Friday Group Ride #408

Friday Group Ride #408

We all do this right? Even when we are walking down the street, or driving along in our cars, we are looking at bikes. Every rider I pass (or who passes me) I’m looking to see what they’re riding. Against my better judgment, I am judging. Is that the right bike? Is it a cool bike? The answers don’t matter really, but I like to ask the questions. I can’t even help myself.

My wife has stopped asking what I’m looking at. She knows. Other than the harrowing experience of having the driver spin around suddenly in bumper-to-bumper traffic, she mostly accepts that I have no control over this thing. The sad part is that, by and large, the bikes aren’t that cool, except when they are.

Another facet of the preoccupation (and judginess) is bike fit. I am continually fascinated by the jacked up ways people ride. The most obvious one is saddle height. Either they’re pedaling on tip toe, their hips see-sawing back and forth, or they’re so low it looks like their riding a hobby horse. It’s one thing not to understand bike fit. I’m no expert myself. But, that can’t feel right. They must know, right? And yet…

Reach is another one. Mostly I see people overstretched, shoulders in their ears. This doesn’t bother me so much on lower-end bikes. I can imagine they don’t ride that much, or someone gave them the bike, or they bought it on-line. But sometimes I see a $5,000 road bike that fits like OJ Simpson’s bloody gloves. I think, who did that to them? And why did they pay for it?

This week’s Group Ride asks, is it me, or do you also give every bike you see the once over? I should be clear, I love all bikes. I love great bikes. I love crappy bikes. When someone rides by me on a fourth hand beater, I love that bike usually even more than I love a brand new dream bike. My judgements on bikes aren’t about how good they are. It’s about how cool they are, how good the rider looks on the bike, how smooth it all seems. Maybe your criteria are different. Or maybe you don’t care at all what other people are riding. Tell us about it.

Image: Rat Rod Bikes

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17 comments

  1. Lyford

    I don’t judge bikes, but I wince at bad bike fits and squeaky chains. I don’t like seeing people on bikes working so hard and being uncomfortable. I want to oil their chains, make a couple of adjustments, and say “See! It can be easier!”

    But I don’t.

  2. Tominalbany

    Of course I look! I, too, look at everything. Even old bikes converted to art and the like.

    I try not to be judgy. I do like bikes that have a color that isn’t red or black.

  3. Shawn

    Road*, mountain or commuter? I look at every one of them, but that’s the extent of what I’m looking for.

    * – yes, your gravel bike is a road bike, and so is your CX bike if you have curved bars mounted on the stem.

    1. Jeff vdD

      Interesting point, Shawn, in that when I look at a road bike, I look to see how much the rider is limited by tire clearance. A friend of mine bought an expensive Ti/carbon custom bike that barely houses 23mm treads–he hates it.

    2. Shawn

      It is interesting indeed how preference changes over time. I recently saw a vintage picture of a TdF racer on a lugged, carbon-tubed Vitus (branded something else) on Ventoux. (Thanks Instagram!) It looked like he couldn’t have flossed between his 19 or 21 mm tubular and the seat tube. What we all thought we wanted at the time…

  4. MattC

    I look for the exotic and wicked-nice (cuz it’s stuff I won’t ever have, like looking at Ferraris, Lambo’s & such on the road). As to the riders, I LOVE seeing a complete sandbagger…someone on a total crap bike wearing jeans, a T shirt and hiking boots with platform pedals just CRUSHING it, giving the full euro-kit $10k bike riding stuck-up riders a real a$$ whoopping…that always brings a smile to my face for some reason, even more than a really nice bike!

    1. Lyford

      Many, many years ago I took great pleasure in being the kid in ratty gym shorts on a cheap bike who blew past the older guys on the expensive bikes.
      Now I’m the grey-haired guy with the nice bike, so when a kid blows past me looking pleased with himself I just grin…….;-)

    2. Stephen Barner

      Sounds like the way the only Ferrari that I would walk across the road to get a better look at would be a wrecked one. Now, THAT would be fun.

    3. Aar

      So, the type of bike we ride pre-determines our behavior? Who am I to judge? Haven’t though about it in ages. Now that I think about it, I often find young fast riders on “beater bikes” to tend to be quite likely to be stuck up, too good to acknowledge anybody else or to be bothered to pull others back up to the group. Possibly both perspectives are right depending upon the individual in question??

  5. ljinmry

    Its all about cool…but cool is really subjective…its def not the most expensive or all the right stuff so you look like you should be in a bike mag advertisement….to me its usually about subtle style….I love the little things..don’t get me started on cable routing…..but I’m always judging when I see a bike, for better or worse. A couple years ago I would pass another guy on the bike path with this great converted Bianchi rode bike beater. At the time I was obsessed with “city” handlebars…. soma, velo orange, Jitensha Studio, nitto, ect …. this guy had it dialed, but I didn’t know what bar setup he had. So I stared….every day I stared hard at those bars…tired to see the branding, tried to memorize the shape. Then one day I stared and he just yelled “what the fuck are you looking at!?!?!?!” Maybe I just should have complimented his bar setup and asked what they were?

    And with the wife…..sadly, when she see’s my head turn she knows its a bike…don’t even think I would be looking at another woman. Happened yesterday while sitting at a beer garden….

  6. Jay

    “Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.” H. G. Wells

    Just seeing people on a bike, any bike, gets my attention. I love the aesthetics of bicycles no matter the type. For me it is the elements that comprise the bike and the overall assemblage. At some point in the past I had read something in which they referred to bikes as kinetic sculptures, bike as functional works of art. I have adapted that thinking into how I view bicycles. Obviously my own bikes will cater to my own aesthetic, but I am still able to appreciate the beauty of bicycles overall.

  7. Winky

    I check out the other riders and their bikes, and try not to get all judgy. I failed today. The first was an older guy (i.e. my age) salmoning up a busy one-way path, oblivious, and who then sailed through a red light. The next was a similar aged guy, who overtook me at speed as I slowed to give way to a congested gaggle of pedestrians, dogs and kids on bikes going all-ways on a shared-use path. Judge these guys I did.

    Otherwise, it’s all good. I check out, but don’t really care about what others ride. But I wince at the squeaky chains and at the broken shifting that have people locked in the wrong gears.

  8. Mark H

    If I’m not actually on my bike, my first look is one of envy at someone out riding.

    Then I’m judging, though I’d prefer to call it “critiquing.” What can they be doing to make their lives easier? Better position, yes. But also some modicum of tire pressure. Sometimes I’ll loudly think, “Shift!” But no one wants that kind of unsolicited advice.

    I’ll admire good form, or how effortless they make it look to go so fast. Hey, is that an ebike? Smooth pedal stroke- is that a fixie or just a SS? I’m not sure that’s judging so much as curiosity.

    Okay, maybe I do judge, but really what does it matter what I think? At least they’re riding.

    1. Tominalbany

      Your first line. Hammer? Meet nail! I have that exact same feeling! Wishing I could join them!

  9. Dave

    I’m a hobbyist frame builder and a full time working bike mechanic–I notice everything but especially nice steel touring bikes. My wife can rest assured that the only racks I’m checking out are made for carrying panniers.

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