Bicycles as Class Relationships [General Strike remix]

I guess it’s because I ride 40-50 miles/week on my trusty, decrepit, pink frankenbike that I think a lot about bicycling.** And so, I’ve thought about Bicycling as a metaphor for both the obvious and hidden aspects of oppression and class structures.

When you see people speeding away on their bikes, it’s often because they’ve had the opportunity to buy a really light, nice, fancy bike and keep it well-maintained. Someone taught them how to ride it and they have lots of well-equipped safety gear. They not only know how, want to, and are empowered to ride a bike – they have all the material things they need to do it. Vroom!

Someone on a slightly cruddy bike can be passing a few people and also gets zoomed past by other folks. It’s not a great bike [but they are thankin’ god – no one is trying to steal it.] They may — or may not — feel great on the bike or about riding, but they got shown how to ride, told to do it, and are pedaling away.

And then there are the folks on heavy, big clunkers with mountain tires working the FUCK out of pedaling, bent over hunched and sweating, and getting passed by every other bike on the road. They are busting ass, every trip takes them longer and it is just because their BIKES SUCK. Do not mistake this slow rider for “lazy,” this person is working perhaps harder than the speed riders. Their bike is really holding them back. But — everyone is supposed to ride! And so, they do too.

If any rider wants to make up distance to keep up with the fastest riders, it is nearly impossible. They started out ahead and almost can’t help how fast they go — their bikes are so light and the ride is so smooth. Could they dismount? Sure, they totally could. But who does that?

Is this deterministic? Well — there is the occasional individual who can pedal faster than 99% of the rest of the population on their cruddy bike and catch up in time to grab a fancy bike from someone who stopped for water; and there is also the person who’s cousin gets bootleg bikes and receives a fancy bike for free — these few individuals are held up as an example of what the rest of us could do if we only were actually trying. See! It’s not deterministic, you can totally change your bike!

Any and all of these bike riders have time to practice riding and get all muscled up, or not; have interest in or reluctance to riding; encouragement or ridicule while riding; narrowly-avoid or get hit by cars, or never have to ride in traffic… and this is all about the riders.

Then there are all the people not riding: bikes do not fit or work for all bodies. Some folks get told they are too unintelligent to ride, look silly riding, or wouldn’t like riding so they shouldn’t try. And hey – some people don’t even know there are bikes, never seen ‘em.

My question: Can we never all meet at a park and dismount for a bit to, like, catch our breath and realize that all this pedaling is getting exhausting? Is this what a nationwide general strike might look like?

Next time: Mini-treatise on class, somatics, and why I’m not excited about champagne.

**I bike cuz it’s free, it clears my head, and instead of having panic attacks on the subway, I get to just think about pedaling and things in the world. [I am not looking forward to the winter.] And lately — due surely to my graduate school reading on intersectionality, oppositionality, experience and freedom; all the fucking Marx, Frankfurt school and Birmingham Centre theorists I can handle; structuralists and post-structuralists, hypertext theory and first-person labor narratives, that I am thinking about structures of power, entitlement, access, privilege and agency. A lot.

2 thoughts on “Bicycles as Class Relationships [General Strike remix]”

  1. Man, this is an excellent reminder that my bike sucks. Tattoo or bicycle? The endless Brooklyn queer dilemma.

    That said, yes, this makes sense. Let’s (metaphorically) dismount.

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