Friday, March 30, 2012

How We Ride

Motobecane Mixte, Walden Pond
To the delight of some and eye-rolling of others, during the first year or two of this blog I referred to riding a bike recreationally as "sporty cycling." What a funny term. Why not just call it roadcycling? Well, because it's not! Roadcycling evokes associations that I felt were not appropriate to the kind of riding I did at the time - or in fact to the kind of riding most people who just want to ride a bike for exercise are drawn to. Roadcycling is its own world, with what I consider to be pretty rigid parameters. There are assumptions about equipment, positioning on the bike, speed, and even style, that are pretty much unspoken pre-requisites no matter how friendly and open the people are. Whether described as "social rides" or "training rides," it is still a fairly specific type of riding that assumes performance-optimised equipment, advanced handling skills, and the ability to maintain what most would consider a high minimum speed. And there is nothing wrong with any of this. Except that not everyone wants, or needs to ride like that. To ultimately be on a bike with dropbars, keeping up with the local roadies, need not be an end goal. Some might truly enjoy riding an upright bike at their own pace, without feeling the need to "advance to the next level." The very idea of advancing - of cycling in order to get faster, stronger - is part of the roadcycling discourse and& need not influence those outside of it.

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.

His and Hers Motobecane, Southern Maine
I do not know why, over the years, I have grown attracted to roadcycling and do in fact now want to get faster, stronger, to "advance." I enjoy it and do not regret the transition. But at the same time, I maintain that it is absolutely not necessary to ride a bike in this manner. Last October I was back in Vienna and did a 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.

124 comments:

  1. Well written post. I too, long for casual riding groups as I'm just getting back into cycling. There seem to be casual, 3-spd events in Portland (Urban Adventure League blog by Shawn Granton), but none so far in Sacramento, CA! And the trails around here don't seem to cater to those who just want to cruise along, stopping to take in a snack or beverage, but are more for the distant oriented, fitness cyclers.

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    1. I must say that the sacramento bike trail system is actually set up for casual riding with an established speed limit of 15mph. That is not to say that there aren't those who exceed that limit but it is to say that you need not be intimidated. The American River Bike Trail is an excellent resource for the casual rider.

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    2. The bike trail system in Sacramento is set up for casual riders. Though there are many hardcore roadies on the trail there is a speed limit of 15 mph and there are actually as many slow pokes as not. The American River Bike Trail is an excellent place for casual riders. Don't be intimidated! Get out there!

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  2. I agree and think its odd that roadies tend to isolate themselves from the rest of the casual cycling world. I find that roadies even tend to pigeonhole themselves further based upon their abilities. I'm a local club member and I typically do C or C+ rides. My biggest complaint is that in order to move up in ride distance you also need to move up in speed. By that I mean C+ rides are typically 35 miles at about 15 mph average. I'd love to do 50 mile club rides but that means moving up to a B or B+ ride and increasing my speed to 17 mph or so. While I know I can do 50 miles, I'm just not sure I can average 17 mph without my back seizing up on me. It's also interesting to note is that diversity seems to be inversely proportional to ride category. On C rides you see a mixed crowd of men and women and a wide variety of bicycles (some ride aluminum Cannondales and Treks, others ride classic or neo classic-steel frames, one guy recently showed up on an old restored French Rando bike and one woman rides an old mountain bike). But go on a B+ ride and there're almost no women and every guy there has either full carbon or aluminum with carbon stays and forks. If you don't have full carbon, or if you don't have Look pedals, or if you have wool t-shirt instead of a lycra jersey you're made to feel disenfranchised. It's like there's this weirdly rigid caste system within the road cycling community and I think it can be limiting even for people who consider themselves to be roadies.

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    1. I don't think it's odd, or bad, that roadies separate themselves. They have specific goals and are interested in a particular type of riding. It is only natural they want to ride with a group in which that will be possible.

      What I do think is odd, is that those who prefer to cycle more casually and with less structure don't organise more of their own clubs. Why not?

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    2. Oh but I am with you on the difficulty of finding the appropriate level of group ride on the roadie hierarchy.

      I too find it confusing that the longer rides are also the ones with the higher average speed. Doesn't it make more sense to have the 20-30 mile rides be super-intese and the 50-100 mile rides to be a bit more relaxed? Frustrating!

