I’m going to test your cycling-related unconscious bias now, so get ready. If this is the first time you’ve read something from this site, you’ll already have created a fast image in your mind of what type of person I am, what car I drive, what food I eat etc etc, and all in a few seconds. If you’ve been a bit more attentive and at least looked at the pictures, you will have gone a level deeper into assessing me, and based on both your unconscious and conscious biases. This will be based on what you have seen in the images and how you connect them to your own cycling views and experiences. Those of you who have read several posts, will have decided whether I am ‘in’ or ‘out of your gang’ based on my more detailed and transparent approach to life and cycling. You’ll either connect with the style and the brands I am in to, or not.
Our cycling unconscious bias also drives us to group people into stereotypes, so those of you on the same Facebook groups as me will already have moved into a step of acceptance because we’re connected by something we are passionate about, whether it be Vintage Cannondales, Vintage mountain bikes, vintage motorcycles, vintage sewing machines or vintage Le Creuset cooking pots (yes, really). The common word in the last sentence was ‘vintage’. Does this mean that I purely live in the past? No, because I’ve just got the latest eMTB, so there is a positive tension between the old and the new in my world.
This stereotyping thing now brings me to the alcohol drinking world. In a recent post on the sister ‘motorcycling’ site to this one that I have, I mention in the last paragraph or two that I sit down with a beer and reflect after my ‘near miss’ evening of not buying a vintage Moto Guzzi. This sentence was in fact not entirely correct, and partly because I’m not the specialist beer drinker in our house. My wife is. Give me a glass of champagne any day as a favorite drink. However, if a moto or mountain biker claims to sit down with a nice flute of bubbly after his or her ride, our stereotype biases are either smashed, confused or disappointed, because ‘those people’ don’t (usually) drink champagne (unless they’ve just won it) given half the chance, especially if they have tattoos as well, which I haven’t by the way, and in case you were wondering. It doesn’t fit the stereotype, which is wrong.
You’ll notice in some posts that there are strong music threads that weave their way through the text. These references will immediately give a hint to my age in your mind, but that doesn’t mean to say you’re correct. It is just your assumption. The brands that appear on these pages are the brands I follow and use. Brands like Fox, Oakley, Sidi, Giro, Cilo, Cannondale, Rapha, Muc-off, Mavic, Moet and Chandon, Taittinger etc are all quality, style and proven performance products, particularly the champaz. Brands bring us together or keep us apart. There is another level though in the brand acceptance world. If I wear the latest Oakley racing frames glasses that look new and polished, I’m in the brand gang. However, what if I’m wearing a pair of 1990s Oakley sunglasses that have a scratched lens? It’s either disaster or a new level of coolness and style, because in the polished Oakley world, scratched sunglasses are a no-no. The Oakley Sub-Zeros in the picture below have a big scratch on one of the lenses. If I rolled up at the cycling cafe with these on I’m going to be quietly sneered at by the Oakley afficianados. That is until I explain the exciting story around the scratch, which I’m going to do now………..
……….I was riding through a small village one evening after work that is on the journey out to my usual mountain biking trails, which is a vast area of human planted forestry, and in gentle rolling hills. A white, Ford Sierra Cosworth comes racing through the village and going much faster than the speed limit. Its rally exhaust pops and spits out flames as it takes the roundabout flat out in third gear and heads out in the direction to where I’m going to hit the trails. Some people in the village look shocked by the riotous way that the car raced through the village putting ‘local life’ at risk. I just thought he was an idiot (notice how I assume that the driver was a ‘he’?). I leave the village on my Cannondale Super V mountain bike and head up the long climb to where the trails start. The forest is quiet and sometimes there is only blackness in the trees, but other times, dependant on where you’re looking from, you can see bright light beaming through the perfect lines of trees. It’s funny how the same thing can look so different from a different angle. I cycle along one of the forestry tracks and just before I’m about to turn off onto one of the single tracks, I see the Ford Cosworth parked up ahead. All is quiet. I stop and make the decision not to take the single track and to carry on past the car. My heart is beating a bit more in anticipation of what I may or may not find. The forest looks dark. My unconscious bias and stereotype modes have kicked in fast and I’m expecting either something not quite right going on in the car of just a pair of lovers, heterosexual lovers to be clear. I hadn’t even got to thinking consciously about same sex coupling going on inside the angry engined Ford.
