Sunday, 30 May 2010

A 'Successful' Bicycle Blog?

Today I received an email from a reader asking for "tips on how to run a successful bicycle blog." I get this type of question every so often, and never quite know how to respond. For starters, what exactly is a "successful bicycle blog"?... One with a readership of over x visits per day? An average of y comments per post? Placement on "top 50 bicycle blog" lists? Mentions in local publications? Probably all of the above, plus other indicators I am not even aware of.

[EcoVelo - one of my favourite "successful bicycle blogs"]

The next thing that comes to mind when considering the question, is why would one want a "successful bicycle blog" - that is, what do they hope to get out of it? If one's heart fills with desire to write about bicycles, they can simply open their computer and start typing - using free and easy platforms like BlogSpot and WordPress if they wish to make the writing public. The act of turning to an "established blogger" (reader's phraseology) for advice suggests that there is a specific end-goal in mind. I suppose the goal can include sponsorships, effective advocacy, and personal fame... but I think that such a goal-oriented attitude at the start is counterproductive.

[Let's Go Ride a Bike - one of my favourite "successful bicycle blogs"]

The main thing I would suggest, is to start the blog only if you have a genuine interest in the topic - an interest that is sufficiently strong, so that you can imagine producing hundreds of posts, day after day, with the same degree of enthusiasm as your first. Because the most important aspect of a blog's "success," from what I have seen, is its sustainability. Even though it may seem like there are tons of bicycle blogs out there, the number is actually not that great if you narrow it down to those that have been around for at least a year and continuously generate new content on a close-to-daily basis.

I would also consider how much of your time writing a blog would take, and whether that time investment would be worth it for the end-goal you have in mind. I am an unusually fast writer and constantly write anyway as part of my work. A blog entry every one to three days is possible, in terms of both time and effort. Otherwise, I absolutely would not be able to do it.

[The Mixte Gallery - bicycle blog with a unique theme]

Finally, I would suggest considering whether your bicycle blog will be sufficiently unique so as to differentiate it from all the others out there. The uniqueness can be a result of a specific focus (The Mixte Gallery is all about mixtes), of a distinct tone of voice (BikeSnobNYC's comic crankiness), of a consistent visual theme (the women on Copenhagen Cycle Chic), of being a source of cycling news in your area (the regional focus of Boston Biker), or of many other factors - but there must be something that will make the blog stand out in some way.

[BikeSnobNYC - one of my favourite "successful bicycle blogs"]

As for attracting readers, advertisers, sponsors, journalists and what have you... I feel that having this as your goal from the start could very well undermine it. It is my belief that readers can sense it when the ultimate purpose of a piece of writing is marketing-driven, and are less likely to connect with such writing.  I could be wrong, but I think that most "successful bicycle blogs" happened not by design but organically: The writer is so taken with the topic, that they keep writing and writing - until people begin to read. The best thing to do is simply to write and not think about "success" - whatever that may mean to you.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Bicycles in the Field

While the Co-Habitant and I have separate dayjobs, we also work together as an artist team. The artwork we make is hard to summarise, but, among other things, it involves photography - usually in far-off, remote locations. The distance to the locations, the remoteness, the amount of photo equipment and props we use, and the need to be on location at a specific time so as to get the right light, make driving the most suitable means of transport to the sites. However, we now have at least two photo-shoots planned that are close to Boston, and the distances to these locations (13-15 miles from home) are reasonably cyclable. Prior to doing the actual photo shoot, we normally take a reconnaissance trip to the location - to take test shots, to get a feel for the light, and to try out background compositions. These trips don't require much equipment, and so we decided to try to do this on our bikes.

It took over an hour to arrive at the photo-shoot location on our roadbikes. While we have cycled that distance many times before, it has always been in a recreational context, never for work. Here are some notes as to how this was different:

It was difficult to focus on creative thoughts with my leg muscles working overtime (hills) in the summer heat. Instead, my focus is mostly on the physical process of cycling and on monitoring traffic conditions.