      As for paceline rides, it makes sense to transition out of the lower speed groups asap, because the women there are (sorry!) less predictable and more likely to crash into/in front of you. But the faster rides are scarier because they are faster. Damned either way. I would love for there to be an option where the riders are experienced but the pace is on the low side of intermediate.

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    3. It's funny, I've had this same experience with racing. I like to race for the fun of it, not to win, and I will probably always race in the lowest category possible. Problem is, for cyclocross and crits, the beginner category is a half-hour long race. Half an hour. That's it? I want to really get out there and have a long race, one that's about strategy and saving something for the final sprint. But to do a longer race, you have to be in a higher category and that means way faster riders. Alas, I think we all long for a group of like-minded and like-fitness folks to ride and race with. Unfortunately, that's not how the world works. I guess I'll just create my own long-slow racing organization....

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    4. It is tough and quite intimidating to transition from casual to longer group rides. You CAN go longer AND faster but you do need to hone your group riding skills to get the most out of those rides.
      I would suggest practicing drafting with a casual riding friend, gradually increasing your speeds and holding them for distances. The faster/longer groups usually won't expect you to take pulls when you are new, but they will expect you to keep paceline formations together and point out obstacles. That's a huge part of why they can motivate at a much higher speed.
      There are definitely roadie groups who don't care if you drop but there really are many who truly want to nurture the newbie. But, like I said, the joiner needs to be willing to learn and take a little risk.

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  3. I agree. My first long bike ride was a 100km ride mostly on roads but I don't think most road bikes would have liked the 10 or so km done on the sandy, rutted tracks of a local forest. On that occasion it was doing the miles that counted, not the style (there wasn't any) or the speed.
    Of course I have since been sucked into the road bike mentality but I still love my heavy, upright hybrid. And I ride it almost every day to and from work; as a commitment to myself.

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  4. What is this i don’t even?

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  5. Although they don't seem to have updated their events for 2012, there's this for the Boston area:
    http://boston.bikeridesfop.org/index.htm

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  6. While I enjoy following your adventures as a roadie, I also miss the striped cardigan and beret! Can't have it all I guess :)

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    1. I wish they'd make striped wool cycling jerseys. That cardigan becomes a wet rag within a half hour.

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    2. It's the saddle shoes I miss most.

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    3. If I learn clipless real good, I might treat myself to a pair of these down the road. Maybe.

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    4. The laces are a problem for me, otherwise I'd be all over these! I wish they would make a version with velcro straps. They could still look classic.

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    5. Those Dromarti shoes are fab and I love them. I've worn them on- and off-road and have taught quite a few spinning classes in them (at which time I've been asked a few times if they are golfing shoes!).

      The laces are lovely. Even though velcro fasteners came into being in the mid-80s, they will never be "classic."

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  7. I'm with you - I personally just sold my aluminum/carbon fiber Cannondale because I no longer find myself drawn to the world of clipless pedals and deep V rims - I'm perfectly content tooling around on my touring bike. If a time comes later where I want to rejoin the roadcycling crowd, I'll build another bike, probably something completely different from my previous choice. But it always struck me that no matter how much you love to ride, tell a roadie and they seem almost compelled towards one-upmanship. Be it distance, speed, or equipment, there is a weird unspoken competitive vibe I personally find pretty off-putting.

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  8. I'm all for acceptance and encouraging all types of cycling, but don't you think telling women who don't have an innate and immediate knack for "roadcycling" to go back to their mixtes is kind of, well, elitist? You're post here is about how we as cyclists shouldn't feel pressure to all move toward becoming power training roadies, and I agree that we shouldn't (even though, like you, I am in that process). However, if a woman WANTS to get into road riding, I can't think of a more disempowering response than "Well, if you're having difficulty, you should probably just head back to your mixte."

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    1. Of course you are right. That was not my intended message at all.

      What I am saying is that there is often no outlet/ support structure for any kind of recreational cycling other than roadcycling, and those who do not want to ride a roadbike (not necessarily women, both genders!) are left to feel that there is no place for them unless they do take up a more aggressive form of cycling.

