To a surprising degree, we live our lives according to notions of genre. When it comes to entertainment the role of genre is obvious. We like rom-coms but don’t like sci-fi or horror (I don’t understand those people, but they do exist). Yet genre rules our work lives as well (the types of reports we produce, the inter-office memos. . .all of these often fall into predictable categories with their own conventions and sets of expectations). But it is equally true of our mediated social lives. It is one of the reasons I’ve pretty much abandoned FB; every visit I see the same old genres of posts playing out over and over again, people saying the same old stuff, engaging in the same old debates, occupying the same old positions, the stunning lack of originality of our species on soul-sapping display 24/7.
Recent exchanges on the listserv of our local randonneuring club, however, also had me thinking about some of the predictable but odd genres that seem to characterize the discussions that randonneurs have. Now some of these are specific to the strange world of long-distance cycling, but not a few of them also seem to cross over into the more general world of cycling. And not a few of those (especially the medical ones; see below) I see (or used to see) all the time on FB. So for my own amusement and, I hope, yours, I’ve collected a few of the more prominent genres of rando-talk here.
The Mid-Life Crisis Thread
“I’ve been using [X Bike Component] for the past 10 years and it has given me nothing but joy and a trouble-free cycling experience. But now I’m wondering if there is something better out there.”
Yeah, it doesn’t take much to read between the lines of this one. The rider has decided the time has come to throw his (and it is almost always a guy) old derailleur over for a lighter, thinner model with bigger pulley wheels. If randonneuring hasn’t already prematurely ended this marriage it might be time to call in counseling.
Randonneurs don’t need to be like roadies who are always chasing after the Brand New Thing, particularly if it promises to save them the weight equivalent of emptying their bladder before a ride. Just like cylcotouring, Randonneuring favors a conservative approach. When you are on a long self-supported ride, you want proven tech, not something that a guy whipped up in his garage with the aid of a Kickstarter promo video and a bunch of re-purposed carbon fiber from destroyed bikes.
The “Never Say Die” Thread
“I have been using [X Bike Component] since the Allies liberated Paris in `44. Is it time for me to replace it?”
Fuck yes. And replace your common sense while you are at it.
If roadies are some of the spendiest creatures on the face of the planet (plonking down enormous chunks of their kids’ college fund for wheels that will save them 1 second over 100 miles and which will break if you spit on them) Randonneurs are some of the cheapest. Not only will they refuse to replace equipment long after its used-up date, but they seem to delight in having little pecker-comparison contests with one another. “Well I once had a chain that lasted 10,000 miles with absolutely no problems. None. Not one. No major problems. Well nothing I couldn’t fix. Eventually.”
And it isn’t just their bike components that suffer. If you do randonneuring long enough, sooner or later you will find yourself riding behind someone, and while questioning their taste level you will nevertheless admire how much the sublimated printing on their bike shorts looks exactly like a pair of butt cheeks. Then you realize there is no printing on the shorts.
The “Waiting for the Monkeys to Type Hamlet” Thread
“Rather than waste time wading through articles by experts on [X Bike component] I have decided to waste time wading through the partisan anecdotes of non-experts. Should I buy [X Bike Component]”
Ah, crowd-sourcing. Just say no.
I’ve never understood the belief in crowd-sourcing. Just think about all those other examples of collective endeavor where clueless amateurs have managed to achieve great things for humanity. The US Congress. Every meeting you have ever been in. The family barbecue where everyone wisely agrees that Uncle Ted’s 25-year marriage to That Woman is going to end any day now.
The “Desperately Seeking Confusion” Thread
You can see this one coming a mile off. This is where someone asks a question that anyone with even a shred of common sense can see has only one answer: “it depends.”
That will not stop the question being asked. It will, unfortunately, also not stop numerous people trying out how many different ways they can find to say “it depends.”
The “Please Report the Nature of the Medical Emergency” thread
“Rather than seek qualified medical help for what is a painful, unusual and possibly permanently debilitating condition, I will instead seek advice from a group of people who lack even sufficient medical training to reliably apply a Band-Aid.”
The only thing interesting about this conversation is taking bets on how long before someone finally has the courage to say, “Get thee to a doctor, fuckwit.” And then watch as that advice fails to end the string of amateur medical diagnoses.
Unlike some of the other threads, you can at least have some fun with this one. Try convincing the person that they have Dengue Fever, for example, or West Nile Virus. That is always good for a laugh.
The Darwin Award Candidate
This is a sub-category of the above thread.
“When I was riding the other day my left foot fell off. Should I be concerned? What should I do?”
Amazingly, this conversation usually plays out the same as the above. At least until the person asking the question bleeds out.
Now if you’ll excuse me, someone has just asked what bike light they should use for randonneuring. I need to go and make some popcorn and queue up the Death Metal.