Also, I realised that when we cycle together we tend to talk about cycling-related matters - a habit that proved difficult to break! When we drive to photo-shoot locations, we use the trip as an opportunity to have in-depth conversations about our work. We did not succeed in doing this while cycling, as the topic of conversation kept shifting to bikes - that is, when it was possible to talk at all.

Upon arriving on location, even after a rest, it was difficult to focus on work. We were in a forest, dissected by foot-paths covered in gnarled tree roots and pine cones. The Co-Habitant got excited at the opportunity to cycle off-road. I became frustrated - both because I was too afraid to do it, and because that wasn't what we were there for. I insisted that we walk the bikes and search for potential scene backdrops instead. He agreed, but I could tell that his spirit yearned for off-road cycling and he wasn't truly able to keep his mind on our project.

Finally, we happened upon a grassy clearing with wildflowers, and now it was my turn to get distracted. I was supposed to be taking test shots of the location, but I could not resist the opportunity to take "bike portraits". Neither could the Co-Habitant. We ended up posing our bicycles amidst the flowers and then cycling around the grassy meadow, just to get it out of our system. Pathetic!

In the end, we did take the test shots we needed, and even came up with plans for the perfect backdrop. But the process took all day, and we repeatedly struggled with staying on task. The lesson? Well, I guess that we have a hard time combining fieldwork with long bike trips, as the latter is not only exhausting, but fosters a cycling-specific atmosphere that is difficult (for us) to break out of.

That is not to say that we are giving up and will take the car on such trips next time. Rather, I am trying to figure out how to prevent the same conflict from happening again. As much as I love bicycles, they are (believe it or not!) not the center of my universe, and my artwork is infinitely more important to me. I would like for cycling to be a tool that will help me with fieldwork, without sucking all the attention away from it. Just need to figure out how exactly to make that happen.

This Just In: Leave of Absence Announcement! (and Friday Fun Quiz!)

(The Lone Wolf recedes into the distance, as photographed by a reader.)

As another week draws to a close and we embark upon the Memorial Day weekend I am also embarking upon a short leave of absence, during which I will be attending to matters of personal life "curation" well beyond the purview of this blog. This leave will commence as of the end of this post, and it will continue until Monday, June 7th, at which point I will return with regular updates.

During my absence, I would humbly point out that you can always read my book, the obviously-titled "Bike Snob," which is available wherever fine books are sold. (They keep my book next to the fine books so they look even finer.) Otherwise, by way of blogular webular sites, there is always Cycling Inquisition, All Hail the Black Market, or, for the ultimate in bawdy and ribald cycling blogs, The Erotic Misadventures of Mario Cipollini. Also, if I have anything pressing to share in the meantime (such as the publication of a Universal Sports Giro blog or the latest news in my helper monkey Vito's ongoing battle with head lice), I may do so by means of my Twitter social networking account.

I look forward to returning to this blog on June 7th, as well as to meeting some of you at my Book-Related Appearances (or BRAs) in a few weeks' time.

In the meantime, I'm pleased to present you with a short quiz. As always, study the item, think, and click on your answer. If you're right you'll know, and if you're wrong you'll see dangling keys and pretentious skidding.

Thanks very much for reading and ride safe. See you on June 7th.


1) Cockpits are Saddles 2.0.

2) In the recent bike messenger episode of "Judge Judy," who won: the plaintiff, or the defendant?

3) What's the best part of "training" indoors?

4) Where are you most likely to find a "human fingerbang?"

***Special "Hipster" Behavioral-Themed Bonus Question***

What are these "hipsters" doing?

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Midnight Oil: How Can We Sleep When Our Beds Are Burning?

