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Daily Archives: October 27, 2019

How to Talk About Bikes… and Dealing with Snooty One-upmanship: A Funny Case In Point

Trigger (heh) warning:  Don’t take this post too seriously.  It’s meant to make you laugh – and I’m sufficiently ironic and self-deprecating enough that if it angers you, well, it’s you.  Besides, it’s been a while since I’ve gone off on a good tangent, and if you knew the week I’ve had, you know I need to go off on a good tangent (sorry, friends, I just can’t get into all of it on this page – it’s not you, there are reasons).  You have been trigger (heh) warned.

Talking about bikes with some people is a bit like dancing with a cocky partner.  If you’re too nervous, invariably you’re going to step on their toe(s).  It’s a given.  And that cocky partner will seize the opportunity to smack you down.  On the other hand, if you’re sufficiently equipped and confident in the ability you do possess, you just might muddle through to get a compliment at the end.  Friends, I speak from experience.  I think I may have crippled a square dancing partner or two, though just momentarily, before I got my groove on – as they say – as a young lad.

Such is the dance.

I wrote about my new Trek 5200 handlebar upgrade yesterday, and after reading it again, I realized I’d employed a literary technique so impressive, it required its own post.  I wrote an update on that post, and this post is the in-depth explanation of that update.  Don’t worry, we’ve got some rain to let dry up this morning before we ride.  I’ve got the time.  If you do, take a moment.  Hopefully, this’ll give you a little chuckle.

We’ve all dealt with the snooty bike snob.  The person who knows everything about bikes, and isn’t shy about that knowledge, or the inference to your lack thereof.  They can be far more intimidating that the megalomaniac dancer mentioned above… and I’m here to help.

In the case of my Specialized drop bar on my Trek bike, in my last post, I preemptively sufficiently out-snootied a person who might think to leave a snooty comment about not mixing parts on branded bikes – for instance, I believe one of the Ten Commandments of Cycling is, “Thou Shalt Not Put Competing Brand Parts on One’s Bicycle”.  Err something like that.  Did you notice in that post? Here’s the line:

I’ve been okay with this because I love the drop, reach, and curve of the bar.

The fact I like the “reach, drop and curve of the bar” preemptively out-snooties a snooty comment.  That one line says to a bike snob, without actually saying it, “I have enough miles on that particular drop bar, and I’ve ridden enough other drops, to know that I prefer the Specialized bar.  See?  It’s great and subtle.  I didn’t overdo it, either.  I also kept some powder dry, as they say – and I did this on purpose.  The next step in this little, sordid, handlebar Hambo, would be for a snooty cyclist to take the bait and leave a comment about how loving the drop is no justification, that reaches and drops can be fairly matched from brand to brand.  Now, you’d think old mister snotty, there, would have a point – but because this is about bikes, specifically road bikes, I’d actually done my research before putting a Specialized bar on my Trek bike – because I’m sufficiently snooty enough to know you don’t mix parts on bikes… unless you’re sufficiently snooty enough yourself to pull that $#!+ off with your vast array of knowledge due to extensive research on drop handlebars.  

And I am that guy.

The next step in the handlebar Hakken is to have the ability to really up the ante – because if someone is willing to break through preemptive snootiness, chances are, you’ve got a winner on your hands.  You’ve gotta have something in your bag to let them know you know your stuff equal to or beyond their knowledge.  The trick here is to be just enough of an @$$hole to end the conversation, without going overboard and causing your tormentor to do some research of their own – because at that point, you’ll be signing yourself up for a battle you just don’t have the time to deal with.

In my case I’d go with, “I know, there are Bontrager drop bars that come close to the Specialized Tarmac bend, within a couple of millimeters on the reach and a few on the drop, but that Tarmac bend just suits how the Trek fits me.  For me, it just works.  It’s the reach, drop and the bend that puts it over the top.”

See what I did there?  I was able to take it a step further without beating the assailant to a bloody pulp.  Sufficiently one-upped, but I didn’t want to take it too far.  The ability to go with the “Tarmac bend”, again, shows I’ve done my homework and I’m not just throwing parts at bikes.  It says, “I’m with you, bro.”  Which is nice.  But not too nice, because anyone willing to persist after all of that is a little iffy.  Not impossible to be friendly with, but definitely inching up on the line.

I’ve done this dance before and the next step can get a little messy.

You’ve sufficiently acquitted yourself and properly explained your choice at that point.  Any fair minded cyclist would allow you your dalliance of mixing parts after the second well thought out explanation.  And I mean any reasonable cyclist.  Every once in a while, though, you’re going to run into a super-snob.  You’re dealing with the ultra cycling snob who actually wears a cape with an U-C-S emblazoned on it.  I’ve dealt with this one a time or twelve in the several years I’ve been writing about cycling and recovery.  This person isn’t worth being friends with, or friendly to… but, because we are friendly and decent people, we don’t have to make this bloody.  Whatever their next comment is, no matter how over-the-top, it’s time for the end.  “Well, I appreciate your opinion and your strict adherence to the Velominati’s rules, but I’m happy with my choice.  I’ll take that you don’t approve under advisement and treat it with the care and concern it deserves.”

Which would be the equivalent of crumpling it up and tossing it in the circular file.  If that doesn’t work, and I’ve been up against this a few times, it’s time to ignore the person.  I’ve said all I’m going to say on it.  I’ve gone above and beyond to establish my bona fides.  I need go no further.

And that about says it.  Mostly.