I was back home in St. Louis this weekend for a wedding, and, as it was Memorial Day, and as I happened to go to Forest Park at one point to play four (4) points of ultimate (it was a busy weekend…), I saw a lot of people on bikes. A few of these were Specialized bikes. A few were Treks. A larger balance of them were mountain bikes on the paved bike path, on which their little knobbies do nothing but make such a noise as to ensure the rest of us (in this counterfactual scenario, I am also riding on said path) hear them huffing and puffing as they try to pass us. Oh, and the weather reached the 80s. It was in the low 50s when we left Ashland. What is summer?
On a related note, we went hiking with another couple and met up at their house. Zach (one of the couple) had gotten a new “Mother’s Day” present (long story), in the form of a sweet, 2015 couldn’t-sell-it carbon specialized, ultegra kit and all. Needless to say, I was fairly green with envy, if only because my feelings are still hurt from the time my retired riding buddy made fun of how heavy my bike was when he tried to put it up on his rack. Still, this, along with long hours thumbing through Instagram and one’s general drenching of marketing materials got me thinking:
I am not ‘specialized.’
And I’m going to use this as a metaphor for this blog. But we’ll get there.
This is, of course, not to diss on my buddy’s new bike in any sense: it’s awesome, I couldn’t be happier for him, I look forward to riding with him when I’m in town for a bit later on this summer (another long story). But I sort of hate their marketing, this whole “#iamspecialized” thing. Now, I think it’s cool that they sponsor so many folks, I think it’s cool that they have nice bikes. Fine, great. But when I look at my own bike (a beautiful, beat-up, 2nd or 3rd or 4th hand aluminium 90s Schwinn), and I look at how my 25cs just squeeze in there, and how, golly gosh, we’ve got so much gravel up here, and I might like that better than riding long distances on the road where there are drunk people in camo who shout “America!” at us as they drive by, and I think: man, a steel bike that’ll last me forever and on which I can do lots of kinds of riding would be cool.
Which is essentially to say that I have “retro-grouch” tendencies. But was anyone surprised? I was wearing tweeds in high school.
Now, Specialized does make a bike like the one I’ve been dreaming of (though it’s not the one I would get, if I had a million-bajillion-dollars and space for another bike), but the point is less about the actual bikes, and more the marketing.
(Not unlike the bike sales cycle, which does too seem to be much less about the bikes and much more about the marketing, but I semi-digress).
A proper digression:
I was once at a bar called Riley’s in Tower Grove East, St. Louis with my friend Richard. This was, I think, the last night before the allowing-smoking-grandfathered-in rule was set to expire, and we were there for a last (few) pitcher(s) and to bullshit like we were wont to do. Richard was contemplating some big life-change or other, I was about to leave for my trip, and we were taking stock of various things. At some point he pointed out what he believed to be his “fatal flaw,” and I was treated to mine: I want to do too many things, but don’t really ever follow through with them.
Charitably, I’m taking this as, “Gee, Danny, you sure do do a lot!”
(Please excuse the overabundance of “Gee”s in this post.)
If I did less, I would probably be farther along in my writing/ultimate/biking/programming/sales career, but what fun would that be? #iamnotspecialized because I like to do a lot of things. Of course, this isn’t exactly conducive to doing anything “the best” or even well, depending on who you ask.
[The digression into the history of focusing on doing one thing well starting with Plato and up through the phrase “a jack of all trades, but a master of none” Jordan T. would quote at me as a kid has been redacted.]
So far as how this pertains to bike marketing, the “specialization” fetish means more bikes: if I need a different bike to ride on the road vs the gravel vs a bike path vs a commute vs a trail vs whatever, then all of a sudden I’m looking at n+5 bikes. And it’s not that I have any problem with folks owning more than one bike (I own two, and would like to someday get one-to-two more), but I don’t like people who don’t know any better (for example, me two and a half years ago) thinking they can’t do this-or-that on a thing that they buy.
Now, I realize that their marketing campaign is “#iamspecialized” not #i-have-a-different-bike-for-each-specialized-activity, which is kind of cool insofar as it’s very affirming in a lot of ways and it’s a cute play on their brand name, etc. But it also implicitly pigeonholes the people who rock it, right? They’re specialized for a thing. Regardless, this rant has gone on too long.
The genesis of all of this was that I was having trouble coming up with a post thing last week before I left for St. Louis (so I didn’t post, obviously), but was thinking about things I could do, and lately I’ve been toying with coding more, and was thinking about the freedom the ‘pandnotp’ moniker gave me, and how I am not specialized, and how even the “bikes, books, and bullshit” thing is limiting (though this was by design), and how maybe I am just a little snowflake afterall. In any case–
While marketing in general is funny, bike marketing is particularly funny, and I’m glad I put “bullshit” in the title so you know what this is.