I mentioned just a little while ago about missing the regular commenters of this blog. There was an era, from about 2010 through to maybe 2015-16 where I’d get a few comments on every post, no matter how inconsequential I considered the post to be. Much of this era overlapped with what I called UAL Blog Mark 2, where after five years of really not doing anything with the blog, I “got serious”. This Mark 2 ended when I switched to the current WordPress blog you see now.
I knew that switching a blog’s url is never fun, but by the end of 2013 I was tired of Blogger. I had started blogging on that platform in 2005 because it was free and seemed the easiest to use. But I opened my Blogger account with my old, not-Gmail address, and once I got Gmail I would have to log out of my main Chrome account to use Blogger. And once I got a smart device, either Blogger didn’t have their own app, or when they finally did, it was pretty anemic. The WordPress app seemed miles ahead by comparison. 1 Plus, I didn’t feel like Google was going to keep Blogger around that much longer, to be dropped like their Reader, so I figured I should move when it was my own decision vs. it being forced on me.
Of course, Google had to prove me wrong. Blogger is still around, even if it looks a bit shopworn. (Apologies to those of you who still blog on Blogger.) Even though I migrated all of my Urban Adventure League blog posts over to WordPress and shut off commenting, I still have my old Temporary Relocation Project over there. It doesn’t see a lot of attention, as I only used it in 2005. But every great once in a while I get a stray comment, usually on the post about my hometown. So I check it every great once in a while to see if there’s a comment that needs to be approved.
Since I was just thinking about old commenters, I also thought about the old blogs I used to follow. I was reminded about that with a recent check on the Blogger dashboard. While Google killed their Reader over a decade ago (a decision people still smart over), they never killed the reader that came with Blogger. All of the old blogs I followed from 2010 through 2013 were still on there! I spent an hour or two perusing the reader. Memories came back.
During that UAL Mark II era, with the exception of a few Portland-centric blogs and other randomness, all of the blogs I followed were about bicycles. I’ve broken them down into six broad categories below:
- Urban commuters and transportation cyclists, the demographic I identified with the most.
- Bike tourers. Some were of the “life-balance” variety, where others were on the “never ending tour” wavelengths. Several blogs were by fellow tourists I met on the road during those years, especially during the Cross-Con Tour of 2011
- Urban fashionistas. These were folks who were living the urban bike style in a fashionable way, going the step beyond “bike clothes” to “everyday clothes” to “stylish” clothes. Many were inspired by the work of a certain bike guru from Copenhagen.
- Vintage cyclists. Folks who loved old bikes, working on old bikes, researching old bikes, etc. There was also the three-speed bike blog subset.
- “Transport” cyclists. These blogs were mostly from the UK, centered around The Cycling Embassy of Great Britain. They were usually verbose blogs about bike infrastructure and taking bikes seriously.
- And there was a category of blogs that I find hard to label, but they definitely had a specific feel and the bloggers seemed to know each other. They were usually written by older white guys who like to either rant or pontificate about bike stuff. Many of them seemed to be ambivalent to hostile to separate bike facilities, aka “vehicular cyclists.” And many preferred anonymity. I always picture these authors having twenty to forty mile bike commutes through crappy suburbia while wearing lots of hi-viz and using the dorkiest of bicycle baggage, Trunk Bags.2 Perhaps I should call them Trunk Bag Cyclists?
Of course, some blogs were multi-faceted and could cover multiple aspects of the lists above. And some were beyond categorization. But I think I captured the feeling of the blogs that I followed from this era.
What happened, then? Well, it became apparent that when I started reading some of these blogs that the wave of bike blogging had already crested. Looking through the old Blogger Reader, many of these blogs stopped posting in 2011 or 2012. This is also when social media platforms like Instagram really picked up. Before IG, blogging was the way to “get the word out”. But Instagram, Twitter and the like are easier. No need to write up big blog posts anymore, especially if your blog was already more about photos than words. Some blogs ended because the “project” they documented was over. This was especially the case of those people who I encountered on other bike tours–once their tour was done, the blog was done.
