Friday Group Ride #322

Friday Group Ride #322

I am a crappy roadie. I don’t shave my legs. Until very recently, I hadn’t replaced my old broken road shoes, so I’ve been doing road rides in mountain shoes. I don’t train in any real way, so my climbing game is weak, and because I have a family and don’t have a settled ride schedule, I seldom have the fitness to ride for more than 4 hours without turning into a dessicated pile of salty anger.

I am also a crappy trail rider. I play the old-school, hardtail game. No dropper post. No big hucks. My bike handling is pretty good, but I’m not trail wizard either. I have the wrong clothes.

I’m a dumb commuter in that I carry everything on my back. I ride whatever bike I feel like, which is often a custom road bike. I don’t worry about high-viz clothing (though I run bright lights in the dark). I never run fenders and my rain gear is substandard. Commuting is the most practical type of riding, and I’m just not that practical a guy.

That leaves “gravel grinding” which is a dumb way of saying mixed-terrain riding. Gravel almost never enters into it, but that’s a digression. This is the type of riding I do most, a drop bar bike in the woods. It makes mundane single-track more challenging and road riding more interesting. If I am any type of rider, it’s probably this, but it really is the jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none scenario.

It doesn’t bother me that I don’t really fit in any of these categories. I’m a cyclist. I ride a lot. I can fix most things. I can hang on most group rides I show up for. That’s all fine. I have been thinking a lot about how we view cyclists, who looks right on a bike (everybody actually) and who looks wrong, and wondering if our attitudes, our own attitudes as cyclists, is really helping our sport grow.

This week’s Group Ride asks, do you fit any of the categories neatly? Do you fit multiple categories? Do you care? Do you judge other riders? And how much do the set ideas about what a roadie is, for example, influence the gear you buy and the way you ride?


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  1. Fritz

    You sound like my kind of rider!

    Do your ‘road bikes’ have mtb pedals (egg beaters in my case)? Then you’re alright in my books.

    Nobody’s going to be around in a century from now to give a shit what you rode or how you dressed…

    The important thing is that it’s only about you, and how you enjoy those 2 wheels during your (relatively) short stint on this planet. 😉

  2. Sophrosune

    I judge other riders. But whenever I see someone who is clearly trying cycling out for the first time, or just starting, I have a voice inside me that tells me to encourage them by saying something like “c’mon, let’s go.” I end up never saying anything because there’s another voice that tells me to just leave them alone. Why should I interject myself into their world when I don’t do it for those who are strong, fast and slick. It’s hard to keep your ego out of cycling. I succumb to it when I push a little harder to stay with someone who has passed me, but I manage to restrain it when I think of offering unsolicited encouragement.

  3. Bespoke

    I enjoy clean bike and shiny drive train, clean shoes and a cap, don’t have a seddle bag and strictly coordinate all colors. There is something to be said about cycling etiquette. For me, the rules neatly intertwine sports and hobby. It looks good and makes you want to ride more (in style).

  4. Michael

    I like any kind of bike, and what I wear, other than shoes, is pretty much the same on any bike I am taking out for longer than my 3-mile commute. I don’t get why I should wear baggy shorts for mountain biking but lycra for cross. Sometimes, I decide what kind of ride I’ll do based on which bike looks right when I am all ready to go. So, no, I don’t judge others, except I DO a little – someone who seems too cool bugs me. You have to say hello, and maybe even ring a bike bell, if you have one. A bike dork, I guess.

  5. Rod

    I judge other riders inasmuch as I perceive them to be a risk to my safety! Based on those parameters anyone on a bike > anyone on a car (because the risk of catastrophic damage to me is much lower). They can be fast, slow, ride knobbies on the road, shave or have fur. That I don’t care. Riding on a multi-use path doing 40 kph on the aerobars? I definitely care. Joining the back of the group without even saying hello? Definitely care. But the rest, the “tribal” things… not that much.

  6. Nik

    I ride both my road bike and mountain bike wearing MTB shoes and road cycling clothes. I’m having too much fun on 8-hour rides in the middle of nowhere to worry about what other people think.

