Thursday, May 20, 2010

Real And Unreal Cyclists

Among our available dose of cliches, one you'll hear many say is that real cyclists are the ones who race. Or that real cyclists are the one's who ride fast, break bones, lose skin and come back to bite the tough again. Or that real cyclists have so many well-defined muscle groups. And so on...

I must say that is a load of crock. Sorry, but there should really be no such thing as "real cyclist" anyway. So what are the others then, who ride bikes in something other than tight fitting lycra - artificial pieces being run by a spring wound mechanism?

By the same logic, I suppose I should call my grandfather a walker. Oh, and he's a "real" walker because he's always in a hurry on his feet, hence making him real. He also wears tight fitting clothes. His neighbor who limps to the store, but has immense pleasure in his activity, is somehow not real. Brilliant.

I think such rankings and hierarchies we impose in our world and onto certain groups of people reflect our own inadequacies of expression as well as false impressions we like to store up about other people.

Regardless of whether you race, or you commute 5 miles a day or go on a climbing binge in Southern France, cycling is cycling. There is no real or unreal. There's nothing else to it. Now if you call a racer an athlete, sure I'll accept that. Or if you call someone a cyclist who's "matured as a racer", that's acceptable too. But all the other stuff, real, unreal and yada yada is just plain nonsense.

But athleticism may have its own pitfalls too. If you lose character, you're no athlete. Let me explain. The other day, I happened to have a conversation with a gentleman on our local bike path. I was cruising along at 24mph and this man was keeping up pretty comfortably. I stop and ask him his name and other formalities and so on, and then asked him if he rides with others. He tells me, "Nope, mostly solo."

Since I like to press people for further information, I asked him if there was a reason behind that. He took a drink from his bottle and muttered "Life's too short to put up with jerks".

I knew what he was talking about right away. He was referring to all those "real" cyclists who don't care a thing in the world rather than speed. All they do is want to race. If you don't happen to race, they look down upon you like as if you're a cockroach. If you happen to ride with them and can't put up with their speed, they won't care a thing in the world as they'll be happy to ride off from you as fast as possible, leaving you in the middle of nowhere to fend for yourself. Will they say a hi when you wave a hand at them? Probably not. Will they stop to help you if you're in mechanical distress. Surely not.

There's many folks I have talked to who hold similar views. Not only can they not put up facing these jerks, they don't want to race with them at all. They'd rather ride alone with some peace of mind and quiet and in the safety of their own world. If they want to push themselves, they'll do it against themselves. There's absolutely no reason and no pressure to waste 60 dollars on an annual racing license, and further gas money to travel 60 miles to nowhere, to spend the weekend with jerks, all but to fight for certain "rankings" with said jerks, end up in 150th spot and drive back 60 miles all alone. Yup, life's too short for that.

What's your take on this "real" and "unreal" cyclist business, and the general attitude of some racers in your area? More importantly, do you race? Why or why not? Feel free to express your views or contradict mine.

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