Here’s Webster’s definition of “Cyclist”:
:one who rides a cycle
First Use: 1882
Simple enough, no? Maybe not. You’d hardly want to lump yourself in with those spandex wearing crazy people who ride a hundred miles at a time if you’re a commuter, would you? Or the same could be said for those Lycra wearing crazy folks – they wouldn’t want to be lumped in with those folks who ride a bike that weighs slightly less than a moped, eh?
While most cyclists would never bother looking down their nose at other cyclists, there exists in every cyclist with an inferiority complex, the notion that this is the case. In most instances, perceived aloofness can be attributed to something else entirely. Alas, it is an imperfect world.
I made the mistake of not explaining myself well enough in a post about why I’m grateful for being a cyclist and was called out as an elitist snob (mea culpa, mea culpa) because “anyone who rides a bike is a cyclist”. I, most definitely, am not an elitist snob but the fella did have a good point. I should have clarified by using “avid enthusiast” rather than the all-encompassing “cyclist”. The point is, my minor mistake was misunderstood as aloofness when it was simple, unintentional and far less ominous (I did change the post immediately, however).
For that reason, I thought it necessary to compile a comprehensive sub-categorical list of the different types of cyclist. Both so you, my fellow cyclists, and those new to the sport, can avoid such unnecessary pitfalls. These are meant as self-identifiers, not pigeon-holes. Place yourself where you like, just remember; whiners ride solo. In some of the groups below, I mention “The Rules”. I am referring to the rules as published by Velominati. If you have never heard of the rules, I will say a prayer for you as a “cyclist”.
One last note, before we delve in… I’m calling this “The Fossil Cyclist Rule”: Once you identify with a group, age cannot shake you out if it. In other words, once an Avid Enthusiast, always an Avid Enthusiast. Because the individual may identify with whichever group they choose, provided they give it their best effort to be an upstanding member of said group and adhere to the mores of said group, getting old should not be cause to cast one from the ranks. In addition, the younger members should always seek to shelter the experienced members in group rides until such a time as they choose to drop with dignity to find a group riding at a more suitable pace. The only exception shall be the whiner, who may be dropped like a dirty shirt within the first quarter-mile (if not sooner).
The Competitive Cyclist (AKA Racer, Categorized Cyclist, etc.): These are the people who have the legs to use a bike that costs as much as a cheap new car (even if they don’t have one). Skin-tight Lycra, socks either 3″ or 5″ above the ankle and tan likes that look like they were cut with a laser. The “rules” are followed meticulously. They are the most often mistaken for aloof, though some can be. They’re, for the most part, lean, mean and fast – and most of them will happily pass along the tricks of the trade. Just know you’ll be disappointed if you’re expecting anything more than pedal till you puke. Then, keep pedaling some more,
The Avid Enthusiast: Not to be confused with the Competitive Cyclist, the Avid Enthusiast will ride anything from an entry-level race bike (not an entry-level road bike) to a full race bike or anything in between and wear the full complement of race-wear, mainly adhering to the “rules” but can’t quite hold the Competitive Cyclist’s pace, generally because they don’t want to, or don’t have the time (or drive) to work hard enough to get to that level. Put simply, the Avid Enthusiast loves everything about the sport but refrains from turning it into a job (you’ll know us when you see us – we’re the cycling nuts).
The Roadie: The term “Roadie” covers all forms of Road Cyclists from the Competitive Cyclist through the Fitness Road Cyclist and, in instances where hippiedom doesn’t warrant exemption, for commuters as well (this exemption is self-imposed).
The Triathlete/Time Trialist: Typically a loner, because the athlete cannot draft in an event, this cyclist will spend hours on end flying solo. While not limited to the specially modified “Time Trial” or “Triathlon” bike, most experienced endurance triathletes and time trialists will use one. Extreme caution should be used in conjunction with exceptional experience when riding one of these bikes in a group. Their use is typically frowned on because their riders cause so many accidents and near-misses due to the location of the brakes.
Fitness Road Cyclist: The Fitness Cyclist (including distance cyclists) typically don’t hold the same pace as the Avid Enthusiast and are often unimpressed with “rules”, matching kit (including shoes, helmet, jersey, sunglasses, pedals, etc.). They cover a wide range of fitness levels but are mainly in it for the weight loss or control thereof (or to maintain the ability to eat like a race horse). They are typically just as happy riding solo as they are with a group and typically don’t trouble themselves with “keeping up” with Avid Enthusiasts or Competitive Cyclists.
The Coffee Shop Cyclist/Snack Cyclist: It’s all about the journey, the destination and then the journey again. The “rules” are generally considered stupid if they’re considered at all.
The Randonneur: it’s all about the journey because it’s usually unbelievably long, and when you have to pack a camping weekend (or longer) onto your bike, average speeds take a back seat. The Randonneur is tough in a sheer determination sense, to see the world from a saddle of a bike.
The Commuter: Commuters are an incredibly diverse bunch. They’ll ride anything from a mountain bike to a full road bike and pride themselves in riding a bicycle in conditions that most wouldn’t go outside in and some wouldn’t drive a car in. A true die-hard bunch, what they lack in top speed, they make up for in grit.
The Cyclocross Cyclist: A cyclocross’er is a rare breed, indeed. Drawn to the dirt but with a love of the sleek road bike, Cyclocross’ers seek to have it both ways by fitting a sub-twenty pound road bike with thicker, knobby tires for trail use. The rules are generally strictly adhered to, though, as a Cyclocross’er’s “on the fence” nature would suggest, there’s no telling which rules to stick to and which to forsake. You’re pretty much on your own.
The Mountain Biker: No rules, just ride over terrain that would have normal sane people sh!tting their drawers. Tailgate barbecue dinner (or burgers or dogs) are the preferred after ride meal. Don’t forget the mosquito spray.
The Competitive Mountain Biker: Lycra is acceptable, no other rules, no shaved legs, just ride over terrain that would have most sane people sh!tting their pants, really, really frickin’ fast.
The Fitness Mountain Biker: A little more subdued, the fitness mountain biker is okay with dirt roads, easier single-tracks and enjoying the dirt. Definitely no rules. Cargo shorts and a Fox shirt/jersey.
The BMX’er: All about the stunts and ride bicycles fourteen sizes too small. Top speed, 16 mph with a cadence of 180 rpm (give or take).
The Leisure Cyclist: The Leisure Cyclist is the one with the beach comber who would rather ride at a jogger’s pace than get sweaty. They most definitely have the patience of a saint and lack ADD altogether. They’re just out for some fresh air.
The DUI Cyclist: Yup, we’ve all seen ’em (or been them, ahem). This is the fella who lost his license so he bought a cheap big box bike and rides it everywhere, at an average pace of less than ten miles an hour.
The Cyclist Groupie: This wonderful, if rare person will hang out on cycling blogs and with cyclists “to enhance their coolness. Oddly enough, they’re often exceptional people and go by the name of Paige.