In defense of Twitter

A report was published by the Pew Research Center recently which found that only 6% of ALL Americans use Twitter (8% of Internet using adults). And of that 6% who use the service, 1 in 5 are members in name only, never checking the site for new updates. However, it was also interesting to see that while 21% of Twitter users never check for updates, 24% of users check more than once a day. So an almost equal percentage check never as check all the time. Anyway. Enough stats. Check out the full report for more information.

I’ll gladly admit that not only am I one of the 6%, I’m also one of the 24%, having every Twitter update sent to me as they happen through TweetDeck. However, before July of this year, I wasn’t really sure what the point of Twitter was. Sure, my wit is quite suited for 140 characters, but what can Twitter offer me that Facebook can’t? However, the deeper I got sucked into cycling, the more I realized the value of Twitter. Twitter became a way for me to be part of the cycling community, pro and otherwise. My increased Twitter activity was directly related to my increased interest in cycling! And now, not only do I have to defend my obsession with cycling, I also have to defend my addiction to Twitter! So, what about Twitter makes it such an integral part of the cycling community? Let’s explore.

(a brief note before we begin: for some, this might seem elementary. However, I write so those not familiar with our sport might gain new insight.)

On the fringes

Here in the States (and maybe elsewhere, I’m not sure), we cycling fans have a cross to bear as our sport of choice is woefully under covered by mainstream media. The cycling community is not large and the pro cycling fan base is even more not large. This is where Twitter comes in. Twitter gives us cycling fans a place to find like- minded individuals, a place to follow the pros through their training, races, wins and loses, a place to follow races which aren’t shown on TV or are available online only with Dutch commentary, a place to connect with fellow race watchers around the globe. Through Twitter, pro cycling becomes so much more than just what comes through the TV or computer.

As I’ve used Twitter to engage in the cycling community, I’ve found those I follow generally fall into 3 camps: the riders themselves, cycling news sources, and regular joes like myself who have an invested interest. In addition, I see three main ways Twitter is useful to the cycling community: following races, staying informed on cycling issues/news, and connecting with racers and their teams.

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Re-finding Greatness

Another book review, you say? Well, I did do a lot of reading while I was home for Thanksgiving, because as you know, no TV! This was a book I started a bit ago, but got distracted by library books with deadlines on them.

Tour de Lance, by Bill Strickland, is a fabulous book that follows Lance Armstrong as he comes back to the sport in 2009 after a 4 year absence. Now, Strickland is quite a fan of Armstrong. He says so himself. But he’s not super keen to hear that Armstrong is coming back, as comebacks historically only serve to tarnish the legacy left behind from the first retirement. And, he was looking forward to a new generation of cycling stars! (such as, oh I don’t know, Alberto Contador!) Despite his trepidation at Armstrong’s un-retirement, he decides to chronicle Armstrong’s journey, as an outsider, as objectively as possible.

This is a great book for someone who’s new to the sport, just interested in learning more about how the Tour works, or looking for a different perspective on Armstrong. Unlike The Rider, it was written with cycling novices in mind, and there is a lot of explanation of race tactics, team tactics, race and team politics. However, as the book progresses further into 2009 Tour de France, there is a reflection of Strickland’s increasing  obsession with Armstrong’s success, as Strickland loses some threads started early in book. Not only is there less explanation and description of race tactics, stories of cancer survivors/fighters who relate to or are inspired by Armstrong are forgotten on the sidelines as well. Although I can’t say I minded losing that thread too much, as it doesn’t appeal to me, it is an important part of who Armstrong’s public persona, what he’s done, and the justification for his comeback. (btw, yeah right. He just missed racing- the cancer research and awareness mission was just a good cover. Not that I blame him. When you’ve been competitive since 15, you can’t just turn that off.)

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Hip Magazines for a Hip Sport

So two cycling magazines recently published their inaugural issue, paved (@pavedmag) and peloton (@pelotonmagazine). I’d heard of their existence over Twitter and when I was in a Barnes and Noble recently, I decided to check them out. Then decided to review them.

Hip is key

While they both fall squarely into the “hip” category of cycling magazines (as evidenced by the small “p” used), I found them both accessible, even as someone who is decidedly not hip. Or interested in being hip. Both are dedicated to those who love the sport and the beauty within. Both have a good mix of bike technology/gear, stories and, most importantly, lots of fabulous photography. I love photography in general and the locations of races naturally lend themselves to producing landscape porn. (Side note: I was disappointed in the bad weather this year at the Giro di Lombardia, as I heard so much about the amazing scenery. But the weather did make for a killer race!) And because of the focus on photography, the magazines feel a little like fashion magazines, with their fashion spreads, but instead of models posing in the latest trends, it’s road bikers modeling the best Mother Nature has to offer. Which is totally fine by me.

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