I cycle past the car and peer inside through my unscratched, dark Oakley Sub-Zeros. The car windows are darkened glass and I have to look harder into the car through my dark glasses to see what is going on inside. Nothing as it turns out. The car is empty. I stop and look around. Nothing. Not even a sound. My heart beats a bit faster now that I know that whoever was in the car recently, I use the word recently, because the engine was still clinking from the heat as it cooled down, must now be out of the car and maybe even watching me. I feel the security of my mobile phone inside my Fox Racing jersey. I cycle on, feeling a bit uncomfortable as I’m now in the woods and on some narrow single track, which weaves in and out of tall green ferns. For the next 5 minutes, I see nor hear anyone or anything, that is until something or somebody comes running down the track behind me. I look back briefly and see a small and feminine figure running right at me. Even though there is no explicit and confirmed need to, instinct gets me cycling faster and all of a sudden I feel like I’m being chased. My Sidi shoes are well clipped into my pedals, so I’m getting full power and forward motion. The chase is on. The figure now clearly chasing me is light-footed and small framed and clearly a woman, and must’ve (maybe) been the driver of the car. I turn a sharp corner in the trail and head straight into a fallen tree. The tree is of Christmas tree variety and it stops the bike and me immediately. My arms get grazed by the bark of the tree and my Oakley Sub-Zeros get scratched on one lens. One of my Sidi shoes is still clipped into the pedal of my Cannondale and before I know it, my pursuant has got to me and is now pulling my other leg that is free from the bike, just like I’m pulling your leg now!………***
Ha! What actually created the scratch on the Oakleys was my average cycling skill which took me right through a hedge because I was going too fast to get around a corner. So, one story makes the scratched Oakleys credible and cool and the other has me tainted as a cheap fashion disaster who should know better than to ride around with ‘scratched Oakleys’. It means I’ve insulted the Oakley brand, which brings me to the brand belonging part of this post. Brands bring people together, make a statement about you and your life, and whilst some say this is a shallow illustration of modern life, brands do drive behaviour and in many cases, positive and energising progress. Brands and their intellectual property are also big things to protect as well.
Whilst the brands that I’ve consistently mentioned in this post are all well established and well followed, some of the coolest brands are the emerging and newly born brands. Wearing a brand which is as yet to hit the mainstream or which defies global domination to remain ‘underground’ can mean ultimate coolness, which brings me to my final point. I want to introduce you to a new and semi-emerging brand. A brand which attempts to illustrate the simple and raw image of cycling and the fun associated with it. It is a brand which uses the perfect colour aesthetic of black, vintage white and red successfully, just like Jack White did in his creation of the band, The White Stripes. It is the image of the bicycle wheel and its ‘go anywhere, anytime’ off-road tyre. It is a brand image which can connect people around the world regardless of differing levels of diversity, wealth or status in society. It is brand which stands boldly on a garment or bill board. It is an emerging brand which represents cycling culture, music, fashion, food, champagne and sometimes beer. Here is the brand that represents these pages, myself, and even you, if you are interested to keep hanging in there with me.
Anyway, enough of this marketing crap, the simple truth is, I’ve got some sustainably made t-shirts coming just like the one below, so keep an eye out on these pages on how to get one, or on any other social media site that I can flog to death along with the rest of the world who is trying to force a new brand down your throat along with either beer or champagne. Cheers!
***Note for international readers: The term ‘pulling your or my leg’ means to tease or joke with someone, often by trying to convince them of something untrue.
All photos by the author