WHY STREET RIDING IS
LESS POPULAR THAN IT SHOULD BE?
(A Singapore rider)
Do you agree that street riding is not getting its share of the younger generation's attention? Could it have been a bigger sport where more events and venues are set aside for it? Bikezilla attempts to identify ways to promote street riding.
WHAT EXACTLY IS STREET RIDING THEN?
Street riding is the activity of cycling and having fun within the urban landscape. While it can be done with almost any kind of bicycle, the usual preferred type of bicycles are what may be a tad unimaginatively called "street bikes". For the uninitiated, these are either hardtails or full suspension frames with or without rigid forks. Wheel sizes range from 20 – 26 inches. Short chain stay proportions with respect to overall frame sizes are the norm, with low stand-over heights and the frames are generally built to withstand impact. This type of bike setup is the key to a whole lot of fun!
A typical street ride could mean hanging out with some friends at a common meeting place for some soda before heading out around town for some urban riding. Kerbs, stairs, benches, rails and the list goes on. It is pure creativity at work. The riders get to have fun, socialize with like-minded mates, pick up valuable technical skills that would improve their fitness & reflexes and as a bonus, they look cool doing it! Alright, the last point may make some riders cringe but it's a bonus anyway. (Now be honest! Isn't that what most young riders want to be? To be regarded as the cool kid in school? We'll leave you to admit that later.)
The current trends of “cool” include everything from being a skateboarder who shreds all things urban, a wake boarder, a surfer (though prime surf isn’t exactly available readily), a mixed martial arts fighter (literal blood, sweat and tears) or a free runner. But why isn’t street riding enjoying the same kind of mainstream limelight? It’s not as if street riding was any more (or less) dangerous that any of the other sports mentioned. It definitely isn’t any less fun, or “socially unacceptable”!
SOME BARRIERS TO STREET RIDING
We list down some probable barriers to the sport here:
– Street bikes need substantial space to store
– Street bikes are more expensive to purchase as compared to some other sports equipment
– It is deemed more dangerous than other sports
– If it involve roads, it's dangerous!
– The authorities do not seem to see street riding in good light
– If I want a trendy sport I would take the easier way out and do those that are more mainstream …
– None of my friends are street riders
AND THE RIDERS SAY …
– With some proper packing and planning, you can store a full bike in your bedroom without any problem.
– Street riding is not as muddy as mountain biking, so there is no problem storing it anywhere in your home.
– Entry level street bikes do not cost a lot, and bikes do not break that easily, so replacing of parts is not often.
– Every kind of sport has its own danger. As long as we do things within our capabilities and observe safe practices, accidents could be kept to a minimum.
– With the availability of bicycle lanes in most Asia cities, Park Connector Network (PCN) expanding to all corners of Singapore, and the occasional pavements, street riders rarely ride alongside motorist.
– The authorities are not against cycling, they are against vandalism or trespassing. Such acts are not part of the sport. Responsible street riders exercise sensibility and safety at all times.
– Riders who chose this sport thinking it is "trendy" to do so would not last very long in the game. It will be a natural weeding process. What is left are those who really enjoy riding. (Alright, the cool factor comes as a bonus. Street riding with its cool tricks does indeed look awesome, but the riders who continued to ride after the initial fad passed didn't pick up the sport because they thought others would think they are trendy or cool, they are street riders because they love both cycling and the city!)
– With social media being the most convenient platform to meet like-minded mates, it is now totally easy to find riding partners in your area. There is no need to conform to those who do not think the way you think.
PROMOTING STREET RIDING
To make the street riding a sought-after sport to the masses – or at least those folks that would last long and not treat it as a passing fad – we need to identify what makes other sports tick. And introspect on whether street riding possess these "elements".
TAKING PARALLELS FROM SOME OTHER CIRCLES
Putting things in a more digestible perspective, we look at the various high profile subcultures and see if we can draw a trend. In Hip Hop culture, there are 5 pillars that guide the growth of the culture, and to keep the culture true. (The five pillars being, B-Boying, DJing, MCing, Graffitti and Knowledge.) In skate culture, the generally agreed cultural pillars are Art, Music and Skating itself. These 3 components form the daily needs of a typical skater.
What makes a street rider a street rider then? How do we identify one? And how do the street riders continue to make themselves celebrate and fuel their street riding culture? It would be easier if we know what we are looking at. And here's the conclusion. Street riding's culture is similar to that of any street sport. It's the ART, the MUSIC and the BIKES.