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    2. @jordanp Oh sure, it's much more empowering to tell women they are not serious cyclists unless they go out and buy a carbon fiber racing bike with clipless pedals and a power meter. Which is what my local cycling club said to me. I think you missed the point of this post entirely.

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    3. I don't think either is "empowering," and it does not need to be one or the other. A roadcycling club has a right to have rules about the equipment and minimum speed on group rides. If the person in question is interested, they should be encouraged to go out and buy appropriate equipment. If they are not interested and want to stay with their mixte/hybrid, they should be able to find a club that caters to that is all.

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    4. Perhaps it is not so doggedly self conscious, yet outlets and support for multi-day cycle touring are growing in number and quality.

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    5. Sup JP. I'm with you. If a person is feeling left out because they want to ride a road bike but haven't been able to get comfortable, I wouldn't necessarily advise them to just be happy with what they have. I'd do everything I could to get them comfortable doing what they want to do. If they wanted to go on fast rides with their spouse, I'd get them into a road bike and help them learn to be comfortable. If they didn't, I'd recommend they have a good talk with their spouse about feeling left out.

      Anna, your local club gave you bad advice if what you wanted was to just enjoy riding your bike at a slow pace. But if you wanted to keep up with the fast group rides or maybe start racing, they were spot on (except the power meter. No one really needs those unless you're being paid to use one). Maybe you need to think about how you approached the subject with them. Did they really understand what you wanted?

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    6. I think there's an important distinction to be made: a woman (or man, for that matter) who feels compelled to take up road cycling because otherwise they aren't "serious" or feel left out, versus someone who *wants* to take up road cycling because they actually desire to do that specific type of riding.

      I think Velouria was referring to Case #1 here, in which case I agree, one shouldn't feel *compelled* to adopt a particular style they otherwise have no interest in. There should be more clubs, etc. for these folks (I'd suggest starting one if you can't find one!).

      But I agree with you for Case #2: Road cycling should be available to everyone. If someone *wants* to do it but is having trouble, they're probably on ill-fitting equipment or are riding with groups or on routes that are beyond their ability. These folks need encouragement and help finding good equipment and developing their skills to whatever level they wish. They should not be told to go "back to their mixtes"!

      As to what constitutes a "serious" cyclist - I think that's a whole other, larger discussion that was only touched on here.

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    7. Yes, I was referring to Case #1 and those who write me definitely describe Case #1. They are happy with their current bike. They are scared of roadbikes and do not like them, despite giving it try after try. But their local cycling club/ spouse/ friend says they must ride one or else it's not serious.

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  9. I guess it might be nice for some people to make casual recreational cycling into an organized social event, but not for me. I ride alone, or with my S.O.; for me, the fun of going for a bike ride is exactly how you described your first Danube Trail trip: freedom and spontaneity. A big group of strangers would ruin it. But diff'rent strokes, etc.

    I also find it hilarious (and sad) that so many "roadies" have no traffic skills at all, and can't handle themselves on the road without a big pack of their buddies to protect them.

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    1. Ha! Was out on a "lunch ride" some years back with colleagues who, though not exactly roadies, tend more in that direction than I do (mostly utility cycling, various amounts of traffic). We came to a junction that we needed to cross, I waited for an adequate gap, and off I went. Whoops, I was the only one who went, everyone else was still waiting.

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  10. That's my cycling description: a serious, committed cyclist that rides casually.
    I enjoy it that way. I bike a good number of kilometres a year (on a touring and also a foldable bike), and I'm not interested in agressive bikes and special clothing/shoes.
    I feel comfortable wearing rubber boots and rain pants when it's cold and raining, and big snow boots in winter. I don't feel the need to project an image of a "real" cyclist. I think this offers certain freedom. I can bike slowly and even push my bike without others wondering what's "wrong"; and with drivers perhaps giving me more space as I don't look like a "pro" cyclist.

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  11. Isn't road cycling more or less a team sport. It makes sense that clubs exist for this type of cycling. Casual riding groups have tried to form but ultimately fold b/c of lack of commitment or consistency.

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    1. Yes and no. There is the team and there is the club, with the club by far making up the majority of the membership. Why do those who are in the club and not on the team keep coming back for the weekly rides? IMO it's because of the structure, the feeling of belonging, the desire for consistency, the riding buddies they meet, etc. The same can be achieved with a club restricted to upright bikes, or folding bikes, or tricycles. Get a website together, be consistent, offer jerseys/tees to give members a sense of belonging, post about it on social media, and voila - cycling club. I bet people would love it.

