I agree that it’s more about how you ride than what you ride.
But I would say there are a few kit-related cues where you could identify a connoisseur‘s bike if parked next to a noob/Fred/all-the-gear-no-idea type.
A bike that’s 100% brand new stock doesn’t necessarily mean that the owner is clueless, but if on a, say, 1 year old machine, some bits have been swapped out (particularly consumables like tires, brake pads, contact points like saddle, or both like bar tape) then there’s a good chance this rider knows what they like.
If the newest, cleanest piece of clothing they’re wearing is their shorts, and the cleanest part of their bike is the drivetrain.
They might be riding clinchers, but know that if they had tubeless, it would have been better for this ride; but also that there’s no reason not to have a perfectly good ride on 23c rubber.
To me, how someone rides says a lot about their proficiency, not whether they’re a connoisseur. My mind connects the word to someone who is discerning, has a taste for the finer things, something like that.
And this is what bothers me because as much as we like to debate aspects of our sport, it’s not possible to say that something is superior to something else in cycling, the same way one might do with regard to wine or something. As has been pointed out before, the sport is far to diverse for that.
I’d actually agree with @anders1: some cyclists being elitist snobs who maintain that only a bike or outfit above a certain price point is valid do hurt the sport. They hurt accessibility more than bike prices, an oft discussed topic here. Some people tend to take themselves and their respective idea of how their cycling sub-discipline oughta be way to serious.
Having said all that, seeing someone who truly has smoothness and style on the bike is awesome.
This is nonsense. Money you don’t have is and always will be a larger barrier to entrance, in anything, than ‘mean guy hurt my feelings’ and if you’re that easily put off cycling, or whatever your endeavor, because of individual elitist attitudes then you were never really interested to begin with.
Maybe all the people with their fancy (usually custom) bikes that get featured on CyclingTips “Bikes of the Bunch” are an example of what the OP is getting at. They all sound like nice people in the articles. Nice people who are maybe more into the bikes than biking. Like a car collector might be more into the cars than the driving of the cars.
But as far as segmenting cycling enthusiasts based on what they choose for equipment goes… that’s very consumerist.
I’d take someone on an ill-fitting, cheap bike who just goes out and rides lots - always rides -because they simply love riding a bike, as far more of a cycling enthusiast than anyone who’d place themselves in some sort of “superior” classification of enthusiasm because they look fancier, or have fancier stuff, or better fitting stuff.
I think the word “connoisseur” for some people implies a degree of pretension, whether it be wine, cycling, food, clothes, whatever.
To use wine as a comparison, a wine connoisseur knows that white wine goes with fish, and a light red like a pinot is an acceptable alternative.
A wine snob would thus tell you you’re doing it wrong if you order the cabernet with your salmon.
A wine lover knows all the above, but won’t let any of it spoil his dinner, and will tell you that if you like that $10 bottle of supermarket red, then you should drink the hell out of it.
Same with cyclists; A bike connoisseur knows all “The Rules.” A bike snob will insist on following “The Rules,” and enforces them on other cyclists. A Bike lover knows all “the rules,” and knows that it’s a harmless bit of fun, and will proudly announce to others in the know when they are breaking them.
A bike connoisseur knows all the levels of Shimano, Campag and SRAM groupsets, and which they prefer. The snob will only ride one of the 3, and won’t ride/acknowledge anything less than 105/Chorus/Rival. A bike lover prefers one of the 3 big brands, but keeps it to himself, and also knows that the tektro brakes that came stock on your bike are made in the same factory as the name-brand ones that got subbed out of your groupset, and thinks you got a good price on your otherwise-Claris-equipped bike and should ride the hell out of it.
You can get a perfectly fine cheapish bike to enter the sport. No one has to get a 10,000 €/$/£ bike to do so. In this sense I find that the usual lamentations about bikes being too expensive and therefore denying people from entering the sport are wrong.
What makes it hard for people to enter is when their peer group looks down on said perfectly fine cheapish bike and lets them feel like they’re not part of the sport.
These kind of people exist. They might not do so because they’re mean people, it might “just” be a deep sense of consumerism. Or maybe it has to do with what someone earlier attributed to it having become a middle class sport. To be honest, I don’t care. I just happen to think that in this day and age, where we’re all so very anxious not to offend someone, we should also keep in mind that diversity in cycling requires an open playing field.
Someone who knows what’s good, for them/their situation- regardless of cost or trend. They can spot something well made and nicely functional even if it’s not ‘cool’. They’re not cozened by marketing BS, and they buy/maintain and choose with care and thought, not simply to show off what they can afford or post on IG. In my book, they’re utterly happy on 105 - if that suits their purpose and ride that day. Equally, they may be on a brand new TCR with Di2; there’s a reason in each case.
Connoisseurship to me is about taste, and knowledge, and appreciation; it’s not gatekeeping. Appreciating finer distinctions shouldn’t mean casting aspersions on someone else’s choices.
Yeah, but “taste”, “knowledge” and “appreciation” are all so subjective, it does lean towards forming one set of opinions vs another, as clearly shown in the replies here–I think I’ll stick with labeling myself an “enthusiast” with a bit of knowledge thrown in, which leaves all the judgments aside, good or bad, and simply opens the door wide open to all those who enjoy the ride.
I don’t think the typical rider of a custom bike is driven by consumerism - rather by a desire for special craftsmanship and a level of detail that is neither present nor needed in mass production. He may ride less than your happy fool on his ill fitting bike, but at least his knees won’t hurt if he did
My guess is that most owners of custom bikes do a pretty solid mileage, though - and I guess you will find a large percentage of them being connoisseurs of the aesthetics as well as of the tech.
I don’t think it is possible for anyone to actually be a consumer in cycling. Connoisseur means your in expert in taste which I believe means you must have had alot of actualexperience with everything out there to develope that expertise. Ie. drink alot of wine/beer or listen to alot of music. I doubt anyone us actually have enough disposable income to actually have ridden enough bikes out there or worn all the kit to actually become an expert through actual first hand experience. Leaving us instead to just be working from our own theories and personal beliefs. The closest I think you could get to a connoisseur in cycling would be one the actual tech writers who are paid to test and ride gear. The rest of us are just left to being picky and opinionated not actually experts. After all I can drink alot of different beers in a weekend but my wife would kill me if I bought the same number of bikes.
A lot of stuff is obvious, and easy to bling out. You can have a fancy frame, fancy wheels, etc. But if you go out of your way to buy really high end cable outers + inners, especially compressionless housings a la yokozuna or the high end jagwire housings, and have them cut perfectly to length, that to my mind is the mark of somebody who’s put a lot of thought, care, and work into their bicycle.
Don’t agree with that at all–I am NOT a nitpicky “connoisseur” as depicted in this thread, thankfully, but simply a discerning enthusiast–and have tried Yokozuna (mistakenly bought three sets based on the (sponsored?) hype)–worst cables I’ve ever used, simply because they are so rigid they actually impede smooth cornering, providing a bit of push back when you try to turn against the grain, particularly to the left, where the rear brake cable is pushing back against the movement–for those who use external routing, such as myself.