Are You an Athlete, a Pathlete, or a Dirtbag Cyclist?

Swobo founder Tim Parr talked to’s Josh Rubin recently, and he had some interesting things to say. Chief among them? What’s almost ruined cycling is that too many athletes have gotten into it, not enough regular folks.

I like that theory, but the bike industry expanded exponentially during the Lance years — some called it a cyclysm! — and brought all kinds of casual riders out for weekday training rides in preparation for weekend races. True, these people qualify as “athletes.” Riding a bike is an inescapably athletic thing to do.

But Tim, who heads up one of the uber-coolest cycling brands on the planet, puts a charitable spin on what everyone in the bike industry has been saying since Lance retired: The number of overall riders is in decline, while bike sales are actually up. In other words, people who ride bikes really like to ride bikes, and they’re buying more of them, upgrading, and trying new disciplines. Where the industry really hopes to see exponential growth is with casual riders and commuters — Trek’s approach to that market segment has been Lime, a bike with a computer and an automatic transmission for riders who are so thick, they don’t understand how to shift a bike.

Swobo’s approach feels more realistic and wholesome — and hella cooler, to boot. If modern bikes are too complicated, why make them more complicated, with a computer and an electronic shifting system? Given them a bike like the Folsom: geared for the city with one easy-pedaling ratio, coaster brakes like you had on your first bike, and riser bars to keep your head up for signs, cars, and other attractive cyclists.


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