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Le Tour d’Indifférence: Peter Flax Interview

by Ted Johnson

I was invited to interview Peter Flax, Editor-in-Chief of Bicycling Magazine. I said Sure! And I did.

The interview was a few days ago. And today–literally today–I read the entire e-mail message that came with that initial invitation, and I saw there was a list of recommended questions. Sorry, Peter, I completely missed those questions. Or maybe I skimmed until I saw the words “Tour de France” which immediately put me to sleep.

I’ve always been somewhat indifferent about the Tour (not to mention the personalities involved). Once or twice I’ve caught a contact high from friends of mine who always get caught up in the race, but never more than that.

So when I wandered into the neighborhood of some of the prepared questions, it was purely by coincidence. But mostly my interview questions are like a grab-bag of my pet topics:

I thought I might annoy him by entertaining the idea that The Tour de France is bad for cycling. It might have been more fun if I had. But the man is a diplomat–the Ambassador from Bikeistan. And I couldn’t agree more with his closing message to readers of Commute by Bike:

At our magazine, we just think that everyone that rides a bike is cool. And that the act of riding a bike harkens back to your childhood. It’s this fun beautiful thing. And whether you commute or you race, or you just ride around town with your kids, we all share this love of the bike. And I just wish everyone would feel a little bit more like brethren about each other, ’cause it’s like we share this magical thing together


The questions I was supposed to ask Peter:

  • The Tour de France starts on July 2 – what can you tell us about this year’s race? Who is the favorite to win it all?
  • Who are the top Americans at this year’s race?
  • What is the bike culture in local cities across the country and what’s driving so many people to jump on their bikes?
  • What are the health benefits of cycling?
  • Do you have tips for folks who want to start biking? What should folks know when shopping for a new bike?
 
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11 Responses to “Le Tour d’Indifférence: Peter Flax Interview”

  1. jim g says:

    I am so glad you asked the questions you did. I watched some of the Tour this morning, but really couldn’t get into it. I’m not even close to the “racer” category but do enjoy riding anyhow. If I were to be categorized, I would be a “Clydesdale”. As for the ambassador of Bicycling, he has a long road before I’ll call him that. Best example why? Latest issue of his rag. Every picture is of cinhiseled, skinny riders, even in the ads. How can he even come close to the norm of the everyday riders when they don’t even know how they look? I went for a nice (9.98 mile) ride and got passed by a group of 12-15the riders. Of the group, maybe 4 looked like the ppl in the magazine. I mean, look at even the automotive mags. Except for the t shirt ads girls, the ppl look human. Bicycling even promised to have more “normal people” articles. Not this issue. Guess I’m just venting. But as I said, he has a long road before I call him Ambassador. Till then, he’s just another high dollar exec pretending to be “in touch with the little people”.

  2. TCOPE says:

    Skimmed the interview with Peter Flax of Bicycling magazine. Got to the questions about “political gap of cycling” and debated falling asleep or putting a bullet in my head.
    Questions I would pose to Ted Johnson of Commute by Bike if given the opportunity to interview him:
    1. Why is everyone that commutes by bike a dweeb…
    2. How do bike commuters avoid wrecking their carbon wheels on the curbs…. oh they don’t use carbon wheels…
    3. If I drive my 4×4 SUV gas guzzler 3 miles to work and then do a century ride in the peleton on the weekend do you hate me?

    Tour de France – cool
    Commuting to work – for people that believe in global warming….

  3. matt says:

    goes without saying, but don’t feed the troll…

  4. BluesCat says:

    I think Peter makes a pretty good ambassador for cycling, but I think if he really wants Bicycling Magazine to promote bicycles better he should take a lesson from the hot rod magazines: on the covers he should put really hot chicks in g-string bikinis draped all over the bikes.

    THAT’LL get even the gear headed kids to buy and read the magazine!

  5. matt says:

    great questions, Ted. well done revealing the mentality of the wannabe racer group (including you-should-want-to-work-on-your-bike, which has happened to me though I never thought it would).

    that said, I don’t blame Peter for where he’s coming from. he is oriented toward his readers, who have 4.5 bikes and probably tend toward the weekend warrior type.

  6. Billy says:

    Why is there such hostility to road cycling? It seems unfounded and unnecessary to me.

    I’m both a commuter and a “sport” cyclist, I commute 44 miles round trip 4x a week. I use a road bike because it gets me to work/home faster. I didn’t realize I was being sacrilegious by not opting for a commuter bike on my commute.

    • Ted Johnson says:

      Why is there such hostility to road cycling?

      I hope you detected no hostility in this article and interview. Didn’t I say that “I couldn’t agree more” with Flax’ closing message?

      Indifference is not the same as hostility. My personal limitation is that I’ve never been able to get into any sport as a spectator. (See my recent post on Bill Walton). It’s very easy for me to imagine someone being a road cyclist and still not give a dang about the Tour de France.

      By the same token. If someone has a road bike, why not commute on it? Nobody said anything about sacrilege. I believe (as do many people) that road bikes are not comfortable or appropriate for the kind of casual riding or commuting that would be done by 90% of people who currently aren’t cycling but could benefit from buying a bike and start using it instead of a car.

  7. Gene @ BU says:

    After this interview I think I have an identity crisis. I own 5.5 bikes (2 commuter, 1 road, 1 mountain, 1 cyclocross, and an IBEX trailer +.5) and I use them all for biking to work and weekend fun. I also work in a downtown office building with 362 other people and I’m the only one who bikes to work (25 mile round trip). The main reason why others won’t try biking is safety and the weather (I live in upstate New York). On my way to work I ride through a state university campus of 12,000 students and the only bikes I see are at the gym. I hear the same things from students why they wouldn’t consider a bike: safety and the weather. This area will never be a Davis, Portland, Fort Collins, Settle, or Austin (Thanks Lance!) when it comes to cycling and for people like me I’ve gotten used to the fact that I’m an anomaly in a sea of fast moving cars. But then I’m one of the vast majority of commuter cyclists in the U.S. We don’t live in metro areas with an advocacy group supporting us and we’re on the road on our own and left to our own devices. I pass up Bicycling Magazine since it doesn’t have anything to say to me out here on the open roads I travel each day. BTW, I do watch the Tour de France and I’m following the BMC team. I get energized watching the race and the crowds and I dream of biking in a country where cycling is appreciated. Then it’s back to the stark reality of cycling in upstate New York.

  8. Jack B says:

    I think the interview was respectful. It did really show a different way of thinking about bicycling. Personally I am a big fan of the TdF, but I am also an NFL fan. I have no more ambition to race a bicycle than to play football. I have commuted more days than not for two years by bike (actually mixed mode, a little car drive to get past unsafe roads near my house). I also do some charity rides and some randonneuring, but riding for transportation s always the most satisfying. In fact I like to ride to and from the local charity rides. A day without driving the car is a victory to me.

    I sometimes pick up a copy of Bicycling magazine, but it is never that satisfying. The magazines that are delivered to my house are Bicycling Times and Momentum. I always enjoy those. I would rank my practical motivations to ride as health, economic, and then environmental. Really just the joy of riding has become foremost. After this interview, I see why my view of bicycling as transportation versus bicycling as sport, makes Bicycling magazine less satisfying.

  9. fnerd says:

    Sir,

    If you’re so indifferent to the Tour, please be quiet and let the rest of us enjoy it. Thank you.

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