Letter to the Editor: Why I Commute By Bike “Cyclocommuterus Monstrous”

We received the following email from Craig in response to our most recent blog post on “Why I commute By Bike.” We wanted to publish this constructively critical feedback as it raises an important discussion.

We obviously love riding bikes and promoting bicycle commuting (that much is easy to see)….but do we unknowingly promote a stereotype that is steeped in traditional “old school” beliefs, which is more exclusive (than inclusive) and quite possibly does more to discourage everyday bike commuting than it does to encourage?

We welcome your thoughts in the comments.

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Hey there,

Just thought I’d share a few thoughts about your “why I cycle to work” theme…

The two instalments that I’ve received thus far have both been focused on what I term Cyclocommuterus Monstrous, the species of cycle-commuter characterised by their hardcore appearance.  They commute long distances, fight vehicle traffic that despises and sometimes tries to kill them. They ride a road bike with a torturous-looking seat jacked waaaay up. They have fancy shoes that are useless to walk in, but that provide a marginal increase in power output.  They wear a neon safety vest that flaps about, and a fancy helmet with less vents for improved aero efficiency. The term “net-zero” has a new application here.

Cyclocommuterus Monstrous can be observed cycling in full-on blizzard conditions, their armour of neoprene, Gore-Tex and other plastics allowing them to charge through their enemy: the weather.  They appear to most casual members of the public as some sort of perverse knight in brightly-coloured armour, their commute a sadistic exercise. Most people observe, and point out, how unpleasant such a commute must be.  That seat must be agony, the cold/wet/wind must be awful, getting splashed by all these cars must make that ride frigid, they ponder, as they sit in their warm mall-crawler, their seat adjusted in 12 different ways for maximum comfort.  Plus, all that gear is so expensive they think. It’s not exactly something that they could just try out without making a significant investment.

If we want to expand cycle-commuting to a broader audience, then highlighting Cyclocommuterus Monstrous is probably not the right way to go.  I am saying this, having at one time been part of this species. I commuted nearly 20 km, crossed a river valley 50 m deep, drove on roads through an industrial park and refinery, constantly dodging coal-rolling 1-tons with welding rigs on the back, who seemed intent on literally splattering the pavement with my brain.  It was pretty insane, but I strove to tell my coworkers that it wasn’t that bad. It was a lie. It’s a big part of why I moved, and now commute five minutes on residential streets, riding a 1980s touring bike (it even has a Biopace crankset for hipster points).

We need to promote more casual and chill commutes.  Commutes on townie bikes, with those great big cushy seats, nice fenders, and a chill pace.  Commutes on quiet roads, with enough time to admire the day’s start and smell the roses. Commutes where we are allowed to peacefully pass under the rail tracks, rather than get stuck and stressed waiting for that damn train to pass.   That’s the type of commute that could pull people away from private vehicles. Very few of us have the bold tendency to grab a suffer-machine of a Tour de France-esque bike, strap on some reflective tape, and risk our lives on major road-arteries while contending with discomfort, frostbite, and hypothermia.

Anyhoo, good on you for promoting commuting sans-fossil-fuels.  In some ways I understand why you promote Cyclocommuterus Monstrous.  Most times, they’re dudes and they’re gear geeks. They buy tons of shit, and you sell stuff that they buy.  I do think though, that promoting a more chilled-out vibe, with less perceived barriers, could help grow the cause.  Chilled out folks need panier bags too…

Craig

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We also wanted to share our response back to Craig. We do take feedback very seriously. We are listening. We are working on it.

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Hi Craig,

Thanks for the feedback. That is a really well-written email. I wonder if you might even be interested in writing a guest post for our blog? At the least, I would like to either turn your email into a blog piece (AKA: letter to the editor style) or ask that you add it to the comments section on our blog. I think it is a terrific point of view. I am also sure you already know that you have a real knack for the written word. It was a very interesting piece with vivid visuals to explore. I really enjoyed it, even if it was constructively criticizing our work : )

I agree with many of your points. I also have to unabashedly admit that a lot of our customers do seem (or at least used to be) of the Cyclocommuterus Monstrous type (I really like this genus type of naming convention). I might even re-use it with your permission as a classification for certain blog article types. But I am always thinking of expanding our audience and being more inclusive. To be honest, this is a tough business. We are more than a bag company and are working really hard to cultivate a community but if we don’t sell any of our gear we won’t be around to do any favours for any commuters for much longer. Full disclosure, I haven’t found a way to market our high-quality (non-cheap) gear without talking about it as being strong enough for even the hardcore riders.

I realize we do need to work on our inclusiveness and advocacy points within our brand. There is still a certain amount of admiration (right or wrong) I have for this type of “Rebel” rider such as in your previous commuting life (other than the brain splattering part – those particular big rig drivers have a special place in hell). I also have done some hardcore winter commuting while heading to change into my monkey suit in downtown Calgary before starting this brand full time. It was a simple dream from my basement to create a brand for people that ride their bikes to work.

I apologize if I don’t always get it right. That is for certain. It seems that bicycles/commuting/transportation is always a hot topic item (which is actually really good for marketing purposes). But it doesn’t matter which POV I take or we decide to write about, we will receive emails of either anger or praise. Most of the time we get both. It’s when we don’t receive any response that I know we have missed the mark.

Anywhoo thanks for taking the time to craft such a witty, insightful and intellectual response. I have taken this very much to heart and certainly appreciate the feedback. If you have any ideas of how we might be able to adapt our theme to the more chill variety and do some more good, I would be very much inclined to hear them. I also am not kidding about having you contribute as a guest writer for the blog. My goal has always been to make this brand a collective community of commuters. I unfortunately have only been good at representing the Cyclocommuterus Monstrous type up to this point. But we are working on it. : )

All the best. Have an excellent weekend!

Reid – Two Wheel Gear

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Please share your thoughts/ideas/questions below in the comments! We need to know how to serve commuters better.

Two Wheel Gear - President and Founder Reid Hemsing

Two Wheel Gear – President and Founder Reid Hemsing

 

One thought on “Letter to the Editor: Why I Commute By Bike “Cyclocommuterus Monstrous”

  1. Craig, Thanks so much for your comments and for reading along. We always want to make sure we’re being inclusive to all bike commuters. We’re excited to launch an interview series where we’ll be able to gain more diversity and differing perspectives from people all over the world who commute by bike. Happy to continue the conversation anytime.

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