Social Cyclists
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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Social Cyclists

by Ian Dille at 5:03 AM EST   comments
Categories: General
 

The ties that bind cyclists are physical in nature, friendships forged over long miles and on remote roads. But while our relationships remain rooted in tangible items—steel, asphalt, sweat—we increasingly nurture them through digital mediums.

“The things that are driving social media in general, also hold true to cyclists,” says Josh Kadis, whose run online marketing campaigns for cycling companies like Specialized and SRAM.

“People love social media primarily because they like to talk about themselves, and I don’t mean that in a negative way,” says Kadis. “We’re sharing experiences.”

One might argue the experiences cyclists encounter are especially unique. No matter if you’re a rookie bike commuter learning the local routes or an experienced racer, you likely find the feeling of achy quads reassuring. Independent of your preferred riding style, a cycling catalog probably graces your coffee table. Whether you choose to admit it or not, at some point you’ve born the embarrassing newbie mark of a greasy calf.

Ever tried relating your weekend activities to a non-cycling co-worker? Painful. But then we log onto the blogosphere and, amongst the post-race chatter and ride recapping, we’re suddenly home. If cycling is our addiction, social media is how we get a fix.

Heck, our sports grand pooh bah was an early adopter of the hottest new social medium. No matter your take on Lance—hero, villain, or feigned indifference—following him on Twitter is an unapologetic guilty pleasure. It’s akin to watching reality TV.

Lance led the way, and other pros followed. Their messages are typically mundane, and that’s exactly what makes them so engaging. Turns out, the day to day experiences of a professional cyclist aren’t so different from our own. We smile when we read about a fellow rider’s favorite road, or travails with an over zealous dog, because we relate.

But while these experiences define the context of our cycling relationships, geographic diversity also fuels the bike rider’s affinity for social media. First and foremost, the bicycle is a means of transportation. Cycling takes us places, whether we travel there by bike, or ride once we arrive. Our sport introduces us to fellow cyclists from all over the nation, even the world, and social media is our preferred method of staying in touch.

Finally, cyclists have a penchant for forming cliques. Sure, we’re a welcoming bunch in general, but our various riding styles remain divided into various cultural factions. Last week I had a lunch with the Webmaster of an urban cycling blog, ATXBS.com, based here in Austin, Texas. The website, created on a whim over beers two years ago, caters mostly to a local group of hip, twenty something cyclists. Their riding is functional, but primarily social. ATXBS is the main source for the urban bike outings they favor. Most of their rides end at a bar or, in the summer, a six-pack at the local swimming hole.

A huge ride might attract 100 people, but the site averages over two million hits a month. Meaning, not a whole lot of people use the website, but those who do, use it often. We all have our cycling websites of choice, and we check them habitually.

Thus, I present to you my new column, Dille Dally, for what I hope will become one of your favorite cycling related sites, VeloNation.com. Here, I’ll muse on the cultural truisms of our sport and report on the greater cycling world, but mostly, aim to entertain. Check in twice a month for my posts—and much more frequently to keep up with your fellow bike riding friends.

Ian Dille is a freelance journalist based in Austin, Texas. He currently races at the elite amateur level for the Super Squadra road cycling team. To read more of Ian's writing, please visit iandille.com.

Read more from Ian here.

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