One of my teammates is named Anthony Freeman. He was national champion in BMX several times. Coming from the inner city and competing in a mainly white sport, he had a lot of experiences that might make some people bitter.
Anthony’s not bitter. He’s positive, optimistic, and always looking on the bright side of things.
A few days ago he posted about getting a new aero bike and what a difference it made, how cheating the wind, even a little bit, can affect your placing in a race. It’s true, too. Bike equipment really does make a difference in everything from commuting to competition.
Having a bike with an electric motor can make the difference between being able to commute to a job 35 miles away or not having a job. Having the right aero rig can make the difference between winning and losing a time trial. Even small things like tires or electronic shifting can make the tiny difference between reaching your goal and failure.
Slippery clothing, helmets, tires … virtually every facet of the human-bicycle combination can affect outcomes, and of course they all cost money. It’s not called an arms race for nothing.
Anthony made this point and then he took it somewhere I’ve never been before. He related technical advantages in a bike race to social, economic, and healthcare advantages in society.
Think about it. If a few hidden cables and a better profile helmet make the difference between victory and success, what kind of difference does it make to a kid trying to make it in school whether he starts the day with food in his belly or not?
Whether he has eyeglasses so that he can see the board?
Whether he has a computer at home so that he can do his homework?
What cyclist can be focused on squeezing the last little dialed-in detail out of their bike but also oppose the most vulnerable people in our society from getting the huge leg up they need at the earliest, most formative times of their lives, especially when that leg up is as basic as food, healthcare, and education?
It’s an arms race, all right. But the weapons aren’t bikes. They’re bread, medicine, and books.