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Hipster Road Biking

June 2, 2009

As the Bikefag goes over the hipster hill into his late 20s, the time has come to hang up the custom-made Pabst Blue Ribbon R.E.Load messenger bag and the American Spirits; to leave the urban track biking to the younger, paler, and more obnoxiously-bespectacled next generation; to hop on a classic, lugged-steel road bike, and put myself out to pasture.

27-year-old bikefags all over the nation agree: we need something more! We want to go further than the local bar! We want to do more with our freelancing income than buy another Phil Wood track wheelset! We want to suffer like the 1970s cycling legends we look up to! It’s time to get serious! It’s time for hipster road biking!


There are plenty of reasons to get into hipster road biking.

For one: age. Bikefags can’t keep riding around our cities drinking Sparks and executing no-handed trackstands and barspins forever. It’s time to grow up and find an affectation more suitable to our post-art-school/pre-English-graduate-program lifestyle.

And. If you must still focus on city riding, hipster road biking is excellent training. It’s the same as for mountain bike racing. The bulk of a serious mountain bike racer’s training hours are logged on a road bike. So too should an alleycat racer’s training be primarily done on a hipster road bike.

Arguably the most important reason to try hipster road biking is for the self-importance it affords among your local bikefag community. Odds are, most of your track-biking, bar-spinning bikefag friends know next to nothing about road biking. This allows you the chance to say stuff like, “Yeah, I just rode a quickie this morning. Maybe three. Did about 4,000 feet of climbing, then some LT work. I’m training for some crits later in the season.”

Your bewildered friends will be struck by a mix of admiration and hatred. Perfect.

Be careful trying this move on actual bike racers, though. Because then you will have to tell them that you’re a mediocre Cat. 4 roadie. They will not be impressed.

One major fringe benefit of hipster road biking is that it’s really fun. As long as it’s done with appropriate hipster road biker style. Here are some tips to ensure that you don’t fuck it up:

#1 Dress for hipster road biking success!

Tour de France 1986

Forget about cutoff jeans, Vans, messenger bags and anything else that you’re pressured to wear in the city. Hipster road biking is all about dressing like a period-correct road racer from 1966 Gianni Motta to 1986 Bernard Hinault. I personally prefer the above 1986 Andy Hampsten look on hot days and a 1974 Eddy Merckx look for cooler days or high alpine riding.

One easy way to pick up some sure-shot hipster road biking gear is to buy it from UK high-end sportswear manufacturer Rapha Performance Roadware. (thanks, BSNYC for beating me to this..)


Showing up in all-Rapha gear to your next ambling hipster road ride will undoubtedly go over well. But you don’t have to be wearing $500 worth of wool to look good on the hills.

Companies have been producing massive amounts of cycling gear for decades. And cyclists have been discarding their old gear for newer, better clothing every two years the whole time. This has created a unique opportunity for hipster road bikers looking for flossy gear.

Take a trip with me to your best source for cheap, period correct wool and acrylic: ebay.

Type in “vintage cycling jersey”

Click on the “vintage” category on your left.

once within the “vintage” category, expand your search to all vintage cycling clothing by removing “vintage” and “jersey” from your search, this time just searching within the category for “cycling.”

You’re welcome!

The other category to find sexy kit is by searching “vintage” in the “Clothing, Shoes & Accesories” category of the cycling category.

If possible, know your Euro size. I’m Levi Leipheimer-sized and I wear a size 2 in Euro. A rough guide is that 2=xs-small, 3/4=medium, 4-5=large. Always compare the measurements to well-fitting garments though, as these sizes aren’t necessarily consistent. So far, though, everything in size 2 that I’ve tried on has fit me perfectly.

Here are some recent deals that I’ve seen on the ‘bay:


Wool Maglia Rosa. $39 on ebay. (or you could buy a Rapha Andy Hampsten Maglie Rosa for like $300..)


Totally Bitchin’ 1990s cycling jacket. $7. Ironically beautiful? Legitimately sexy? Why choose?


Vintage Wool World Champion Jersey. $21.60.

Now all you need is a hairnet helmet and some Oakley Factory Pilots and you’re in business!

#2 Ride a Lugged Steel Bike


There are plenty of exceptions to this rule: Vitus’s famous “French Noodler” bonded aluminum lightweights, for instance; Cannondale’s 2.8 and 3.0 series bikes; any newer custom steel bike (e.g. Independent Fabrications, Rock Lobster, etc); any sort of absurdist, modern, top-level Italian road bike like the Pinarello Prince will work for the Cinelli Vigorelli/Pista Concept-inclined crowd.

