All right, here’s the deal…and you’re probably not going to like it. You know what, I know you won’t, I guarantee it. But just so you know ahead o’ time, I’m NOT sorry about it. I’m not. I think we really need to bust this dialog wide open. So, are you ready? Are you sure? OK, then…
You’re a dick.
Further more, nobody REALLY wants to ride bikes with you. You think all is cool because you do have a few friends that WILL ride with you, but that’s only because they’re dicks too. OK? Do you see it yet? No? I didn’t think so.
I have. I’ve seen it first hand. I’ve been riding bikes for a very long time. And believe me when I say you can be a real judgmental, elitist dick. And you have to stop….seriously. And here’s the thing, I’m personally not off the hook here…because when I’m saying “you” I mean me too, I mean all of us cyclists. I know, I know….you’re thinking “HEY! Wait a minute I’m not a dick, you asshole! My shit doesn’t stink.” Well, yeah it does, occasionally your shit DOES stink. And it stinks bad. It’s not hard to be nice, to be pleasant. It really isn’t hard, you just have to make that first step. Here, let me help you, the first few steps should look exactly like this:
That’s it….easy-peasy. Right?
No, not easy at all it seems….it still seems to be very hard for some. You know who I’m talking to here…I’m talking to the roadies. That’s right I said it. I know picking on roadies is a hugely popular thing to do…being the low-hanging fruit and all. But they are their own worst enemies, they put themselves on that low branch. Don’t ya think? I do. I know it’s a very general statement….you don’t have to tell me. But I believe that general statements have some truth to them because they are “generally” true. Right? I mean the saying “don’t be such a roadie” is an actual saying because it comes from somewhere, right? But as easy as it is to pick on the roadies, I am not going to go on a roadie bashing tangent. Even though, I believe they are the biggest culprit when it comes to being closed off, judgmental, unfriendly and just being a dick to other cyclists and trail users out there on a far more regular basis. I know, it happens with mountain bikers as well, sure. But with mountain bikers, it just seems to be the exception to the rule, not the main criteria to becoming a member in the dickhead club. And I have to say this, and again, I’m not sorry, but when I run in to a dick on a mountain bike ride, they are 8 outta 10 times just a roadie on a mountain bike. So…yeah.
In my opinion, there are some reason’s for this. So I will drop some quick, little history on ya.
Back in the day when mountain biking was the new kid on the block, it was roadies like Tom Ritchey and Gary Fisher that helped pave the way for the production mountain bike. But still roadies and mountain bikers ended up not getting along at all. As a cyclist, you seemed to end up in one of the two camps…it was like the Sharks and the Jets…I mean there was no singing and dancing going on, but the disdain grew for one another just the same. And even though mountain biking was born out of an actual race (the Repack downhill race) surprisingly, to this day, it’s identity doesn’t revolve around the racing aspect of the sport. While the mountain biker, was fighting everyone…hikers, equestrians, land owners, the Bureau of Land Management and trail advocates just so they could share the trail with current users and have a place to ride their bikes. They still seemed welcoming to everybody that wanted to ride mountain bikes. The roadie on the other hand, right from the beginning of the mountain bike birth, seemed to push back and put themselves above the mountain bikers…way up on a platform of superiority, that was based almost solely on a rich racing tradition and history. Not cool. It didn’t feel and was not welcoming. I believe this is where their stigma started…in the late 70’s. So, you see what I mean, how they did it to themselves…it didn’t NEED to be like that.
Regardless, the mountain biker remained low key, welcoming, easy going and open to new riders. They didn’t have a “tradition” to fall back on as an excuse to exclude. They were making their own tradition as they went along. Maybe it was the outdoors and the wilderness aspect of this segment of the sport, but the mountain biker would from this point on, join the cycling tourist as the hippies of the cycling world.
I’m bringing up some MTB history because it kinda helps make my point. All though you need to have some level of fitness to excel in dirty, mountainous terrain on a bicycle, it’s not the main focus of the mountain bike ride. Whereas the road ride doesn’t seem to be like that. Fitness, racing and competitiveness seem to be the corner stone of that segment of cycling…and has been for several decades prior to the birth of mountain biking. My guess is that it’s probably because that’s really all it’s ever been about. I can’t see getting on a road bike with racing geometry to do anything other than race, or at the very least go fast and suffer. That’s kinda the point of that type of bike.
I’m not saying that if you are a cyclist that chooses road or mountain bike racing as your preferred discipline, that this automatically makes you a dick. But if you are a cyclist that chooses road or mountain bike racing as your preferred discipline AND you treat every trail you are on as your own, while consistently putting other trail users, that are both on and off the bike in an unsafe situation for your own personal gains….ON TOP of not being friendly to other trail users, or not following the trail etiquette or being welcoming to other cyclists, your a dick. Plain and simple.
