...The American Way. Even if we never know whether the advice is worth the fee. Some of you may scoff, but what Bike Shrink is trying to capitalize on is the fact that a lot of well-meaning people spend tons of cash to get started in the sport of cycling. Simply sorting out the basic necessities, the terminology, and the culture creates all sorts of confusion. Let's face it: the cycling biz is a racket built around slick unhelpful marketing. Caught in the middle are the bike shops that just want to stay in business. I'm not accusing anyone of dishonesty, all I'm saying is that finding gear that really works - and fits - is a crap shoot. I can't say how much cash I've thrown away on gear that wasn't worth the paper it was wrapped in, and I can't be alone. But that's neither here nor there. The real task is figuring out what's what without making a Fred of yourself.
Being a Fred isn't the same thing as being a Newbie. Newbie is a synonym for beginner. Its a friendly word that doesn't carry many negative connotations. Fred, on the other hand, is a pejorative - on the order to poseur - and can sometimes mean "fool". There are all kinds of Freds in all kinds of places, but Freds are only Freds in the cycling world. In the navy, a Fred is a "dink" or a "non-qual" (non-quals are the worst). In the cycling world, a Fred is a person who acts outside of the local or universally accepted mores of the cycling culture. For sure, nobody tries to be a Fred.
But it's not hard to do. Cycling is a semi-exclusive sport that attracts a lot of egos and narcissists. Just look at the professional peleton. Even so, the barrier to entry into cycling isn't insurmountable by the average Joe, but it does require a little well-spent cash. Here I'm reminded of the episode of "Malcolm In The Middle" where Malcolm's father takes up race-walking. The point is, the expense is usually the first detour on the road to Fred-dom. Everybody wants to fit in, and a lot of people come to cycling wide-eyed. Without experience to steer their choices, most wind up committing a few faux-pas that earn them the outward disdain or the sideways glance from some of the established crowd. Thus the niche that the BikeShrink aims to fill.
Aside from bicycles being a cross-cultural thing, I think she's on to something. Fit and function are one thing, but style is quite another. Finding all three elements in cycling gear takes years of trial-and-error and a few shiny pennies. Sometimes its all for naught once one realizes they will never look good in a jersey and shorts. High-heeled pedaler is dismayed because she believes the cycling mores of "looking good" is akin to being confused with bad art school homework or an Old Navy mannequin. I'll agree, there is some very bad design and artwork in the average cycling outfit, but whatever is printed on the kit means something to the wearer. I think the real objection is not finding the necessity to wear in public what amounts to loud, pretentious underwear. Fred or no Fred?
I've been on the St. Louis roads for ten years now. It's taken that long to find all the things that work for me, and I'm finally comfortable with my equipment and my style. I like to train hard if for nothing else but to keep myself in good shape with age, and to maintain the ability to keep up with (and sometimes pull) a group of respectable riders. In the end we are all enthusiasts and we are all competitors and we all have our insecurities. But if you stick with something long enough, blah blah blah. I refuse to shave my legs.
P.S. - I read the other day that I might not be a Fred after all. I have white bar tape on the Masi. Alas, I let it get pretty dingy and I don't care to change it, so its back to the Fred Leagues for me.