This ad appeared in the major daily newspapers last weekend (in The Age, twice) – it caught my eye because it had an attractive youngish woman in it . . . I mean, someone who looked like they were riding a bike. (There’s a vacancy at BAC Bikes for someone such – enquire within 🙂 ) Ok, so far the ad had worked. However, the second take, once my interest was piqued, led me to discern a few alarming undertones, to wit:
- She, let’s call her Tess of the Warrumbungles (see map), has a reflector and a bell on her handlebars. Nice and legal, sure, but any serious MTBer would have had these knocked off a long time ago in one of any number of prangs, or had them taken off her bike by her mates and made to swallow them in revenge for dork crimes against bike fashion;
- Ditto elbow pads. Elbow pads? Is she undecided about whether to just step out for a spot of rollerblading or Rottweiler wrestling?
- Topographic maps cost about $9 nowadays – it’s bad enough when they accidentally fall in muddy puddles and you have to replace them. Would you really want to write moronic notes to yourself in permanent ink- about some pharmaceutical, for crying out loud – on the top of that critical bit of trail information you need to prevent you from having to wrestle some angry and tattoed landowner’s Rottweilers when you get lost, stray out of the state forest and into their no longer private dope plantation?
- Why are her ‘mates’ avoiding her, slinking into the monochrome background like so many ghosts (including the ghost 1/8th of a wheel under her headstem) – has her flatulence problem from eating all those pre-ride carob/nut snacks just got a little uncontrollable? It might explain her slightly cross-eyed expression and fixed smile.
- Ok – the slightly more serious question – are mountain bikers perceived by ad execs to be especially prone to headache/backache – why? Because they have crashed and knocked their reflectors and bells off? But Tess still has both of them. And her elbow pads. So not that reason. Because MTBing is an inherently pain-inducing activity, especially in the back and neck? Did one of these ad-people (they’re not real people, they’re ad-people – they’ve had their souls sucked out of them by trying to sell things to people as the sum total of their existence) one day go for a quick scoot on a bike off the bitumen, and discover impediments to forward progress which shook them up a bit? Gave them a headache? Why not pictures of boxing, or bungee-jumping, or rugby, or ‘Dancing with the Stars’? They give you a headache, the last one, from smacking your head on purpose against something hard.
- This what I think has gone on behind the imaginary scenes here: Tess has never been fitted properly to her mountain bike, and has done no conditioning k’s before heading off onto the bumpy stuff. Her riding technique is inexpert and inadequate, so she’s jolted around on an ill-fitting bike like a size 6 foot in a hard size 10 shoe. Sure enough she gets major blisters, aches and pains, after whole weeks not doing it enough in the right lead-up conditions and with the right conditioning to develop the necessary calluses to stay comfortable. The bike shop that sold her the bike was borderline incompetent – didn’t sell her the right width handlebars (or offer to shorten them a little, as most women riders need) or probably frame size, or decent pedals or shoes, or gloves – long fingers please for MTBing’s scratchy shrubs, dirt encounters, etc. , pants (who told her cotton lycra was good cycle pants material?), and a particularly ill-fitting helmet. They probably didn’t tune her suspension forks for her weight and level of ineptitude. So there’s all the foundations of pain. What to do if you’re uncomfortable? Go back to the bike shop and get them to fit the bike to you, properly, with the right reach to stop pinched nerves in your neck, and good points of bike contact elsewhere? Get your stand-offish mates (presumably someone knows a bit more than her in this bunch – you’d wanna hope so) to give you a bit of a heads up on bike position? No? What about popping some painkillers? Yeah! Cool idea! I’ll just dig some out of my overloaded backpack (what, you reckon that might be a problem with neck pain too?) and chug them down in front of my laughing/derisive/concerned riding mates. That’s my idea of a fun afternoon on a bike – throbbing headache due to my own incompetence masked by the products of multinational drug-pushers. Someone’s been looking at US drug ads, I think – medicalising the ordinary, and the somatic products of bad living, even something that’s meant to be as exciting and ‘out there’ as mountain biking, but only when it’s not done by idiots.
Hey, GlaxoSmithKline, or whoever the heck you are nowadays, stop signing off these sort of efforts from your pet ad poodles, this sort of covert ‘love-hate/envy-fear’ anti-bike propaganda, hey? You’re much more likely to get back and neck pain from being overstressed and unfit, sitting badly on the average office work chairs in badly-lit offices, or slouching in the Jason Recliner in front of ‘Gladiators’ than you are on a well-fitted bike when you’re adequately fit, out breathing in clean air in the bush. Get offa my cloud. Oh, you can leave Tess. I reckon with a bit of nutritional education (no more proteinaceous snacks pre-ride) and technical expertise, supportive ride buddies and a little training, she might not turn into the whingeing, ill-at-ease pill-popping namby that gsk want her to, and have some real fun. Yes – I know, she’s only a model, albeit an attractive one, that’s probably only ever tootled down bike paths in all her life – her presentation merely an idea of an advertising copywriter. See my previous scathing comments about such people. But that presentation is what influences the public at large’s attitude towards cycling, and cyclists. That ad space does not come cheaply – you could have imagined they might have thought harder about what they were paying umpteen thousand dollars for, or did they? Is it in fact a carefully organised plan to ridicule and criticise mountain biking, or merely a careless one? Black helicopters, conspiracy theories . . . just because I’m paranoid it doesn’t mean they’re not out to get me . . .