Everyone is White at Sram

Sram put out this video a few days ago in an attempt to both be funny and different.

It failed. Hugely.

It didn’t just fail because it wasn’t funny from anybody’s point of view, or because the lack of regard for details (no one could tell that that was an unlit cigarette). It didn’t even fail because it was generally cringe-worthy and an example of why you shouldn’t ask professional athletes to attempt to act.

It failed because not one person in that video is a minority, and nobody noticed.

In another, earlier year, I may have let it pass. Cycling, after all, has always been dominated by white athletes, white fans, and white amateurs. I can’t recall a single Rapha Continental rider who wasn’t white, and a quick look at the Rapha website today shows that nothing has changed. When the cycling industry made the push to include more women, it ended up with women, just no minority women. Yet, in a year when the “President” of the United States picked a fight with minority athletes, when neo-Nazis and white supremacists have killed innocent people, when racial tensions and discord seem as high as ever, it apparently still wasn’t enough for Sram to take notice. This video was nevertheless approved by the ladder of executives at Sram as suitable material for their public relations campaign. Worst of all, someone actually got paid for this.

I understand that the best cyclocross athletes may not include minorities (a bigger issue that goes beyond this particular post), but would it have killed Sram to find a minority employee at the Zipp factory to play a part in this video? Or worse, were there none to find?

Or, is this a statement by a global cycling parts manufacturer that minorities have no part in cycling and the cycling industry?

I’d like to give Sram the benefit of the doubt, but question the values of a company that can’t recognize its own lack of diversity. To be fair, it’s not only Sram; most companies in the cycling industry fail to include minorities in their American or European marketing campaigns. Only when minorities are a majority – for example, in Asian countries – are non-white models and riders ever mentioned or featured. On a less corporate level, I’ve heard laughter in response to a Rapha employee calling the predominantly Dominican Republician GS Mengoni team in New York City, as being “too brown” to include him.

Whenever I mention that I’m trying to get back into riding, a non-white friend who used to ride as much as I did will always ask, half jokingly, why I’d want to do such a thing.

“Why do you want to hang out with racists?” He’ll say.

“…I still like it,” I respond.

I have no other defense, and this video only seems to prove my friend right. Nor am I optimistic that it’ll become more inclusive. But maybe, eventually, if we scream loud enough for long enough, the cycling industry will take notice, and get it right.

Copyediting Trolls: Cyclingnews' "Tour of Utah: Dombrowski takes stage 6 victory and yellow jersey at Snowbird"

In the past year or so, I've become increasingly convinced that cycling news websites are either trolling us, or the articles are clever job listings for copyediting positions. First it was the typos, then the riders listed as belonging to the wrong teams. They're just testing our intelligence, I'd thought. Then it started to get worse; lazy, even. Subjects, verbs, and pronouns would be inconsistent in the same sentence. One particular writer seemed determined to suffocate her readers with her rambling, run-on sentences. Despite it all, I made excuses for them. They're on deadlines, I reasoned, typos are inevitable even if other news publications seem to keep them to a minimum. Cycling journalism was, afterall, an industry I would have happily, gladly plunged into. 

Yesterday, I saw this (highlights mine):

The article in question also predictably confuses "to" and "too" (see below) - an elementary mistake that no professional writer should make, but one that's unfortunately rather common in nonprofessional writing. 

But "to" and "TWO"???

And did Joe Dombrowski really mean to say "Ben can really rill it..." or did he mean that Ben can really kill it?

Dear God, Cyclingnews, get it together.

engineered dreams and the uci

Man, I am so glad my new road bike was built before January 1, 2011.
No, it’s not only because my beauty is one of the last Crown Jewels to be made in Somerville, Massachusetts, by guys who are no longer at IF, but because - phew! - my 18 lbs. steel road bike might actually be UCI legal...!
I really did have concerns that it might be judged “too aero,” but - lucky me! - the new UCI approval procedure only applies to frames and forks still in conception as of January 1, 2011. Oh, right, what am I talking about, you ask? Earlier this month, the UCI announced that it will be working with bicycle manufacturers to conform frames and forks to UCI standards. The stated goals are understandable, and it’s not hard to see how this might make everyone’s lives a little bit easier. Though concerns have been voiced as to how the new approval procedures might affect competitve cyclists, as a former anarchist sympathizer turned capitalist [once you realize that people are not innately good, anarchy ceases to become a viable political framework...or lack thereof], my first concern was, “poor Trek/Cannondale/Specialized/Cervelo.”


