By Christopher Cudworth
I’m one of those people that rode the wave of graphic design technology all the way from Rubylith to Adobe Creative Suite. If you don’t know what I mean, here’s a simpler version.
Prior to the Mac, everything in design was literally designed by hand. Mapped out with blue pencils. And typesetting was done with PressType, a method of applying letters to graphic layouts that involved using a burnisher to rub every letter into place.
I know. Absolutely primitive. But you haven’t felt pressure in life until you’ve run out of the Capital Letter E at 12 midnight and have to reconstruct a new E using the Capital Letter F and an L. And still have it look good.
Those of us who’ve raced through the 90s and 2000s to arrive at the clean and beautifully driven world of Macs and the Internet can truly appreciate all that’s gone before. And be glad that it’s gone. Forever.
There’s no reason to go back to that shit. None whatsoever.
Which got me thinking about the current state of running and riding, and how the “early days” of both sports compare to what we have and do now.
The early days of running were primitive too. It was just after 1970 that the running shoe market started to wake up and serve the public with something other than adidas and Puma. Nike was invented. Then New Balance got wise. Reebok. ASICs morphed out of Tiger/Onitsuka. Brooks came on the scene. Saucony too.
Now all those brands are essentially legacy businesses fending off new arrivals on the scene in terms of innovation and popularity. Mizuno. Altra. Hell, even Skechers is selling running shoes now.
And the prices. You can’t buy a decent shoe for under $80. Don’t bother trying.
The reason why shoes are so expensive is they are better designed for running. The ability to choose a running shoe to fit your running style, biomechanics and orthotics was far beyond the comprehension of runners in the early 1970s.
Same goes for running wear. Tech fabrics leave cotton sweats in the dirt.
The only thing one can say about the “old days” is that runners still somehow managed to produce really great times and competition in that legacy gear. Same with great cyclists. And we’ll get to that phenomenon in a minute. But for now, please feel free to lust over the Tron cycling skinsuit above. It’s made for you.
Cycling trickle down
When it comes to cycling, the bikes from the 1970s do not compare well with the machines now available. Even an average cyclist can hop on a $2000 bike that in terms of technology, weight and efficiency is equivalent to bikes ridden in the Tour de France just 7-9 years ago.
Technology is one of the areas where the words “trickle-down” really do apply.
Cycling kits are also highly comfortable and technical, far exceeding gear that was available in the 1960s and 70s.
Cycling trickle up
Yet some of the cycling gear that was designed for training and competition is making a legacy comeback. An entire series of wool cycling jerseys in simple designs has come out. Vintage Velos sells them and I predict that your cycling mojo will increase if you purchase any one of them. I prefer this Molteni Arcore cycling jersey from Vintage Velos. It rocks.
Yes, we run and ride in the equivalent of the Adobe Creative Suite in graphic design and publishing. Yet even the finest software for design makes use of staid and popular design icons to illustrate the Crop, Cut and Paste functions by which digital design works.
It’s the same way with running and riding. While running gear and shoes have advanced, and cycling equipment is far more comfortable, you still have to put one foot in front of the other as fast as you can go. And a cyclist must pedal, keep cadence and climb through pain.
It all comes down to simple principles. When the legs are hurting, it doesn’t matter how pretty you look or how expensive your bike may be. You still have to tell your thighs to shut up and your lungs to suck in the oxygen.
Our sports are simply designed that way. And that’s what I love about them.