Tuesday, December 4, 2012

We're All Doing It Right: Thoughts on Grant Petersen's Just Ride

Just Ride by Grant Petersen
Earlier this year, Rivendell founder Grant Petersen published a book, Just Ride - a collection of short essays serving as a "radically practical guide" to cycling. After reading Just Ride over the summer I was not sure how to review it, so I held off. But at this stage I've been asked so many times whether I've read it, or been told that I ought to read it, that I figured I should share my thoughts. 

To provide some background, I am a huge fan of Grant Petersen's writing; can't get enough of it. I have been an avid follower of the Rivendell Reader and "blug" over the past 4 years. I'll even read the product descriptions on the Rivendell website just for fun. My admiration of his writing has nothing to do with whether I agree with everything he has to say; these are two separate things. But as a writer, I think he is uniquely gifted at creating engaging narratives and at establishing a sense of a shared perspective between himself and the reader. Just Ride has some of that magic, and that's what makes it stand out amidst the other bike books out there. At the same time, the book is quite short and largely reiterates what some of us have already read in Rivendell's literature over the years. I would like more! When discussing the book, Grant has mentioned that initially he had written a much longer, rambling manuscript that he and his publisher later nixed. I can't help but be curious about that earlier version. Maybe a longer, more in-depth book is in the future? I sincerely hope so. Grant Petersen is more than a bike industry guy; he is a writer.

But getting back to Just Ride: I would describe it as a friendly, engaging guide to cycling that is aimed at beginners and those getting back into riding later in life. Just Ride aims to portray riding a bicycle as a fun and uncomplicated activity, and seeks to free it from the seriousness that has been imposed on it by the racing, fitness and advocacy cultures. Each chapter offers advice on some concrete aspect of cycling. For the most part I agree with the advice, and the details I don't agree with don't really matter: You get a handful of bike people in a room and there is seldom a consensus. The important thing, as I see it, is that the advice feels accessible and appealing to beginners and makes them want to start riding, makes them feel that cycling is for them. Once they get into it, they can form their own preferences about specifics. The main thing is to make them feel inspired and comfortable in the first place, and Just Ride does that. 

The one thing that distracts from this, is that the book described as "the manual for the unracer" in fact focuses too much on racing, in my view. Even the term "unracer" itself suggests that racing is really the dominant type of riding, so much so that regular riding must be described in terms of what racing is not. Why not just call bike riding "bike riding," instead of turning it into a negative? It seems that the author assumes his readers have already been inundated by the racing culture and all the lycra/clipless/carbon/laterally stiff clutter that entails. But while this may have been true 5+ years ago, today I think it is far less likely. With plain-clothes bicycle commuting being covered by major US newspapers, I do not think racing is necessarily the prism through which novices perceive cycling these days. By mentioning racing constantly Just Ride makes it seem important, sending a mixed message to readers.

But my more serious critique of the book has to do with its interpretation. Namely, I notice that some readers are interpreting Just Ride to mean that there is a very specific way to "just ride," and that those not following Grant Petersen's advice to the letter are doing it wrong. Seriously: Since this book came out, every time I mention clipless pedals, a carbon fork, padded cycling shorts, riding with a club, or enjoying watching a bicycle race, sure enough someone will throw the book at me - telling me that I must read Just Ride and mend my wayward ways. I am pretty sure this is not the spirit in which the book was intended by Mr. Petersen, but nonetheless that is how some folks are seeing fit to use it. And to them I have this to say: We do not need more "you're doing it wrong" narratives in this crazy, fragmented bicycle culture. What we need is more inclusivity. As far as I am concerned, if you are enjoying riding your bike, you are doing it right - regardless of how high your handlebars are or what material your bicycle is made of. Let's all just ride our bikes in ways that make us happy, and not pass judgment on others. 

Just Ride may be available at your local bike shop or book store, or it can be purchased from Rivendell direct

115 comments:

  1. I've not read the book for the reasons you state in the second paragraph.

    IMO, as long as you are not riding your bike into me or my bike, you are doing it right.

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    1. Actually I'd say the book is a fun read even if you've already read their website and the Reader cover-to-cover.

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    2. I'm going to have to take your word on that for the time being.

      Since I bought my first Kindle three years back, I have absolutely no discipline when it comes to buying books. Currently there are around 500 in my queue waiting to be read.

      I'm sure Grant did a bang up job - he always is interesting and often a whole lot of fun.

      Maybe if we get some real winter weather in Chicago this year (not looking all that likely to date) I can use the snow in time to catch up.

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  2. Man you're just cranking out the posts the past few days.

    Been reading the Bstone cat's, Riv Reader all along...what is common in Grant and Jan is their need to carve out their anti-niche.

    In the old days at Bstone ground zero people bought eighties mtbs (Campeurs?). Before Lance, before bkw, before Rouleur informed the Mac World (that's for you bmike) what roadie culture should be. Of course there was a latent(?)demographic of anti-roadies out there that needed their saint(s); Riv was pulled out of near-bankruptcy by them.

    Yeah GP set himself up oppositionally and he, like JH, have tailored their language to suit the times but really as a daily sandal wearer I think his daily communications with the non-Riv proselytes keeps him from seeing the racer hate scree has run its course. The sport has been shown to be so polluted to render his words a massive pile-on; or, more accurately, and opportunity to say "I told you so."

    He's not entirely complicit; I'm pretty sure many of his readers have a pre-conceived notion of what they want out of the book. I periodically see the anti-racing comments here and the reference to the book as evidence of that.

    BTW all the clipless pedal et. al. accoutrements you cite aren't specific to racing, though that was their origin. There's a vast middle ground of riding there boys and girls.

    I think GP's editor screwed up too in allowing the negativity to dominate. Perhaps it was a better choice to chop up his prose into these digestible morsels for our adhd world, but GP is indeed best when allowed to ramble.

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    1. I just noticed Riv pulled its sponsorship. Just because you sold yours doesn't mean they don't have some good, interesting products.

      It's their money but a pretty dumb move I think.

      P.S. This is what I meant when I said they are kinda out of touch regarding who their constituency is.

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    2. To be fair, they didn't pull their sponsorship. Their 1 year ad expired some months ago and they did not renew it. This happens all the time with sponsors I am on great terms with; the reason for it is usually budgetary and time of year related. My ads aren't free after all. I am on good terms with Rivendell and don't want them to feel pressured to advertise.

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  3. I've followed Rivendell since the original mailing in 1994 and ordered my first custom late that year. I don't think anyone can dispute that Grant did more than anyone else to keep steel, lugs, wool, leather saddles, dt shifters, racks and bags, and non-racing cycling before the mind of the general cycling population in the '90s and early '00s. Note that I don't say others weren't doing this; but he was more vocal and more noticeable. The renaissance of non-racing, non-mtb cycling alternatives in all areas that we have today is a direct result of, if not solely due to, his influence.

    And he was believable because he made, sold, and publicized the things he loves: he said years ago, "Rivendell is product driven, not market driven."

    But strong personalities with strong views attract followers, and I can attest as a member of the Rivendell cycling list that there is a trend, fortunately relatively moderate, to form a "Rivendell" church with its own orthodoxy -- people paying large money for special shoes to use with no-retention pedals, snide remarks about lycra and diapers, etc. But Grant has been careful to distance himself from this sort of zealotry.