I'm as critical of "social networking" as anybody. At its best, though, it is at the heart of an emerging "mass consciousness," and it may even herald a new era in which "community" transcends geography. For example, as I make my way through the morass of humanity that is New York City, I can know at a glance what people in Portland are thinking. And when it comes to riding bicycles, you can bet dollars to Voodoo donuts that they are thinking about how great it is to live in Portland:

Well, isn't that nice? I hear you can also lick the lamp posts while you wait, and that they taste like peppermint sticks. I read this "Tweet" yesterday evening just after completing what is commonly known as a "reverse commute," meaning that I was riding into Manhattan while most people were riding out of it. In a sense, I was a commuting "salmon," and from this head-on vantage point I marveled at the determination and outright aggression with which many people rode. Indeed, it's almost inconceivable that such a "Tweet" could ever issue forth from the iPhone, BlackBerry, or other handheld device of a New Yorker. When I stop for people trying to cross the street, the horns start blaring, the guy on the brakeless fixed-gear runs into me, and the pedestrian looks at me like I'm a moron.

In any case, as I descended the Manhattan Bridge bike path, I marveled at the clumps of cyclists on the ascent, heads down and fighting for the imaginary KoM points on offer at the top of the span. Nü-Freds attacking in my lane looked me dead in the eye, daring me not to swerve and make way for them. This photo I took at the foot of the bridge should give you just some idea of how serious New York city commuting can be:

Note the rider on the left, equipped with track bike and inverted "transients/homeless"-style drop bars. He is racing for the coveted Manhattan Bridge bike path holeshot, but he's not going to get it if the guy riding a ten speed and wearing a "The Nation" t-shirt can help it. They'd both better be careful, though, because I'd bet scheckels to suicide levers that the rider on the road bike behind them is about to launch an attack. Meanwhile, a pedestrian is walking confidently in the bike lane, and despite the fact that I have the right of way it's he who looks nonplussed. I'm sure if I stopped for him Portland-style, he'd just give me the finger.

Of course, hustle and/or bustle is in many ways an unavoidable component of living in a big city. At the same time, though, it's worth noting that the so-called "bike culture" seems unable to police itself. In fact, so negligent are we in this regard that Judge Judy has had to step in and pick up the slack. This is the "bike cultural" equivalent of martial law. Not only has Judge Judy taken on a case involving a "bike salmon," but she's now taking on "fixiedom" too. As you've no doubt seen by now on blogs like fixed-gear freestyle impresario and streetwear enthusiast Prolly's, two bicycle messengers recently went head to fashionably-coiffured head over a burnt mattress and a missing "fixie:"

Here is the bicycle in question:

Here is the plaintiff, Christopher Villanella, showing Judge Judy his sweet hand tattoo:

A rose tattoo by any other name would be as poorly executed.

Here's the defendant, John Foraker:

He's explaining to Judge Judy that his own hand tattoo is pending completion of his "forearm work."

Notice they're both wearing their best "formal flannels" for the occasion. Anyway, Villanella and Foraker are bike messengers who are roommates in Brooklyn--or at least they used to be before Villanella's mattress was set on fire and his fixie stolen, both of which he blames on Foraker. Incidentally, it's worth noting that, while bicycle messengers trade on the notion that their work is difficult and dangerous, the truth is it's really only riding your bike around all day, and if you're a person who likes to ride your bike it's really quite pleasant. The difficult part of being a messenger is the voluntary part, which is the partying and self-adornment. Getting paid to ride your bike is easy; drinking all night, being hung over, and spending all your money on intoxicants, tattoo ink, and bike parts is difficult and takes its toll. Villanella and Foraker are a case in point--or at least they will be in a few years. As of now they still exhibit the soft edges of the recent post-collegiate transplant.

The first matter in the case is Villanella's burned mattress. Foraker claims the two were arguing, the argument got physical, and they knocked a candle from the nightstand onto the bed:

Now, an astute prosecutor would no doubt point out that the number one cause of burning candles being knocked over onto beds is not roommate arguments; it is in fact sweet, sweet lovemaking. Submitted as evidence: "Turn Off The Lights" by the late, great Teddy Pendergrass, complete with lyrics.

If there were also traces of scented oil in the bedding then this is an open-and-shut case.