STYLE AND CULTURE
Style refers to a distinctive appearance and culture refers the the art, beliefs, customs, institutions and other products or thoughts associated with a social group. With this said, street rider style is the distinctive appearance that a typical street rider adopts in their daily lives. And street riding culture refers to the art, the beliefs, customs, thinking style, accessories and belongings that they generally use or carry with them. The style and culture's growth and evolution depends on the 3 elements that were listed above.
Why is art important to any subculture? It's basic. Art represents the attitude and emotions of the group. It is the visual that will differentiate between subculture groups. Art can be graphical or typographical. As long as it helps propel an ideal, it has served it's purpose and has helped represented the subculture. A surf board or a skate board are good platform to showcase art work of the subculture – it's practically a big canvas for graphics and slogans. Many iconic art from both of these sports had since became classics. On the other hand, bikes are less desirable canvases for art due to its small printable surfaces. As such, the best canvas for art is the t-shirt the rider is wearing, or the head piece design (on the front tube) of the bike. Street art is not limited to the rider and the bike of course. It is also extended onto the urban landscape. While we do not openly encourage graffiti, we do admit that throw-ups and masterpieces add life to the street riding landscape. In a more structured urban landscape where street art are strictly controlled (like Singapore), we simply keep the art within designated areas. Street riding art is not exclusive, it shares many of its style and idea from fellow street sports. This goes to say that street folks are all influenced by the same pop culture, and each subculture would evolve together. This fluidity and harmony is what makes street sport fun and sociable.
(Elcen from the Philippines)
Art is visual, so it appeals mainly to the sense of sight. For any subculture to come to life, it needs to be multi-dimensional. In other words, sight and sound! And music is the next key ingredient to shaping a subculture. Imagine going to a bike jam and it is all silent … or what if the DJ plays classical music … or how about dance music … Would it have conjured up the mood that would make you want to shred more or would it have dampened your spirits? Genres like alternatives, hip-hop, dubstep, metal, punk had taken their turns to move the street riding crowd. Some are moving back to metal. We shall see what genre of music triggers the street riders next!
We are talking about street riding here. Of course we will need the bike, the rider and the tricks. Along with these, it would be the components and how the rider looks. That's the core of street riding, isn't it?
The street rider goes for what is functional when riding. Stuff like chunky watches may look cool and tough but it is not good for riding. Nobody wants a broken wrist caused by a chunky watch wedging its way into the wrist during a fall. Same goes for belts with big prominent buckles. Shoes that are good for other sports may not work well for street riding. A relatively stiff sole with slim profile works best for crank clearance and long day on pedals. Street riders do not have much use for bags as it impedes hopping and other movements. Ride light or place the pack aside when you play.
Bike technology & design, intensity & difficulty of tricks, riders' style had evolved over time. Such changes show that the sport is evolving and improving. Backflips in the 80s are tricks that we saw only in movies and bike videos. It's almost a norm for above-average riders now. That's progression.
(Kinga from Poland)
THE USUAL DEFENSES
Common defenses with nay-sayers to the above is that they just want to enjoy the ride and are not interested in any trend stigma. They do not need to tell anybody they are enjoying themselves through riding. They are doing fine with whatever they feel comfortable with. "So, to hell with these rubbish "elements". We are already doing that now!"
There is no need to argue on the how a street rider should look, or how the street riding subculture would become. If there's a more efficient way to go ride in (that looks just as good too), we are sure it will be adopted eventually. If there are music and art that appeals to these riders, it would be around.
As we have said earlier, there are no rules or entry criteria to street riding. The bottom line this – The direction the sport moved towards had always been shaped by the riders themselves. We didn't come out with the above terms, we simply identified them. And for those who are interested in picking up street riding, do take a look at the beauty of this sport through these 3 elements. You will appreciate it more.
IS THERE AN ASIAN STYLE?
As with all sports, when popularity rises, it would attract even more to join in. The population would then exponentially increases. And suppliers would see the opportunity to offer more choices in terms of related products – from bike to components to apparels … And there would be a higher probability of more high profile events and training venues. Think about the possibility of indoor bike parks, foam pits for jump practices and malls with street riding apparel stores. That would be a street rider's dream come true.
Street riders around the world adopt different style of riding, slightly different looks – this is due to the difference in climate and urban terrain. Asia is unique in its climate and urban features. Is there a unique Asian look? Or even a unique Asian riding style? A preference? We would like to hear from the riders out there. Meantime, strengthen the Asian street riding culture by staying true to the 3 elements – the Art, the Music and the Bike. It all starts from the rider.
Ed: The above views are based on observations by our writer and drew no reference from any statistical source.