    Going back to your previous entry: I won't say that I still feel as if I am on a honey moon with my '99 and '03 customs, but this is very true: when I go back to them after riding other bikes for lengthy periods, they stand out and feel "right" in the way no other bikes I've ridden do.

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    1. I did not exist before mid-2008, so can't argue with the history as you present it. However, entering the scene at that time I was influenced by Sheldon Brown, bikeforums C&V, the Boston retrogrouch scene and the Dutch bike movement before I heard of Rivendell.

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    2. True; the uparalleled Sheldon (moment of silence. mmble mmble. amen.) was never in the two official "lighter! faster! stronger!vertically stiff/laterally compliant!" and "shred that trail! Zap Espinoza!" parties. Doubtless he influenced Grant. But I do think it was Grant who more than anyone else at the time brought it to market. By 2008 the scene had changed greatly over, say, 2001 or 1996.

      (Just got back from a PO/Grocery store run on the Riv Utility Vehicle: 20 miles for a 3 m rt errand. What fun!)

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  4. I'm with you; I love Mr. Petersen's writing and curmudgeonly style. I suspect that, like other talented curmudgeons (Mark Twain, Andy Rooney and Jeremy Clarkson come to mind), Mr. Petersen writes with tongue firmly planted in cheek, and that many who take issue with his writing take it too literally. To those who who feel hostility to Mr. Petersen and his writings, I can only suggest taking his words in the spirit in which they were written.

    I also suspect that one reason Mr. Petersen likes to talk about "non-racing" is because it lends his writing an amusing, not-to-be-taken-too-seriously kind of passion. And while it's true that non-racing bikes are becoming more and more popular, I can still see how anyone who's not into biking could innocently stroll into most bike shops, see nothing but lycra, carbon and skinny twenty-something sales people, and walk out. So I don't take issue with that. (And for the record, I'm skinny, too. But no longer twenty-something.)

    So yes, I believe "Just Ride" is doing bicycling a good turn. And what's wrong with that?

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  5. I enjoyed the book personally. I certainly didn't agree with everything, but it gave me a different perspective and one I used on a few people. My dad has stopped riding because (a) he doesn't have the time to do "real rides" and (b), he doesn't want to go through the whole pomp-and-circumstance (putting on his shoes, wearing his "kit"). I used Peterson's point that a 20 minute ride is 20 minutes less watching TV, etc. And I am pushing him to put different pedals on his bike and, you know, just ride.

    I have no problem with the MAMIL types and the racer wannabe's. If you are on a bike, then more power to you. However, when you let stupid things get in your way, you are not riding. (of course, this is assuming you want to be riding).

    Other pieces of his advice are very interesting. Such as being slightly unpredictable. I am a big fan of this. I do not mind if the cars are nervous about me and give me space. And, I love my loose-fitting shirts for rides. The flapping is much better. Then again, I ride at 12-14 mph for 100 miles rather than 16+ for 20-50 miles, so my riding style is very different

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    1. "When I see a rider with handlebars up to his chin in full Grant (hemp twine everywhere, seersucker shirt, Grip King pedals) swimming down the road, trying to propel the bike with his shoulders, entirely unable to keep the front wheel pointed straight , I feel entitled to make a judgment."

      Oh come now. I hear how many Riv aficionados with bars to ears sitting on B135s with 36 big rings and 18-36 cassettes schlepping $900 worth of cycling luggage containing repair kits weighing twice their saddle, pedal many more miles than I do at one go, all while wearing Crocs and oversized, sail-like button downs. Lettem alone. It's not my cuppa, but they do ride.

      Segway: lightweight neck warming:

      http://wintersilks.blair.com/catalog/search.cmd?form_state=searchForm&keyword=silk+dickey

      En route via USPS.

      (What! They are for women?)

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    2. If Riv aficionados stay out of your way and are having fun - great. More power to them. We all started as beginners and I started off on the most beautiful vintage bikes I could find. I admire lone wolf cyclists who do their own thing to please themselves more than a peloton racing down the St. Marks Trail on carbon fiber and aluminum bikes. According to NY Bike Snobs first book [title too long to mention here] there is snubbing by cyclists toward other cyclists who ride differently than themselves. Almost all of them respect the lone cyclist because they ride daily in varying circumstances and don't let fashion and categories affect their bike set up and style.

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    3. Liz, I take it you mean the St. Marks, FL rail trail from Tallahassee. As flat and straight as that trail is one could positively fly on even an Electra Townie! And good vibes to anyone on any self-propelled vehicle taking the ride down to the waterside cafe in St. Marks or that wonderful bird paraside wildlife refuge.

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  6. come to Australia, most 'Just Race'. A dose of Just Ride is required

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    1. Really? I'm in Sydney and I know dozens of people who ride, and only a couple who race. The racers are also pretty likely to not own cars and do all their commuting and shopping by bike.
      I was out "just riding" last weekend and got chatting to another bloke who was doing the same. We were both in full lycra on nice steel bikes, but neither of us were racers, just people out riding.

      Jonathan in NW Sydney.

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    2. I'm in Melbourne and the recent explosion in the number of cyclists on the roads has nothing to do with racing and everything to do with cycling's current 'hipness', improvements in cycling infrastructure and the increasingly traffic-clogged streets.
      Another interesting thing is that over here, most cyclists don't even perceive that there is such a thing as a cycling 'culture' and just ride anyway.

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  7. Many of us commute, shop, run errands... during the week some in the Peterson style then road race, cycle cross... on the week end. All this without expanding our carbon footprint; it's all just fun and practicable. Good ending Velouria!

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  8. When do we get to say someone rides wrong? When I see a rider with handlebars up to his chin in full Grant (hemp twine everywhere, seersucker shirt, Grip King pedals) swimming down the road, trying to propel the bike with his shoulders, entirely unable to keep the front wheel pointed straight , I feel entitled to make a judgment. I know it won't do any good to actually speak to that rider. His head is too full of rubbish to accept any further input. But the high handlebar swimmers are just wrong. And in the terms Matthew uses above, yeah I do feel like these disciples are imminently at risk of running into me and a constant danger to themselves.

    There are other errors. I have some friends I've known 35 years who have a fit studio business. They're good guys and they know bikes. Buy a fitting, get a 2 hour show with lasers and data files and hoopla. I ask them why every customer they send out the door has a too high saddle. Well, it's because the next shop down the road sets the customers up even higher. If they buck the fashion more than they do already they get a reputation as hopeless retrogrouches and lose the business. The occasional stray who walks in and merely wants to be safe and comfortable still gets a proper ten minute fitting, a good position, and it's still free of charge. Do people go at this sport ass-backwards? They do.

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    1. For your enjoyment! (my former bike circa May 2010).

      Why? Because that was the only way I could ride with drop bars at the time and feel comfortable.

      There is no reason this position should bother anyone more than the reverse saddle to bar drop. It's just a position.

      The issue of not being in control of one's bike and running into people is a totally separate one.

      As for this:
      "Do people go at this sport ass-backwards?"

      Sure. But not everyone sees it as a sport. Hence different ideas of bike fit, clothing and riding style.

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    2. "I ask them why every customer they send out the door has a too high saddle. Well, it's because the next shop down the road sets the customers up even higher. If they buck the fashion more than they do already they get a reputation as hopeless retrogrouches and lose the business. The occasional stray who walks in and merely wants to be safe and comfortable still gets a proper ten minute fitting, a good position, and it's still free of charge."

