There’s a caveat that comes with this post: It is based on my experience. Yours may differ, but more importantly, your perception of what you experience may render the words written in this post moot. Let me be clear, that’s your fault and problem, not mine.
That said, a woman by the name of Paige who follows my blog, asked the following question about purchasing a hybrid: “…if I get a hybrid will the “real” riders laugh at me?”
Now, let me explain something here that is very important… There are “real” cyclists – most people see them as pampas jerks. Then there are real cyclists and they are very much great people, if cautious. After two full seasons of riding in the advanced group, I would finally say I am a real cyclist (not to be confused with a “real” cyclist). Out of all of the 30-40 men and women I ride with on a regular basis, not one is a “real” cyclist.
Allow me to explain a key word: Cautious. Nothing can make a group of tough grown men and women (real cyclists) more nervous than a long-tailed cat in a roomful of half-blind grannies on rocking chairs than a shaky noob in the group. We ride very expensive equipment at high speeds, often with only inches between us. Hurtling down the road at 25 mph is no place for a “hey, you’re a little shaky on your bike, let’s work on that for a couple of miles” conversation. When you show up for the advanced ride, you are expected to know how to handle yourself on your bike. We all make mistakes, but someone who has no clue what it means to ride in a group is flat-out dangerous so they are generally dropped as soon as possible, purposely.
Just two weeks ago I happened upon a small group, one of whom fit the description above. He was bad and darn near crashed me six times inside of five minutes. I went off the front of that small group in search of greener pastures, not because I’m a jerk but because I want to make it home to see my wife and kids, sans trip to the hospital to get a femur set. Now if you want to call that aloof, I’m okay with it. A year ago (two seasons), I was a green noob. I was invited to ride with the advanced folks by a very respected member of that group. I practiced for months, holding a straight line, keeping a consistent speed and reading literature on proper pace line etiquette before actually showing up, so when I did, I already knew how to behave in that setting (this is how it should be done).
With that little bit out of the way, I’ll turn my focus to “real” cyclists. These are the pricks you see heading the other way at speed, solo, who will look you right in the eye and not return a wave. First, look for something a little more subtle, a nod of the head is common (real cyclists sometimes choose to keep their hands on the bars). Often, real cyclists use subtle gestures rather than large movements amongst themselves to distinguish the real cyclist from the noob – in other words, they’re saying to you, “yo, you look like a real cyclist too so I don’t have to raise up out of my awesomely aero cycling position and interrupt my cadence to acknowledge your presence because you look like you’re adept enough to pick up on my subtle nod”. If you’re not, you miss it and mistakenly think he’s a jerk. On the other hand, some “real” cyclists are just plain old jerks. We real cyclists do have those among us. We’re no different from any other group, though I can say this: I can’t do anything to make those jerks nice. They’re jerks! What I can do, what I do, is my best to represent cycling and real cyclists well.
So, would I, a real cyclist, laugh at anyone for choosing a hybrid? Of course not, that would be silly! Does that mean all “real cyclists” won’t? Uh, no, though I couldn’t for the life of me imagine why. Now, if you showed up to the advanced ride with a hybrid, you would be looked at skeptically for sure, until you show A) that you can actually keep up on an inferior bike [which is actually seen as impressive], and B) that you know what you’re doing on that hybrid – but laughed at? Well maybe a “real” cyclist would laugh at another cyclist, but probably not just for choosing a hybrid.
In the end, we are all ambassadors for cycling. I do my part to represent, not just the real cyclists, but all cyclists – that’s the responsibility of all cyclists. The question we must ask ourselves is this; “Am I doing my part”? Are you?
When you see me on my race bike, with my matching helmet, jersey, shoes, shorts and shades, looking quite awesome and fast, do you assume I’m a “real” cyclist?
UPDATE: Be sure to check out the comments – it’s a lively discussion. For those who hate “real” cyclists (the pampas jerks), read magnuminsp’s comment. Fantastic tale.
Well, my bike problem is fixed… I don’t know how to write about this without running someone through the mud (and possibly the wrong party) so now that the problem is fixed and there is no more need for consternation on my part, I’m going to let this fart blow away in the wind.
(Did I get your attention?)
I’m a cyclist…
A cyclist who has had several close calls with automobiles (including tonight) and even been sideswiped once this year. I wear bright and reflective clothing. I always have a tail light flashing (even in the broad daylight). I’m careful. I get it. I’m a Cyclist!
I’m a driver…
I drive my kids 30 minutes to school every morning. I own a convertable and love to put the top down and just…. drive! I enjoy the country roads. I enjoy the Dan Ryan Expressway. I’m aware. I’m safe. Being a cyclist makes me a better driver. All that to say…
I’m gonna take off my cycling helmet and go on a motorist’s rant.
I had two run-ins this morning with cycling noobs. They didn’t look like noobs, but they acted like noobs.
Scenario #1 – The aggressive kamikazee
This is the guy who…
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