Thursday, January 19

I hate having a point or at least thinking I do

Sorry that I'm slacking, but I'm actually spending way too much time looking into this:

Yeth, the National Interscholastic Cycling Association does not let kids race single speed mountain bikes based on... science?

I've been busy searching and asking FaceBook friends (because I have some that are way smarter and have better resources than I do) to help me look into this.

My problem with the rule isn't that I'm worried about creating the future generation of degenerates who ride one speeds.  It's that NICA is all about being inclusive and this rule does not serve that purpose.  A trail-worthy single speed can be a cheap way into the sport, and I know "support your local bike shop" and everything, but this:

$349.  No shipping.  No tax.  Some assembly required... but it is a single speed, so... easier than an Ikea coffee table.

Try and find a trail-worthy geared bike for that price.  Yeth, that same online store has some geared bikes that are close, but I wouldn't consider them something I'd want to ride off road and expect to last a "season."  Component spec goes to shit when you're trying to squeeze shifty/squishies into a sub-$400 price point.

This is a sensitive topic for me.  I had no perspective when I was a kid growing up in rural Ohio, but I'm pretty sure that I can look back now and say that I was living in poverty.  We were poor as shit, living in a trailer, dad unemployed for years.... government cheese.

So when I wanted to run high school cross country, it's not like my parents could really buy me proper equipment.  I got a canary yellow, ill-fitting "sweat suit" from Dollar General and a pair of Trax "running shoes" from Kmart (mine were green).

Total investment, probably less than $25.  I ran my ass off, started my freshman year as literally one of the worst runners in Ohio's largest county (no joke) and eventually worked my way up to the varsity squad before I graduated.  Fortunately, my dad had opened a video store, it took off (slowly), and I was able to get increasingly better gear.  A reward for sticking to it and getting better, I guess.  Even still, while other runners had training shoes and race flats with spikes, I split the middle ground and did all my running in a pair of Waffle Racers... because we still weren't exactly wealthy.

Sorry for the tiny image, but this is the exact colorway and everything of the shoe that covered hundreds of miles of pavement and XC courses with my feet in them.  Not the ideal weapon for either, but the best we could afford.  I appreciate that my parents dropped close to $50 on them, and after the "season" ended, they finished their lives out filling the role of my "school shoes."

I can remember how hard it was for me to come up with $100 when I was a freshman to buy my 1984 Olympic Edition 10 speed. It was a hunk of shit, but it was a lot easier to visit my friends (one who lived six miles away.. down State Route 6... and I'm still alive?) than riding my banana seat bike.  Imagine that same kid going off to college (the second cheapest college in Ohio) and finding a real love for road cycling... and later mountain biking.  Let's just say I had to save some nickels and dimes in order to ride some more hunks of shit from 1987 to 1992.  In my last year of college, I raced on our newly formed road cycling team, The Penguin Flyers.  I raced the entire "season" on a $249 Yokota that I got on closeout from Bike Nashbar, which was based out of the same shitty city where I went to college.

With all that, I think I have a bit of a right to talk about how money can be a high hurdle that one has to jump just to find their lifelong passion.

I won't get into the ludicrousness of the "five cogs in the rear" thing, because I'm going to argue that as well in an email to NICA.  If there truly is some sort of science that shows big gears  ruin knees, than they probably need to adapt the roll out rules that the USAC established for juniors... even though that does nothing from stopping a kid from pushing big gears.  Yeth, they'll be told by coaches to not do that, but I also remember adults telling me to not throw eggs at people's houses, so...

And yeth, I also have a problem with the fact that they changed to '15 wording from "has been proven" to the '16-'17 "has been shown," because that seems a bit like an admittance that there actually is no proof.

So why keep the rule at all?

Even if this only stops one poor kid from riding his single speed in a NICA event, what if he/she is our next John Tomac or Juli Furtado (dated reference but whatev)?  We'll never know.  Insert that cute story here that The Pie always brings up about the kid that tosses one starfish back into the ocean and it mattering to that one star fish.

I'm working on an informed email and since I'm not used to taking much of anything very seriously, I'm taking my time composing it.  I want to effect a change, so I can't come off half-assed...

Like I do here...

Every day.


Moe said...

This is a very valid topic. Your example of a $400 SS vs a $400 geared bike is spot on. A $400 geared bike is a flaming piece of shit. While a SS for the same price will hold together with only a little periodic TLC on the hubs and bottom bracket. As for the knee damage BS, what is stopping a kid from trying to mash up a hill in the 44:12 gear on a bike equipped with a triple front ring? What could be most damaging is when a poor kid on a cheap single speed crushes a rich kid on his/her carbon geared rig.... The poor kid rides his/her bike to his/her friends house, school, trails, and anywhere else he/she wants to go. The rich kid rides in his/her mom's Escalade EXT.

Rob said...

Somehow, some way, USAC is behind this.

jacobtubbs said...

Money was 100% of the reason I didn't get into bike racing until after I graduated and got a job. Just couldn't figure out any way to afford it. There was no such thing as NICA back in the dark ages, but the idea of coming up with entry fees, and money for gas, food money, lodging, etc. was just a non-starter when I was struggling to pay rent and buy ramen noodles; I ripped a semi-new MTB tire (that I got as a Christmas present) my freshman year of college and couldn't afford to replace it, so I just didn't ride my mountain bike for nearly a year.

NICA offers a nice low barrier to entry, but eliminating the cheapest to acquire and maintain form of bike based on unproven, unsupportable pseudo-science, is straight garbage. In other words it is exactly the sort of thing they will probably go to the mat over.

Redline said...

Rule seems like BS to me. I'd like to find the guy or committee that drafted that.

And perhaps off point but I'm just saying that Zola Budd won the World Cross Country Championship in 1985 and repeated in 1986 - barefooted. To listen to the announcers talk skeptically about her decision to go barefoot at the Worlds as she meanwhile absolutely demolished the field in 1986 is great. Same type of stuffed shirts that would be talking about "youths pushing big gears being harmful."

Redline said...

Dammit. My point was you didn't need those Starsky and Hutch shoes to compete.

Brian said...

dude - i totally rocked the trax and second hand clothes while my friends were sportin jordache and poppin their izod collars - second hand bikes as well now that i think about it - i think that is why i cherish all the sweet gear i save my own sheckels for these days - your points are spot on and good on ya for making them heard - you might be setting thread records on those friggin farcebook posts the past few days

Mike said...

Race times and ages. Send them those. Real data. No the ssers don't win but they compete and truth be told are generally older. So where's the damage dummies?

Mike Brown
aka as the person who used to say who wouldn't ride SS because he was saving his knees
aka as the person who learned hey guess what average times count and if i run a 21 tooth cog my knees are fine
aka as sometimes dicking around on a SS is exactly what makes like fun so I'd better get on this train oh wait that's exactly why it should be available to youth.
AKA as understands as what motivates youth is anger and SS is anger especially when combined with whiskey so there you d-bags.
That's probably not what you should them.
or is it?
Great write up, Spicoli.