So, You Think You’re a Cyclist?

Hi all. Miss me? I know I haven’t posted in awhile. I’m kinda sorry about that, but mostly not. Anyway, the reason I haven’t written in awhile is because I haven’t really been inspired to. I mean I’ve been riding and all but nothing has sparked the juices, if you know what I mean. OK, good.

And then this happened…

So, I am at work the other day (you know, that stupid thing we do between riding our bikes) and I get this call from a “plastic” bike rider. Now, I’m not trying to be a dick, it’s mostly just a running joke between us. Plus this person doesn’t run around flaunting their “plastic” bike acting like they are superior to everyone else because of their bicycle choice. And it’s not like they are acting like their frame of choice is the second coming of Christ. But still, this person hasn’t really experienced anything else. This person hasn’t ridden other types of bikes, that’s to say a bike with a different frame material. Not that they have to. I’m just saying.

Anywho. Not that the person that called me acts this way but most people that ride “plastic” bikes have this weird “I have the latest-greatest-my-frame-is-lighter-than-air” kinda swagger to their walk. I will tell you though, that the person that called is a new-to-cycling-but-I’m-faster-then-everybody-else kind of “plastic” bike rider. So, while they are on the phone with me they say, and I’m paraphrasing here, “hey, ass-face, I actually read your crappy blog whenever you post, and I have to say something.” And I reluctantly say “oh yeah, what?” Well this person proceeds to tell me that they are getting offended by my “judgmental” and “harsh” words about them and their friends. Then they tell me that they ride and quite enjoy their “plastic” bike. They said they also ride with a big club. And then they mentioned their average speed on various rides. Now, I believe they let me in on this information for the sole reason of letting me know how super fit they are. I’m probably wrong. Ok, then they let me know they ride in a pace-line at high speeds on a multi-use trail. On and on they went…I mean the person on the other end of the phone went on kinda ridin’ my ass, and bustin’ my chops and giving me an all around bad time…..HELLO?! Good morning!?

Well, needless to say, I was getting a little bit riled up. It was my blog, and I warned you all in the very first post on this blog, that I am opinionated.

So….back to the person on the phone. So, they were kinda calling me out. And I was like: “who the hell was this “cyclist” to call me out like this?” I thought they “read my blog”…they know who their dealing with here!

I guess the thing that struck me the most about our conversation, the point I took away from it was, that this person made it sound like they think that I have some kind of hostility towards other cyclists that don’t do the cycling thing the way I do.

Look. Here’s the deal. This person that called me couldn’t be farther off base. I love all cyclists. I love seeing all types of people enjoying the absolute bliss that is riding a bike. Fast, slow, fat tires, skinny tires, Heavy, thin, titanium, scandium, steel, carbon, bamboo, beach cruiser, tri-bike…I don’t care. Just that your riding a bike is cool with me. Does just riding a bike make you a cyclist? Does being able to ride a bike really fast make you a cyclist? In my opinion, no.

Let me explain before you get all: “God, what’s the matter with you? You’re such a fuckin’ elitist!”

Maybe I am a bit. Sorry. I’m just being honest.

Back to this person that called me. Now, I have to admit there are a little bit o’ sour grapes here. I have been doing this (being a cyclist) for a very long time and I don’t appreciate this “new” person waltzing into MY deal and screwing the whole thing up…well, when I say “screwing it up” I really mean “showing me up”. There, I said it. Happy?

OK, so now shit’s about to get a little personal. Buckle up. Seriously, I am trying to be constructive. But regardless, this will either go well by falling on receptive ears or start World War Three. Now, let me preface this with the fact that I know this person that called me very, very well.

So here we go. Is this person that called me, a cyclist? What is a cyclist? I will tell you what I think a cyclist is. First, here is the actual definition: “Cyclist; a person who rides or travels by bicycle, motorcycle, or the like.” Now, that sounds so wonderful and encompassing, doesn’t it? Well it should, the definition dates back to 1880-85. It’s not that way now. First of all, no one these days would call a motorcyclist a cyclist. Right? OK, so take that out of the definition and it makes sense to today’s standard. It is still very encompassing but makes more sense. So a person that just merely “rides or travels by bicycle” in the late 1880’s is a cyclist. OK, cool.

In my opinion, it takes more than that to be a “cyclist” in 2015.

So back to the question at hand. Does just riding a bike make you a cyclist? In my opinion, no. Does riding a bicycle really fast make you a cyclist? Again, in my opinion, no. It doesn’t. Now, don’t get me wrong, this person that called me on the phone can ride a bike…I mean they can ride a bike like a bat outta hell! Seriously. Faster then most I know. This person also refers to themselves as a cyclist and that’s fine. But has this person earned the title? They think they have. And in their close knit group of riders they actually may have. But in my grouchy, full-of-scrutiny-judgy-eyes, I’m sorry, I don’t think so, no, they haven’t, not yet anyway. I’m not trying to be mean. It’s how I feel. Please, let me explain.

