against long odds you have found bicycling in the age of shopping the nexus of protest and bicycle appreciation in its purest form do not stare directly into the screen you will go blind

Alrighty then.

And welcome.

Is this the newsletter Bicycling in the Age of Shopping?

The one and only.

I should warn you it’s not really a newsletter, because it’s not mainly news.

It’s more like a blog except that RSS is dead or mortally wounded, so I use a mailing list instead. Mailing lists were last fashionable around 1990, but today they’re back with a vengeance. This gives me hope for down-tube shifters.

I’ve held Platinum status at Wiggle for 13 unbroken years. Will this newsletter offend me?

I cannot rule that out, especially if you spend more on shoes than tyres. Don’t take it personally. I hate the sin, not the sinner.

And you’re without sin?

I shop too. This newsletter is not about shopping but riding across a hyperconsumerist landscape without losing your shirt or your mind.

It considers what our response should be to product reviews that are almost without exception bought, scientifically illiterate, and dull-witted. It seeks to quash the acquisitive urge while acknowledging the atavistic seduction of new tools.

If, like Sylvia Plath and me, you love the thinginess of things, you will find much to enjoy here. But the impossible goal is always one true unchanging bicycle forever. Ridden with panache, natch.

None of that makes any sense, and if it does you’re a spoilsport.

I only try to ask the right questions, like whether there is a moral imperative to use round spokes. The answers will be contradictory and unsatisfactory, riven with doubt and elementary flaws. But more of us should think about these things and come up with our own answers. There is room for a narrow range of opinion.

What, more specifically, does the newsletter contain?

That will change with the needs of the moment. There will be arguments for simplicity, durability, versatility, beauty, and economy in bicycles – but not too much of those things – and for riding to be practical, fun, inclusive, cooperative, hard, IRL, dangerous, and necessary.

The newsletter will fly the flag for certain standards. I refer equally to bottom brackets and cultural norms. Forgotten battles from the optimistic 1970s – before I was born – may be refought in a new context. If I see another Reddit photo of a bicycle leaning against the tailgate of a monstrous SUV I will boak.

‘More specifically.’

The newsletter will study the physical artefacts and cultural jetsam of cycling, in the hope that small observations will auto-assemble into a manifesto. I am not your leader, merely a message-bearer. The message will become apparent to us both at the right time.

I’ve never heard of you. Why should I pay any attention to what you say?

A valid question. If your instinctive reaction to a novel claim is who said this?, I can offer you no comfort. If you ask instead, does this claim stand on its own merits?, you’ll feel more at ease. I try to state things plainly and show my reasoning if any is required.

If this all sounds too political, naïve, iconoclastic, grumpy, or worse, don’t worry: usually I just chat about benign topics, often some bicycle part or riding habit, and make no grand claims. Mechanical understanding is a recurring theme.

It smells like you’re selling something.

Sense in a senseless world. But you’re right, there is the dream of a book and eventually a reality TV show. You’re not a publisher by chance?

I’m just a dentist. Hmm. Your ideas are intriguing to me, and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

I thought so. Have a button:

And tell everyone you know with an email address.

Ride bike!

Samuel Dilworth

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