But your safest bet, of course, is a pre-1997, lugged-steel, European or custom-made American bike. These bikes are great because they have instantly-communicable hill-cred; they will last forever; they make you a legend when you pass people on new, $7,000 carbon rides – they give you an excuse when you can’t pass those people; and since they’re made of steel, they can easily be pulled apart to modern spacing and ridden as 10 (or, hell, 11)-speed sleepers.

Then again, smoking some roadies up a climb while aboard a 7-speed Colnago with downtube shifters, wearing wool and a hairnet helmet is the hipster road biker’s collective unconscious wet-dream, so don’t be too quick to modernize your whip.

#3 Ride Enough to compete with non-hipster roadies

Remember that hipster road biking is done in the context of being different from normal, boring, “bike-jock” “roadie” cycling. That being said, it’s the hipster road biker’s duty to compete fiercely with the conventional roadie. That way you can tell your bikefag friends back in town,

“dude, I came up on some asshole on his fucking expensive-ass, 12-speed, 13 pound, Specialized, right? And I was all like, ‘yo man, get your rich-ass out my way.’ The climb started getting steep, man, and I cold dropped the motherfucker! Colnago, bitches! Represent!”

“What’s that? Oh the jersey? No, it’s not Rapha. It’s dead stock Italian National Team 1974, bitches!”

You will spend a lot of time getting beaten by 50-year-olds before this scenario is likely to happen, but that’s no reason not to practice your story-telling skills now.

Bonus Subjective Issue: Leg Shaving

Leg shaving is pretentious, will confuse your bikefag city friends, and will make you look more like 1986 Andy Hampsten. Good idea, right?

Not necessarily. Here’s my personal take:

Even though I regularly wear womens’ trousers, have long hair, and idolize gender-bending rock bands like Slade and Roxy Music, I refuse to shave my legs!

It’s not that I’m worried about being called a fag – I get that all the time. And it’s not that I’m above bowing to peer pressure – like all hipsters I’m extremely susceptible to trends (some of you might remember the time I painted my track bike purple in an attempt to be “cool”)

No. I refuse to shave my legs because leg shaving is what “roadies” do. I’m an authentic alternative cyclist, Goddammit, take a look at my wool jersey and my wooly legs!

Enjoy yourself out there, hipster road cyclists, and remember: never look a roadie in the eye!

Hauling an NOS lot of aero seatposts back from Boulder this weekend

Hauling an NOS lot of aero seatposts back from Boulder this weekend

63 Comments leave one →
  1. June 4, 2009 1:11 am

    Upon first inspection, I swore that first picture was Jacob… Being an old man, this blog has given me hope. Hope that I can maintain being cool while maturing into the well manicured silverdome-ness of old age. Thank you for that David. As I sit here, cursing the blown back tire I skid through today, I take comfort in the fact that one day this may end, and I can wear tights and be comfortable like everyone else on the road in them.

  2. bikenerd permalink
    June 5, 2009 5:45 pm

    Andy who?

  3. June 5, 2009 5:59 pm

    OMG brilliant. You should do a photoshoot on our lake front path for this piece.

    • bikefag permalink*
      June 7, 2009 4:37 am

      Brian, as soon as I can milk my BSNYC link for enough ad revenue to buy a plane ticket, I’m there!

  4. johnson permalink
    June 5, 2009 6:05 pm

    You may have to give up biking entirely when you reach the ripe old age of thirty.

  5. June 5, 2009 6:20 pm

    so funny thanks. all the trendi fixed gear riders over here in london drink sparks as well they must ship it over as its unavailble in shops here.

  6. marcj permalink
    June 5, 2009 7:55 pm

    ah yes, “Andy Hampstead” – I remember him well. He won that stage in the 1985 Giro de Hamptons right?

  7. Dave permalink
    June 5, 2009 8:20 pm


  8. June 5, 2009 8:26 pm

    nice! was it coincidence i just got the vitus last week? or is this the collective unconscious influencing your keyboard, and my wallet? one way, as a hipster roadie, to rub it in when you pass a mainstream roadie is to give an ironic enthusiastic ‘howdy!’ as you pass them.. and descend into your local rock formation park to take in some scenery, preferrably to a triumphant stoner rock soundtrack on your earbuds. (mainstream roadies primarily ride for health – but we will die young somehow! we ride to say we rode.. if a hipster rides his road bike but nobody is there to tell it to, did he even ride at all?) imagine once hipsters somehow infiltrate the olympics, the ‘national anthem’ will probably be Sleep or DFA or Glass Candy, depending on your taste and gentrified city.