How do I know? I know because I was that cyclist. You have to realize that you have a problem before you can take the steps to be a better, kinder cyclist. I took that first step several years back. Not to make light of being addicted, I was addicted to making sure I remained fast at all costs. Not because it was how I made a living, because it wasn’t. It was just because it made me feel superior. Such a dick. Recovery from this way of thinking started with the first, hard step…
“Hi, I’m Ron…and I’m a dick.”
And let me tell you, I was a dick for a long time. But being a dick burned me out, it really takes a toll on you and on the ride. Something so amazing, riding a bicycle, became a goddamn chore. Putting my costume on, making sure I look as “pro” as possible. Also, making sure I have the latest, greatest bicycle with the latest, greatest in components so I’m not scoffed at by the other dicks I ride with. The anxiety of trying to not be dropped by the stronger riders (strangers or fellow dicks) on any ride I was on. But then working super hard to drop as many as I can…I would even find myself not stopping to help a stranded fellow cyclist that was grounded with a technical issue. I mean if we can’t/won’t watch out for ourselves, what have we become as a community. Seriously. Being that big of a dick was completely exhausting.
So, I found myself taking a few years off from riding regularly. After the hiatus, I came back and changed the way I thought about being a cyclist. What it really meant to me. And it ended up that what it meant to me was:
That’s it. Simple and real freedom. Not just in the way that you would normally think of freedom. But really being free. Being free from the shackles of the poison that is the race culture. A shitty culture that has engulfed my beloved sport. Riding a bicycle is supposed to be fun. I believe that it has stopped being fun for a lot of cyclists out there. They’re just too scared to say anything. Too scared and fearful of being ostracized from their beloved group of dicks they currently ride with. And here-in lies the problem. That is why they are dicks…The fact that you are scared to tell your “friends” that you don’t want to ride like this anymore. Because you know their reaction, the ridicule, the snobbery they will subject you to. Don’t act like you don’t know what I am talking about. These dicks you ride with, they break down instead of build up. They exclude and shame instead of include and encourage. Dicks in the truest form. Come on, take that hard, first step. I got you.
Say it with me: “FUCK YOU!”…No, not that. Too combative. Say: “NO MORE.” There, that’s better.
When I made the choice to ride my bike for the sole purpose of having fun again. Making the bike a tool in my life to not only ride for recreation and exercise, but make it part of my daily life, as transportation. It changed my whole outlook on the bicycle as the world changing, super-efficient human invention that it is. So I vowed to make it fun and comfortable again. I vowed to stop being a dick. Period.
Not being a dick on my bike has changed everything about the actual ride. Just the simple act of acknowledging other trail users, both on and off the bike, by simply saying “hi” has changed the feeling on the trail within that little 20′ diameter of space as our worlds pass so close on the trail. The tension and animosity has seemed to vanish in that short time we share on the trail.
Not being a dick has helped me to realize that as cyclists, we are ambassadors for our sport. I believe we have a responsibility to be welcoming to everybody that wants to ride. And that includes the professionals in the industry as well as the bike shop employees. we all have the responsibility to put the new cyclist on a bike that will encourage more riding, making the bike that they just bought, a comfortable and inclusive part of there everyday life…and encourage the purchase as just that…even if it means turning the customer to a hybrid type bike and create a customer for life, and not the more expensive road bike that you know in your heart that they won’t be comfortable on. You are only selling discouragement. The bike will eventually sit, and they will stop riding it. Another car on the road and another bike in the garage. In other words, another lost opportunity. Step up and do what’s good for the sport on a whole, not what’s best for the shop, your commission or the bottom line…and if you can’t see that they are same in the long run, you should quit.
I am here to tell you to stop being a dick. That’s all. Try really hard to break the shackles. Lose the racing attitude, and drop all of the baggage that you carry with it. Ride your bike to have fun again. Come over to the good side of cycling where you belong. Change the way you think about and the way you look at your bicycle. Embrace something new. Smile and say “hi” to other cyclists. Take your hand off the bar and make sure they see your cycling, smiling face. It won’t really lower your heart rate that much if any, or stop you from getting a “PR” or “KOM”…and so what if it does, right? We are thinking differently now, remember? So, slow down if you are passing someone with ear buds in their ears, a dog on a leash, hikers and joggers, equestrians and especially slow down around the kids. Maybe if you don’t scare the shit out of them or their parents, they may chose to ride a bike in the near future. Big picture people.
Be kind and courteous to every trail user. It really feels good. Get out of yourself for a bit, it’s nice. It really is pretty easy to do, just change your outlook, and ask yourself what cycling means to you. If it is about racing and training, that’s awesome….try to do that without being a dick. OK?
If cycling means smiling to you, ride your bike as much as you can. Park your car, buy a basket and take your bike more places. Smile more. It’s good.
Here’s to spreading the bicycle love and joy…it really can ONLY lead to great things for the planet and the cycling community.
Thanks for reading.