Actually, more like “poor engineers with any modicum of creativity at Trek/Cannondale/Specialized/Cervelo.” Because the imposition of rules and approval procedures onto individual manufacturers is really going to suck for the bike nerds out there. Sure, it wouldn’t make for embarrassing moments when one’s bicycle is deemed “illegal,” like it was a pound of cocaine, not a goddamn machine, but it could also stifle creativity and innovation. As any intellectual property attorney can tell you [or in my case, any attorney who has taken an intro intellectualy property class], protection of innovation is a balancing act between rewarding innovation [by allowing the initial innovator to recoup his investment in inventing], and encouraging further innovation [based on what has been newly invented]. Without financial incentive, one theory goes, creativity will decrease significantly, therefore making everyone else worse off than if you just hadn’t screwed with anythng in the first place.
With me so far? Okay, good. Under 35 U.S.C. § 101 et seq., which governs patent law in the US, a bicycle qualifies as a “machine,” which is patentable subject matter. This is not new. Just ask Cervelo. Patent law is the only method by which one bicycle manufacturer can protect its invention, because, hey, copyright and trademark aren’t really gonna help you, right [leave aside the whole “well trademarks are protected by trademark law blah blah blah” thing, okay?]? There are several requirements for an innovation to be patentable, including “nonobviousness,” defined as a significant change that is not simply a “small, incremental improvement [this is very fact specific and obviously varies case by case]. The fact remains: you can patent bicycle technology.


But regulations limiting how a manufacturer can build a bicycle - for example, how aero is too aero - will most likely also limit how inventive bicycle engineers can be. I’m not saying that the guys over at Specialized or Trek are going to throw up their hands and give up...just that with no incentive to be truly cutting-edge, we may risk losing that part about super aero bicycles with electrical shifting that give bike nerds like me giant boners. Because, let’s face it, without the possibility of pros riding said super bikes in the Tour or Spring Classics, there’s no point in making them. There’s no marketing advantage, no rise in brand name recognition because you made a super bike that is useless under UCI standards. In fact, with a list of "approved products" and manufacturers planned, it seems highly likely that the opposite will happen; that manufacturers will focus on getting as many of their products approved as possible. No doubt this will result in creative ways of producing bicycles that are more technologically advanced and meet the standards, but we may never see the physical product - those complicated angles and flattened tubes - that you know those engineers are dreaming about. And that kind of sucks.
On the bright side, with no pros able to ride super bikes, maybe they’ll become affordable and normal non-pro peeps can snatch them up! Just make sure you don't, you know, race it.

mullets and gmc [bikes]

I’ve been on a purging spree for the past two weeks. I stuffed a huge garbage bag full of clothes and donated it to Goodwill. I am going through piles of notes, recycling everything I can, throwing away stuff I can’t, packing everything else into boxes, bags, and suitcases. Purge, rinse, repeat.
And in the middle of throwing out beauty products that probably shouldn’t be used anymore, I looked in the mirror at the bob that had achieved “soccer mom” frumpiness. Thick and gross, I called a salon, found out that my usual stylist was out for the week, and made an appointment with another one anyway. How bad could it be?
“I’m just going to add some layers on top and thin it out a little but keep the length,” my new stylist informed me. I’ve learned, however, that this is what every stylist - possibly with the exception of the one I would trust my life with in Japan, who has taken me from awkward tween to bouge-y punk to brand-name whore to some semblance of working professional without really uttering a word - is taught to say. And when you’re fortunate enough to have friends and family that wouldn’t refer you to someone that is just so-so, you end up being just a little too trusting when left on your own. You trust Yelp reviews and forgive a few botched cuts. You go to a new stylist employed by the same salon because really, come on. How bad could it be?



Well, I’m sad to admit: it can get pretty bad. Like mullet bad. Like wtf-I’m-actually-going-to-pay-another-stylist-to-fix-this-because-I-never-want-you-near-my-hair-again bad. Like I-briefly totally-considered-suing bad. [Although it doesn't look as terrible tied back...oh and do you love my Little Mermaid bath towel? I DO!]
Post-mullet-imposition, feeling sort of terrible for myself and acting right in line with predictable contradiction, I picked up the search for things to acquire. Even in spite of all the discarding and donating, I’m a packrat at heart. So reminding myself that that new one bedroom won’t fill itself, I went hunting for a new bicycle.
You know, the one with gears that I still haven’t managed to get my hands on [total lack of finances having something to do with it]. Ebay and Craigslist hasn’t turned up much, and I’ve pretty much given up hope that the Internet was going to deliver something awesome to my impatiently clicking mouse. Until, bitching and moaning to SkullKrusher about anything in my size that was decent, he showed me...


