|Old pedals, new innards|
This quote was something of a shocking revelation to me. It's basically a statement about fashion, in the sense of what everyone else believes they need to buy currently in order to fit in and be cool, but it adds a harsh, nasty twist: if you want to be part of community, you have to buy the same stuff everyone else has, else you won't be able to keep track of what's going on with everyone else because you won't be able to talk to them about those things without the shame of appearing unable to afford to buy them. If you want to hang with the carbon fiber kids, and want to avoid the shame of riding your lugged steel frame ten speed from 1973 that your uncle gave you for free, you best run out and drop $5000+ on a new C-frame racing bike. Nevermind the explanations or frame material preferences. They* don't want to hear about your adventures in refurbishing an old steel bike, not really, they want to discuss their invisible headsets, bulging bottom bracket stiffness, weave overlay patterns and so on, and since you won't be an invested member of those conversations, you'll be, by definition, excluded. *I know anytime "they" is used, there will be exceptions, there may be some novelty interest in an older bike that's still rolling around. But when it comes to mutual validation in rallying around justifying to one another the expenditure while confirming its coolness and speed, an outsider without the goods is just that.
|Old pedal disassembled|
By often riding three bikes that cost me $100, $100, and nothing, I face exclusion and shame simply because I appear to be unable to afford the stuff everyone else* in the dedicated cycling community has. *Again, I know that's an inaccurate generalization, but, for example, not far off from the truth I experienced at the Not One More Foundation ride of honor. Lacking the ability to demonstrate to the assembled cyclists (vast majority with carbon fiber racing bike shaped objects) my actual economic buying power or credit score directly, the stuff I wore and what I rode spoke for me, and said "NOT ONE OF US." Just fascinating. Anyway. On to the pedal version of this phenomenon.
|Old pedal cleaned up, new parts going in|
This most certainly applies to pedals, too. I ride either platforms, or Crank Bros. Eggbeaters, basically. I think I'm up to four sets of Eggbeaters at this point. My commuter fixie has platforms with Power Grip straps. The other commuter has some nice touring platforms. For a lot of the riding I do, I am more and more convinced that special shoes and clipless pedals are more trouble than they are worth. I will stick with the clipless for mountain biking, but anyway, there I go again with the reasons and explanations for why I don't posses (or don't appear to, anyway, I actually possess an alarming collection of parts on shelves) the correct stuff for "serious" riding. The casual glance by the serious rider at my platforms yields immediately the two conclusions which I've experienced many times that validate the quote: either I don't know, or can't afford them.
Scottsdale bike shop that goes from this conclusion straight to the economic shaming, you know who you are. But possibly now I can't blame them entirely for their snobbishness, since this is apparently fundamental economic behavior. That they profit from customers who spend stupid amounts of money on the latest/lightest/stiffest in cycling technology may be beside the point: we want to belong, we can't help ourselves, we want to be able to talk about it with those who already possess it, and so to avoid the shame we buy it. Or, do often enough to make it a fundamental characteristic used to determine who's in, and who's out.
Which explains so much to me, about me, while I'm working on these pedals. The rebuild went fine, the helpful video on the Crank Bros. web site made it simple to do, and the only hitches were that the old bushings seemed better than the new ones so I left them in, and the seals didn't make complete sense either way I put them in. It all worked out well, though, and the play that was present with the old parts was completely gone with the new parts installed. With the new parts and fresh grease, they felt really good, ready to go onto one of the steel mountain bikes. See, it's bad enough that I don't have a carbon fiber frame mountain bike to be able to open with a fellow C-frame possessor conversation, I would tend to go the opposite way and ask how well the plastic mountain bike frame handles rocks getting flipped up by the tires and smashing into it, a conversation I'm certain no C-frame possessor wants to hear. Is that just my shame talking?
But I actually can afford a carbon frame mountain bike! I could buy some carbon fiber pedals if I wanted to! No, really! But it's not about that, which is why the Sunstein quote hit me right between the eyes. It's no use trying to explain to the community why you don't possess the commodities everyone else in it has. It's no use trying to overcome the assumption of economic shame with good reasons. Once the visual evidence has been adduced, once that key first impression of ignorance of what's cool, of what things your supposed to have, and/or poverty has taken root, there's no overcoming it.
This came as something of a blow to my idealism. Here I was, riding around, assuming that we have more to talk about than the stuff we buy. But it actually turns out to be the key: we spend more than we need to because we need to belong. Here I am, rebuilding ten year old pedals, which still seem perfectly good by the way, and my greasy machinations turn out to be a function of perpetuating my own economic shame. Sure, I had fun doing it. And I'm still a curmudgeon when it comes to buying stuff that lasts and can be repaired vs. the latest popular crap that will just get thrown away in a year or two.
You may already see the rub, and the conclusion, coming, but here it is anyway. Say that I find a community of cyclists who aren't driven to buy the latest/greatest/lightest carbon fiber racing shaped objects for usage other than actual racing. You're out there, I know you are, you Rivendell riders, you handmade custom frame lovers, you fellow old fixed-up ten speed riders, reuse/recyclers, bicycle commuters, utility cyclers, tourers and campers. I've met you. Hello there! What are you riding, it looks interesting! But listen to us already, talking about the stuff we've bought. Is that truly the glue that holds a community together? Commodities? Don't we have something else to talk about besides the stuff we bought and how it rides? It may be the case. I want to find out either way. Can we talk it over for ten minutes first, without checking out each other's stuff first, though? Meet on some level, neutral playing field unadorned and unbiased by economic prejudices? Or is that so core that it's who we are, living in a material world?
The implications are staggering. Brazing up my own frame is looking more and more necessary. Yeah, it would still be stuff, but it would be stuff that I made myself, which I would consider as being imbued with and demonstrative of a value given to it by me greater than that created by pushing the BUY button on a web site. Talking about how I made it, and the challenges I faced, perhaps with others who do the same, well, that's one way out of the commodity basket community crisis I'm having. Another is to just get out the credit card, and join in. But I've never really been much of a joiner.