      The elephant in the room is the guy shelling out would have to learn how to pedal differently, which is precisely what he doesn't want to hear. I'm still waiting for a guy to say, "I'm always working on my stroke."

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    3. I'm always working on my stroke. I have a very observant and experienced riding partner. He knows that while most riders don't want to hear it I do. If he goes too long without remarking on my style I ask. After 400,000 miles I am still not good at standing back ten feet and watching myself pedal. I need a coach and I have one.

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    4. I got a better answer for you Jim. And I don't have the good answer because I'm so smart but because of where I was lucky enough to be. I grew up listening to Torchy Peden, Jimmy Walthour Jr., Othon Ochsner Sr., Charlie Yaccino, Carl Stockholm. All they talked was technique. Pedalling was everything.

      It is now apparently rude to notice when riders with well-punched tickets barely have the bike under control. The thing about having the bike under control and not running into others is real, not hypothetical. Technique matters.

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    5. I suppose you have the right to "judge" someone who can't control their bike well enough to ride safely. But that's a lot different than judging them because you don't approve of how they've decorated their bike or decided where they want their handlebars. Most precise fit issues are only necessary for long distance, strenuous riding. If someone wants to cover their bike entirely with orange twine and ride with ape hangers, they're not "doing it wrong". And frankly, if they wobble a little, just give them more room when you pass.

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    6. OK, an example.

      Next time you are tired in the saddle, pedalling at low rpm, or especially when riding uphill just pay attention and notice what your shoulders are doing. Are you pedalling with your shoulders? Not everyone does it, but it's common. You can see pros pedal uphill with their shoulders. It is obviously pure wasted motion, a drain on your energy.

      To stop pedalling with your shoulders you don't have to do a thing except be aware of it. Once it's pointed out you can just stop. Instantly you'll be a better rider. Or if you can't deal with the concept that some of us are better than others at least you will be a quicker more comfortable more efficient rider.

      If your handlebars are high enough you'll just have to keep pedalling with your shoulders. The position enforces the action. And I doubt you'll get up much of a hill. Maybe if you get a 22x38 low gear you'll get up.

      Nobody here has eyes to see any of this? Yes, Max, I give them a lot of room. Question is, when the rider in front is basically changing course on every pedal stroke, do I pass on the right or on the left? Lately I've been passing mostly on the right so as to stay out of traffic. This means going off on the shoulder, onto the grass, or hopping the curb.

      And another example. My sweetie, who is now 63 years old, was recently knocked off her bike by a young lady of perhaps 30. The young rider simply lost control in a downhill turn because she was sitting far forward and couldn't use the front brake. The young lady called it a crash. We all know crashes just happen. I say she fell off her bike due to sheer incompetence. Riding in traffic areas while incompetent borders on reckless negligence. No, it is not OK to knock around old ladies. It is never OK for a young rider to slam out of control into a senior. No amount of self-congratulatory prose ever makes it OK to crack an old lady. It's wrong.

      You do not know everything there is to know about riding a bike because you bought one. You do not know everything there is to know because you've been riding a little while. You have to learn. It takes time. It takes a willingness to accept that you do not already do everything right.

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    7. Anon 12:48 - your example conflates issues.

      Everyone, young, old, cyclist or otherwise, has the right to expect people on bikes will not be riding out of control or too fast for conditions.

      OTOH, unless asked, no one has the right to offer strangers suggestions on how to be a better hill climber, faster pedaler, more efficient, etc. Whether someone's riding style is going to put them at the front of the peloton is wholly up to the rider.

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    8. Matthew J

      If I notice your brake cable flapping loose, not connected to the brake caliper, do I get to say something to you without an invitation? That is not a hypothetical. That happens and the recipient of the news gets angry at the messenger. If I see you and your Clockwork around Chicago and your cable is loose I'll be real sure not to say anything to you.

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    9. 'Hey, your cable is broken ...' Good.

      'Hey, you need to keep your knees straight pedaling ...' Bad.

      Difference is obvious to me anyway.

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  9. Regarding inclusivity:

    My shop colleagues and I lament the dearth of affordably priced, utilitarian bicycles that aren't ostensibly created by the design department. Is it too much to ask for a well-rounded 4130 road bike with fender eyelets front and rear for ~$1k?

    While I'm on the topic of design, some of the, ahem, bullshit production companies are pushing is utterly ridiculous. The rear wheel of the Trek Cocoa, for example, is so impossible to remove how is the rider who's just now getting into cycling (again) expected to change a flat? Aesthetics trumps function yet again.

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    1. Seems to me that Soma roadbikes come close, if you're clever with the component choices. The Smoothie and such?

      As for city bikes, got to love the <$600s Bobbin and Linus.

      Things are getting better.

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    2. Chain cases are for aesthetics only? I had no idea.

      Yeah, overall it seems to me that there hasn't been a time when there was so many reasonably priced practical bikes in pretty much my whole life. 5 years ago, not so much.

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    3. Sometimes the manufacturer comes up with a good idea but the trade rejects it. An example is the Gazelle Shifting System: a fully enclosed derailleur on a rear wheel suspended on one side so easily removed. Description and comments to be found here: http://www.sydneycyclist.com/forum/topics/gazelle-shifting-system-gss?xg_source=activity
      Introduced in March, rejected by the trade who said "nobody will buy this, and we don't want to have anything to do with it", retracted for maybe a later re-introduction in the future. The trade may have had a point: customers, at least in the Netherlands, tend to be very conservative in that they don't tinker with their bikes.

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  10. Good post. Grant's writing really helped inspire me to get back into cycling about seven years ago and his anti-carbon/anti-racing ludditism formed much of the base from which my own cycling-related opinions have evolved. I've read every Reader from cover to cover. I do think that as time's gone by he's gone a bit over the edge with double top tubes on the Hilbourne and Soma San Marcos, diagonal frame support tube on the Hunqapillar, etc. I originally followed his advice about platform pedals, wool clothing and non-lycra shorts. I've since realized that clipless pedals are more efficient and worth the inconvenience of having to use cycling shoes, smelling like a wet sheep probably isn't much better than smelling like a sweaty primate, and padded lycra shorts really do improve the riding experience. However, I couldn't have reached these conclusions without having Grant's "velosophy" as a starting point. The book's worth reading for those new to cycling and he's still a valuable voice .

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    1. You bring up the one thing about GP, or more correctly, public thinking about GP, that really does annoy me.

      I've been riding long before I ever heard of GP. Cycling preferences I've developed, I've developed on my own. Nonetheless, many people assume I'm some sort of Rivendellian.

      Fact is, I tried and simply did not like cleats, have always preferred natural fiber clothing to synthetic, and find padded short the least comfortable abomination ever thrust upon my rotten carcas.

      On the other hand my current bikes are raw fillet brazed stainless steel and a 1980 Italian style race bike which but for its (very plain Cinelli) lugs has no relation to what Riv sells now.

      To the extent GP and his followers provide some semblance of an argument my preferences are not lunatic fine. His advice is fairly basic. The kind of stuff people can and do come to on their own.

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    2. For years now, it's been my view that the so-called "Riv-philosophy" is nothing more than conventional wisdom for cyclists. I'm fairly sure I've typed as much in this Blog's comments section well over a year ago.

      I think the Bob-types and the early Riv-types were into GP and Riv b/c they were adherents to conventional wisdom; GP was espousing the views that they already had, and they appreciated that.

