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Friday, July 20, 2012

Pedalpalooza Perceptions

So Saturday June 30th was the last day of Pedalpalooza. Though I initially intended to ride a 200 kilometre randonneuring event, lack of sleep and preparation coupled with a lackluster weather forecast caused me to scuttle it.

So without really intending to I ended up at the annual closing event of Pedalpalooza, the Multnomah County Bike Fair, a combination of old-fashioned country fair meets bike culture. I arrived half-way through the proceedings, as it was pouring out when the event started. I made my way through the midway, talking to my friends at the various booths and hanging out with other people I knew. I barely paid attention to what was going on. The tall-bike jousting doesn't do it for me anymore, though there was many a past MCBF when I was all about it.

And therein lies my main issue with Pedalpalooza in general: after 10 years of participating in various forms, a lot of it doesn't cut it with me anymore. While I enjoyed the many sound-system dance party rides in the past, I wasn't into it this year, skipping them all. I went for more of the "let's look at historical stuff" rides or things involving more distance. While there were many of them this year, it seemed like there was more of the sound-system dance party rides and their cousin, the pop-culture reference ride. And these rides are popular.

Am I just being bitter? Is it sour grapes because my rides were not as well attended as they were in the past?
This is not something I like to think about too much, as I'd like to think I'm one of those people who are above such things. A ride is a ride, whether eight or eighty people show up. And while I'm not fond of leading eighty people around, I was used to having around 20-40 people on average come on my Pedalpalooza rides in the past. This year I topped out at ten, with the exception of the Bike Touring workshop which saw 20. Besides ego, the one thing that stings me the most about lower than expected turnouts is the amount of work and preparation that go into some of my rides. With all the work, having a big turnout is a validation of what went into it, or at least it shows that people are interested. I should know better than set such high expectations on my events. But I can't help it. I've led rides during Pedalpalooza since 2004 (except last year for obvious reasons.) It's hard to not have expectations.

I think the hardest thing for me to face during Pedalpalooza was my lack of enthusiasm. I somehow wanted to reignite that spark of "bike fun" that has been on the wane for the past few years. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. I still had fun on most of the events I went on, but for such a full calendar and a lack of obligations om my part, I did not participate anywhere near the amount that I thought I would. Some nights I just would rather stay inside, and I did. The 2006 Shawn Granton has a hard time reconciling that.

I think a lot of it comes down to the repeat cycle of events like Pedalpalooza. While there are plenty of new events each year, there are a lot of ones that are holdovers from the past. (My rides are no exception.) What was once fresh becomes stale, as "tradition" becomes the overriding theme. It was fun watching tall-bike jousting when it was fresh, a novelty. Now it's the same-old, same-old.

Am I getting old? Moving on? It's true that I find much more fun talking about vintage bikes and bike touring these days vs. mobile dance party rides. Maybe I'm becoming more of a curmudgeon than I thought I was? (Is this why I find the Retro-Grouch label so nice?)

Should I resist this? Isn't change good? Should I really hold on to the past? Hard questions. Part of me wants to embrace the new direction. Part of me realizes how much things like Pedalpalooza have molded the "me" of now, and doesn't want to let go of these things. I'll still be involved in Pedalplaooza in some form or another in the years to come, no doubt, but not as much as I used to. It's not the big event I used to look forward to anymore.


  1. Ah, we resist change yet it always turns out for the better, right? They'll be something else that will strike your fancy - you just don't know what it is yet.

    1. Annie, I think it's less about resisting change and more about jettisoning the past. I'm not afraid of what will happen next. I'm just afraid about forgetting where I came from. Events like Pedalpalooza helped form who I am now, and I'm a bit loath to turn my back on it. I don't have much of a connection to my past, things like Pedalpalooza are my reminders.


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