Villanella, on the other hand, claims he wasn't even there, much less being slathered in burning hot oils to the strains of a lush Gamble and Huff arrangement. Instead, he says he smelled smoke from the other room and found the mattress had been torched:

Foraker, who is a study in childish facial expressions, flashes his best look of indignant "hipster" incredulity:

Here is the mattress, and indeed the burn pattern is rather revealing:

Surely no candle could have caused this, and at this point we can dismiss both physical altercations and lovemaking sessions. Instead, the burn marks point towards either an ill-advised attempt to rid their home of bedbugs, or else a tragic marijuana-smoking "wake and bake" accident. Speaking of their home, both Villanella's and Foraker's parents were no doubt watching this episode, and as soon as they saw the sorry state of their children's quarters they no doubt offered to increase the monthly check if they promised to move to Park Slope, or at least send the maid over to clean it up for them.

Next, we move on to the matter of Villanella's missing bike. Foraker claims that he was heading into Manhattan in order to see a band play, but his bicycle had a flat tire. So, he elected to borrow Villanella's bike, which was subsequently stolen:

This is actually a pretty solid argument, since I have no trouble believing that it would take Mr. Foraker well over an hour to repair a punctured inner tube. By the way, here is Foraker's best look of "hipster" bafflement. This is exactly how he looks at his bike when it has a flat tire:

Villanella, on the other hand, claims that Foraker took his bike and sold it:

He says that after the bike disappeared, Foraker was even throwing a bunch of money around. (I would imagine this involved suspicious high-rolling "hipster" behavior like ordering that 15th PBR and upgrading his knuckle tattoos from regular to bold face.) Villanella also claims his bike is worth $3,500, and that he even "handbuilt it with the shop owner." Here he is handing the receipt to the bailiff:

"Yeah, that's a pretty expensive bike," he observes:

While I have trouble believing that a De Bernardi track bike is worth $3,500, I don't have any trouble at all believing that Villanella paid $3,500 for his De Bernardi track bike. Like many new fixed-gear riders, Villanella ascribes almost mystical significance to the process of putting together a bicycle. This is evidenced by the manner in which they will often use the word "build" as a noun (as in "Nice build!")--or, like Villanella, say that he "handbuilt" his De Bernardi. In truth, we're talking about "assembly," and when it comes to fixed-gear bicycles this really involves nothing more complicated than bolting a few things to a few other things. Sure, building a wheel from scratch is challenging, but otherwise it's basically just tightening some fasteners. One wonders if the "fixerati" also say "Nice build!" when they see a piece of fully-assembled piece of Ikea furniture, or say they "handbuilt" their lamp because they screwed the lightbulb in themselves. (This is not to downplay the significance of "curating" your lamp by choosing a bulb with the appropriate wattage, of course.) In any case, here's Villanella's receipt from the shop:

At this point, I headed over to the website of the shop in question to peruse some of their other "builds." It was indeed a "tarck" de force. Here's a "handbuilt" Pista Concept:

Here's a nice hair build:

If there's not already a combination hair-and-fixie salon in Brooklyn, there really needs to be.

Here's Villanelli himself, using an obscene variation on the "doucheclamation point:"

And what have we here? It's our good friend Mr. Foraker, perhaps throwing some dirty money around by treating his young ladyfriend to a "tarck" bike shopping spree:

It even looks like they "handbuilt" a bike for Floyd Landis:

Meanwhile, back in the courtroom, the mountain of evidence is building:

And it's about to topple over onto Mr. Foraker. Here he is displaying the classic "overwhelmed hipster" look as he attempts to perform the rudimentary mathematical calculations that would yield the value of his own bicycle:

Note that he looks upward in an attempt to distract Judge Judy with the intricacy of his neck tattoo.

