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Originally from Germany Monika Sattler stumbled, via the US and Switzerland, to Australia, indulging her penchant for tackling epic rides along the way. So often heading into unfamiliar territory, as a self-proclaimed navigationally challenged individual, has meant regularly exploring new bunch rides. It’s usually been a sure way for the former World Gravel Race champion to discover new roads and new friends, but to her alarm of late there seems to have been a shift. Sattler’s seen a trend towards acceptance not of those with ability on the bike, but instead those who have the ability to spend on the bike.
In recent times, the perception of cycling has changed. You see more “pretty” cycling kits sold for a hefty $500 and the matching socks for $50. You can easily spend five figures on a bike.
Cycling has become a status symbol. A new golf, according to a regular flow of articles in the mainstream media.
As a passionate cyclist, I should be happy about that. More interest and attention on cycling. Is there something bad about that? Well, I think there is.
Don’t get me wrong, it is awesome to see greater interest in the sport – but the problem is the change of perception.
There have always been unwritten rules in regards to what to wear, how the colour of your bar tape has to match your seat and about what bike you ride. But at the end of the day, it really didn’t matter how much your bike was worth because the enjoyment of the sport, the company of your friends and the accomplishment through your legs overruled any blatant materialism.
But it seems, there is a new trend creeping in.
The capitalism-induced search for a new status symbol has changed the reason why people ride bikes. Cycling has become pretty, elitist, materialistic with a seemingly insurmountable wall to be climbed to be accepted into a group. Until then, you will be shamelessly ignored as a hubbard or fred.
That scares me.
What’s happening to my friendly community?
Having moved around the world with my bike, I could always trust a welcoming cycling community.
I could show up to any group ride and by the end of the ride while chatting over coffee, I was invited to the next ride, to the next adventure and to the next opportunity to meet new cycling friends. We shared the same passion for cycling. That was enough to be accepted into a group of cyclists.
But in recent times, instead of this welcoming cycling community, there are many times I have come across arrogance, ignorance and close-mindedness when trying to take part in new rides. Instead of the encouragement to join, people tried to spit me out of the back leaving me with comments that were a clear message: “We are a closed group of friends. You are not invited!” This seems a pretty bizarre way to behave on a publicly advertised ride or shop group.
There seems to be no interest in letting others into the group, especially if there is any potential that it would lower their status. It does not matter what your legs can do as long as your bike is reflecting its preciousness while waiting at the traffic lights. Interestingly, cycling used to be a poor-man’s sport, a way for the underprivileged to climb, literally, out of poverty.
Even worse, my experience is that those self-proclaimed “cyclists” are usually the ones that shed bad light on the sport – displaying arrogance, poor cycling skills, and disrespect to other road participants.
There is nothing wrong with owning the best equipment and riding in the most stylish cycling kit. But you shouldn’t have to buy your way into cycling group credibility and showing off fancy gear shouldn’t be the main reason to ride a bike. There are so many more meaningful reasons for getting that expensive bike dirty and that stylish kit sweaty.
Let’s make cycling what it should be – a sport you do for pure enjoyment as you revel in the wind in your face, the endorphin kick from going fast, the new friendships, the rewarding coffee afterwards and the accomplishment of success.
Next time we see someone who is not aware of (or just doesn’t care about) the many unwritten rules within the cycling scene – instead of ignoring them or labelling them – let’s be friendly and celebrate their decision to join our beautiful sport!
This piece was originally published in the blog section of the VeloClub forum. You can find out more about this new membership program here or head to the sign up page to start exploring the additional content.