Earlier this month BikeSnob NYC announced in his own inimitable way that he was "jumping the shark" by penning a column for Bicycling Magazine. I have distinctly mixed feeling about this, just the way I do when I watch DVD's and video-tapes of professional cycling. On one hand I know that I love it and on the other I know that there is something seriously wrong. After years of various admissions and discoveries and a pastiche of rumors, innuendos, accusations and random facts, it is hard to ignore the seamy underbelly of cycling. I want to admire it wholeheartedly, but some of the pieces just don't go together. And now, the same thing has happened to one of our only fearless commentators.
This weekend, in an attempt to avoid the real work I should have been doing, I followed a link in BikeSnob's column to a prior posting. I then found myself wandering around in posts from 2007 before I became a daily reader. The wonderful thing that jumps out at you about BikeSnob is that he is willing to boldly state what is usually obvious, but which most commentators are too polite to say. And the term "journalist" frankly hardly applies to anyone who is being paid to write or comment upon the cycling world. For a variety of reasons, very few people go around telling the truth.
I was on the trainer watching a TdF DVD recently and Phil and Paul were remarking with amazement about the way a large rider more frequently known for nothing, and who had previously been a time zone away from the leading riders on mountain stages, was suddenly dropping all but a few riders and sticking with a handful who were dramatically thinner than he was. At the time I'm sure I was amazed at this man's fortitude, but today I have to think that this guy was dipping deeply into a suitcase of more than courage. I also think that even though they said nothing about it on air, Phil and Paul probably had a discussion over dinner that night about what that guy was doing other than training to cause his overnight improvement. I like to think that if BikeSnob were live blogging that race it would have gone something like this, "Holy Spumoni, that rider is either about to burst his heart from an effort that was hitherto impossible for him or his is doped to the gills to be able to drop those guys with power-to-weight ratios 30% better than his! Phil and Paul must have too much respect for the "traditions" of cycling to mention it."
So now, you are probably wondering, how does all of this tie together and why should I care? Here is the answer: you shouldn't care too much, but it's still a sign that people do stuff they normally wouldn't except for the paycheck.
I read a while ago that there wasn't a cycling publication worth spit and I think it's true. When you think of most of them, there are some serious flaws. I love to look at Roleur and own every copy (yes, even the impossible to buy #1), but you can't ignore the pretentiousness. They might as well use the word "pretentious" in the slogan. VeloNews has become the weight weenie of the cycling world; all show, no go. Do they really think that repeating press releases constitutes a product test? Did Zinn get it in his contract that he has the right to pitch his own bike brand and custom cranks in every other column?
And then there is Bicycling, the cycling magazine primarily aimed at those riders who are looking for this season's hottest trends in clip-on aero bars and the latest coaching tips from Chris Carmichael. Let's not even get started on Mr. Carmichael because I would presumably need to pay him a royalty to use his name a third time and I will undoubtedly be hearing from his lawyer because I didn't use Lance Armstrong's name in the same sentence with his (see how I cleverly used his name in that sentence, thereby avoiding one claim in the forthcoming legal action?). The Bicycling demographic is primarily middle-aged "riders" who spend more time on the crapper with the magazine than outside on their bikes. Hey, I'm sympathetic to the demands of children, work and home taking up a lot of riding time, but I also know that it take more than buying a cartoon character jersey and going on a charity century ride to be a serious rider.
So how is it that Snobby is going to write a column for Bicycling Magazine? My guess is he will hold his nose, never say what he really thinks of "his" magazine and then smile all the way to the bank. Will he tone down his comments to please his new overlords? Yes. Would I do exactly the same thing? Absolutely.