Unfortunately for Foraker, Judge Judy is not impressed with his "neckwork," his designer haircut, his nimble face, or indeed any of it, and she decides against him. There are a number of lessons all of us can learn from this poignant episode of "Judge Judy." Among these are the value of friendship, the importance of fire safety, the fleeting nature of material wealth, and of course the tender romance of a shared shower. Most importantly, though, we've learned that these two hapless bike messengers are already long overdue for their own sitcom:

Not only does life imitate art, but it also tends to parody itself.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Reluctant Friends

They exchanged suspicious glances and growled at each other at first, but Graham and Eustacia have finally learned to be friends. They now see beyond their differences and instead focus on the similarities: the green frames, the cream tires, the leather Brooks saddles, the twine, the dynamo hubs and headlights - so much common ground.

Lately I have been incorporating both bikes into my routine: During the day I travel for work and errands on the Pashley, then come home, quickly change clothes, and do a 25-mile ride on the Rivendell before it gets dark. They are both feeling loved, and I am feeling a like a velo-bigamist!

Code of Living: Choose Your Faithway

Further to yesterday's post, in which I mentioned a reluctant driver forced to ignite gasoline in order to haul over 3,000 pounds of floor tile, some readers questioned whether the tile was responsibly sourced--or if indeed the floor needed to be re-tiled in the first place. Well, you can rest assured that everything was kosher (or "smug," which is the "green" equivalent of "kosher.") In response to a comment on the Streetsblog post, the thoughtful livable streets advocate and flooring enthusiast had this to say:

InDaDrops: The ceramic tiles were made in an energy-efficient factory that uses is able to use low-temperature process due to the tile being made with over 55% recycled glass. There factory is located only about 2 miles from the church basement where the floor was to be installed, to support a computer hardware recycling program. So, there were not additional trips for the tile to make to go first to a distributor and then to a retail store. The factory also features a parking lot made of crushed, discarded tile instead of using asphalt.

When you say “leave the floor the way it was”, that was not viable. The previous condition included moldy carpet laid over old vinyl tile which itself stank, was falling apart and covered in carpet adhesive. Underneath the vinyl tile was an old asphalt-based adhesive that was itself difficult to remove, although some mortars could be used to put a new floor over top it.

I also used a bike to haul away some the old floor waste to the landfill, including one load with a total weight of 540 lbs:

In other words, "Take that!" Energy-efficient factory? Recycled glass? Church basement?!? Clearly, you'd have to wake up pretty early in the morning to catch this guy not being environmentally sound--and even then, he'd probably lambaste you for not waking up on an environmental mattress or underneath an eco-friendly duvet cover. King Midas famously turned everything he touched into gold, wheras Mark Stosberg is sort of the anti-Midas, only touching things made from recycled refuse. He is not merely "green;" he is an über-green laser beam that strikes at the hearts of wasteful consumers like a lightsaber of self-righteousness. Plus, he does it all aboard a recumbent:

Before you judge, know that his recumbent is made from over 65% recycled helmet mirrors and SPD sandals, and that the remainder is made from eco-friendly resin-impregnated woven beard hair.

As for the rest of us who occasionally find ourselves murdering the Earth by riding grossly inefficient upright bicycles or by relieving ourselves at the Starbucks restroom because we cannot "hold it in" long enough to find a public composting toilet, we would do well to heed Mr. Stosberg's example. It's simply not enough to be "green;" you've got to be extremely green. Fortunately, you can now give your "greenness" a significant boost in horsepower, thanks to the engineers at Extreme Green Cycling:

I am very wary of any company whose actual motto is "We recommend you wear a helmet!" It's only slightly better than saying, "Dude, you are so fucked." This is like Pepsi saying, "Goes great with insulin!," or Jimmy Dean sausages using the slogan, "We recommend an angioplasty!" Secondly, if anything, Extreme Green Cycling is more of an "un-greening" service, since the bicycle was significantly greener before it had a gasoline-and-oil-burning two-stroke motor bolted to it. Apparently, this 70cc motor gets 100mpg and will do 30mph, which is mildly impressive until you consider that a 49cc Honda scooter gets the same mileage, goes faster, uses a four-stroke, and actually comes with safety features such as lights. Sure, it's more expensive, but it quickly pays for itself when you find that Cat. 4 roadies will actually pay you to "motorpace" them so they can "train" for the local training race. ("Training to train" is the very essence of amateur competitive cycling.) I'm guessing the company's helmet motto comes into play when you hit 45mph on a downhill and try to stop your 60lb leafblower with the "front linear pull brake and rear coaster brake."

