If you’ve been keeping up with the Reviews section you’ve seen some mansplainin’ going on around here. We don’t take too kindly to that in these parts so you’ve also seen some sarcasm a’flyin’. I’ve handled mansplainers before (who hasn’t?), but this one was a little different, as it was just a drive-by mansplain from some rando who can’t let an opinion be an opinion without mansplaining why it’s wrong, which is normal, but this one wasn’t about bikes. Usually mansplainers around here want to mansplain about bikes. Having a climbing mansplainer was almost a novelty. Mansplain. Mansplain. Mainsplain. You sick of that word yet? Well, I’m even MORE sick of mansplaining, so we’re even!
I can’t help but notice that there is a subset of mansplainers who are special (but not rare). They are cyclists; biking mansplainers. And they are the most obnoxious of them all.
In some ways I find them dear, as they mansplain not only to woman but to EVERYONE who makes mention of a bicycle. Write a bicycling article, mansplainers continent-wide will flock to it to inject their long, pedantic, boring, obnoxious opinions presented as absolute fact. Why? Why? Why does cycling attract such self-important grandstanders?
I’ve been meaning to write this for a while, but the morning paper put it in the front of my mind. OK, I don’t read the paper, I read the web site, so the morning web site it is. Anyway, longtime Alaska outdoors reporter Craig Medred wrote an innocuous, well researched, factual article about fat bikes (well, Tim Kelley’s comment about Anchorage no longer being a ski town, but a bike town now might ruffle some spandexed feathers), published on the Web sometime before 8am. it’s now 9am, and the comment section is plastered with paragraphs submitted via Facebook comments, ALL FROM MEN, yapping on about why this detail was wrong, that comment should be corrected, this fact should be added, the writer was too hard on a POS old bike that is, in fact, a POS, and he should take it out to dinner and apologize for it and by the way here’s why that bike, though it rode like a POS, looked like a POS, and was such a POS that no one is making it anymore and when you see one on the trail you feel bad for the person riding the outdated thing, is in fact not a POS, and on and on.
What makes cycling mansplainers (here on out called bikesplainers for clarity) so different from run-of-the-mill-douchebag-mansplainers is that they will turn on each other, too. No one is safe. Anyone going beyond “I like bikes! They are fun!” is subject to a tirade about why they are wrong and why the bikesplainer is superior in every bike related way. Need examples? Here we go:
Here’s “Bike Hugger” (I usually change that second word to something else when I refer to this guy, but I’m in polite company, here), a man, calling me, a woman, “out of touch with the market” for an article about how the bike industry could serve women better:
Here’s that same idjit blabbing on about how lousy fat bikes are (and claiming he outran a vicious pack of wolves on his first fat bike ride) and getting UTTERLY schooled in the comments by thousands of bikesplainers (this one is worth a visit because, hilariously, he replies to each and every one of the comments to try to save face and bikesplain some more).
Here he is AGAIN, the first commenter on the local story I referred to at the beginning of this post, jumping in to whine AND bikesplain about how he wrote an article on fatbiking first (lie) and how he scooped Craig Medred on the whole “fat bikes are great” thing (also a lie, which you’ll know if you read his Wired article):
If you’re tired of that guy (I am, too), here’s a whole thread from bikesplainers, ALL MEN, bikesplaining about how my comments on being a woman in the bike industry were wrong. That one’s my favorite because it includes a snide comment from a bikesplainer about how obviously I am not a bike rider.
If you need countless other examples, I invite you to go read pinkbike.com or mtbr.com or just google, or better yet, make a comment about bikes somewhere and prepare for the onslaught of two-wheeled knights cantering to the defense of their precious Bike Opinion. It never stops. Ever.
