Society of the Spectacle.

When I travel for cyclocross racing outside of Portland, Oregon I encounter a scene far different than the one I call home.

It is always very cool to see what other cities and territories in North America (and beyond) have going on with their cycling culture.

Something amazing to me has been the punk (post-postpunk?) cross over and staying power that cycling has.

Most of the grouchy old punks I know are all about cycling these days. Maybe it is that cycling attracts the introverts, weirdos and geeks.

(sorry, I started writing about the Weather Underground and all the press Ayers is getting post-Obama.)


There was a little discussion on the Cross Crusade forums a week ago about the zanyness at the local cx races.

There was some pretentiousness and college-speak thrown in for good measure. Which, while amusing, is annoying. I never can really tell; when one breaks out into academic language in the course of a conversation taking place entirely in common speak, it the speaker trying to emphasize their intelligence and experience or just lessen that of the other speakers?


I remember reading Society of the Spectacle. I hated reading it but took some points from it. I’m sure I got smarter after I read it, right?

The punks that come out to the races and wear costumes (beyond our already silly lycra costumes) and get crazy and take it much further than just bike racing. Beautiful. Positively amazing.

But the whiplash others face when the point is brought up that: “actually, this really is just a bicycle racing event”. Not the Oregon country fair.

I’m not the most eloquent speaker. But this reminds me of that time here in Portland where a cyclist attacked a car driver and then all the passerbys and other cyclists attack the car driver. it then turns out the cyclist was drunk and was at fault, attacking the driver on his own in the first place, the driver merely defending himself and family.

Hilarious! The mindlessness of the masses! The willingness to jump in line with a cause without thought or research into cause or effect!

The nudity, baby oil, fireworks, and bikini clad marching bands are amazing but, I’m not going to hate on those that choose just to show up and just race their bikes and not provide a show.

It certainly does feel like the antics at the cyclocross races are just becoming attempts to one-up each other. To do the craziest shit that will get the most photos taken and posted up on Flickr and Each week there is something I hear about more and more absurd than the last. And I enjoy it but… it would be nice to teach the troublemakers the art of subtlety and humility.

After a while, what was an exciting spectacle becomes a blur of beer and annoying people. You can hide the fact that you don’t ride your bike so much if you are running around half-naked with a flaming unicorn horn up your butt and a loudspeaker in your hand.

I guess I’ve also got to point out my support of the ladies. I get in raging arguments with certain lady friends about: “how fucked up it is that those ladies are out there just hanging out in bikinis, it is just disgusting. That is not cool or feminist at all.”

Well, sorry. Again I disagree. I think it is empowering and pretty cool that there exists an environment at the local cyclocross races where most of the women feel free to get as freaky as they want to be. Yeah, we are not marching on the capital and putting and end to rape or anything. But the women that are out there getting wild should not have to put up with all the hate from the women that are too modest or shy (or just don’t give a shit) to get awesome.

The argument is that the women are just turning themselves in to sex objects for all the dudes to stare at after they are done racing. Well, all the dudes that are going to leer, are going to leer regardless of a g-string or a skinsuit.

Kind of a rant here. Take from it this:

That Weather Underground documentary is really good.

Keep up the spectacle at the cx races but, make it special. Not mundane.

Get as crazy as you want and don’t hate on the people who are not jumping in head first with you.


Oh, I raced my bike in Eugene last Saturday and won!


16 comments for “Society of the Spectacle.”

  1. Someone finally writes something intelligent about this, without sounding too academic. Thanks Molly. I’d like to talk to the ladies who think bikinis are fucked up. For some reason they won’t talk to me. Anyway, I’m not sure what they’re trying to say or why they’re wasting their breath. It’s not exactly like the people in bikinis have a prerogative or message. (Actually, it’s been an attempt to get serious people to lighten up; often with the ironically opposite effect.) Personally, when I’m cheering I have cheered/jeered equally, if not more, for the folks who are serious, as I very much admire their resolve. Remember, the race IS the show!

    And the show is over.

    DISCLAIMER: I am not affiliated with any group or team (nor have I ever been), and so I share my attention and affection equally the best I can. If I had one, I would gladly place a flaming unicorn horn in my ass in order to collect a few laughs and smiles, and I wouldn’t be surprised if people take – I mean took – photos.

    Posted by Caroline | November 24, 2008, 1:27 pm
  2. While I do think Portland ‘cross seems to be more about the absurd than about bike racing, that post on the Crusade forum was intentionally, ironically academic, and was brilliant. THe poster was showing she knew her feminist history and could go toe to toe on feminist theory, but that wasn’t the point, AND made fun of herself and the original poster in the process.

    Brilliant I say.

    The bigger problem with Portland ‘cross is that you guys are still racing around pylons like it’s 1990. WTF is up with that? Are people too busy having fun to put up stakes and tape?

    Posted by Adam Myerson | November 24, 2008, 4:43 pm
  3. Also, if you really think you’re ready to talk shop, this is my absolutely favorite blog:

    Posted by Adam Myerson | November 24, 2008, 5:03 pm
  4. i think were so heavily invested in the pylon market that its quite daunting to go to stakes. frankly, i believe the main issue to be that no one had the foresight to also purchase the forcefield that typically comes with the pylons, and thats the root of the problem. if we had the forcefield, there wouldnt be this whole issue. unfortunately, its no longer made, and prohibitively expensive when it comes up on ebay. me, im pro-tape-and-stake. its just more PRO. but its not killing me to race cones.

    it IS a spectacle. AND it is JUST a bike race. that it can be both, at the same time, to so many people, is what makes it extraordinary. if it were just one or the other, it wouldnt be nearly as huge. more than the sum of its parts, etc etc.

    i did like the constantly regenerating pumpkin pile at krugers though. that was a nice touch.