But there’s also blogs that I just lost interest in. During my initial flush and fury with blogging, I tried to follow as many like-minded bike blogs as possible. It became overwhelming to keep up with it all pretty fast, especially when many blogs posted daily. I kept on following the blogs that connected with me and stopped paying attention to those that didn’t. “Blogs not connecting” with me happened in all of the categories I outlined above, but they were most acute in three spheres:
- After four months of touring (Cross-Con Tour of 2011), I realized that I was never going to be a “Never Ending Tourist”, so those types of blogs lost resonance with me. There’s only so much “armchair tourist” I could play. And I couldn’t relate when the posts turned to how difficult it was to get a visa to Burkina Faso.
- I only followed those British Transport Cyclists because they would be mentioned on one or two blogs I followed. Most of these people were earnest and dedicated, but a bit too serious and lacking in any fun. (The idea of a ride for “fun” vs. transport would get negative reactions.) Plus, the writing style was dry and verbose and talking about things thousands of miles from me. It was hard getting excited about reading their never-ending reports about getting the Yorkshropeford Local Council to remove a bollard from a bike path.
- As for the “trunk bag cyclists”, well, most of them I wasn’t into even at the outset, but I tried since they kept on commenting and interacting with blogs I did like. They were not for me. It’s okay, most of them didn’t follow me for long either.
Still, I was curious to check up on these forgotten blogs. Unfortunately many of the urls are now dead–while the Reader somehow preserved snippets of posts, if any of them had unique self-hosted urls vs Blogger/Wordpress/Livejournal, they were either gone or taken over by bot websites. And it’s hard to find out more from even the ones that still have a presence. Many of those blogs, especially the Blogger ones, were done semi-anonymously. Their profile page would have a tiny avatar and may tell me that they live in Houston and like 80’s music, but without an actual name or a link to a Facebook or Instagram profile I have not much to go on.
Like a lot of times when I analyze my past, I get melancholy and sentimental for a life that’s just a wee bit in the past, a wee bit now beyond my grasp. It would be nice to see what happened to some of these folks, but I’m also not going to expend that much time and energy to figure it out, especially if it’s a blog that didn’t connect with me. Yet I still do want to see what happened to the bloggers who I did briefly connect with, especially those bike tourists I encountered along the way. What are they up to now? Have they done any more tours?
Just to clarify: I do still follow some blogs from that era. And while I feel that bike blogging isn’t as robust as it could be, there’s a lot of film photography and stationery blogs that are quite active. I still have great content that gets delivered to my WordPress reader every day. I like that energy. But I’d also like it if bike blogs had another resurgence at some point. Perhaps they will, as people get jaded about all the new social media.
So I hope you old bike bloggers are still doing well. Drop a line if you have the time. And maybe consider blogging again? (Even if I didn’t care for your blog!)
1 I realize as I type this that Automattic/Wordpress is sunsetting their app and replacing it with JetPack. I’m not thrilled about this, but haven’t poked around in the new app to know if I should applaud or jeer this move.
2 Alright, here is where I get raked over the coals by those who like Trunk Bags. First, for those of you who don’t know what one is, it’s a bag that sits atop a rear rack. I can see them being useful when you have two panniers with it, but most folks I’ve seen ride with just the Trunk Bag. So they need a rack to hold this one bag up (a transverse saddle bag a la Carradice doesn’t usually need a rack and looks better). Plus, putting all your bag weight above your rear wheel isn’t the best thing, and if you need anything from the bag, you need to stop and get off the bike. Handlebar/randonneur bags are usually as big as a Trunk Bag, and much easier to access.
Memories. I also recently logged back into my old (now hidden) blog for a peruse of the reader widget to see where many of the blogs I used to follow were up to. Quite a lot of them are still around albeit not as active. I don’t know whether social media is totally to blame for blogging becoming less popular although I suspect twitter was an easier outlet, especially when adding images was added and and increase in word count made it less haiku and more of a rant-fest.
And then of course there is YouTube and Vlogging – that has become a very popular format too.
