Words and photos: Chris Milucky, aka Bama
From On the Road With Bama, a column in the print magazine
Originally published in Issue #189
Dear Bike Industry: Roll down your window. Your lips move, but I can’t hear what you’re saying.
When I was a child, I used to ride my bike over to your house. We’d cut paths between the neighbors’ houses and ride to gas stations for candy. Our bikes sucked, those 4130 steel rust-bucket hand-me-down junkers that were always banjaxed, and being so in love with gravity, we had to push them up steep hills only to ride sans-brakes the whole way back down, finally sliding toward traffic, barely cheating the old fogies rollin’ Caddies before they had a chance to smoke us in their pleated-leather death sleds. Yep, laughter led our peloton.
We rode in denim and stained T-shirts, remaining hydrated by the water of garden hoses found at random houses while grownups were at work. We’d never even seen a helmet. When we were teenagers, we snuck out at night to hack secret trails, blurring the demarcation of singletrack and abandoned industrial estate. As young adults, we rode after work, after happy hour, in the alleys and parks where bums sleep. We never knew if it was a Wednesday or Friday night. We rode in the warmth of summer and in freezing autumn rain—as if adulthood were right behind us, creeping up with the sunrise, and maybe if we rode hard enough, we might escape the aging process.
But you grew up and set sail to cubicle purgatory. You made things light and fast and strong. Thanks—but now, you’re the ones driving Bavarian Motor Crüzers. Dear Bike Industry: Roll down your window. Your lips move, but I can’t hear what you’re saying.
Come on, now, I hear you’re feeling down. Maybe I can help ease your pain and get you on your bike again. From Santa Cruz to Moab and Minneapolis, you’ve lost touch with your roots. Must you dine in classy clothes, drinking craft beer? Or could we cruise to a thrift store for evening attire and fire up the grill in my backyard? We used to watch “Rad” on VHS and build dirt jumps in the woods, shredding till dinnertime. Now your rides end with Strava trophies.
Many of you are parents now, and your children are grown, yet forbidden from that exploratory wandering that colored our own formative, miscreant years with idyllic arrests, underage smoking and broken glass. You were never a hardcore roadie or a hardcore mountain biker; you were just hardcore. You were life-hardened, annealed and temperamental characters who lived for live music and late nights. Now you’re overweight.
At Cyclocross Nationals in Austin, Texas, you were too cool for the underground race. In Sedona, Arizona, this spring, a staged photo shoot consumed all your time. At Interbike, you were too busy to say hello. You’ve fired all my heroes and have a retirement plan, yet off-road pioneer Charlie Cunningham* can’t afford medical care.
Get a grip on reality, my bike-industry friends. The life we used to live was financed by dreams and bike piles, not advertising campaigns. Your quest for money and sales figures has gone too far. You won’t ride through parking-lot puddles. You’re on Facebook, but never the shop ride.
I miss you dearly.
*You can do something regarding Charlie Cunningham. Click here to learn and read more about his recovery from devastating injuries resulting from a bicycle crash.