Cycle: Pedal Craft Speaker Grant Petersen Just Wants Cyclists to Ride Like Kids
Bike-tober is nearly upon us and it all gets kicked off on September 28 with Pedal Craft: Volume 2. The evening features a talk and book signing with Grant Petersen, cycling advocate and author of the new book "Just Ride," a "radically practical guide to riding your bike."
photo courtesy of Grant Petersen
Petersen first got involved in the bike industry in the late-1970's at REI and then as the marketing director and bike designer for Bridgestone. Petersen went on to create über-niche online bike merchant Rivendell Bicycle Works, a J. Peterman-style boutique for cyclists who buck the lycra shorts and carbon frames.
Cycle caught up with Petersen for a quick conversation about bikes and how so many cyclists might be missing the purpose ... and some fun.
Have you spent any time cycling in Arizona?
Grant Petersen: Just a little. Maybe ten or eleven years ago I went to a Pacific Atlantic Cycling Tours training camp Lon Haldeman and his wife Susan put on. It wasn't racer-ish or anything, more like a lot of bike riders going down to good ol' dry Arizona in the winter and riding around the desert from point to point, kind of a big loop.
You make a point with "Just Ride," what you call a "manual for the Unracer," that you really connect with cycling from an everyman's view. What is it that you love about cycling and how do you see yourself helping to get more people on two wheels?
Workman Publishing Company
Well, I got INTO bikes because I needed to get around, and I've never been into cars. I've always been kind of afraid of them, which doesn't mean I don't own two or drive ever, it just means if something is reasonably rideable and a bike makes sense, I ride my bike. But I don't have a mission to get more people onto bikes, or anything like that. I'd like to see more people ride, because I think they'd have fun doing it, they'd get exercise, and the old "One Less Car" thing, too.
If I have a bike-related mission, I'd say rather than it being to get more people out there a-pedalin', it's more like to get existing riders out of their lycra, out of their click-in shoes, and to quit riding rides that are more relief to finish than fun to be on.
Quit copying racers, ride the way you did as a kid before you grew up and got fooled into turning child's play and good transportation into a hero-emulating workout.
I've had a lifetime of training rides to nowhere, and am not into them anymore. I love to ride my bike more than I ever have, because the rides are fun, no pressure, and useful. I'm not a slave to my bike, and I don't pretend to be breaking away up every climb. I'm not saying others are living that fantasy; I'm saying I did, and I doubt I was the only one.
So, what's an example of how we rode as kids that you see adults getting away from? I mean, as kids it was always about racing down the street and going fast or trying to do tricks. Besides the clothes and gear, what else has changed?
Kids treat the bike as a toy and transportation. They goof off on bikes, play with them, have fun, and go places on them so they don't have to be driven by a parent. Kids don't use the bikes as a fitness tool, but adults do, all the time. Kids don't rely on the bike to get rid of a carb-belly, but adults always do that.
So many adults get into riding as a means to get healthier and lose weight and stave off the effects of aging. No kid has any of those concerns. And yet who has more fun on a bike? I'd say it's the kid down by the creek doing things he shouldn't be doing on a bike in a creek, or the kids who ride downtown in a pack of other kids, to get out of the house. I know riding a bike as an adult can be fun, and I also know that there are different ways to have fun. But generally, treating the bike as your last hope at aerobic exercise to stave off heart disease and weight gain and diabetes....makes it hard to have fun riding the bike. It can help with all of those things, but if that's the reason you're riding, good luck having fun with it.
Americans started to become infatuated with racing in the mid-'80s, when touring started to fizzle out and Greg LeMond started winning internationally. The media was all over it, and we've idolized racers ever since. The industry uses racing as a commercial opportunity. It's not a bad thing to do. It's fine, but it's real.