Imagine a world where every cyclist has their place. In this fantasy land there are bikes, clothing and even other riders there to maximize your individual way of rolling around on two wheels. Now for the good news, you don't have to imagine it, it already exists.
For way too long, most bikes were built chasing the same carrot of winning races. Every year new models got lighter, stiffer, and supposedly faster. The metrics of fun were sadly boiled down to numbers on a scale and who was in front of, or behind, you at the town limit sign, top of the hill or end of the ride.
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There's more than one way to ride
It's taken a bit longer than many would have liked, but the bike industry has finally recognized it's not solely all about speed anymore. At least not for every single cyclist.
Sure, there's plenty of racing and bike racers still around. Some brands and products are still completely and utterly obsessed with number plates and purpose-built bikes, but there are other niches outside of racing that are not only growing, but actually maturing at a pleasing rate.
Check out Salsa's "Adventure by bike" marketing and its associated bike offerings. It's built an entire brand on unique bikes that serve a range of purposes far beyond the starting line and checkered flag, or at least in traditional genres of racing.
Versatility is a good thing
Bikepacking, gravel, fat, plus-size, all of these trends and innovations are proving that while it's fun to have a bunch of bikes for each specific purpose, it's not absolutely necessary.
It's very doable to convert your cyclocross bike into a gravel machine or take that same 'cross bike and strap on some bags, or even a rack and panniers, and pedal off on an overnight holiday.
Adding a frame bag and a handlebar roll to a 14.5kg rigid hardtail fat bike isn't the end of the world or likely to upset the slow, rotund handling.
Mountain bikes with plus-size tires flirt with fat bike stability, yet are still applicable when your buddies want to rip a fast trail ride.
Other benefits of these versatile styles of bikes are that weight doesn't matter as much, geometry is finally approaching real-world sensibility, and everyday fun and usefulness is trumping the speed above all else mantra.
Even the appearance of cyclists is evolving
Pay attention to any road that's frequently used by roadies and you're bound to see the older guy wearing a decades old, color-swatched, long-defunct ProTour team kit or a bright yellow jersey with comic-sans lettering touting some charity ride from the previous century, but the times, they are a changing.
Perhaps it's from messengers or thanks to the new breed of drop-bar bikes, but riding in non-outlandish clothes is now more accepted than ever. Facial hair, ridiculous moustaches, men with long hair, even (gasp!) hairy legs are bleeding into the sport.
The same trends are found in mountain biking. The days of purple flames and logo-plastered polyester are long gone, thankfully replaced with riding gear that can be worn in a grocery store without making people question what you look like.
It's taken a bit of time, but cycling has finally matured and the whole industry isn't just chasing the same carrot.