&J. Water is also nice.
Maybe you should just take a break from riding super hard? Maybe you really like riding super hard? That’s cool too, I guess.
God, we look like idiots when we ride. Loud obnoxious jerseys, shorts, and kit in general make us look like total boobs.
“But Skip! My jersey wicks moisture away from my skin!” Yes, it does.
“But Skip! My choad hurts without my padded shorts!” I get that.
I’m not advocating riding in discomfort – or maybe I am, I haven’t decided that – but what I am suggesting is to try a couple of rides without all the stuff. It can really be nice not to run around the house looking for all the things you NEED to ride. Run what you brung, right?
I could go on and on, and maybe I have. You probably know this stuff and you’re way more enlightened than I am. There’s certainly a way to go too far the other way, too. Maybe you NEVER ride with clips, computers, gloves, nutritional supplements or technical fabrics? Maybe you’re a staunch purist that believes anyone NOT riding flat pedals is a total asshole.
Guess what? That ain’t the Middle Path either.
So, what I’m asaying here is not that you should get rid of everything you hold dear in your cycling gear box/closet/garage/storage unit/entire living space. I’m just laying out the suggestion that you might want to give some thought to what it is you need to have fun on a bike. Maybe for you, the collecting of the products that Surly and our industry compadres produce fills some void and makes you happy. My guess, however, is that it doesn’t. It’s pretty hard for stuff to really create lasting contentment. The initial fix is pretty good though, isn’t it?
Just try to remember that if desire is suffering, then drooling over catalogs probably isn't doing you any good in the long run.