By Lukas Brinkerhoff
I’m a serious cyclist.
Actually, that’s a complete fallacy. I don’t take anything seriously and especially not pedaling a two-wheeled love machine. Come to think of it, despite having worked in the cycling industry for 20 years, I don’t think I’ve ever met a serious cyclist. At least not one that would describe themselves as such. No, all the people I know that ride bikes don’t take riding too seriously and wouldn’t call themselves a serious cyclist.
It’s an interesting phenomena. The cycling world is so vast, yet so insular, that most cyclists don’t feel like they are part of the tribe. Maybe we can blame it on marketing, because that is what I like to blame things on, and the industry for having devised a million varieties of bicycles to the point that you can’t ride on a gravel road on a bicycle. No, you will need a gravel grinder, whatever that is. Oh, you don’t have a gravel grinder. Sorry, you can’t participate in our fun.
Maybe it’s the racers’ fault. We all know that racing is ruining this sport for everyone, so we might as well throw some blame their way. With their fancy kits, power meters and training programs there’s a substantially high barrier for entry. Unless you have $10,000 to drop on the bike, another $300 for the kit, $100+ for race fees each weekend, $1000 for the power meter, you don’t get to participate. No one wants a “non-serious cyclist” on their team, wearing their kit and bringing everyone down.
It could be that as an incoherent conglomerate, cyclists are perceived as being jerks and no one wants to be associated with them. The roadie with his head down trying to catch that KOM didn’t wave as he passed. The endurebro looked mockingly at your kit when you showed up in your XC garb for the gnar ride that had been planned. The bike path cruiser didn’t look before suddenly switching lanes making you break cadence and lose your rhythm. The racer replied, “Oh…” when you mentioned you would be participating in that Saturday’s hammer fest and you didn’t know how many watts you could put out because you didn’t own a power meter.
Or quite possibly, it’s because there isn’t a universally accepted definition. I asked a bunch of my cyclist friends to define a serious cyclist. Funny thing, every single one replied in some snarky manner. My favorite was from Ali Knutsen who said, “A cyclist who never smiles and has no sense of humor.” I guess that sums it up, it’s a person who is serious whilst cycling. Throughout my years of research on the subject, I have found that it is impossible for me to be serious while I’m riding. That and it’s impossible to mountain bike without beer.
I tend to surround myself with people who one would consider serious cyclists, people who spend an inordinate amount of time on their bicycles. Some of them race. Some of them don’t. Some don’t own cars and others drive often. One thing they all have in common, beside their love for two-wheeled love machines, is their lack of seriousness. You could, and many have, call them childish. They will show up in earnest to race cruisers down the bike path or wear wings, tutus and crowns at a 24 hour race. Why? Well, why not?
The bicycle keeps us young. It’s a reminder that after any hard push, you should be allowed to enjoy the coast down the backside. It’s a raised, angry fist to the suffocating norms of society and the need to conform. It’s a self-evident proclamation that the man has not won and we are not done fighting yet and despite the fact, that I have to go to work on Monday, today is Friday and I’m gonna ride my bike all weekend just like I did when I was a kid. Simply childish.
Joey Dye, another friend queried about serious cyclists, replied, “I’ve seen toddlers who are serious when they play. Kinda like that.” Riding a bike is play. It’s our outlet back to when that time when getting home from school meant dropping your backpack on your bed and running to your bike to do what? Ride in circles because it wasn’t anything else but riding your bike in a circle. You were ecstatic to be able to play.
I like to play hard. I may not self-describe as a serious cyclist. I do, however, consider myself to be someone who takes recreating very seriously. It’s the most important thing I do, recreate hard.
I’ve always thought that people who rode bikes aged well, always staying younger much longer. I contributed this to them being active and healthy, but I’m starting to believe that it has more to do with the amount of time they dedicate to playing. I don’t think there is another segment of society that plays as much as cyclists. Who else do you know that spends as much time on their hobby as you and your riding buddies? I’m positive that cyclists take the prize in dedication and time consumed playing.
I guess that’s why no one considers themselves a serious cyclist. It’s hard to say you are serious about something that is so much fun, something that provides you freedom from the 9 to 5 daily grind. The daily grind is serious. That’s when you pretend to be an adult. It’s the place you would never show up to in wings and a tutu, unless of course, you’re a ballerina. No, I don’t know any serious cyclists. I’m not one. And I think I like it that way.
Lukas Brinkerhoff blogs about mountain biking and life at mooseknuckleralliance.org.