  9. bikefag permalink*
    June 5, 2009 10:34 pm

    Alright, alright.. so HRBs (Hipster Road Bikers) have been misspelling/mis-saying/mis-thinking Andy Hampsten’s name since they found out about him four months ago.. I’m caught “mano rosa.”

    Now that BSNYC made me internet-famous, I’m gonna have to turn up the vigilance.

  10. marcj permalink
    June 6, 2009 2:34 am

    If it’s any consolation, BSNYC comments are full of people correcting his spelling and grammar. (That, and people incorrectly shouting “first!”)

    Keep the posts coming, this is good stuff.

  11. June 6, 2009 3:58 am

    Hipster road biking huh? Yea, well I’ve decided to take on Rapha. Threat or menace?

  12. Rob Reeves permalink
    June 6, 2009 5:08 am

    What about Japanese bikes? I’m a huge fan of the Centurion Dave Scott Ironman, and It’s most definitely vintage lugged steel!

    • bikefag permalink*
      June 7, 2009 5:50 am

      You’ve beaten me to the punch on this, Rob. Stick around.

    • June 11, 2009 8:34 pm

      ive also been riding a Takara, which i can barely find any info on – talk about obscurity elite!

  13. Peter C permalink
    June 6, 2009 7:28 am

    haha David, well timed post. I’m selling all my spare parts and my soul in the next few weeks to buy an 81 Colnago. Why pre-1997 lugged steel? Is your Eisentrout a 1996?

    • bikefag permalink*
      June 6, 2009 7:55 am

      The Eisentraut is a 1989. Then again , I’m basing all of this off of what the random dude from Craigslist told me. For all I know it’s a Specialized Allez (with really good lugwork).
      1997 was a completely arbitrary number. I think it might have been based (in my brain as I was quickly writing it) on when I thought Shimano DA 9 speed came out. You know: one generation back is lame, two back is “retro.” I don’t know. It just seems like a year when everything post-1997 really looks different from a classic, standard, lugged-steel road bike. Then again, I just sort of pulled that specific number out of the air. The point was to have some sort of elitist, systematic-sounding standard to bludgeon people with (when in reality, I’d probably be happy riding a Specialized SL2 or whatever..).
      “Colnago, bitches!”

  14. June 6, 2009 9:12 am

    excellent timing on the post, I just ebayed my box of fixie upgrade, re-upgrade, re-reupgrade parts
    and bought a alloy/carbon 11 speed sti shiftered roadbike,wanting to get more miles out of my pedalling efforts
    and attempt some public racing and eventually have a go at some tour stages.
    But I am in that innevitable sartorial nonspace of not wantin to commit to the full lycra
    lifestyle and give up up the coffee and cigarettes. I was going to get ONE LESS HIPSTER
    painted on the frame but I may have jumped the gun on that….

    great blog, cheers, jc London.

    • bikefag permalink*
      June 6, 2009 4:38 pm

      JC, my advice is to go at least one month without cigarettes before you declare yourself “one less hipster.” I timed it so I committed to a race, then quit one month before. Now i have to ride like a motherfucker so I don’t start again (coffee consumption has increased markedly).

  15. timmitchell permalink
    June 6, 2009 4:55 pm

    Great post… i personally have an allergic reaction to Rapha – i mean i know how silly i look in my lycra – just live with it… trying pull off hipster + roadie is like wearing a $5000 suit with your dick hanging out.

  16. kjelgaard permalink
    June 6, 2009 5:09 pm

    I made the switch, too, and I couldn’t be happier. Fixed gear is just boring by comparison. There’s nothing more satisfying than fucking crushing some kid on a track bike spinning down a hill.

    Tall City – I’ve been trying to get my hands on a tiny mp3 player so I can listen to Electric Wizard while I’m riding. Can you imagine a more inspiring hill climbing song than Funeralopolis?

    • June 11, 2009 8:36 pm

      i might recommend a Shuffle. its not too much $, so inevitably when you are distracted by skipping ahead on the playlist, and you hit bump, and fly over the handlebars, you can take consolation money you wouldve spent on a Nano will go towards your teeth instead. how about a top of the hill theme too?? for long flat trips id recommend some repetitive krautrock like Neu!.

