Friday Group Ride #128

“Like riding a bicycle,” they say. This quip is meant for anything that is easy, or any skill that, once acquired, remains embedded in your animal brain for the remainder of your days among the upright. The simplicity of the machine and the elegance of the physical act of riding are touchstones for our human experience.

Once we get off the bike however, things get complicated. As cyclists, we are bombarded with information about products, accessories and services. What is good? What is bad? What might be better? What is a big lie? What are the hidden secrets? Once you have been jumped into the velo-gang, you will ask all yourself all of these questions and be subjected to all the other gang members’ opinions, as long as you’re willing to sit still long enough to listen to them.

Our friends are obviously a big influence. Here is a group of people with whom we identify, who are participating in the same activity and spending their own money to field test an array of products for us. We ought to listen to them.

Then there are magazines and websites, staffed by experts (a subset of the industry that does not include this writer). These people have access to a stunning panoply of bits and bobs. They’ve seen and done it all. We wonder. They know. We ought to read what they’ve written.

There are also the great unwashed hordes (by far my favorite), who, by virtue of internet connectivity and a ready wit, will tell you exactly what you need, why you need it, and why everyone else is wrong. Think of website forums, the lawless Wild West of cyclo-expertise. There amongst the naivete and vitriol you can find real pearls of wisdom, true insight.

If, like me, you are un/fortunate enough (this is subjective) to work in the bike industry, you will also sit cheek-and-jowl with people who are doing the actual work of dragging this great stinking beast of a pastime forward, the folks designing the stuff or marketing the stuff or dealing with all the stuff that breaks. Here too you can find genuine expertise, in addition to cynicism, optimism, sarcasm, sincerity, inspiration and coffee.

This week’s Group Ride asks the question: Who are YOUR influencers? Do they produce reliable information or too much noise? What are the best sources of information? Who really does have your best cycling interests at heart?

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12 comments

  1. Paul I.

    I’m lucky enough to have a really good LBS, one that actually tried to make their customers happy rather than just push the most expensive stuff possible off on them. You can’t beat that.

    I also get some good info from friends and fellow club riders, and of course from blogs like this one.

  2. S M

    Local bike shop that focuses on repair and maint. They have talked me out of a few upgrades and replacements over the years. Everything else I ignore. What’s that old addage….”it’s not what you ride but that you ride” or something like that.

  3. SteveP

    I’m guilty of drinking a few of the Kool-Aid varieties offered by forums/blogs/etc. Gradually, through years of serial bike ownership and lots of riding, I’m gradually discarding some of that free wisdom in favor of my own experience as a guide. New and untested bikery is still exciting, and I happily read up, maybe give it a try and make judgement on my own.

  4. ervgopwr

    My best cycling interests are my own, but they can’t be neutral in a moving peloton. That’s the only answer. You only ride for yourself.

    I used to work in a LBS, got my sense of the ‘industry’ and its vastness (and also its minuteness) and somehow, implausibly, I’m in that issue of Peloton along with Mr. Lemond on the cover. He rode for himself (and got paid). And as his saying goes, not that it got any easier, it just got faster.

  5. scaredskinnydog

    What first influenced me to try cycling was the colorful characters involved with the sport. It seemed like there were allot of free spirited individuals who rode and raced bikes. I think I enjoyed the friendships and comeraderie as much (if not more than)the riding and racing.

  6. ben

    The influential sources are many I guess. It’s just a matter of how much stock I put into what I’m hearing/reading. The LBS…obviously they want me to buy stuff, but they’re nice guys that like to ride at the bottom of it all. Websites…but there’s a hierarchy. RKP>VN. Friends and peers probably have the most influence on my decisions though. But only if they are riding the equipment…I hate it when some dude spouts off about every piece of gear…that he’s never ridden. But my regular ride buddies tend to be honest and speak from experience. For every dude at the training crit rolling on nice carbon wheels there’s a dude riding just as fast or faster on 1600 gram alloy clinchers. So in the end I guess I’d say…let’s just ride!

  7. Lachlan

    Padraig is about the only truly credible impartial and totally honest reviewer I’ve ever come across.

    Besides that for some things: real data influences me (not just the competitive marketing data of companies), E.g. rouesartisannale for wheel test always used to be the only gold standard ( eg: http://www.rouesartisanales.com/article-15505311.html)

    Likewise Cervelo won a lot of plaudits from me by some of their engineering articles, like the one spelling out in terms of gradients (and even over the route of the Alp D’huez stage) who weight vs aero really effects your time. They provided real data and scenario comparisons to help choose between different bikes in their own stable, not skewed data to try and prove they were the lightest or fastest against competitors. awesome.

    Pros influence me once they are legends… there was a point with Lemond and Armstrong when you knew they had so much influence over their choice of kit and also it’s development that you could take what they rode to be stuff they truly believed to be the best, not simply what they were paid to (like 99.9% of pros do by definition).

  8. RUV

    I too value the input of my LBS, but only the owner and the lead mechanic. They were the best antidote for nooby upgraditis and outlandish claims read on the web. Otherwise I take everybody’s opinion with a grain of salt. I used to read one specific website’s forums b/c there appeared to be a few level-headed people amongst the hordes of self-righteous blowholes, but I do so less and less now.

  9. Grego

    Sheldon Brown, my hero;
    Jan Heine;
    the slowing remains of rec.bicycles.tech;
    and my friend Joe, who always seems to be 12 months ahead of me!

  10. armybikerider

    This is a very good question. Cycling mags, cycling web sites, anyone with an interest in remaining commercially viable, must withold, to varying degrees, from being negatively critical of products they review. (This website notwithstanding.) It’s totally understandable that, like RKP, people tend to only report reviews that are favorable, lest they lose advertising dollars. Are these then objective reviews of gear? I think that depends.

  11. Steve

    Lennard Zinn and Nick Legan from Velonews. Two guys who keep the rest of us on track and rolling in the right direction.

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