  7. sbarner

    In my early years of cycling, there was a local frame builder named Phil Fisher, who had a following of alternative types–mostly touristas. Phil didn’t care what the Velomati thought–he was an ex-race car driver and mechanic who found cycling after being injured in a wreck and discovering that cycling helped him to to develop the strength to walk again. I liked Phil, but I thought at the time that his behavior was a bit bizarre, like delivering his bikes unpainted so the person could ride it for a month or so and then bring it back for any alterations before it was finished off. Phil brazed his frames up with whatever approach or features made sense to him at the time, and his customers loved him for it.
    Being in the bike biz at the time, it was easy for me to see Phil as just an odd duck, a local anomaly, a mere folk artist, but over the years I have found his unconventionality a refreshing memory. Other small-time framebuilders I remember most for their many failures, but Phil’s “bike as a work in progress” approach saw a truly custom bike as an individual design process, its creation unencumbered by conventionality, its failures merely stages that must be passed through along the path to success.
    This memory leaves me much more patient about new developments in cycling and much less interested in hopping on every bandwagon that comes along. I look, instead, for what works for me, and I have become much more appreciative of diversity in other riders. I am much less tolerant of the concept that some set of equipment, riding practices, and rider presentation are “correct” for some defined category of cycling. I am especially taken by the slogan “Any bike, anywhere, any time.” Try it out, modify it to suit yourself, experiment with new things, think outside the box, let experience direct you–these are all part of the mantra that Phil lived by and which made him a true innovator. If there’s anything to be resisted, it’s the inherent desire we tend to have to look like everyone else in our tribe.

    1. Swannie Griffin

      If they are on a bike, they are a cyclist. Let them ride to their own calling, but safely please. I’m with you.

  8. Lyford

    I was a reverse snob when I was young. I took great delight in being the kid in gym shorts on the cheap bike zooming past the “old” guys with nice gear. Now I’m one of the old guys, and when someone zooms past I smile. I may also try to catch their wheel….;-)

    I don’t care much about anyone else’s bike or gear — it’s great that they’re out riding. I do wince when I see someone on a bike that’s poorly maintained(squeaky chains! Arrgh!) or that doesn’t fit, becuase I know they’re not enjoying the ride as much as they could.

    I am judgemental about what I see as rude or unsafe behavior.

  9. Mr Fred

    Cyclists for some reason are just so self-conscious it seems. It seems the velonomati rules, while certainly entertaining (and in some cases, applicable), give meaning and reason behind doing certain things that some would agonize over in their head without justification. I guess people just want to be justified by their actions from other’s approval and it results in this exclusivist society of cycling that just comes off as supremely snobby. Would I eventually like lycra pants and a real jersey with some legitimate road bike shoes? Absolutely. Would I like a cycling cap, sunglasses that are for biking, road bike gloves? Again, for sure! But at the moment I can’t justify that expenditure with the kinds of things I have going on in my life. I truly don’t care what others think because I just absolutely love feeling the wind go by while I cruise down town streets. Divisions are everywhere, even in cycling which is disappointing. I guess I am just a substandard cyclist but the only measurement I have for a true cyclist is the love of it.

  10. winky

    I’m an immaculately turned-out roadie/fred. Bike clean, stem slammed, shaved legs, matching kit etc…. My only obvious transgression from the “rules” is a small saddlebag. And I’m not as fast as I think I am. I don’t ride much other than road.

    I am passionately opposed to shared-use paths that mix bikes and pedestrians. They are terrible for everyone.

    I’m otherwise not particularly judgemental. Anyone out on a bike is a victory for the good guys. Except for bike salmon, footpath riders, red-light runners and anyone who close-shaves pedestrians. Motorists are usually great, but the impatient arseholes can go fuck themselves.

  11. Hoshie99

    I am in a “just want to enjoy the ride” phase which replaced my “I am going to race masters” phase. It’s fine, yet finding a suitable group ride is perplexing now. Too much background to ride slow, not enough for fitness to ride fast.

    So I guess you could call it middle.


  12. hugh mcveety

    I like your post thanks Robot! I’m new to road biking (1 yr) & am developing a passion for it. I have noticed cycling has its share of “brats” as probably most any activity does, those that would lead with judgement, be all caught up in the “rules” etc.

    For now I intentionally do things to give myself a chuckle by not doing something “right” a recent example, going “jerseyless” & only wearing my bib short on a really hot day when no women are going to be along.

    The thing that most bugs me though is the uber aggression that comes out of many “serious” riders in groups I’ve been along with towards autos that are yelling / honking at us etc. I take the position that the motorist has potentially a 2K# weapon at their disposal to shove any & all of us out of the way / run us over with if they choose so I’d much prefer to tighten up the line & get them out of my life ASAP rather than curse & flip them off potentially angering them more than they were to begin with.

    I view this behavior as selfish (if you’re in a group) at least, the cyclist should “take the high road” and not gamble with a potential road rage incident where others in the group could become endangered. Thanks again. H

  13. Don Jagoe

    As a Board Member of our local bike advocacy group, Bike Newport, I am passionately committed to and supportive of getting as many people on bikes as possible. Any bike, anywhere. Especially kids.

