Josh Kadis, over at Kadisco, has two recent posts on how social media outlets like Twitter are affecting the connection between the professional cyclist and the everyday fan. For those who don’t know Josh, he is a marketing and sponsorship consultant, who has worked with clients like SRAM, and with teams like Kodak Gallery/Sierra Nevada.
A couple snips from each posting:
… in this country, professionals can actually relate pretty well to the enthusiast cyclist. For starters, they share a socioeconomic background, and only a select few riders are more than a tax bracket away from their well-heeled US fan base. The pros face the same dangers on the same roads as anyone else who rides a bike. They understand that we understand what it’s like to push oneself on the bike and be exhausted afterwards, even if we’re moving 15km/h slower.
… More than any other pro sport, cycling has taken to Twitter like a fish to water. I believe it’s because the approachability of the tweet fits with the already approachable nature of the sport. As Twitter and other social tools permeate our everyday lives, myths will become human and a pre-humanized sport like cycling will adapt more quickly and naturally than its larger counterparts.
When I was 15, I saved most of my summer earnings at Harris Cyclery to buy a set of Spinergy Rev-X race wheels. I knew those were the wheels for me, but I had no idea what tires to use. I asked the head mechanic at the shop – a fellow by the name of Sheldon Brown – and he expressed a strong preference for Clement Criteriums. So that’s what I got. …
… Expanding on the idea of “tribal knowledge,” I’d add that many of us experience cycling almost as a set of secrets passed from person to person. It’s a culture based on one person teaching another, which makes it a perfect application for tools that simply amplify the reach of interactions like the ones I used to have with Sheldon Brown. Not every cyclist can receive personal advice from probably the most famous bicycle mechanic in history, but through social media every cyclist can share experiences with Levi Leipheimer, DL Byron, and everyone else who rides a bike.
I know exactly what Josh is writing about … I’ve been geeking around the Internet, especially on cycling forums for a long time. I’ve found posts of mine on the Usenet newsgroup rec.bicycles.racing dating back to January 1994, and I’m pretty sure I was reading it even before that. Much of what I learned about the history and sport cycling was through RBR, reading Sheldon Brown’s postings on rec.bicycles.tech, and reading every book and magazine about cycling I could get my hands on.
But even with all of that, over time the love of a sport drifts away along with one’s fitness; it’s hard to maintain that passion forever, which is one of the things really impresses me about the pros … their sheer dedication and drive.
But lately, being able to forge connections with people through social media outlets is reigniting a love of the sport that has fallen into disrepair over the past few years; whether through reading riders’ blogs or tweets, those of professionals like Burke Swindlehurst and Dave Zabriskie or the enthusiastic amateurs on just about every cycling-oriented blog on the interwebs, I feel that the cycling community is becoming even more tightly knit than it has already been.
And I really dig that some of these same riders follow me as well … we’re all part of the same tribe. And, it’s a definitely a bit of an ego boost knowing that at least one big name local rider knew who I was before I ever actually met him. All I need to do now is raid his music collection … and perhaps someday I’ll be able to keep up well enough to ride with him on one of his easy off-season days.