    Posted by joel | November 24, 2008, 5:50 pm
  5. Yes, yum, the regenerating pumpkin pile. They never were as firm as you would have expected….which reminds me, have you guys been to any of the non-Portland races and compared the bikini/beer/male thong scene to those without?

    Races without B/B/MT are also known as the sound of one hand clapping

    B/B/MT is what makes these races special.

    Posted by j | November 24, 2008, 7:28 pm
  6. Amazing.
    That’s why you’re a PRO.
    And I don’t mind saying it.

    Posted by J. Dunn | November 24, 2008, 8:48 pm
  7. Hey, they had a Red Bull tent at that NACT race. You can see it in the picture. That’s exciting, isn’t it?

    Posted by Adam Myerson | November 25, 2008, 7:53 am
  8. It’s kinda like how going to a party used to be really fun and everyone would have some drinks and maybe watch a band or dance or whatever and have fun and do crazy stuff.

    Now, you go to more parties where folks are ACTING like they’re having fun/doing crazy stuff while their buddy takes a picture to put up on flickr/blog/crazy party picture site or whatever.

    So are we HAVING a good time, or are we PRETENDING to have a good time so we can show those who weren’t there what a good time we were having.

    Posted by jza | November 25, 2008, 1:21 pm
  9. Just don’t call wearing a bikini feminism. The side show antics are clearly a cry for attention and my suggestion for getting attention at a bike race would be to race your bike really fast.

    Posted by Elizabeth | November 25, 2008, 6:30 pm
  10. Thanks for the WU link, very interesting…

    Wow the dialers… Hadn’t thought about those for years, and the infamous Kinkos scams… Fortunately I eventually got an “in”…

    Dunno? The introverted aspect of cycling appeals? I guess they all come together in some fashion, just a slightly different mix per individual, no revelation there… It takes a certain type of commitment to wear lycra in public… Or bikinis in cool fall weather, whilst consuming frothy malted bevvy… The atmosphere seems similar in ways, a common passion bringing together otherwise disparate people?

    SotS = dry. Like you pointed out, take some away, but you do wish for some (or hey all) of that time back… Academic analysis/deconstruction is kinda like watching paint dry: you know the result, do you need the process?

    Stakes… Nice, just add customized tape and all of the sudden it’s a different ballgame… Or just “CAUTION”, it works too… I half-wanted some “CRIME SCENE” just for fun, but it might just be the introvert/geek/weird humor coming through…

    Red Bull? I dunno, maybe more MONSTER at the cross races? We can get all Sam Hill on those barriers…

    Posted by Lane | November 25, 2008, 7:18 pm
  11. Yeah I’ve been getting pretty bored with the whole formulated Ironclad-antic aspect of our scene lately. Really is becoming a sort of myspace-style form of trying too hard to look like you’re having fun. Make sure to get your photo taken holding up a PBR and pretending like you’re whole team is some sort of eternal wild sex party! There’s plenty of other teams and people out there doing actual interesting stuff, cheers to them.

    Posted by seitan | November 26, 2008, 11:45 am
  12. There was a point a bunch of year back where the Veloshop team was so rowdy and fun it was pissing other riders off.

    I took note then that my fun is not always other peoples fun.

    Posted by Molly | November 26, 2008, 12:18 pm
  13. Well said Molly!

    Posted by jose "brujo" sandoval | November 27, 2008, 9:08 pm
  14. Well put, Molly. As usual.

    Posted by Heidi Swift | November 29, 2008, 7:48 pm
  15. Hey Seitan,

    I resent your remark in regards to my team that I work so hard to make a success, and let me tell you why.

    Firstly, I can see Molly’s initial point and I agree with it. But as you put our name in what you see as wrong, well, I can’t NOT address it.

    At Ironclad, we view cross as a reward for our road season. A few of us go hard in the B’s, but most of us are there to goof off for ourselves. We look like we’re having fun because we ARE having fun, and it’s hardly formulated. Whether or not you approve is not anywhere near close to being our concern. I would think it normal if a thousand people congregate, not all will have the same idea as to what “fun” is. As you put it “our” scene had roughly 10,000 people interact with it this Crusade.

    And if having fun at cross, as a team of friends that so happens to be visible since we number near 30, then so be it. Turn away if it so repulses you.

    Our website is highly trafficked – 4 to 6 thousand a month read our stuff. Our ghastly Flickr page has over 200k image views. We sponsor numerous teams with product, sponsor race series within the community with product and money, and as a developmental team provide a place for people brand new to the sport to come and race road, cx, or mtb. We race very hard, have excellent results for a small team, and have a lot of fun doing it.

    And if my riders want to cut loose in a discipline of the sport born from beer, fries, and cigarettes, then by all means I allow them to get as crazy as they want. While again I agree with Molly and see that obviously what’s fun for us might not be fun for all – that’s not the point. What’s fun for us as a team is the point. We’re not hurting anyone, stealing anything, littering, or causing problems during races for anyone. We also field an average of 15 racers per cx race.

    And looking at it in that light, I hardly see anything wrong with it. I’d hope you agree.

    Posted by Dave | December 4, 2008, 4:45 pm
  16. “Negative thinking, don’t you waste your thoughts. Verbal conflict is a waste of words. Physical conflict of is a waste of flesh. People will always be who dey want, an’ dat’s what really makes the world go ‘roun’.” –Jr. Gong

    I got a nice shot of you at the Washington County Fairgrounds race.

    Posted by malach | December 8, 2008, 5:58 pm

Post a comment

  • instagram