Hipster Road Biking
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!
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.
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.”
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.
#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!