      Things have changed this past decade or so in that neophytes are learning their conventional wisdom via the Riv propaganda, rather than by riding, living, and learning. I suspect this has, to some degree, led to other crusty cyclists getting a bit dismissive of Rivendel and younger GP zealots.

      I like quill stems and high bars b/c my back has been injured, and responds best to a saddle that is roughly the same height as the bar (or the tops of a drop bar.) This is probably still considered low by Riv-folks' standards, but it probably seems comically cruiserish to most modern roadies. (For the record, the grips on my cruiser are about 1" higher than the saddle.) And you know what? I don't care.

      Like Matthew J above, I often find myself (sometimes begrudgingly) agreeing with GP, and I concur with the "Just Ride!" sentiment as well.

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  11. Grant was the first of the major players who made all these points about steel, dirt, wool, riding without an HRM, et cetera: Just look at the Bridgestone catalogs that he did in the 90s.

    For that reason alone he deserves our attention and respect.

    Loved the review; have not seen the book; own three of his bikes; rode 650B on gravel yesterday and on grass; right now it’s night and pouring the rain in Western New York.

    Bob (RUSA 937)

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    1. Just for clarity's, and fun's, sake:

      Wool -- I was wearing before Bstone existed here. Because everyone did.

      Leather -- Too heavy.

      Dirt -- ha!

      HRM -- in the 70s?

      If you think he deserves "your" attention and respect that's fine. This is the Idol Argument: all things uttered must be informed by inherent respect. I respect some of things he's done, some of his hateful language not so much.

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    2. "Leather -- Too heavy"

      This was one of the first revelations for me, once I started carrying bags on bikes.

      Interestingly, GP himself has a post somewhere describing his visit to a bike show in Taiwan, where he makes fun of leather bike bags for this reason.

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    3. To Bertin's comment and yours regarding high handlebars: this is a meme. In a race bike context you need to get some weight on the front for it to handle properly. With Dutch bikes or long chainstay Rivs much less relevant. If you were to try to set up a race bike with super high bars it would require a lot of attention to go straight down the road. While possible, I get the point: set up the bike to work for you, not what some guy says.

      To the seat comments -- I have a Brooks b135 on a bike. It is magnificent. It, with setback pins and post, weighs about 5 lbs. Whenever someone gushes over it I'll do a quick character assessment; if passed I'll pull it and hand it to him/her. Never fails to bulge eyes.

      PS I still have an old Riv sticker on my car that's severely sun-faded: Wear Wool, Sit on Leather, Ride Lugged Steel.

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  12. Having read many of Grant's writings and the raves about his bikes I recently made the pilgrimage to Rivendell in Walnut Creek to talk and ride.

    On the plus side, really nice people with a well defined point of view: that more people would ride our hilly roads and trails if they could sit upright on bikes with wide soft tires and long relaxed wheelbases. An even bigger plus: they had lots of built-up bikes to test drive.

    On the minus side: the designs just aren't elegant. The tubes are a little thick (never mind the double top tube Hilsen, as strange looking a beast as you are likely to come across), the chainstays a hair too long and the steering angle a touch too relaxed for precise control. Taken with the coarse wheels and the entry level groupsets you can easily spend $4,000 for an oversized bike you will fight every day.

    But, I did learn an important lesson about tire pressure and width. That very night I swapped out my 23's for 25's and dropped the pressure 10 psi. Ah, heaven.



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  13. By the way: Rivendell is holding a custom frame raffle apparently!

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  14. Why do we need more inclusivity?

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  15. Never read Grant Peterson, nor do I know anything about Rivendell, but I do enjoy just riding a bicycle. You mean there's a manual for it? The world has gone crazy!

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  16. Ground Round JimDecember 4, 2012 5:04 PM

    > Just for clarity's, and fun's, sake:

    > Wool -- I was wearing before Bstone existed here.

    Where?

    > Leather -- Too heavy.

    Agreed. But I didn’t mention leather.

    > Dirt -- ha!

    Half of the world’s roads: Unpaved.

    > HRM -- in the 70s?

    I was born in 1980, so I’m not sure what you mean.

    > If you think he deserves "your" attention and respect that's fine. This is the Idol Argument ... I respect some of things he's done, some of his hateful language not so much.

    Would you care to quote some of the language? I don’t recall any.

    Bob My-Real-Name Cooper

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    1. Here in these United States. Bstone imported by Grant.

      Leather -- oops!

      Dirt -- Everyone rode in the dirt in the 60s/70s before bmx, mtbs and Grant, on every kind of bike, including my kid sister on her Murray 3 speed.


      Hateful - not going to type out entire passages for you but what V wrote about "unracer" is what struck me as gratuitious, a negative as a relief to his thoughts.


      etc. etc. Point is made by others too -- it's just common sense stuff GP that we figured out by riding, not reading. There was nothing to read. Really.

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    2. One more thing that illustrates my GP language-over-time thing: read all Riv Readers from start to finish and tell me there isn't more than a little bit of snide when referring to racing. If you can tell me there isn't you aren't reading his writings with an open mind. But why would you -- you own 3 of his bikes.

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    3. I'm going to sign this Ground, my pen name, Round.

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    4. Oh, MY! Things are getting hot! What fun! I own two of his bikes; have *owned* four; #1 I sold -- tho' I wish I'd kept it as a nice, fixie errand beater. (Aside: hacked, snipped, cut, dremeled, and hacksawed off all the naughty derailleur bits to make #1 a fixie beater commuter. Let me tell you, taking Vise Grips to braze ons on a custom frame is a great thrill.

      For the record: I bought, briefly rode, and rather quickly sold a single top tube, canti'd Sam Hillborn because it didn't fit my criteria for a keeper. (Velouria: why did you sell yours?) Not bad, mind you, but not good enough. And, I have no use for Bosco Bars, tweed bags, zip tied fenders, cloth bar tape, twine on bikes, or pedals without some sort of retention system, or for that matter tweed bike luggage or flappy shirts for riding.

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    5. It would be hard to dispute that GP is derogatory toward bicycle racing and racers. I understand that there is some baggage there for him, and that he feels he is only pushing back, but I still find it excessive and unfair.

      Idolatry... is a silly thing, regardless of whether the idol is wearing yellow lycra or seersucker. Avoid.

      Delete
    6. Bertin chill out, no one's getting hot but you, the way I read it.

      The baggage has been there for a long time, but it's not leather. Until he says it is.

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    7. Jim you're misreading. Bertin is getting hot because he's wearing all his finest wool.

      Bertin - I sold my SH mainly because it was too big for me for a drop bar bike, the way I eventually wanted to set it up.

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    8. ONE more and then I'll shut up. Can't monopolize all the fun.

      Wool -- wonderful stuff, wool. I tried it and gave up all my synthetics back in circa 2003. Can't stand wool above 70F, but sub that temp, it's the bee's knees. Scored a half-dozen retro wool jerseys a few years ago for a ridiculously low price and have enjoyed wearing them ever since: Cycles Wolf; Bianchi; Raleigh; Italian national team; etc etc. Especially good when I combine a jersey with a mis-matched cycling cap on sale from Nashbar (Bianchi with PDF or Molteni cap).

      I get routinely 10+ hours out of a wool jersey, and generally wash them simply because I want to wear another one, not because they smell. They get grey and crusty, yes, but they don't smell. Wish I could find something as hygenic for summer, but the only things that come close are Hawaiian shirts made from rayon.