Still, motorized bicycles do have considerable "curb appeal," as evidenced by this video:

A gasoline power-assisted bicycle means never having to quit smoking.

Of course, if you still want a motorcycle-esque bicycle but don't want to be an affront to the Earth by burning fossil fuels, you can always bolt a motorcycle front end to your mountain bike, as spotted by a reader in Philadelphia:

Now as ever, the poor unfortunate mountain bike remains the Rhesus monkey of bicycles. Who will stop the vivisection?

Meanwhile, like mountain bike molestation, the Giro d'Italia continues unabated (as does my Universal Sports Giro d'Italia webular blog). As you may recall, the Giro started in Amsterdam this year, and it so happens that regurgitator of popular culture Mike Giant was there too. Moreover, he continued to push the boundaries of art and creativity by writing a bunch of cycling-related words really big on a wall:

Mike Giant @ Mediamatic Timelapse from CFYE .com on Vimeo.

Aesthetically, this is pretty much exactly what teenagers have been doing on their desks and notebooks during math class for decades. In terms of content, it's the creative equivalent of the gratuitous keywords you find in Craigslist postings and eBay auctions. I suppose all this makes sense in the context of "bike culture," whose members seem determined to equip it with a great big "Buy It Now" button.

Still, it should come as some comfort that cyclists are now part of a coveted marketing demographic, for now more than ever being part of a marketing demographic means you matter. Not only is this demographic coveted by companies as diverse as bicycle manufacturers, streetwear companies, and banks, but it is also coveted by an industry that is (at least ostensibly) totally against coveting--and this industry is religion. Not only have we seen the advent of "fixionaries" (both Mormon and non-Mormon), but when I visited Portland I also visited a "bike chapel." Now, a reader informs me that another church in Woodside, CA is also welcoming cyclists:

See? It says so right on the sign, cleverly designed to "synergize" with the Tour of California:

This is an encouraging indicator that cyclists may be beating homosexuals in the race to legitimacy in the eyes of "God," though if you're a homosexual cyclist I'm not sure which trumps which in terms of your being "welcome." (Please check with your denomination of preference or local house of worship as to their individual policy on your worth and validity as a human being.) Still, it's clear that religious marketeers need to streamline their "pitch" if they really want to appeal to cyclists. They need to tap the awesome marketing power of crabon, and replace promises of eternal salvation with claims of lateral stiffness and vertical compliance. "This year's God is 2.5% lighter and 7.8% stiffer than last year's model." Most importantly, the Judeo-Christian sects really should move quickly to add an 11th commandment, since the Commandments have been 10-speed since like forever.

Of course,the Jews are the fixed-gear riders of the religious world in that Jesus has about as much appeal to them as a derailleur has to a "fixter." Furthermore, despite the whole "Hipsters vs. Hasidim" conflict it appears that even the ultra-Orthodox have begun to adopt "messenger chic." Moreover, it's proving to be quite a turn-on to the ladies:

Absolute badass frum hotties - m4w - 25 (Norstrand and Fulton St.)
Date: 2010-05-26, 8:18AM EDT

3 of you on sunday evening. Atleast one of you whistled at the frum guy on the bike with his messanger bag, remember?. I'm sure to hand me your digits (assumed from the way you guys were staring at me). Sorry, I couldnt stop my bike. Besides being chased by angry cabbies, I was rushing to catch minche among other things.

Please whistle again. We need to talk about those short skirts and exposed sexy legs you ladies featered. What an utter shande (of me, not to embrace them)!