    That said, I just cringe when I see people riding in flip flops and when the helmet is on backwards. Other than that, if they don’t share my interest in all the cool, expensive, totally neat roadie stuff I love, no problemo. Ride on Brother and Sister–just be safe out there.

  14. SBC

    Your riding resonates with me a lot. I like it all, but no longer am I obsessive in any particular way.

    I am reminded of being at a meeting conducted at SRAM headquarters attended by shop owners, 2-wheel transit advocates, racers, commuters and a real mix of folks, almost all of which had ridden bikes to the meeting. When asked how many considered themselves to be “cyclists,” only a few raised their hands. I was shocked – but now I get it. At some point, riding bikes is not about identifying with some group – after one makes the commitment, it is just how I prefer to be and forms many of my preferred connections with people, places and experiences. Shedding the ambition and obsession makes cycling, for me, less about the ego and more about pure enjoyment.

  15. Scotty

    Thoughtful post as usual.

    I’m glad there are lots of different types of cycling out there to fit anyone who wants to enjoy riding a bike. Just like there’s lots of different kinds of music to enjoy.

    Unlike my relatively broad taste in music though, I am only into one kind of cycling, and that’s road racing (and training for road races). As such I tend to conform to the Rules – with a good dose of humor – because I like to identify with the culture and aesthetic of road racing. Nothing else in the wide world of cycling registers a blip on my radar. And due to my type-A personality, sports background, and time in the military, competition is a big part of my motivation (even when I’m only trying to outdo myself).

    I do have an obsession, and that’s how I like it. I don’t see cycling as necessarily being some transcendent, you’re-okay-I’m-okay, touchy feely love fest. If that’s how it is for you that’s great. I don’t like the attitude that somehow us serious roadies don’t “get it” and that we’re missing out by not also trying out every other flavor of cycling. We all have our own motivations and none of them is superior to the others.

    One thing we do all have in common though: we agree that riding a bike is a whole lot of fun!

  16. Andrew

    I’m all over the map. I shave my legs, because it just looks so much better with shorts on, but I ride both my road bike and gravel road bike with SPD’s (so I can commute on either bike, because I do a ton of my training in the morning before work). I like to suffer and work hard and do hill repeats and I think about watts, but I don’t do road races. I do some gravel races, but I know I won’t be at the pointy end. I’m perfectly happy riding my road bike on dirt and my gravel bike on the road. I often have no idea what kind of ride I’m going to do when I start. Mostly I just like to do a lot of hilly stuff, push myself hard, and get into my happy little state of hypoxic, exhausted Zen.

    I bet I’m like a lot of people who read this site.

  17. JohnBrooking

    I’m almost entirely a transportational cyclist. I have a hybrid with fenders and 8-speed internal hub as my general purpose bike for my 10 mile round-trip commute and other bike transportation. In nice summer weather, I will also commute with my entry level aluminum road bike, and on bad snowy or icy winter days, I use a rapidly-deteriorating POS mountain bike with studded tires. I’ve never shaved my legs, I favor street clothes, all my bikes have a kickstand and a rear rack for panniers (even the road bike), and I don’t even bother with anything beyond flat pedals and street shoes. I like to keep it as simple and non-bikey as possible.

    I participate in and help lead urban slow rides, and have sometimes done other group rides, but not fast ones. I have no interest in racing, and no interest in training beyond what I get as a side effect of transportation. I’ve learned a little mountain biking, but it hasn’t really taken yet. I might like to tour self-supported someday, but so far life is too busy to have time to do that much either.

  18. Tom in Albany

    I’m a hairy-legged, commuter that also might ride early in the morning or at lunchtime during the week. I rarely ride on weekends unless it is with my kids. I’m a cyclist. I ride a bike. That’s all it takes to be a cyclist. To ride a bike.

  19. Miyatariv

    Great post, Robot! To answer your questions: Because I commute by bike in the city, sometimes do road rides on weekends, and occasionally ride on trails, I fit multiple categories, and I don’t particularly sweat the gear or the costumes or the customs of each group. Then again, I ride only old lugged steel bikes, so if I must be pigeonholed, then call me a proud Classic & Vintage / Bridgestone Owners Bunch bike rider. I try to avoid the tribal rock-throwing that seems so popular on various online forums and cycling groups. We’re all riding bicycles, right? Two wheels. Fun.

  20. Sklep rowerowy

    Do I judge other other riders? Naaah, never. To be honest it’s a great thing that they’re out ridin – eg. when I see an old man riding a bike instead of sitting in front of the tv and kvetching about everything I feel quite impressed. Don’t mind the bike or gear – just ride! That’s the beauty ;).

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