I talked with Weiss about his baby, "craft blogging" and Portlanders threatening to kick him in the balls.
You’ve been writing about Portland a lot, recently.
Well, I wrote that article in Outside about Portland, and then you guys got beat by Minneapolis in Bicycling recently, which is shameful. I think there was probably bribery involved. Bicyling’s crooked, I’m sure.
You know you’re coming to Portland during PedalPalooza, a big bike fun festival where anyone can lead a bike ride. Which ride are you going to lead?
I dunno if I’m cut out to lead a ride. I saw someone someone on a Portland fixed gear forum say there should be a 2008 theme ride for me because that’s the last time my blog was worth anything. So maybe I’ll do that, I’ll lead the “2008 Bike Snob is Over” ride.
Don’t tell me you’re taking your cues from online fixed gear forums.
Come on! That’s the pulse! Fixed gear forums are the lifeblood of bike culture, right?
I hope not.
Yeah. Well, I dunno, someone might just have to sign me up for one. I’ll have to look at that schedule, I’m only there for that one day, because I’ve got the baby coming. And then, on that same forum someone said he would kick me in the nuts if he saw me, so I dunno, I might not survive coming back to Portland.
You’ll need to bring a posse. Some bodyguards.
I don’t have any friends! What am I supposed to do?
You could just wear the baby on you at all times.
Yeah, I’ll just have a Baby Bjorn on me and no one could possible hurt me.
So, the baby. Are you going to keep up with writing when it arrives or are you going to take a break for a while?
I’m not planning to take a really long break. We don’t know when the baby’s going to come because they don’t arrive with tracking numbers, which I think is stupid.
I’m wondering whether being a father is going to make your writing go soft. Because I’ve read your book, and it’s really actually very sweet and sincere. It’s like someone, perhaps a young child, has melted your heart. In the middle you talk about learning to ride a bike and you describe the bike as being your bliss and it’s not snide or snobby at all.
You don’t sound very happy about that. A book’s more personal. It’s more personal to write and it’s more personal to read. Someone is sitting down with a book. It’s just you and the book. Whereas on the blog, it’s a group enterprise because although I’m writing it, there are people in the comments and posting links and videos. It’s a group thing, it’s dynamic. I feel a book is just more sincere, or a little more treacley or whatever you want to call it. And it’s okay to be yourself a little more in the book. The blog has its tone, it’s its own thing. It’s me but it’s not me.
How did you approach writing the book differently than the blog?
It’s a quieter, more contemplative process which is why the tone of it is different. And I’m also thinking less about highly specific things than I am about why I like to ride and what I hope and what I’d like to share with people and about saying something that’s not going to be stale in a week.
Do you evangelize to your friends in New York who don’t ride bikes?
No, no! The person I had in mind when I wrote the book wasn’t someone who was just not interested in riding a bike. There’s always going to be people who will just not ride no matter what and that’s okay. The person I had in mind was the person I think we’ve all been at some point who sees biking and is interested in it but thinks, ‘Oh I couldn’t do that. I’m not cool enough to ride one of those bikes, or I’m too much of a wuss to ride my bike in traffic.’ That’s the kind of person I wanted to speak to, because I’ve certainly been there.
I think it’s funny that the blurbs on the back of your book, the first one is from Lance Armstrong and the second is from that guy who wrote Stuff White People Like. I think that’s a funny zone to occupy, right between Lance Armstrong and Stuff White People Like.
Exactly. And the other thing I wanted to say in the book was to speak to the person who’s curious about cycling and needs someone to knock down the intimidating stuff. It’s funny that cycling has such a part in the pop culture. And I make fun of that, but it’s also entertaining. I mean, part of the reason I think that my blog works and people like it is riding your bike is just as much a part of the pop culture as music. It’s mature enough that people are ready to read more than just a how-to or what happened in the pro peloton or a review of the bike.
You know, I was really surprised to see your face on the cover of Momentum magazine, because you look EXACTLY like Jonathan Maus, who runs BikePortland.org. What’s the deal with the bike bloggers and the facial hair?
I dunno, maybe it’s the same deal as framebuilders and facial hair. They all have facial hair like me, too. Maybe it’s a craftsman thing.
You’re a craft blogger now?
Yeah, I’m a craft blogger. It’s a one-man operation. I’m an artisan.
Going on this tour, you’re going to be meeting all these people you know on the internet. How do you feel about meeting all the people who read your blog?
It’s great! I had my first signing in Brooklyn this Saturday and that was the first time I appeared in public on part of the book and met people who read the blog and all that. I was really nervous beforehand, but it was a lot of fun. It was a great feeling.
No one kicked you in the balls?
No, no one kicked me in the balls. But someone brought a pennyfarthing! I’d never gotten to ride one before, but it was really cool and really terrifying. I mean, talk about the history of cycling, it’s amazing that that was the contraption that made cycling popular. There must be something in our DNA that makes us want to ride bicycles.