I believe that when you are good nay, great at something it doesn’t mean that you have a full grasp of whatever it is you are doing. To quote Ludwig Von Beethoven, “To play a wrong note is insignificant, to play without passion is inexcusable.” That’s a great quote. And it totally applies here. I think this person that called me lacks a lot knowledge of cycling and it’s affiliated culture. This will make said person mad, but like I said earlier, this is my opinion only. And to cut this person a large amount of slack here, they are fairly (3 years) new to the sport. They also are not lacking the passion for the journey they are partaking in to becoming a cyclist. They are in the process, hard at work, paying their dues to be a part of this club called cycling.

But still…

Let me explain some more (read: get on my high horse). Now, let’s say this person lacks passion for cycling in it’s purest, most stripped down form. The bicycle. You can be a fast, efficient, medal winning, race winning athlete on a bike but it doesn’t mean that you are a cyclist. You can want to ride all of the time but it still doesn’t make you a cyclist. Correct, these are all key ingredients to becoming a cyclist. But like cooking, leave an ingredient out and you fall short of delicious.

I feel very strongly that to be a cyclist you have to focus on the one tool you use to get it done. The bicycle. Know it, live it, love it. The body is secondary. Sure, I know, I know, your body is the motor. Well in my opinion, your knowledge of the bicycle, it’s history and the sports history still comes first. You should know a few of cycling’s greats, both present and past. You have to know how to talk “bike.” You don’t have to know everything, but a lot. You need to know how to work on your own bicycle, know how it works and be able to repair it on the road, trail or your garage. Sometime your life may depend on it. You need to know all of the names of all of the parts of your bike. I think it is important to pay homage to the past by acknowledging it in current, modern ways. Go ahead and embrace technology, but don’t do it while ignoring the past. I think a cyclist needs to “feel” the pain that the older guys felt when they were riding what they had to ride. You know, hold onto and hoist yourself up into the current technology by using the knowledge and infinite wisdom of the older cyclists. Sure it’s a long gone past but believe it or not, it is still very relevant to the reason you ride what you ride. Trust me on this point. Reach out to other disciplines of cycling. Even try them if you can. Go to a velodrome race. Go to a cyclocross race. These are just some things you can do to help really get and understand what it means to be a cyclist. It will for sure help you come into your own as a cyclist.

So back to this person that called me. They have worked really hard and suffered a lot while continuing to pay their dues in their cycling club. They are riding in the front of their group rides, pulling some of the fastest guys in that club at the front of the pack. Make no mistake, they will hand you your ass. But as far as cycling goes, or being a cyclist…in my opinion…that is only the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more to it.

But this person (my little sister) knows that and she acknowledges that she is not there yet. But I know she will get there soon…hell, she has me helping her along….so there’s that. Am I right?

As for me….I will continue my two wheel love affair while worshiping all of my bicycles and their individual gift that each one gives me. That’s nice, huh? Now get outside and go ride your bike. Seriously.

6 thoughts on “So, You Think You’re a Cyclist?

  1. Bike snobbery is a strange emotion that pops out in people. Maybe if I was a Psych degree I would understand it all. I think snobbery shows up in people because they are unsure of their positions and stands they take in their lives. It is like the guy who shows up at a football game party in the full outfit/jersey but does not really know the game or the players or what the heck is going on in the game. He just wants to argue with somebody who is wearing the other teams jersey.
    Ha! There was a guy who posted today on the Surly group that sometimes when he posts a picture of his bike he makes his saddle angle all weird to just set off the bike snobs and get comments. Made me laugh!!!


    1. Hey Jim,
      Maybe it’s that we all want to be a part of something…a movement, a cause or a club. It’s human nature I believe as we are a social animal…some like more solitude some like more pack/herd mentality.

      That’s funny on the seat angle. I missed it…sounds like something I would’ve enjoyed. Thanks for reading and partaking…


  2. Well… I dunno what I am…but I commute via bike 30 miles round trip…and I wear lots of wool… Oh and it’s a Surly… Rack panniers…Dynamo light… But I’ll say the snobbery go’s both ways… I have moderate knowledge of bikes…and I can do some basic repairs… But I can’t stand it when as a ‘cyclist’ I have to deal with bike shop snobbery from staff… I’m a firm believer in ‘ride up grades, don’t upgrade’ when it comes to cycling…but when I am at a bike shop with questions don’t make me feel like an idiot for asking questions…or give me the face that I’m lying to you when I told you my commute is 30 miles round trip after you asked ME how far my commute is.

    I think they are all cyclists.

    Spandex superhero
    Commuter (for men anyway, the longer the beard the greater chance you will see them in terrible weather commuting)

    Homeless (riding wrong way, with grocery kart)
    Bike riding blogger (wink)

    But people who ride ebikes ARE NOT CYCLISTS (wink)

    Some are just more Ahole than others…and some blog about it….or call bike shops to complain. (Smug wink)


    1. Hi Pierce,
      I think it boils down to one thing. To be a cyclist, in my opinion, the bicycle becomes a lifestyle. Not just something you occasionally do.
      Thanks for taking the time to read!


  3. I think we all fall in and out of different states of being as we get older. We’re “gamers” or “cyclists” or “motorcyclists”, or “hikers” – etc, etc. The ones that matter the most are the ones that tend to stick long after we’re done with all of our other phases. The rest of it is just insecurity talking. A need to belong backed by an inalienable need to justify ourselves (to ourselves) and others.

    Great blog – keep it up.


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