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    9. When I got back into cycling I was skeptical about wearing wool against the skin, especially in hot weather. Nothing about my memories of it from the 80s suggested that I would enjoy such a thing. So it took me over a year to try it. But once I finally did it was BAM, hooked. I am open to other materials (except poly, which gives me a disgusting rash every time), but wool is the easy shortcut.

      "Can't stand wool above 70F"

      Have you tried the really fine wools, like the Ibex 150g stuff?

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    10. No; must do so. Wish Ibex weren't so expensive. Of course, when it is hot enough to wear floppy Hawaiian shirts, it is too hot to worry about floppiness.

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  17. It seems Grant not only has saved cycledom from the hell of exclusive carbon fiber and 4" travel suspension, but he (no doubt unaware) provokes hugely fun discussions.

    My, my my: tempers! Me, I like H. L. Mencken on Puritanism (but you can substitute your own bete noire (supply necessary accents): "The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be having fun."

    Patrick "One belly laugh is worth ten thousand syllogisms (HLM)" Moore

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    1. I agree. Just ride. No carbon fiber for me!

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  18. I think Grant's influence in keeping lugged bike frames alive and the do-all country bike focus are significant contributions that we'eve all benefited from. I enjoy reading his articles and really admire his tenacity in creating/preserving a bike culture that promotes cycling for the sake of cycling. On the other hand... I never really got into his baggy hobo clothing thing.
    I agree completely with your assessment of the book.. but I also realize that sometimes a writer has to take a exaggerated position to make a point. At least that's what I hope is his strategy.

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    1. I like the clothing : )

      The extravagant position works well on the website and in the Riv lit. In the book, it leaves me wondering exactly what audience he is catering to. For the complete beginners it seems intended for, some of the undercurrents might simply be confusing.

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    2. "I think Grant's influence in keeping lugged bike frames alive and the do-all country bike focus are significant contributions that we'eve all benefited from."

      All of us, really? I don't get this.

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    3. Most of us anyway.

      More people on bikes mean greater public awareness of bikes which translates into better internal combustion engine driver manners and infrastructure design improvements that include bikes in the mix.

      As V points out in another post*, many non-Riv, but non-racing points brought us to where we are now. But certainly GP has done a lot and deserves respect for it.

      *Adding to some of V's inspirational starting points are the national and local bike touring organizations which encourage a growing number of people to travel by bike.

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    4. Yeah yeah...I talk to a lot of non-bike geeks who have no idea who Petersen is but ended up with a comfy Brooks, high bars, and basket regardless. Could it be they have common sense? Nah.

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  19. Petersen has mentioned his racing background,so maybe the racing problem is more for him and his generation's perspective than anything. On the flip side young guys and girls who started getting into bikes as fixies and city commuters have since discovered bikes with gears, touring, and more so even road riding and racing! Older road only riders do have a bad rep for being rigid, snooty etc compared to other cyclists, so people still have the misconception in mind if they see you on a road bike. I'd love to read the book. Petersen has done so much for keeping beautiful lugged bicycles alive, inspiring bike builders and taking the other manufacturers to task.
    I'd love to have those nigel smythe bags.

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    1. With you Heather.

      When I first discovered on-line bike forums a lot more people threw out the term 'serious cyclist'. Inevitably SC applied exclusively to road racing.

      My counter that amatuer racing is a pass time not all that different from any other free time hobby fell on deaf ears.

      Now a days this is not so much the case. Witness the VSalon for instance. Once a redoubt of all things road racing, many threads now are devoted to commuters, cycle tours, fenders, etc. Most of the old timers appear happy to chime in.

      The bigger the tent, the better for all. Just don't ride into me (or any one else for that matter)!

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    2. I think Grant Petersons ideas evolved steadily since his Bridgestone days but I noticed a step change after he interviewed Gary Taubes and Mark Sisson and concluded that eliminating grain and doing pushups and pullups for 30 minutes is equivalent to riding a bike hard for three hours and frees up 2.5 hours to do something new.

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  20. I've had great experiences with Rivendell. I own two Rivs -- a Glorius that is my everyday bike and a Romulus, Riv's least deluxe road bike, a sort of predecessor to the Hillborne with the tremendous advantage (to me) of having a nonsloping top tube. Both bikes are insanely comfortable. And Grant and Rich gave me great advice on set up.

    I didn't need Grant to give me advice about truly retro stuff. I rode seriously in the 70s and 80s and went back to wool when I started riding seriously again in the late 90s because it's what I grew up with and one modern jersey was enough. But Riv has a great eye for NEW products that fit with the old sensibility. So, for example, I switched over to power grips, which are better for me than my old Christophe toe clips. And my mountain bike uses Grips Kings with little spikes, and they keep me feet on the pedals but allow me not to need to clip in when I'm trying to start on an uphill. I wouldn't have found either product without Riv. Kookaburra, too. And Grant's advice out wearing a seersucker over a Filo-thin woolie for touring was a godsend last summer when we biked the Camino de Santiago.

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    1. I loved using Power Grips, and I think 2 years of them is what helped with my eventual seamless transition to clipless. Thankfully though, not before I got these great shots of them paired with carbon Campy Chorus cranks!

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    2. Critical mass was reached this summer when Outlier released a seersucker shirt that out-did Riv's venerable offering in every way.

      The best idea is to find what works for you and go with it. Fortunately there is so much stuff out there it is increasingly easy for us to experiment and find the best.

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    3. My partner uses Riv's new Thin Gripster pedals on a titanium Seven mountain bike (I'm using Grip Kings on a steel Seven mountain bike ... With Rich at Rivendell-built wheels). And another great source for seersucker is LL Bean, which makes 3/4 sleeve women's models.

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  21. Grant Peterson is a stand up guy and a fine writer. I can't really seem to get all lathered up about Rivendels (although I grab any of his old Bridgestones I see to pass on to anyone with an open mind and a small budget)but he always has worthwhile things to say and an engaging way of saying it. I used to get tired of the people who called him a kook just because his bikes didn't look like theirs, now about every other bike you see looks a bit like his. HA! WHO'S A KOOK NOW, HUH? HUH?

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  22. I really enjoyed reading "Just Ride," although I have no plans to give up my clipless pedals, my helmet or the carbon fiber bits on my fast bike. However, I also own several Rivish bikes, including a Bridgestone MB-3 that I picked up for a song. Last summer during a trip to the Bay Area, we stopped by Rivendell's headquarters in Walnut Creek to buy parts and the book. Grant himself corrected a couple typos for me, and of course it was signed.
    I invited him to come to Montana, where I live, to do some fishing and talk about his book. Later, he did make a trip to Missoula. I enjoy Grant's humorous writing style, and I'm a fan of his bikes.

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  23. Great book! I agreed to 80% to what GP said but still a great read! I am glad that he put out his Rivendell Readers, I collected them the first few years when he started his company. Plus his inputs to Bridgestone bikes was a lot of fun. I still have the Bicycling magazines and Bicycle Guides issues with his interviews and reviews on Bridgestone's and Rivendell's bikes. I thought it was funny on how these bikes were set up more for road racing than what they were intended to do. But these magazines like today are mainly focused on fast and lightweight bikes with all of the latest gadgets to shift a gear. I am glad that Grant kept the old school way of riding alive. From all of the ultra long distance rides that I have done in the past three seasons, I do see a good mix of the old and new stuff. And there is nothing wrong with that! Keep riding everyone............

