I was talking to Radio Freddy. He and I do some work together, but we also have long, rambling conversations about the bike business and how to be better at it. Freddy is something of a spiritual leader for me in terms of his sense what is good. He has strong, bordering on reverent appreciation for classic bike design, but he combines that with a keen eye for what’s good about the bike’s being built today.
What is cool, in any moment, is obviously highly subjective, and as we get older, or so Freddy and I were lamenting, it gets harder and harder to know if your view of such things has just become too distant to really understand anymore.
As an example, there is a profusion of steel road bikes featured on forums and fan sites, with level top tubes and fancy paint jobs. The construction methods seem to be sound enough, but what makes these bikes cool is their paint. Otherwise, they are just classically proportioned road bikes. They look good, but by and large I find them hard to get really excited about. That might be about me though. Perhaps they’re deeply cool in the way of a well-designed font, simple and elegant, and I am just failing to see it, because I am no longer cool myself (assuming I ever was).
Last week’s Group Ride took on the question of the ultimate value of high-end bikes, but implicit in the conversation that followed was a dichotomous take on what constitutes value. Most commenters enumerated the practical value of their preferred bike. Far fewer spoke of aesthetics, though I have to believe that a great measure of what is cool about a bike is how it looks.
Form=function. The medium is the message. And all that.
With NAHBS on the near horizon, it feels like a good time to explore the idea of what is cool. This week’s Group Ride asks, what do you see out there that’s cool right now? Do you think you know? Do you even care? Is cool the exclusive province of the young? Or does age confer wisdom on this subject, too?