I lifted my canal based camping trips from my old blog and put them on another with a few trips added to it since just for my own cartharsis.
The format definitely still stands up & I still like the simplicity of Blogger. I know what you mean about Reader. We have similar apps for discovering and following podcasts…bring back Reader! Xx
I think Youtube/vlogging has also taken away some of blogging’s thunder. I know of a few people/groups that were very active bloggers ten or so years ago that are basically just Youtubers these days–Path Less Pedaled a big example. YouTube gets a lot more attention. I’m not really into it, as even a regular 10-15 minute video is a big ask for my attention. I may stop by if the subject sounds interesting. But that also leads to “clickbaity” video titles. I’m sure if I subtitled this post “And why I think trunk bags are dorky” I’d see a lot more action! 😉
Tbh clickbait has a lot to answer for Shawn!
I never really fell into a particular bicycle group, which often alienated me at times. Sometimes I fell into the vehicular cyclist category by necessity, but the pandemic exhausted me. I could only take so much negativity. So, now I provide insight to my municipality whenever I can. I’m also in Phoenix, so most bicycle pages are just always telling me that my hometown is terrible.
I also tried to get involved with group rides. However, after one group got us all pulled over (rightfully so) and then the leader bailed, I decided that I was done with that too.
I enjoy the WordPress cycling community. Usually far less toxicity. My theory is that it is because of less anonymity and more effort to post.
Thanks! I was lucky to really get into adult/transportation cycling in Portland, where there was an already established bike culture, and where there are just general “bike fun” type rides that are not about sport/speed/endurance. If I ended up in a place where roadies were the only adults riding, I’d have a much different experience.
I do own a trunk bag bicycle. It is a Jannd bag and just as you say sits right on top of the rear rack, right over the rear wheel. I’m against front and rear racks so how could this be. Well I use a rear mount vintage Hollywood bicycle rack on my auto. This particular rack holds the bikes by their top bars. This precludes the use of my favorite bag and that is the frame bag. I always have a need for bicycle tire removal and tube repair kit. I also need adequate storage for clothing. Since I don’t buy the latest and greatest aero skin tight bicycle clothing this leaves the usual bulky and not so bulky outer wear which has to be added and taken off as needed. So my answer was a trunk bag. So I own one trunk bag bicycle for use on my Hollywood bike rack. But noting the other parameters of trunk bag folks I am an older white dude who loves to pontificate on somtimes inane and mostly obscure subjects. Not mad about too much except for maybe bicycle disc brakes and their incessant rubbing, squeaking, inadequate engineering to take into consideration the cause of this problem. I think I’ve covered it all in this post. I hope you are doing well Sean and don’t have to spend too much time moderating all the posts you are probably now receiving.
Thanks. I’m doing OK. And it’s spelled “Shawn”. 😉
I used to be a very active religion blogger. I read a lot of the same kind of bike blogs you mention here at the same time, but almost always as a dreaded “lurker.” I didn’t comment often, but I learned a lot. As you pointed out when I started my blog, the art itself is already somewhat dead. I’ve enjoyed following you now that I’ve reentered the blogosphere as a cycling blogger. I still write on religion but in a zine format, not a blog. At some point I’ll even join you in posting film photos, but that’s not yet a hobby I am active about.
Thanks, Tony! Look forward to the photos.
But as a sophisticated cyclist, what’s yer take on Trunk Bags? 😉 (From today’s blog post I know your opinion on Carradice saddlebags!)
I have tried so hard to like trunk bags, but at the end of the day I find them cheesy and ugly. The boxy shape of a rando is better in front, and tbh I’d rather have either a saddlebag or micro-panniers than a trunk bag.
However a BIG ole trunk bag could perhaps make sense bikepacking. Waxwing Bags has got one out there that I thought worked, even if it’s not the route I’d take.
Thanks! You had me worried for a moment, thought you’d pull a “Trunk Bags are Great” contrarian move. 😉
My apologies Shawn. Alzheimers.
Yeeps! Sorry to hear. 😦