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  24. the idea that grant saved the world from carbon is amusing. the price of cf is just now becoming low enough to attract mainstream cyclists. give it a few years and it will be the new alu.

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  25. Grant Peterson's Just Ride book is just the thing I needed after 4 years of cycling and being bike obsessed. I'm not fast enough to club ride and I don't want to push myself that much because of my age and health. Club riding and trying to ride a race-oriented bike would not be fun for me. Grant's book made a great deal of sense. I don't really fit into any one category of riding and I don't aim to push myself that much. I go fast enough for me. I ride cromo steel because I can feel a bike beneath me and it is more enjoyable to me than one I can't feel at all. All clubs and most serious cyclists are influenced greatly by the speed of racing bikes and the latest technology. The unracer chapter was like a breath of fresh air to me. I still don't use clipless pedals and I'm happy with it.

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    1. I'm with you on this, Liz, although I've never been a club rider. I enjoyed the book and took away a lot from it, but by no means agreed with all of it. I always preferred steel frames, flat pedals and wool before I heard of GP, because I don't ride that fast and am a bit of a Luddite!
      I too, came to the book not as a new rider or returning rider (sorry to disagree, Velouria!) but just as a cyclist/rider. Each to their own, I say, but I'll never see the attraction of clip less pedals!

      Delete
    2. Dave - I don't disagree actually. While I think the book is intended for beginners/returning cyclists, in actuality my impression is that most of its readership is not of that category.

      Delete
  26. I read the book, loved it, loved the writing style. I went to Nashville to hear Grant during his book tour. I appreciate the man and his business, I like to support it. I don't agree with everything he says about biking, for sure, but I don't think that you are supposed to.

    In my area, the entire bike scene is still racing/go fast/paceline oriented. If you get into the woods on singletrack it is always about how quick you finished the route or how fast you took a section of tricky singletrack. Nobody wants to hear about how lovely it was to just ride, they want to hear how fast you were. No group just gets together to "just ride;" it always has to be some sort of training ride, or some race to the finish. Everything is geared to getting faster, as if faster is some cycling nirvana to be pursued at all costs. Gets tiresome when that is all their is locally.

    Thankfully Riv exists because they make certain bikes that fit me, and fit my kind of riding perfectly. I have basically given up on showing up at group rides, instead I ride solo or meet up with a group of friends who get together sporadically to just ride. We even go fast, ride hills, ride hard, just don't do it in a formal paceline/training plan. Getting faster isn't the plan, but it does just naturally happen if you just happen to be riding a lot. (I have clipless and ultegra 10 speed on my sam hillborne)

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    1. Wow! Ryan M. My sentiments and cycling experiences exactly. It's more difficult than ever to ride with folks who can "just ride."

      I liked Grant‘s book. Some stuff gleaned, other stuff disregarded, but all interesting. The illustrations were fun.

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    2. It's so interesting how different experiences can be. I find it easier to join organised training rides, because they are regular and the schedule is fixed, and so there is no need for 20 emails of back-and-forth re time and weather conditions every single time a few friends want to meet up. I also find it useful how these rides are separated according to skill level, so I pretty much know what to expect when I show up. But the more I read about others' experiences, the more I think there might be regional differences in attitude as well. The clubs here are fairly welcoming and non-sadistic; I enjoy them.

      Delete
    3. I haven't ridden socially for a few decades, and then only every now and then for a century, or a camping trip with a friend. I'm looking into the local scene a bit now, since the riders I've encountered so far mostly aren't 'jocks'. At a somewhat overweight 55 years, I wouldn't be able to compete with the jocks, and I never really had any interest in that even in my 20's.

      For me, the main point of efficiency, conditioning, and speed is to make longer rides more pleasant (and possible) so that I can explore more territory. Anything that increases efficiency or speed at the price of significant discomfort (or missing the scenery) just doesn't engage my interest. Approaching rides this way has given me a better aerobic fitness level than I've achieved in several years of going to the gym, but this was more of a nice side-effect than an objective.

      Grant Peterson's writings speak to this very nicely. His website writings helped me give myself permission last year to ditch the toe clips and drop bars on my old 10 speed. I had been using both of those 'religiously' since reading Eugene Sloane's Complete Book of Bicycling (1970 edition) 40 years ago. Drop bars and toe clips are simply impediments to the sort of riding on and off trail I want to do these days.

      Re the 'religious' characteristics of some biking people (with more than one 'church' represented on this thread): Activity-related communities have all the characteristics of other human groups. There are boundary conditions that define who is 'in' and 'out', and some people naturally gravitate to defining and enforcing these things. Not much to be done about it, other than to try, as you seem to do, to talk across the boundaries when possible. In this context, I can't help observing that Sloane's old book has often been called "the cyclist's bible".

      Delete
  27. Question: doesn't the book contain a bunch of diet/nutrition advice? That's what I gathered from the media coverage around the book release and it is one reason why I haven't bought the book. I'm pretty allergic to that kind of stuff, but since it wasn't mentioned in the review or comments maybe I misunderstood.

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    1. There is a section on diet and nutrition, but it's not the focus of the book by any means. Just part of a "big picture" approach to cycling.

      Delete
  28. Even before the Bridgestone years GP made his mark with his series of Roads To Ride guidebooks to the Bay Area. Brilliantly written, beautifully presented, marvelously edited. And the research involved some thousands of miles of riding burdened by equipment and note-taking that no one would have ever done unless they cared about other riders. He does care. Even if he is kinda weird these days.

    The guidebooks are kinda dated now and still extremely useful.

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  29. Just a quick comment before reading the last half of this thread: I bought Just Ride for my Kindle after reading about it here, and raced right through it (yikes, I'm a non-un-racer reader!). I really enjoyed it--there was plenty I agreed with, a few things that had never ocurred to me, and a few other points that I thought were nuts, either generally or for me specifically. ("Don't count miles"--I love counting miles, and I am no randonneur. "Don't pedal circles," yeah, always wondered about that. "Riding is lousy all-around exercise"--eye-opening and likely true. "No ride too short" -- rock on!)

    What I like best of all is Velouria's attitude--which has been a constant throughout the life of this blog, both for bike choice and cycling habits: If you're riding and enjoying it and not likely to kill anyone, you're doing it right. I will venture to say I'll bet this is how V looks at things outside of the blog as well.

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    1. "If you're riding and enjoying it and not likely to kill anyone, you're doing it right."

      I think that one of the themes of this blog is that there is: a) transportation cycling and b) sporty cycling -- and never the twain shall meet.

      my fascination with this blog revolves (in part) around my belief that this firewall between cycling styles will crumble. further, i will go out on a limb and predict a post about riding clipless for transportation in the next year or so.

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    2. My attitudes toward cycling are not meant to be prescriptive and besides they are in constant flux. The distinction you mention describes the way I currently ride, and sure, it could change. I've already commuted with clipless pedals when it's made sense for me to do so.

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    3. I didn't understand the "Don't pedal in circles bit" - don't you just pedal?! A good synopsis Mr Fotos.

      I've never seen Veluoria's attitudes as prescriptive, but evolving. Surely transportation cycling can be sporty? I ride roads, tracks and towpaths to work on my mud guarded (rendered) bike with my Carradice pannier on the back. I don't class it as commuting, off-reading or anything, just my preferred way of covering distance, unless I want to walk.

