Post-parody, post-post, post-everything cycling

We were discussing ‘Zwift’ the other day. It’s all the rage in the same way that strava was all the rage a few years back,  and as such it’s also polarising opinion quite quickly. Far be it for me to have strong opinions about these things. The general consensus is that anything that makes the turbo a better experience is a good thing. However, nothing makes the turbo a better experience than not using the fucking thing in the first place, so I don’t quite get the sudden virtual seduction of otherwise hardy winter cyclists. Anyway, that’s another blog for another day, with multiple layers of reality just waiting to be virtually explored, all undertaken whilst staying in the same place.

The discussion of zwift saw a ‘friend of a friend’ link to these chaps:

ec1-collective

He knew what he was doing. “Hey, PJ, have you seen these guys?” he typed, with a coquettish smile and a flirty emoji.

I love a good pre-vetting. Is that an extra layer of vetting? How many layers of vetting does a collective need these days?  I always thought that the word ‘collective’ was quite benign, soviet farming notwithstanding, but it’s acquiring increasingly sinister undertones. I’d go so far as to argue that it’s undergoing pejoration.

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The EC1 squad link arms to ward off the unaggregated and ungranular hoi-polloi

“The EC1 Collective was founded on strong principles that seek to advocate the interests of its members before all else. We’re not a cycling club in the traditional sense but rather a community of like-minded bike enthusiasts whose propensity to enjoy the finer things is maximised through an aggregated representation. Our aim is to move past the current marketing model of the UK cycling industry where manufacturers & retailers define the value exchange. Instead, our high-net-worth members have empowered themselves under a collective voice, the EC1 Collective, that see’s them dictate the value and experiences they want.”

I’m unsure of these ‘strong principles’. When I was very small I remember my Mum took me to church one Christmas. The Vicar pulled out all the stops on the sermon and gave it some welly about how hell is so terrible because you get everything you want and yet you still want more, you do your bidding, and it’s riven by insatiable avarice and personal desire. I remember at the time thinking that it didn’t sound all that bad. He then said Heaven was much better because you did what Jesus wanted all the time, you did his bidding. It seemed complicated, but to my 7 year old self it made heaven seem like an elaborate hell for Jesus, riven by his insatiable avarice and personal desire, which I didn’t think was the intention. Either way, this dualistic vision of the inferno seems to have several undercurrents with the EC1 “philosophy”, a social model predicated entirely on exchange value and net-worth. It’s the apotheosis of the current wave of materialism and has to be the most loathsome combination of high-capitalism and cycling I’ve yet seen.

“Through this reverse marketing model they are driven directly to the most relevant sources of trade. Our data driven model enables this granular matching up process.”

“Say hello to our community founder Mike and plan your next corporate ride out into the hills. With our industry connections we can piece together a ride or social occasion that’ll knock the cycling socks off your clients. We’ve also piece together many team building days / weekends based on varying abilities. Challenge your team to a ride out that’ll stir the sensing and leave them pumped & positive for the year ahead.”

I’d like to say hello to Mike, but I’m not sure that the granular matching up process would lead me within a hundred miles of him and his stooges, out on their triple-bongo winter bikes, which isn’t to say i don’t want my sensing stirred, it’s just that maximising my aggregated representation isn’t probably the way to do it. Maybe I’m just adrift of the times. Unlike the current POTUS who seems very much in tune with this model.

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Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, reverse marketing and granular matching up and aggregated representation. These are a few of my favourite things. 

 

“Through Suffering Arises Glory”

It’s a generally accepted truth that Rapha make some nice kit. They also charge an arm and a leg for most of it. Aside from that, Rapha have proven adept at marketing a representation of cycling; mining the past for gritty truths, digging down until they hit a seam of glistening heroism, then selling it on for their slavering punters.

Their latest wheeze is a global cycling club with an annual membership fee of £200 and a limited number of members. Any application requires a 100-word tiebreaker describing ‘the perfect ride’. I could have a go now; “Any ride completed in its entirety without the presence of a ‘rider’ clad head-to-toe in rapha threads, astride an overpriced and underused bongo-rocket.”

There is a huge amount of ire aimed at Rapha, most of it from people who baulk at the constant self-mythologising, over-priced trinkets and endless epicness. The new ‘club’ consists of 16 ‘chapters’. Last time i saw anyone who was a member of a ‘chapter’ they were all heading off to do some motorpacing.

Rapha CC: Oakland Chapter
Rapha CC: Oakland Chapter

Like all modish industries, Rapha have a ‘brand manager’. I suspect they have a host of other 21st Century job titles on offer, . According to the Raphaspeak, each ‘chapter’ has a ‘concierge’ who is able to help the hapless Raphanaut navigate the mean streets of an unforgiving new urban environment and serve up a complimentary flat white, no doubt with some funkalicious latte art and grainy footage of Belgian hard men to inspire the current generation of weekend warriors. An identical Rapha in every identical global city? Check.

The motto for the new club is “Ex Duris Gloria” or something like that. There’s a startling disconnect between any notion of suffering and the reality of this enterprise.  Rapha is just another bogus symptom of late era capitalism (although even the term ‘late capitalism’ seems irrevelant, the system just marches on in a rapacious, money-grabbing goosestep). It fits securely within Baudrillard’s notion of simulacra and simulation, saving the cycling principle for legions of soft-pedaling schmucks, seduced by a hideously expensive fluffing and packaged softshell heroism. Rapha have elevated the concept of suffering with no accompanying reality. It is the apotheosis of the hollowness of modern bike riding and the shabby, empty lives of the current wave of corporate acolytes, lured away from a life on the golf course by the promise of a new kind of perjured authenticity.

All this bluster belies one thing. Rapha exists because it reflects what certain people want, and they’re very good at it. They’ve also elevated the concept of monetary value over material usefulness to an artform.

 

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