Let’s consider, for a moment, Peter Sagan. He’s fast. We know that. He’s brash and smart, at least in the way he races bikes. He can sprint, and he loves a punchy climb. He is, by most measures, a really good bike rider.
And Danny MacAskill. For sheer, jaw dropping bike skills, there is no one close. MacAskill does things that make a mockery of the laws of physics. He has a cheeky sense of humor, and he’s humble. He is also a very good bike rider, but there’s more to it than that, and that little bit more makes him a better rider at the same time.
Now think of Fausto Coppi spinning up into the Alps, the souplesse, the style, his heron-like position on the bike, up out of the pedals, dancing, tapping out the rhythm on the steep pitch, his dark glasses and smart suits, his tilting at the windmill of Italian societal norms, and his duels with Gino Bartali.
What about John Tomac, the American mountain biking prodigy? Tomac was a BMX legend, before he dominated the mountain bike race scene. For a long time, he seemed unbeatable.
I guess I know a fair number of great cyclists, too. Normal enough people who are strong and humble and just go about their business.
I looked up the qualities of greatness and found some long and arbitrary lists of characteristics, lots of corporate leadership speak. I distilled them and came up with this list: 1. Authentic 2. Brave 3. Character-driven 4. Decisive 7. Goal-oriented 8. Humble 9. Inspiring. Do all the riders I mentioned above tick those boxes? Maybe not.
This week’s Group Ride asks, what do you think makes a great cyclist? Is it all about speed? How does style factor in? What about class? Can a rider be a morally reprehensible person and still a great rider?