But the interesting thing is how clearly bikesplaining is linked to regular old women-directed mansplaining. See, if you are Rick Vosper, mainstay of the bike industry, you can write an article about flat sales in the bike industry every single month and all you’ll get in the comments is crickets. If you are a woman, or a rando dude on a forum, you’ll get a barrage of Bikesplaining. I suspect this is because Rick Vosper is not Bikesplainable. Rick has decades of industry experience and could swat a bikesplainer like a bug just because he’s Rick Vosper and telling him anything about the bike industry is laughable even for a Bikesplainer. Trying to bikesplain to Rick would not be a winning strategy. When Rick says sales are flat, bikesplainers cower in fear that their source of widely-read opinion is threatened. When I, a woman, cite Rick (even linking to his article analyzing industry statistics) and say that bike sales are flat, bikesplainers explode with indignant bikesplaining about why that’s not true. And I do mean explode – Bicycle Times told me that my article was the most-commented article they have ever run. And this is how we know that bikesplaining is a conscious act – they can’t successfully bikesplain at Rick so they don’t try. But any woman, or anon on a forum, is fair game because they’ve got a shot at looking superior, in their minds. This is why I’m so hard on bikesplainers – they are doing it ON PURPOSE.
Bikesplaining isn’t limited to the Internet. You can be bikesplained to on trails! Just try it. You’ll get comments on your wheel size, your tire choice, your handlebar width, your shifters, your shoes, your gears – you name it. It never stops. I get bikesplained about my fat bike tires (“Endomorphs? Oh my god, you need to upgrade” to which I can always reply “When I’m the one falling off the back or crashing every ride, like you guys, I’ll consider changing my tires out” which certainly shuts them up).
Bikesplaining is usually utterly ludicrous. Once I rode from my old house on the flats of Anchorage to the top of Powerline Pass and back. If you don’t know that route, it’s far, and all up (and then all down). I was climbing that one steep section of Powerline just above Prospect Heights, and some guy walking his bike up the hill was all “Is that a 29er? Do you like it?” and I was super fit then and had the lungs to say “yeah, I love it, obviously, since I’m riding it.” And, AS I AM CLIMBING THIS HUGE STEEP HILL full of loose rocks, this guy tells me as I ride past him while he’s trudging on foot up the hill pushing his 26″ wheeled bike, “29ers aren’t any good at climbing up hills, you know.” Bikesplaining!
I was even bikesplained to by a woman once. We started our ride and she looked at my MTB shoes (ones that look like normal shoes but have clips*) and said “Flat pedals? Oh my god, Jill, what are you doing?” And I never rode with her again, because, well, who would want to? To this day I do regret not pretending they were flats and riding away from her anyway, but I didn’t, I just unclipped and showed her that I’m not the spaz newbie she thought at the time.
Why is bikesplaining so ubiquitous? I have no idea. That’s why the title of this post is a question. What is the DEAL with these (overwhelmingly)men and bikes that makes pedantry and drawn-out discussion compulsory? I don’t think they like bikes, they just like something to pontificate about, and the juice they do to keep up on weekend rides makes them aggro and restless so they take it out on other bikers with their bikesplaining so they feel superior. Kidding – sort of. OK, not kidding. I think amateur cyclists really do dope. But that’s not the reason they bikesplain. I just don’t know what it is.
But I don’t like to complain without trying to come up with a solution, so how about this: knock off the bikesplaining, and the mansplaining, and all the ‘splaining in general. Feel free to share your opinion. But present it as your OPINION. Actually, no, just shut up, shut your mouth, take your hands off the keyboard, whatever, and wait to be ASKED for your opinion, then give it politely without rambling on for freaking ever about it. I do admit, I skate around good manners with this method by waiting until my friend Jill posts questions about how she can improve her technical riding and then bikesplain away guilt-free, after all, she did ask.
*really waiting for a bikesplainer to stop by and tell me they aren’t clips, they are clipLESS which is different than clips, clips refer to cages and straps, because back in the day blah blah blah but I’ll never know why clips are referred to as clipless because I will have long since stopped reading.