Your local APR or chaingang used to be the domain of the ‘noisy vet’*, but now these individuals are finding they don’t even have to ride a bike anymore to abuse those younger/fitter/faster & more knowledgeable than themselves. We delve into the murky world of online cycling forums & who’s in there, lurking in the cyber-darkness.
*Definition: ‘The Noisy Vet’: A veteran male rider of low ability who will shout constant instructions at others in the group, “chase down an attack”, “ease up”, “come through easy”, all are simply self-preservation tactics for a rider who is low on form, class & experience (although they all reckon they’re highly experienced, but mostly just very experienced of group one in an APR). They refuse to put their nose in the wind but expect all others to work to their advantage, the ‘noisy vet’ should be dealt with simply, by dropping them, you can’t hear them when they are dropped (we assume they shout while they are on their own too, but nobody knows).
What to expect
Online forums have a genuine productive use in many sports, they are a place where people can inform others about events, results, general news, last-minute changes, helpful advice etc. But most forums include a minority degenerative influence who ‘shout’ the loudest, where topics are ruined by inappropriate humour, innuendo & downright lies, dissolving previously productive discussions into mayhem and potentially libellous subject matter. Enter the world of the cycling forum, but be prepared for what you may find & expect any postings you make to be shot down in flames, even if you asked a simple question. You’ll find lots of pseudonyms, so you’ll rarely know the real identity of who you’re conversing with, just like many of those dirty unidentified bloggers (!).
Forums come is various guises, from a club forum with very local input, to regional & national ones, then onto international ones where national rivalries come very much into play. The closer you are to home the less conflict you’ll get, but any conflict is likely to be highly personal.
A club forum is going to be your best & safest bet for a quiet life, where it’s highly likely that most users will be known personally, which leads to a less abrasive attitude from the ‘noisy vet’ mentality, they may have to speak to you in person at some point. Bear in mind that the ‘noisy vet’ mentality is not just confined to male veteran riders, the online displays associated with this character type can be found in many ‘non-type’ individuals who lose a sense of perspective when online. It would be prudent to get involved in some serious moderation if your club has a forum, especially if it’s open to non club members, these can be easily controlled and remember that this is what the outside world sees as what your club is all about. Club forums can be an incredibly useful tool for all types of club, it also saves a webmaster constantly updating information, a good club forum can carry out these tasks for you.
The regional & national forums, examples of which are the Braveheart Fund (Scottish), Veloriders (UK) & Time Trialling Forum (Mainly England), are potentially very explosive, but also include plenty of useful information if you’re willing to sift through the nonsense. Often the subject posters will not be using their real names, so many don’t care who they offend & quite often look like they actively offend named users, assuming they can say what they like and nobody will find out. The private message system on these boards generally alerts these so-called anonymous posters victims of their true identity & you’ll often see some users outed to the board in an undignified manner.
The Braveheart forum was started after Scottish Cycling closed down their own forum, possibly due to members asking too many relevant questions, a bit of criticism, or complaining when they didn’t get an answer, SC don’t like criticism, or answers. It’s degenerated somewhat since then & is now largely ignored by most active racers under 40, who use twitter & facebook to arrange, organise things & slag each other off, social media is steadily making forum banter obsolete. As the average age increases, so the viewpoints become outdated & it’s very much out of touch with what’s going on right now. Having seen what’s written on the Braveheart, we can only assume it’s still there as a means to provide some web traffic to the excellent Braveheart Cycling Fund, which provides much-needed assistance to aspiring cyclists & for some other established riders. HERE is a link to the fund, just don’t click on the ‘Communities’ tab if you don’t want to drift into the murky world of the Braveheart forum.
International forums are yet another hotbed of conflict, this is where national stereotypes & grievances with other nations are displayed with varying levels of hostility. You can easily spot this at the Cyclingnews Forum, this was originally an Australian based website, but is now owned by UK-based magazine company. There is plenty of genuine debate, but the board to genuinely fear is the ‘Clinic’, the people who run the forum have directed all doping related threads to this area, and it really is something else. Reading some of the posts, you’ll realise that the Clinic area is one of the worst examples of internet forum bullying & potential slander that you may ever see on an established website. I have no idea how there are no legal issues with it, I assume that anybody who is a target of ‘The Clinic’ is just too afraid to consider legal action against the contributors, some of them must have some mental issues. So one to avoid, unless you can see the funny side, I occasionally have a look, if just for a laugh.
Feel free to get involved with forums, but be aware of what you may find. The disruptive influences are a tiny minority, but you’ll find that they put off other people from posting genuinely interesting information, so look for a forum with good moderators to control the general attitude. As above, you’ll understand that forums generally degenerate depending on the geographical area they cover, so moderated club forums are probably your best bet. Most people lurk for a while, watching what goes on before posting, to get an idea of what’s going on. But my best advice, is to go out and ride your bike instead, most of us have wasted too much time arguing online with OAP’s who don’t ride bikes anymore, if you really have to, just remember, “Don’t feed the trolls” & take into account what Alec Guinness said about internet forums, “You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.”