The De-evolution of the Bicycle

A classic 1993 Specialized Road Bike undergoing a complete restoration. Photographed in November, 2016.

Modern society has evolved from travelling on open terrain to creating paths; from paths to cobblestone and gravel roads; and from gravel roads to pavement. Meanwhile, the bicycle and the bicyclist has taken an odd path of de-evolution.

In the beginning, someone decided to build some sort of self-propelled contraption on two wheels. Eventually, after several design monstrosities, they settled on a basic design and dubbed it the Bicycle. As time evolved, the bicyclists (as they were called) got a little tired of the hard pedalling and obnoxiously bumpy ride, not to mention the pressing need to wash their bicycles. Eventually they decided to improve upon the dirt, gravel, and cobblestone road surfaces by designing and building paved roads. That’s right Mr. Motor Man – cyclists designed and built the first paved roads in North America.

Bicycle designs continued to evolve until the elite of bicycling society achieved the pinnacle of their design and manufacturing efforts – the modern geared, drop bar, road racing bicycle of the 1970’s.

Then somewhere in history, circa 1980’s, bicycles began the process of serious de-evolution into something bastardly and horrific dubbed the mountain bike. These reprobate renegades, referred to as mountain bikers, soon realized that riding across the open and barren terrain was not a whole lot of fun. They began to design dirt paths and their own trail obstacle systems to accommodate their fascination with dumb suspension frame designs and increasingly fatter tires. Besides, the equestrian riders and hikers had almost banned mountain bikers from the planet.

One day, circa 2010 (give or take a few years), a few mountain bikers and their cyclocross ancestors decided that they had their fill of mud, flies and mosquitoes, and endless trail maintenance.

“Hey, I’ve got a totally original idea!”, said the mountain biker to the cyclocross rider, “Let’s ride our bikes on gravel roads. We will call it Gravel Grinding”.

And thus, riding one’s goofy bicycle on gravel was reborn. Soon the bicycling world was to experience another round of bizarre and ugly designs by the bicycle manufacturers – the gravel bike. Now, don’t get me started on fat bikes…all I can say is that civilization has already figured out how to travel efficiently on snow – we call it Nordic and Alpine Skiing.

“Get off my ski trail…you bunch of bouncing bobbleheads!”, exclaimed the stylish and debonair skier to the clueless fat bikers.

Just the other day, I was out riding with the peloton on my carbon fibre wonder bike, dubbed The Tarmac, when we came across a motley crew of cyclists who were dressed in spandex, more or less like us, but were covered in dust and mud, and had bugs in their teeth. They looked at us with contempt and seemed to have a whole lot of disdain for our shiny and clean wonder bikes. I struck up the courage to ask one guy (with the least sour look on his face),

“Who are you guys and why are you riding those weird looking bicycles on crappy road surfaces?”

He told me, with questionable conviction, that they were gravel grinders and that they actually liked grinding gravel before lunch.

“What the foosball?”, I mumbled to myself. “Dude…whatever”, I retorted.

And we all departed from this rather uncomfortable and bizarre meeting of the past and the present.

Each group chose their particular route home, gravel or pavement respectively. The major difference between the groups is that it took the gravel grinders about twice as long to get home. All I did, upon arriving home, was to hang up my bike, take a shower, and eat something. The gravel guy, who just happened to live next door, had finally arrived home and was busy washing the dust and mud off his frankenstein bicycle. I just sat back in my old rocking chair and smiled smugly.

I’m glad I have NOT made the choice to go backwards in time and join in on the de-evolution of the bicycle. 😉

The choices we make today become who we are tomorrow.


Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.