The Hate Guide to Bikepacking

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We spotted this research paper, published on Facebook. We thought that like any reputable and reliable research, it should be peer reviewed, so we’re placing it before you for appraisal and statistical analysis. Thanks to Ansgar Baums for allowing this seminal work to be reproduced here. We hope to see many more papers in this important and growing field of research.

Giving your hate more direction and focus – with practical judging questions

1. Introduction

Bikepackers have a lot in common: The awful smell after a couple of days in the saddle, the feeling of being exposed and ridiculed in public by wearing rather tight pants over slightly too wide waistlines, the constant fear of the ultimate humiliation of crashing while trying a cycling selfie on a bumpy road.

However, despite the often-heard claim of “bikepackers being a big family”, we feel that the differences within the bikepacking crowd are much more important than the commonalities – because bikepacking is about identity. Identity can only be efficiently built and maintained if it relies on what psychologists call the narcissism of small differences. As Sigmund Freud and Pierre Bourdieu pointed out: Social identity lies in difference, and difference is asserted against what is closest, which represents the greatest threat.

From this perspective, the biggest threat to a bikepacker’s identity is not the leather-clad, justifyingly despised motorcyclist (they are just annoying and should be put in jail) – but rather the fellow bikepacker who harbours a dissenting opinion on what bikepacking is supposed to be about. In this regard, Monty Python’s biggest contribution to bikepacking is not the bicycle repairman sketch, but highlighting the importance of the small differences in the People’s Front of Judea vs. Judean People’s Front episode.

Bikepackers have grasped the importance of minor differences intuitively. Checking out “the other” is a quick routine: “That guy is riding a Surly – might get overtaken by a intoxicated slug on the first hill” or “OMG – how can he ride in flip flops? That’s a disgrace to the whole bikepacking community as it reminds us of our own mortality” are common first thoughts. While such first hateful impressions are valuable and important, we feel there is a certain lack of rigour and systematic approach to it. We therefore developed an analytical framework of bikepacking hate cleavages, which will be explained in more detail in chapter 2. In order to make this analytical framework easily applicable in practice, chapter 3 develops a Bikepacking Hate Survey (BHS), which allows judging fellow bikepackers in an easier and more precise way. Finally, chapter 4 takes a look at a future research agenda.

2. The three dimensions of bikepacking-hate: An analytical approach

To the surprising astonishment of male Internet users, the concept of “cleavage” is used by political scientists to describe underlying societal conflicts that shape group behaviour. We lend this concept to define three fundamental structural conflicts that exist potentially both within any bikepacker – him being tortured and torn between different emotional impulses, and within the bikepacking community as such.

Cleavage 1: Performance vs. experience

Is bikepacking about physical fitness and testing your limits? Or is it about experiencing nature, culture, and different kinds of butt sores? No other question tears the bikepacking community that much apart. Are ultra-long distance races like the “Silk Road Race” proper bikepacking events? Or is it just a freak show where the landscape and culture of a country merely function as a canvas to highlight the rider’s own magnificence? Is “experience backpacking” the equivalent of Nordic Walking? The bikepacking crowd has split over this question since its beginning. While most bikepacking rallies specifically claim not to be about performance, the casual boasting about miles done per day at the end of the trip is a natural source of grieve and envy that could be exploited for identity-building measures.

Cleavage 2: Bike geekism vs. post-materialism

Most bikepackers are torn between completely geeking out on their bikes and spending horrendous amounts of money on shit normal people don’t even know it exists versus a post-materialist attitude. In fact, mainstream media often links bikepacking to such a post-consumerist worldview, which would imply an agnostic view on technology. That doesn’t make any sense at all, of course – if you do not care about your bike, you would be a freakin’ hiker, right?! Anyhow, for the purpose of this article, we maintain the fiction that bikepackers could be post-materialist with a strictly functional relationship to their bike. In practice, this leads to less-than-well-maintained, carelessly assembled garbage set-ups that are hard to look at.

Cleavage 3: Individualism vs. group experience

Bikepackers are an individualistic crowd – turning social ostracism into a sub-cultural feature. The bikepacker is torn between “doing it alone” and enjoying the sound of nature and chain alone; and excessively talking to others at length about how great it is to be alone. This inner conflict leads to hilarious results during bikepacking events, – i.e. the loner lingering at the edges of group events, constantly flipping in and out of conversations.

Taken together, these three cleavages provide a useful framework to categorize fellow bikepackers. Graph 1 shows a visual representation of all three cleavages, here employed to judge two different bikepackers.

Graph 1

3. The Bikepacking Hate Survey (BHS): Giving your hate more direction and focus

With this analytical framework in mind, we can now easily derive a practical list of evaluation questions in order to judge fellow bikepackers. In our experience, it is key to make such a judgement very quickly at first sight – this avoids any ambiguity and potential identity issues at a later stage. For this purpose, we developed the Bikepacking Hate Survey (BHS).

QuestionWhat does it measure?How many f*cks do you give? (0 to 5)
Are you riding a Surly?Experience over performance
Are you wearing normal sunglasses or cycling glasses while bikepacking?Experience over performance
Do you carry an Italian espresso machine on your trips?Experience over performance
Do you have one of the following parts on your bike? (1) powermeter (2) carbon stem (3) deep carbon rims (4) Aero water container (5) TT bar (6) electronic shifting?Performance over experience
Do you switch between 650B or 700C wheels – depending on the territory, weather forecast, and latest FTP development?Bike-geekism over post-materialism
Do you wear cycling gear or normal clothes on trips?Performance over experience
Do you carry an analogue camera on your trips?Experience over performance
Do you shave your legs before a trip?Performance over experience
Is ‘Thoreau’ the author of ‘Walden’ or vice versa?Individualism over group experience
Do you have a pizza rack on your back?Experience over performance
Do you have a freaking enaml cup dangling from your saddle bag?Experience over performance
Do you have more than five Voile straps on your rig?Bike-geekism over post-materialism
Do you have a way too heavy and expensive Brooks saddle on your bike, but you justify it because it’s comfy (it’s not – be honest, you only like the look and you sercretly harbour a desire to be part of the landed gentry and hunt foxes)?Experience over performance
Do you collect badges from your bikepacking events and put them on your bags?Experience over performance
Have you thought of doing a bikepacking trip with a dog?Individualism over group experience
Do you cry when watching this video?Individualism over group experience
Do you carry an axe while bikepacking?TOTAL FREAK

The BHS could be easily employed to pre-screen bikepacking event participants. We would recommend that organizers make the BHS screening mandatory in order to be able to organize event-specific hate groups in situ more efficiently.

4. Final words | research agenda

The BHS is just a first step in establishing a bikepacking research agenda. We encourage other scientists to contribute to this endeavour. Specifically, we see need for further research in the following areas:

  • The merger of beards: Sub-cultural overlaps between lumbersexualism and bikepacking
  • The mangling of language: The improper use of French words in cycling culture
  • Applied storytelling: How bikepackers turn super-bad planning into a story about “experiencing plan B”

Keep up to date with Ansgar’s ongoing research here on Instagram:

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