Do you remember when surfing became mainstream, driven by the combination of lens-flared laidback vibes and toned beach physiques pushed as “cool” by savvy marketing agencies? There was something in the simplicity of being out in the water, that pursuit of the ephemeral and elusive perfect spot, or perceived ease of just standing on the board and letting the wave do the work. Bonus points also for the beach bum, don’t want a real job, stick it to the man hangover from the 70s. This same marketing had made it acceptable to wear board shorts at the mall in the 2000s when the closest you got to the beach was looking at a poster on the store wall where you got said board shorts, never mind the fact you have never surfed and never intended to surf. These guys and girls were so cool they somehow managed to make Ugg boots a thing! (Via the Kardashians to be fair, but still.)
Similarly, the whole bikepacking or light-weight touring scene has the opportunity to do the same thing. The idea of just riding a bicycle outside for the sake of being outside is something that has sorely been missed.
When I say bikepacking, I’m actually talking about the cats with the Surlys and the baskets sipping whisky, camping and making coffee outside; not the hardcore ride all day and night crew with a few Dyneema packs attached to their carefully rigged aerobars. The romance of camping, people who forgot the faded fixie fad, and craft everything have come together to make a custom enamel mug hanging off your saddle pack, beers in the front rack, and Wayfarers the best accessories while framing a #lightbro sunset Instagram post on your #microadventure
The best part is that everyone is invited to the campfire cook out on whatever two wheels you can bodge together. It’s not a race, there are just as many girls as guys getting into it, and it’s fun goddamit. There is no suffering for glory watching wattage and counting vertical meters, there is no head angle versus suspension travel versus wheel size pissing contests, there is no sleep-deprived sadomasochism of riding for days on end, and most importantly, there is no fluro-encrusted, over-lit, fear-fuelled aggression of commuting (in some countries like ours anyway).
This same laidback vibe with hand-ground coffee jet-boiled outside in the morning might just be jolt of life that cycling needs. Maybe those same sturdy, reliable, comfortable bikes that can haul some coffee and whisky and a change of jorts could also haul your lunch and a laptop so you could get to work. Flannel and jeans is a far more attractive outfit for cycling than lycra and those silly slippy clippy shoes anyway. We’re just waiting for our Wavestorm to really set us off now.
I’m coming to terms that this might mean that the Poler Napsack might be an acceptable thing to wear in public while buying a latte to go in a Gentlemen’s Hardware enamel mug, or that my local will have a line of purple and mint Stragglers with their tan walls parked outside, or worst case, more people would slip past me uphill effortlessly on their e-bikes, flannels fluttering in the breeze, but that’s ok eh? Seems like a small price to pay for the idea of relaxed cyclists riding outside for fun with friends to become as aspirational to someone amongst a sea of electric self-driving cars as catching that elusive wave and lying on the sand was to that boy at the mall buying some board shorts.