    • January 18, 2010 2:59 am

      Funeralopolis would be the most epic climbing song possible… except for Sleep’s Dopesmoker.

  17. Dads Lionberg permalink
    June 6, 2009 7:10 pm

    When do you want to do that 5500 foot climb? I’ll wear my leather helmet.

    • bikefag permalink*
      June 7, 2009 2:40 am

      Very soon, Dadiel. I’ll be back up in the undisclosed Front Range Colorado town that I at one point lived in on Monday, then working the next few days. Maybe Friday or Saturday? Do you think we should wear Vans and Deep Vs to look more authentic?

  18. Nessie.Mahkno permalink
    June 7, 2009 1:37 am

    Eddy Merckx shaved his legs… thus I am compelled to.

  19. Colby permalink
    June 7, 2009 11:19 pm

    Ha, if you are seriously hanging up that bag, I would do anything to acquire it. Its absolutely amazing.

  20. Tech permalink
    June 8, 2009 1:10 am

    Damn! I enjoy riding my bike for the sake of riding (and commuting) and also have an interest in vintage lugged steel bikes for the craftsmanship and the aesthetics that they possess. I see this as similar to the interest people have in classical cars or classical motorbikes. I also prefer older bikes as they contrast directly with the majority of the mass produced, horribly welded, corner cutting, poor quality bikes of today. Please tell me that my reasons for riding vintage bikes are good enough for me not to feel like I’m jumping on a fashion bandwagon. I need the peer approval to feel comfortable!

    • bikefag permalink*
      June 8, 2009 2:21 am

      Tech, peer approval is the cornerstone of hipster road biking. As for your “I just happen to like hipster road bikes but for non-hipster reasons” line, I’m not convinced.
      Let me ask you this, Tech: why would they call vintage, lugged road bikes “hipster road bikes” if they weren’t for hipsters? Think about it..

      • Tech permalink
        June 8, 2009 10:32 am

        Vintage lugged road. . . hipster road bikes. . . OH NO! I’VE BEEN LIVING A LIE! Now where’s my champion striped cycling hat, I need to go out on a long soulful ride to the nearest indie coffee shop to ponder the implications of this new discovery and to possibly write a novel about it on my Apple notebook.

      • June 11, 2009 8:42 pm

        hipster has expanded to include faux-Hippie. down by Boulder St coffe ive been seeing tour kids (phish fans) trying trackstands at the stoplight. my friend Jeff C rode a pixie-bike alongside and said a friendly hello, and the kid looked down on him (literally) as if jeff actually rides a pixie bike to work… anyway once a trend reaches phish fans and Poppy Seed customers, its as Dead as Grateful.

  21. Tim the sober guy permalink
    June 8, 2009 6:55 pm

    Bikefag: Your blog made me laugh. I deem it worthy.

    I train on the road (locally grown unlugged steel; used to ride a lugged Mercian track bike) for mtn bike racing aka going hard and hoping to go fast; and cuz it’s cool. I shave my legs. I own black wool Swobo jerseys – though lately its all about the fancy matching team kit.

    You’ve looked me in the eye!

    Good luck in your new undisclosed location.

  22. boners permalink
    June 8, 2009 10:45 pm

    dig the post… the most important aspect of hipster road biking is to get a bike that’s the right size. if your bike is 1960s/1970s, you can’t have more than a fistful of seatpost exposed (with a brooks or ideale on top). sorry, bar-spinners, it’s the fucking truth. if your bike is french, deduct two fingers from that. 1980s and 1990s, it’s ok to have a super record seatpost out to the max line (which still isn’t all that far compared to the moronically long seatposts available now). if you have a sloping top tube, you cannot be cool unless you are fred delong and had waterford make you a custom schwinn paramount touring model with a sloping top tube on the 1960s (true). if you are 6 feet tall, your 1960s/1970s bike is a 60 cm c-t-c (don’t laugh, try finding a period correct seatpost longer than 180 mm) your 1980s bike is a 58 c-t-c, 1990s bike a 57 c-t-c, and your bike from the aughts will be an “effective” 55 or 56 that some knuckledragging kid who’s never held steel in their hands tells you “fits like a glove.” if the bike is the perfect look but it’s off even one cm for your height AND the time period, you won’t pull it off. like a size L iron maiden “seventh son of a seventh son” shirt on a skinny kid, it just won’t look right… it pays in cool points to be picky, and your back will thank you too.

