Wednesday, October 29, 2008

San Francisco Bicycle Culture II

More thoughts.

San Francisco, all 7 X 7 miles of it, is a complex mix of bicycle sub-cultures.

It has probably been talked to death elsewhere, but the urban bicycle sub-culture here is kind of fascinating. These are the single speed/fixed gear kids -- tight jeans, no helmets, ignoring the traffic laws, doing alley cat racing, disrupting Friday night traffic every month with their Critical Mass events.

Next are the fitness road cyclists. These are the guys with the overpriced roadbikes. I probably fall more into that category, even though I'm pretty cheap when it comes to bicycle equipment -- craigslist all the way.

Then there are the mountain bikers. Often they are yuppies, and they are definitely athletes. But they are made of much rawer and tougher stuff than most roadies.

Going to local bike shops and talking to the mechanics, the mechanics seem to fall into these schools. When they start talking about their own equipment, swapping war stories, you can tell who is a part-time/aspiring road racer, who is a hipster who loves fixed gears, and who shreds up the firetrails on the weekends.

I could never be a fixed gear/urban cyclist. But I will say one thing -- they are the reason so many beautiful old bikes are still on the streets of SF, in decent condition most of the time, having a second life as either a fixed gear or a commuter machine.

I used to wince when I saw people converting beautiful 1980's Italian steel racing frames into fixed gear machines. Now, not so much. Guys/gals who still ride these beasts understand and appreciate them for their capabilities and their classic beauty. When I've gone out on my early 1990's specialized Allez I've been able to keep up and in some cases smoke guys using much newer bikes. The fixed gear guys probably realize that those old steel frames can still fly like a bat out of hell.

Can't wait to take my baby shit blue 1987 Cannondale road bike, flat bar the sucker, and turn it into a commuter beast.

They ought to do a show here in SF, call it Pimp My Bike.

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