Friday, March 30, 2012
How We Ride
In May 2009, just a couple of months after I touched a bike for the first time in 13 years, I rode my first 50 miles. I was living in Vienna at the time and riding around on an upright hybrid rental, up and down a short stretch of the Danube bicycle path outside of town after work. Then one Saturday, I just kept going and before I knew it I did 85km - which I hadn't even realised until I looked at the map of the area I covered later; I just knew it felt like "a lot." How fast did I go? No idea. What was my nutritional plan? None. What did I wear? A cotton tunic, leggings and sneakers. Did I look like a complete dork, puffing away on my inefficient hybrid with suspension fork, saddle too low and handlebars too high, my loose sweat-stained top billowing in the wind? To a roadcyclist, maybe. But to a regular person? I just looked like a person doing a long bike ride.
100 mile ride along the same route I rode in 2009. Again, on an upright bike in regular clothing, with no training in the weeks leading up to it and no nutritional plan. I thought that maybe that kind of ride would be boring for me at this stage, but it wasn't at all. It was just different. A different frame of mind, a different style of riding. I went slowly and didn't worry. It was not about performance or timing. I was just a person, going kind of far on a bike.
Now and again I get emails from readers who are genuinely upset because they can't seem to transition from an upright step-through or mixte to a roadbike with drop bars. The local cycling clubs only cater to the latter. Their spouse rides a roadbike. They feel left out. But the more I think about it, the more I realise it just doesn't make sense to give up the sort of bike you are perfectly happy with because of some misguided notion that you "should" be riding a roadbike if you're serious about cycling. I do wish there were more bicycle clubs that catered to casual cycling, where people on hybrids and upright 3-speeds and mixtes could feel at home and within their comfort zone. I also think there is a difference between casual cycling and casual cyclists. You can be a serious, committed cyclist and ride casually. This distinction is not often acknowledged.
Roadcycling is not the only valid form of recreational or sporty cycling. There are so many ways to ride a bike, and there is no right or wrong way as far as I am concerned. How we ride depends on us alone.