Possibly the shittiest bike I’ve ever seen, a close examination of the description of this stellar thoroughbred on two wheels will tell you that shifting can only be done on the top of the bars, like a mountain bike. But to brake, you need to use the hoods. I actually don’t really understand how this works, except that somehow, someone took grip shifters and forced them onto some road bars. And then expected people to buy it.
But fascinated in a disgusted sort of way, I couldn’t stop looking. And Googling. Amazon.com provided even more entertainment with some amazing reviews of this zippy 21-speed bike, and trying to figure out wtf is going on with the shifting, the ghetto quill-like stem, and who at Shimano was on drugs when they agreed to supply parts for this monstrosity, I found a picture. One that is almost as amazing as the existence of this bike.


At first, unable to admit that this could possibly happen, I convinced myself that I was seeing it wrong. I stared for a while longer, closing in on my computer screen, squinting some, tilting my head. But, no. What you’re thinking...dreading...is right. That’s a GPS, mounted on a sub $250 bike, with the hoods on backwards. Oh, yeah, and with those grip shifters. Awesome.
And if that hasn’t made your Monday, here’s another shot where you can see the grip shifters in all their glory, plus this guy’s impressive wrap job.


I could feel mechanics around the world cringe in unison, and my lunch almost came up through my nose when I saw the second picture. I clicked through the rest of the pictures provided by Amazon and considered buying one for about 30 seconds, mostly to embarrass friends that I would make ride with me. Oh the fun times it could provide...until the whole thing fell apart 20 miles from home, of course.
Sadly, I decided against it [I can be persuaded otherwise, though], for now. Which means no new bike for me, yet, but after discovering this little gem, I can’t say that the search hasn’t been anything short of entertaining. Even with a mullet.

geared epiphany

You guys.
I had an amazing epiphany yesterday. I now understand why most bicycles have gears.
Wait, wait. I know you’re rolling your eyes, muttering “she’s realizing this NOW?”, shaking your head, clicking onto the next blog in your reader, or all of the above. But it takes a while for things to sink in, okay?
When everyone told me I “needed” a geared road bike, a part of me agreed because, hey, can you really have too many bikes? But there’s a learning curve with those things...I just didn’t get why there was so much shifting back and forth involved. When I said that I could mash up the hills just fine, people just said something like “well, you want to be able to walk when you’re 40, don’t you?” or “what about your knees?”


Okay, fine. Apparently you can go longer and faster, when you can shift up and down and all around. I understood the concept, but not really how it was going to change my life.
But then, yesterday. Out on the usual 2hr ride, I was hauling ass to get a negative split for the entire ride, not just part of it. When I wasn’t fighting wind, I got a really good pace going; my thighs were aching, but nothing unmanageable. And then, just when the wind died down for a bit, I hit a flat stretch of road. Hunkered down in the drops, neatly clipped in, I was spinning out.
My initial thought was to knock off a tooth in the back...and then I realized that I wouldn’t be able to climb all the hills if I did that. AND THEN BECAUSE I’M AN IDIOT AND KNOW NOTHING BUT A SINGLE-SPEED, MY NEXT IDEA INVOLVED GETTING A SMALLER COG, PUTTING IT ON THE OTHER SIDE OF MY REAR WHEEL, THEN FLIPPING MY WHEEL [TO THE FREEWHEEL SIDE] EVERY TIME I HIT A HILL.
Do you want to know my next thought? It was: ...but that would be such a pain in the ass...I wish there was an easier way to switch between the two---OHHHHHHHHH...!!!!
Cue light bulb turning on [finally] over my head.
Yes, I am a dumbass.


Hours later, my face in my third coffee of the day at [my favorite] Cafe Fixe [yes, I can drink my weight in coffee. Don’t judge.], I revealed my life-changing realization to Matt. He snorted, rolled his eyes, and laughed, saying:
“I like how you do everything in reverse.”
As if I would do it any other way.
[But for those of you who want to follow by example, for less than the cost of my saddle, Walmart is now selling a "fixed-speed" bike for $150.]