I have a theory.
One reason that cycling is as popular as it is, and continues to grow at the rate that is has, is because, more than in any other sport, absolutely anyone can look pro, or at least think that they can. The bike industry thrives on this.
Now, I know what you are thinking. And you are right. Not everyone can look pro, all the time, in the eyes of even a moderate cycling enthusiast – but pretty nearly. In actual fact, though, it doesn’t even matter if they actually fool anyone, it only matters if they think that they are fooling at least someone. Furthermore, if the poseur’s goal is not to actually fool anyone, then they may believe that they are at least buying credibility in the eyes of other people because of the gear that they purchase. If we are honest with ourselves, most people apply this line of thinking with at least some of our purchases, even if we aren’t even conscious of it.
Something else you might be thinking is that not everyone who buys expensive toys is a poseur, nor are they necessarily trying to impress their peers – and you would be right there, too. We’ll limit this to actual poseurs, which, I suppose, is subjective and relative, to a point. At any rate…
Imagine, if you will, the average middle-aged man with a generous income and at least a passing interest in cycling. He buys the pro-team bike, the deep carbon wheels, the power meter, the $400 helmet, the team kit, the pro-looking sunnies, and because he cruises the internet forums, he even gets his sock height right, wears the sunnies in the correct manner, places them in the helmet in just the right way when not needed, matches everything that needs to match, and keeps sharp tan-lines.
Perhaps he has a couple of mates that are in the same position, so Team Poseur rolls out, heads to the beach, and does a few laps before heading to the cafe to sip lattes while looking at the peaches.
Pro’s aren’t always racing when they are on their bikes. Not even close. I’ll back off from comparing to pro’s and expand the comparison to serious cyclists, and a serious cyclist logs quite a lot of easy km’s on the bike as part of their training regime, which any poseur can do too. So if the serious cyclist and the poseur have all the same gear and can be seen cycling at the same speed, then everyone who isn’t also a serious cyclist will be fooled into thinking that the poseur is a legitimately serious cyclist. Maybe even pro!
The poseur isn’t actually trying to fool the pro (unless they are especially foolish), but rather, he is trying to make other poseurs believe that he is pro. Even non-cycling poseurs. Hubbards from different mothers, if you will. Experienced cyclists can spot them from any number of seemingly insignificant factors.
Alright, so that’s my theory as far as the cycling part goes, but it gets better when you start comparing it to other sports. Take anything at random. Any sport that people commonly wear either the team outfit or use specific gear. Let’s ignore for the moment that the player’s name is usually on the jersey and that may give the observer a clue that the middle-aged white dude is not, in fact, Michael Jordan or Cristiano Ronaldo.
Basketball? Go to the local courts or gym and start playing and it will become immediately apparent that you aren’t an NBA player.
Football? If you are bending more like Beckett than Beckham, the gear won’t provide you any cover.
Tennis? That 35kph serve still didn’t make it over the net. Not pro.
Golf? That quintuple bogey wasn’t just the wind. Back to the clubhouse with you where you can conspicuously place your Porsche keys on the table for the wait staff to see.
I could go on, but you get the point. You can’t hide behind the gear in other sports and still look pro while playing if you haven’t actually got the ability. Cycling offers you that possibility.
Furthermore, there doesn’t seem to be the same kind of gear-first mentality in most other sports (there must be exceptions, of course – golf or fishing? I’m just guessing). This penchant is true of other lifestyle choices, like cars and houses and clothing. Some aren’t fooling themselves by having all the best gear – it’s simply a hobby, something to collect – but for most poseurs, having all the gear isn’t merely an innocent love of gear – it is often used to speak for the (in)ability of the user.
So, the industry loves the poseur, because the poseur loves to buy the best, simply to be in possession of the best, and/or to be seen as better because they have the best. It is what it is. It’s a symbiotic relationship, and one that is helping to grow the sport. Long may it live… unfortunately.
There you have it. That’s my theory. If you have anything to add or argue, then you know what to do.
Tomorrow I’ll get into how the poseurs are a danger to the general public – most notably, when swimming in the testy waters of the bunch ride.
Header image: source