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    4. Transportation cycling can be sporty, but doesn't have to be, is the way I'd put it. And this idea (that it does not have to be) is new and exciting to a lot of people, who otherwise would not ever consider bikes. You can dress up for work and still ride. You can be hopelessly unathletic (as I was 4 years ago) and still ride. That does not mean you have to be either of these things, but only that you can.

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    5. I think that 'pedalling in circles' might well be worth a separate post. For my part it strikes me that effort should as far as possible be applied at 90deg to the crank. Just stamping on them must surely waste considerable power. My personal bugbear is applying equal effort with both legs, as a right-hander I tend to prefer the right leg and occasionally have to make a concious effort to try harder with the left. Does anyone else find this?

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    6. Spot on, Velouria - each to their own but accommodate others.

      Anonymous - I'd like to hear what others have to say on this as well. Is it just a case of uphill means pedal harder (depending on gearing) or is there more to it. I must admit I've never given it much thought.

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  30. Along the same theme from Laura at The Path Less Pedaled. A good piece of writing.

    http://pathlesspedaled.com/2010/11/youre-doing-it-wrong/

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    1. the post was actually written by russ. they're both excellent writers, but just wanted to give credit where credit is due.

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  31. The "don't pedal in circles" bit is part of his rant against clipless. It does like this: It may sound more efficient to apply pressure with both legs and feet all the way around a circle, pulling up in various degrees as well as pushing down, but that's not how we evolved. Our legs are designed for mashing, hiking, etc., not executing mechanical pressure through every part of a perfect circle.

    So just push the darn pedals down. "The most efficient pedalers just minimize the weight on the upwward-moving pedal, so that one leg isn't fighting the other."

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    1. Thanks for the reminder, Christopher. I agree with GP on that and I'm sure that there are studies that have shown the upstroke even for pros is minimal. Still, if people like clipless then fair enough, not my glass of ale though.

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  32. Total "thumbs up" on your point of view concerning the book and cycling in general. And I say that coming from a competitive background and owning a stable of racing oriented bikes. But as I've aged, I come to appreciate "just riding" without a goal or destination in mind other than the sheer joy of cycling.

    An apt parallel would be walking or hiking. You can do either at a high hear rate workout pace, or just an easy stroll while appreciating one's surroundings.

    In the end, life is NOT a competition. I have great admiration for competitive riders and occassionally enjoy a hard sufferfest ride, but in the end it's how much did I really enjoy the ride, taking in the landscape, camaraderie of fellow riders and culture of place. A beautiful ride is far more memorable than a sufferfest!

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  33. I've read Grant's writings -- mainly because he was panned by some racer-types, so that was an endorsement to me -- and I found that we don't agree on much; BUT...and this is the thing...Grant frees all riders to ride as they see fit, to 'agree to disagree', and I have respect for that.

    As a 'Clydesdale', I ride a full-suss MTB, 5"+ travel on both ends, and clipped in; it works for me, and I expect NO ONE to follow my lead. It's my commuter, grocery-getter, utility bike, and source of silly fun. I'm not in a hurry to get much of ANYWHERE, and I figure a longer time span means more time ON the bike!

    I recently had a good friend try (after not doing so for several years!) to tell me I should be riding something else, because of the types of riding I was doing; my rather firm tone when I 'put him in his place' ended the discussion.

    The secret to the bike-related lifestyle is simple: whatever it takes to make it rewarding and beneficial to your life. If one of Grant's bikes does that for you, roll it til it dies. If not, find what does. No one can do that FOR you.

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  34. "Transportation cycling can be sporty, but doesn't have to be, is the way I'd put it."

    A bit of a cop out. The cyclist who rides largely for leisure tends to favour less sporty cycling. However, those who use bicycles as their major transportation mode tend to gravitate to a more sportier style. Distance, hills, weather, and increased fitness favour sporty transportation cycling.

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    1. That may describe your experience, but not everyone's. One can easily commute in Boston metro without being sporty, and many do. The most sporty cyclists I know ride for non-transportational purposes.

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  35. "the sheer joy of cycling."

    "bike-related lifestyle is simple: whatever it takes to make it rewarding and beneficial to your life"

    It's amusing to me that those who self-identify as "transportation cyclists" use the language of leisure to describe cycling: appreciate, enjoy, beautiful, lovely, meditative, etc. When I travel by bike I am far more interested in getting to point B than experiencing some sort of mystical experience.

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  36. My perspective comes from my life making a living as a bicycle mechanic.

    Generally, I like what Grant Peterson has to say in the way of making cycling that can be more accessible. In no way do I intend to make it adversarial when I say this, but I enjoy what the Bike Snob has to say much more. Somehow, Grant's writing hits me as not happy.

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  37. JUST RIDE is too declarative and non-ambiguous for lots of people. Lots of smart, good, fine and perfectly normal people. I never intended it to be mean about anything. In my work, in my life, I see that racing and racing style---in bikes, clothes, and riding practices---has worked its way to a near dominant form of riding for lots of people. Thankfully, BSNYC and Lovelyt, and Pushing the Pedals and Adventure Cycling--there are others--- wonderfully espouse a better-for-most alternative. The intent of the book was to further a cause that I didn't invent, and in doing to, I felt (maybe incorrectly) that it was necessary to mention the racerly ways at least as starting points for the Unracing ways. The term Unracing---maybe it's not perfect, maybe there's a better term out there--but at the time and still now, to me it is at least halfway appropriate, because so many riders have been racified by the influences out there, and a cute little term like this can act as some kind of a beacon or guide for a way out of it. The book....I thought was mild. It may not be a "happy" book; that was never a goal or a thought along the way. But if I've made anybody mad I truly apologize. The book has some good in it. Now, for Lovely readers who have not read it, I am happy to send you one free. First ten. I'll need your name and address, and I'll include a bookmark and a button. Grant@rivbike.com.
    Thank you, Lovely, for the kind thoughts about the other stuff and the nice review of Just Ride. This is not a rebuttal at all. Grant (not lovely, but I yam what I yam).

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  38. I guess I'll need to read this book... I hadn't thought I needed to, and I suspect that for many who are drawn to this blog it might be preaching to the choir to some degree. But maybe it's in the spirit of the book to read it for the pleasure of it. Just Read.
    I do like the idea that the ride can be enough to justify itself. I guess I don't see the need, though, to pick one particular flavour - or un-flavour - of riding. About half the riding I do is 'commuting' in that it takes me to or from work, but about half of that riding is more than I need to accomplish the goal... the extra lets me pick a route beside a canal or a river or up a hill or two on the way. Or to pootle along (lovely word, that, pootle) and soak up a view from a perspective and at a time of day I'd never get in a car or (shudder) a bus. The other half of my riding though, is mountain biking, gravel road riding, actual factual road riding and even a bit of... sorry... racing. Although I do have to admit that for me it's more a case of riding within and during an organized race than actually _contending_ the race. But it's all good, and fits together very nicely. And while I often ride in wool (though rarely cotton) I also wear lycra. And while I love my gravel bike, I also love my race bike. Horses for courses.

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  39. I decided to start riding a bike again 4 years ago, after my running was causing knee issues. I'm 5'9 and 215 pounds, and the local bike shop put me on a Trek 1.5 standard compact gearing. I like the bike, but on long rides over 40 miles my neck hurts, my back hurts, etc. I simply can't raise the bars enough to be comfortable. Sure I could loose weight and get stronger and more flexible, but I'm not. When I read the book, I realized I was a UnRacer, and since I've adopted that style of riding, and soon a new bike to support that style, I've enjoyed riding more, and have ridden more. The book pointed out that we are not all 150 pound 30 year olds who want to do 40 miles at a 22 mpg average. I will forever be grateful to Grant for writing it, and to my wife for giving it to me for my birthday.

