Bicycle Society: The Singletrack to Enlightenment
Bicycle Society is a leaderless cult organized by Bill Scanga from Brooklyn, New York. Bicycle Society warns us to not follow the 'false metrics' and to explore our innerspaces as cyclists. In this interview we discuss the differences between hammering and shredding, whether cycling is a religion or not and how it's possible for anyone to find The Shred.
Over the last 4 years, I have embarked on a journey of self-improvement that has transformed me from a career-focused alcoholic into a freelance, forest-bathing bike writer. Along the way, I have perused every self-help book on the market and, more importantly, acted on most of them. I have become more mindful of the food I eat, the way I think, and the way I interact with others. This transformation has literally turned my life around, and I couldn't be happier. A significant part of my journey involved rediscovering my love for cycling and dedicating myself to it. However, as I delved deeper into the world of Strava metrics, average speeds, and KOMs, I began to feel like my old demons were creeping back. I found myself questioning if I was fast enough, if I rode long enough, and if I would ever race again.
And then... I discovered Bicycle Society on Instagram—a source of support that we didn't even know we needed. Bicycle Society's feed is filled with motivational mantras that urge us to focus on The Shred instead of false metrics. You might be asking yourself, "What exactly is The Shred?" Is it a mindset, a destination? Well, that's what we're hoping to uncover in this interview. We had the pleasure of chatting with Bill Scanga, the self-proclaimed non-leader of Bicycle Society, who hails from Brooklyn, New York, to learn more about The Shred and the path to achieving it. Also a quick disclaimer for those of you that can't recognize satire… this might be. But then again, maybe it isn't. You decide.
Are you a self-help guru or a cult leader?
Neither. The Bicycle Society has no leader and follows no guru. The Bicycle Society is a cult that is from within each of us. We are a self supported cult with no sweep van. We are each our own team captain and domestique. There is no hierarchy in the Bicycle Society. Bicycle Society is an internally laterally organized club with an infinite membership within each of us. You already are a member. We are all members and you are your own leader.
How does shredding heal while hammering hurts?
Hammering is a single minded obsession with false metrics. Metrics that require you to ride fast when there is so much more than speed. Metrics that require you to follow rules that were not made for you. The metrics were designed to be hurtful. The metrics were created to make a few people feel good at the expense of an infinite amount of others.
The metrics were designed to be hurtful. The metrics were created to make a few people feel good at the expense of an infinite amount of others.
Shredding is healing. Shredding is everything and nothing. Shredding is the Ride and the recovery day. Shredding is the climbs and the descents. Shredding is the headwinds and the tailwinds. Shredding is holistic and inclusive. Shredding is a healing force and includes everything. Beauty and love can't be measured. Beauty and love are the Shred.
So, is cycling a religion?
Cycling is not unlike a religion but is not a religion. Religion is clearly defined. Religion includes what you should believe, why and how to do so. Certain groups of Hammerers and toxic bros would like you to believe this is true. That the false metrics are gospel and a path towards enlightenment but this is not true. Religion has rules and mandatory rituals.
Cycling is a spirituality. The metrics are a tool to be used not worshiped. We are more than the bike, the metrics, and our bodies. We are the ride. There are no specific gods, just what we find within ourselves.
How do I change from someone who hammers to someone who shreds?
There are certain rituals and practices but these are not requirements. Candles, crystals and incense can be used but are not necessary. There is no prescribed way to Shred. We each find ways to shred that can be very different from others. It may be waiting for your friend at the top of a hill, it may be sharing some extra snacks. Bombing a descent while stabilizing frame wobble, clearing a gap, a weightless feeling mid jump. It can include route making and trespassing. Pushing your bike or carrying your bike and eating pizza.
What do I do if I love someone who hammers?
You can't love others unless you love yourself. The hammer is not a long term plan and eventually the one you love will find the more sustainable Shred.
Can everyone be saved? Or are some of us doomed for eternity?
We all are already saved and there is no impending cataclysm. We are not a doomsday cult. The Doom should be embraced, the teachings of Black Sabbath, the elegy of Saint Vitus, and the dirge of Sleep are the hymns of the Bicycle Society. Along with new age drone music and self help instructional recordings doom is often used during the optional rituals.
Can you tell us about who you are IRL and how you first saw the light?
I am a cycling enthusiast and bicycle nerd. I enjoy Randonneuring and MTB trail riding. I dislike triathlons and roadie bros. The light from within was sparked when with the purchase of a Schwinn Sting Ray. My friends and I quickly discovered we could remove the fenders, chain guards and banana seats to create an all-rounder bicycle that was suitable for all surfaces. This eventually evolved into BMX. During bmx racing in the 80's, it was made clear that racing was not my path. At that time cycling without racing meant bicycles were treated as child's play things. Even though we were told that the car was the end goal, we discovered so much more in the bicycle. Eventually we bought early production ATB's (that is what we called MTB's then) but were not entirely sure what to do with them. We commuted on them, rode them on our BMX trails and hiking trails, we turned them into touring bikes and bike camping bikes, but the light was still a spark at that point.
I eventually moved to a large city where the bicycle could completely change the scale of the city. Riding in NYC was completely transformative. The riding was not very challenging and it led me to sort of fetishize the bicycle itself. Not sexual fetish, rather object worship. Each group of enthusiasts seemed to have their own way to build a bicycle, often not based on performance but rather on something else. I am currently a member (although not very active right now) of a vintage Schwinn club called the Classic Riders. This culminated in a block party called Bicycle Fetish Day. Similar to a car show we gave awards to different categories of bicycles.
Only within the past 10 years or so has the spirituality of the bicycle really become a raging fire. Riding longer distances and pushing beyond what I was actually capable of started feeding the fire. During organized rides like D2R2 or The Nutmeg Nor'easter it became apparent that something else was going on. Finding myself in a spiritual state mid-ride was happening more and more. I started to notice other groups and systems like Smooth Jazz Lines and Mythical State Of and these confirmed that others were having similar experiences. Randonneuring has taken that to another higher level.
How do you come up with your ideas/mantras?
The ride feeds the mind as well as the body. Pizza does too. That feeling after a ride when the mind is wide open ready to receive anything. Ideas can arrive like a supernatural appearance. What are we Shredding instead of? The hammer of course.
How do you see shredding evolving in the future?
There is no future and no past, only here and now. Be present for every ride. The pedal rises and you push it down one pedal stroke at a time. Cycling can be a mindful meditation. A repeated mantra that carries us and takes us to the Shred.
Thanks, Bill 🙏 Join the cult on Instagram