  23. June 9, 2009 2:00 am

    Goddamnit, I’m a stereotype. And so it goes. . .

    • bikefag permalink*
      June 9, 2009 6:02 am

      You and me both, bklyn..

  24. June 9, 2009 7:09 pm

    Nice blog, bikefag. The hipster track menace is everywhere, and while I think that any trend that gets people on a bike is awesome, parts of me die every time I see fashion trump utility in that hypocritical way that ‘fixed’ or ‘fixie’, or whatever it is, riding puts out.

    And I’m tired of explaining that Brooklyn hats are from a Belgian team sponsored by a bubblegum manufacturer, and not some dope haute couture.

  25. Anon of Florida permalink
    June 13, 2009 2:14 pm

    I wonder, why stop at Merckx? The sweet era of road racing was that period ranging from the post war period all the way up to the middling part of Eddie Merckxs’ steamroller campaign. A particularly hardcore set could go as far as referencing the interwar Tour de France kit, mixing flipflop wheels with first generation Campagnolo Cambio Corsa derailleurs, Huret derailleurs, and other oddball derailleur designs.

    In addition, and to help adjust the aging hipster to Hipster road biking, I suggest emulating the British time trial and grass track racers.

    For those of (vastly) more expensive tastes, a custom Alex Singer bicycle nails the designs of 50s road racing in immaculate brass-dripping detail. These are actually being made new, to the tune of 5000 euros in Paris.

    • bikefag permalink*
      June 14, 2009 12:25 am

      I like your enthusiasm, Anon, but there’s a problem: Hipster road bikers have never heard of anyone before Eddy Merckx.

  26. Mr T permalink
    June 17, 2009 4:31 am

    Ha… I’ve been doing this since I gave up on fixed gear a few years back when the pimply, art students around down took over it. But, I do shave my legs. Why? Because hipsters don’t, and the roadies then think you take it as serious as them. Roadie or hipster ?! Confuses them both.
    Hell, I even ditched the aero levers for some old skool ones on my vintage, steel frame. Non aero is the new fixed !.

    Great post!

  27. tom permalink
    June 17, 2009 8:45 pm

    No such thing as “1989 Bernard Hinault.” He retired in ’86.

  28. August 31, 2009 1:10 am

    Nice write up…usually I never reply to these thing but this time I will,Thanks for the great info.

  29. Nick permalink
    January 24, 2010 1:44 am

    That was hilarious, good article.

    I still ride fixed, but usually alone, at the veledrome, and on bike trails, where I get bizarre looks from dudes is $5,000 kits i’m passing because it’s flat in New Orleans and their dumb asses bought a 20 speed trek madone.

    But my one issue with the article… you left out the lightwieght Schwinn’s that were produced in Wisconsin in the 80’s. What about the Paramounts, Super Le Tour III’s, Le Tours, and Professionals that you could be riding?
    Sakae Sun Race Groupo with early Sugino Cranks, 12 or 14 speeds – what could be more hipster-retro? plus you can tell your bar-spinning buddies AND the assholes on Pinarellos and Colagnos you pass about how much better American bikes were, how awesome the lugwork was, the craft that went into it, etc, haha….
    and as an alternative (probably hipster – definitely gay) cyclist, i would have to say the best kit for pissing off roadies is black shorts, black jersey, and black helmet, to match my black and red “vintage’ Super Le Tour III Schwinn.
    and also Japanese bikes kick ass for being hip.

  30. c 169 permalink
    January 31, 2010 12:04 am

    splendid! couriers started to do it after they realised there should be more cycling than just the weekly 400 kilometers, so they added weekend trips on old italian steel road bikes since they couldn’t afford new alloy and carbon ones.
    So yes, hipsters should defos do that as well.
    It was a good idea in the first place right?

  31. vicky permalink
    February 17, 2010 7:43 am

    doin it!

  32. Franco Celis permalink
    March 8, 2011 4:26 pm

    OMG this is fuckin brilliant, someone was sneaking into my thoughts, hahaha, well since in Chile being a hipster road cyclist is very scarce it seems that i’ll keep enjoying passing those carbon junkie USD 6000 road cyclist uphill on my bianchi rekord 1980’s with non aero brakes and brooks swift saddle yeeH. It feels so awesome that i’ll become an addict.


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