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  40. Hi, Grant!
    Thanks for writing Just Ride! It was a relief to read a non-racing bike book. I am cheered to know that cycling for pleasure has such a strong, articulate advocate.

    I agree with Velouria's analysis, and I think there needs to be a "hop on the bike!" book for beginning cyclists -- especially women -- that doesn't have the racing baggage.

    So grateful for Grant's decades of commentary on life and health. Thanks for bringing attention to it again, Velouria.

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  41. "...all the lycra/clipless/carbon/laterally stiff clutter....may have been true 5+ years ago, today I think it is far less likely." You are no doubt correct for the au courant cycling community/retailers of your world. Believe me, it ain't so in the hinterlands. There are three major cycle shops in the city where I live. In every one of them cyclists like myself are met with a condescending response to our upright bar/pannier rack/fendered cycles. (In my case, it's a vintage quality bike, a Colnago from back when even Colnagos had fender eyelets.)
    About 30 years ago I was enthusing over the growing popularity of bicycle racing in North America to Olympia, Washington, frame builder Bill Stevenson. He surprised me by responding, "Yes, now the only question is whether or not bicycling will survive the popularization of bicycle racing?" How right history has shown his wariness to be. And the mountain bikes gaining popularity in the 1980s turned out to be as over-specialized (pun intended) as the narrow-tired replica racers that preceded them.
    My thanks to Grant and a few others who have steered many of us back to an approach to cycling that makes it a pleasurable everyday activity.

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  42. I probably focus more on the Unracing part of it only because in my world--as a rider, as a friend of riders, and as a bike-company guy who talks to a few hundred riders a year, from--that point of view, from that place, I see perfectly normal people who've already been Racified. They get into bikes on city bikes and like it, but then look around and listen a lot, and at some point figure, "time to graduate to a real bike," and they aren't having as much fun anymore, and riding is work. They have the clothing and bike and approach to riding of a racer (harder, longer, faster), and so---I'm not saying it's a perfect assessment or solution--but they can often benefit by some Undoing. It's not a value judgement--it's a story that gets told a lot. If somebody really likes the fast centuries and sexy clothes and all, that is great. But with Just Ride, I wanted to provide a rational basis for getting away from the racing influences. But -- I never intended to waggle a finger and happy racers and say "No-no." I hope I didn't do that.

    On another but related note: I've sent out more than 30 free books. One to England, one to Canada. Everybody around here's saying, "Where are the invoices?" To which I say..."Long story, tell ya later..." Anyway, the freebies are gone, and thank you all for your super nice comments,and thank you, Velouria, for putting me in touch.
    G

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    1. I read your book too and liked it.

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    2. I'm one of the lucky recipients of your book and have been enjoying it. From all that I read I thought our thinking was farther apart but now that I have had a chance to read several sections I am not so sure. I'm no racer but am a big believer in cycling clothes, although I spent as many miles in cycling shorts as in street clothes over my life. But I wouldn't call myself a racer or an unracer, just finding the rides and bikes (fewer of the latter, of course) that make me happy.

      Thanks!

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    3. I received my copy two days ago, Grant. Thanks again!

      I haven't encountered the racing = Grant Angry aspect of things, either on the Riv site or so far in the book.
      I do find a fair bit of sly humor though...

      I am a member of the "utility team" in so many other areas of my life that it makes sense i'd be drawn toward that kind of riding.
      I do not yet own any wool cycling clothes, but I did ride in some in the early 80s. Seersucker, I got. Also fleece.

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  43. I was an early adopter of Rivendell products and philosophy. Predictably, I burned out when I noticed that grant was repeating himself in the Reader, and to the increased exclusion of the earlier "cool" articles about non-bike stuff (anyone here remember the greyhound story? Or the one about why the Titanic sank? That stuff isn't in the Reader anymore).
    What's worse is that not only is Grant repeating himself in his later writings, he's taken a harder and harder stance about what he holds dear. This sort of hard-core anti-core has gotten tiresome for me.

    I won't be surprised if and when Grant retires and either closes up shop or sells the company to someone who will try and be The Next Grant. Only problem is, it's already been done, and has run its course.

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  44. Just Ride was fun to read. It made me laugh. It is good humored. And I learned a few things too.

    I enjoy the Rivendell way. It adds to the adventure of life.

    Grant, thank you.

    Ken

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  45. I just bought this book. I heard an interview on the radio and had to get it.

    I actually have heard of the Rivendell but never really explored GPs writings. I have been a committed cyclist in various urban settings for almost 10 years now.

    My first impression, yeah for sure, let some of that racing mentality go and cut yourself some slack, yeah have fun, don't put yourself through medieval torture to ride!

    Now, here are some things that I TOTALLY disagree with. Little back story. I work for a statewide cycle organization and I spend a little over half of the year teaching safe cycling and also pedestrian safety to kids. I was totally applaud by the chapter about "SAFTEY SWERVING."
    The idea is to swerve or look unsafe while riding in order to keeping drivers on their toes. 1 out of every 5 rides do this to get drivers to slow down and pay attention to your "lack of knowledge, and poor handling skills."

    NO NO NO NO. First of all. I am that person that doesn't want car traffic to think cyclists are idiots. Secondly, something could go very very wrong, i don't know,the car swerving into oncoming
    traffic. Worse yet, you get hit because you were in FACT riding unpredictably.
    When I teach my kids some of them cannot even ride. To swerve or not to swerve is not a question it's real and needs to be corrected, trial by fire style. For me "Careful Unpredictability," is mutiny.

    ALSO in the intro to safety chapter GP states that the tips in here are designed to help people avoid accidents!

    PEOPLE, you cannot AVOID accidents. You CAN avoid a crash. Accidents are things that happen that are totally out of your control, for instance, a tree limb falling on you, no one in sight. THAT is an accident. C'mon guys and gals.

    I will say much of the writing made me laugh, however I was truly disappointed by some pretty basic principals of human behavior, cause and effect, and the pure disregard to young learners while attempting to learn basic motor skills.

    We are asking for respect as cyclists and with respect comes RESPONSIBILITY, do not jeopardize the rep and your LIFE because you THINK YOU KNOW HOW ALL PEOPLE RESPOND TO CYCLISTS!! AHHHHHH!

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  46. I read/skimmed this book last night at the book store. It was interesting enough to entertain me for a couple of hours on a Friday evening. I definitely agree with the authors premise that you don't need all the fancy race gear to be a cyclist. Although, I'm pretty sure most of his readers already realize that. The book probably serves the purpose of stroking the egos of those who take pride in not having a race bike/race look. Some of the things he mentions seem a bit absurd to me, for example, Petersen advocates purposely swerving in traffic in order to scare drivers into being cautious. I visited the Rivendell website this morning for the first time and they definitely sell some beautiful bikes, as well as some strange looking ones with multiple top tubes. I find it interesting how Petersens's business is marketing just as expensive an image as the main stream bike companies. I personally prefer the style of his lugged steel bikes and low key clothing over the other image, but that is really just a matter of taste. Since I can't afford to buy into either image at this point, I'll go ahead and "Just Ride" the 1980s mid level steel bikes that I have.

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