Put in the subject line. Todah!

While I get the gist of the post, much of it is indecipherable, and I can only assume he is using some sort of code. I wonder if his bicycle had aerobars with payos, like this example spotted by a reader:

(All You Haters Unfurl My Aero-Payos)

Sometimes the speeds afforded by aerobars can actually shred your bar tape, which I'm sure is the case here.

Meawhile, in the secular world of hipsterdom, people do not identify the like-minded by curly earlocks, secret codewords, or magical undergarments. Instead, they use tattoos:

tattooed eating an apple - w4m - 27 (Grand St Williamsburg)
Date: 2010-05-25, 5:21PM EDT

Yeah right, shot in the dark-
but I saw you about an hour ago walking down grand eating an apple (?) Like 3pm?
I almost stopped you because I thought you were my ex, but when i got closer i realized your tattoos were different. Awesome you're not my ex, sweet that you're just as hot.
I was on my bike and riding back to work, so I couldn't stop but I wish I had the nerve to holla.
You were wearing shorts and a Tshirt a fitted and had sunglasses on. You're tattooed up to your jawline and had less tattoos on your legs than arms. short dark hair.
If I don't get a response from every dude in wb i'll be shocked. But you're definitely way hotter than the rest.

The fact that the poster was only able to tell this person apart from her "ex" by his tattoos indicates that we have reached a new level of superficiality in which our individuality truly is only skin deep. Indeed, people are essentially now just dating tattoos. The real danger, though, is that even the tattoos are becoming indistinguishable, and now pretty much the only way to tell people apart in Brooklyn is by actually reading their knuckle tattoos. (They are basically now just "hipster" serial numbers.)

Thank goodness for genital piercings--they may be the last "hipster" defense against inadvertent infidelity.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Drop Bars: What Are They For?

After initially having set the handlebars on my Sam Hillborne quite high so that I could get used to them, I have now lowered them to a more typical position. Despite having done this, I think that there was nothing objectively wrong with my initial set-up. I received lots of comments and advice in my previous Hillborne posts, and one view expressed was that if I have to raise the bars so high, then perhaps I should not be riding with drop bars. This is an idea I very much disagree with, and here is why.

What is the purpose of drop handlebars? Many believe it is "to go fast" - that is, to achieve an aggressively forward-leaning position that would allow for maximum speed. And for that purpose, it would indeed make sense that the handlebars ought to be placed as low as possible.

However, while this is one of the things drop bars can be used for, it is by no means their only function or their mandated use. An equally important feature of drop handlebars is the unparalleled variety of ergonomic hand positions they offer - which is crucial for long rides. When cycling long distance, it is not only uncomfortable, but dangerous to use handlebars with limited gripping areas that allow for only one hand position. And by "dangerous" I mean that you can cause nerve damage to your hands. Drop bars, on the other hand, offer a continuous gripping surface with 5 distinct hand positions to switch between, greatly reducing the chances of this happening.

As I have mentioned before, I already have pre-existing nerve damage in my hands, so I feel hand "discomfort" (electric-current-like sensations running through my wrists and fingers) a lot sooner than those with healthy hands. This makes me an especially good candidate for drop bars when I go on long rides.

So what do ergonomic hand positions, nerve damage and touring have to do with speed or aggressive cycling? Absolutely nothing, and that is precisely my point. I have no interest in breaking speed records. All I want, is to cycle long distances without my hands ending up in bandages again. Drop bars are perfect for that, and whether they are placed high or low is completely irrelevant - as long as I am comfortable reaching all the available hand positions. Drop bars mounted high are better for touring than no drop bars at all. Sheldon Brown and Grant Petersen agree.

The perception that drop bars must be mounted as low as possible is an aesthetic preference rooted in racing culture and informed by the male anatomy (as males have longer torsos than females). But it's time to break that connection. Drop bars are fantastic for touring and exploring, and they can make your ride extremely enjoyable if used in a way that is right for you.

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