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    2. Yes, I believe these road clubs survive because of the structure and consistency and, often times, coaching. And, no doubt, this creates a sense of camaraderie. But the idea of creating another club 'restricted' to certain types of bikes where everyone wears the same jerseys for more casual types of riding seems an odd idea. Though I do see a lot of segway? folks tooling about.

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    3. Funny, I just read/saw, this moment, on an artist's blog an artistically painted sign which read 'you're not in our club, go away' :) clubs are interesting.

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  12. Why are "roadcycling" and "roadbike" all of a sudden one-word terms? We don't say "mountainbiking" and "mountainbike." Creating new nomenclature to describe an activity makes the activity seem even less accessible to the uninitiated.

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    1. It's mostly because I am a bad person Bryan, plain and simple. Also English is not my first language. But mostly it's the bad person thing.

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    2. Is English really not your first language or are you joking?

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    3. I am joking, but that part is true.

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    4. implying that people can't read long words seems pretty elitist to me...

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    5. Sorry. I didn't mean to offend. I enjoy reading your blog. My parents are both writers, so I can't help taking language seriously. Maybe a little too seriously, but there's something about doubling up perfectly adequate words that rubs me the wrong way. It's probably because of the way it's constantly done in the corporate world. At least you don't call it "RoadCycling"!

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    6. No no, you didn't offend me.

      I do think that writers have license to stylistic weirdnesses, especially in blog format. And for the record, I have seen the phrase in question written as "roadcycling," so I can't even take credit for it. Also, whenever I see it written as two words I can't help but imagine a character in one of those animation programs (what is the name of the one I am thinking of??) pronouncing it as "road. cycling." and it distracts me, I can't cope.

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    7. I think Velouria's use of "roadcycling" is cute and whimsical and I always take it to imply sort of reverence for the activity. It's also very Germanic to combine nouns like that. Velouria is often quite vocabularious and I really enjoy, and respect, that. It's one of the marks of a great writer (and sometime rider)!

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    8. "Roadcycling" is no more legitimate a term than "sporty cycling" imho. "Cycling" and "riding" should more than suffice, unless you live in north America, in which case there seems to be a lot of use of "biking". A tendency towards verbosity and "vocabularious"ness is no more a mark of a great writer than owning a bike is the sign of a great cyclist. ATMO.

      Jonathan from Sydney.

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    9. I don't think being a great writer is something that can be defined. A great writer is a great writer.

      For me, it's not about being a great writer, but about communicating. My word choice might annoy you, but it is authentically mine; it's what I feel like writing. Who knows why. It's best not to question these things and just go with it.

      As an aside, ATMO is no more of a word than roadcycling. The former caught on as a trend is all.

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  13. Yes to all of this! This is a big reason why a few lady friends and I started our own casual bike group last spring (@bosbikebelles), because we wanted to go on longish rides, but do so comfortably on our Dutch-style uprights, mixtes, random road bikes, hybrids, etc. And we wanted to encourage more of our friends to get back on their bikes.

    I like the idea that cycling doesn't have to require special clothing, etc., all the time.

    And I do think the notion of casual cycling is growing: I commute to work on my jaunty upright in my work clothes and see many others doing the same (granted, I do work in Cambridge).

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  14. I totally agree. I think it's great that there are people who cycle as sport, looking to get stronger and faster. I enjoy cycling as transportation and leisurely recreation. I'll ride all sorts of distances, but I want to be upright and enjoy the view at my own pace!

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  15. You wrote something a long time ago about the women/men dialectic.

    This is the solution to those who have speed differential issues: woman rides faster bike, man rides slower bike. If either has issues with it, that's their problem if they want to ride together.

    Also, you should go, "hey, I want to ride 50 miles at this particular clip, RSC. whadya think?" These are called base-building rides, though a lot of people just call them rides.

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    1. I love it how words like dialectic are normal here. Cubicle life would be unbearable without this blog!

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    2. Conversely, this blog would be impossible without cubicle life.

      Couples are one thing. But I think the reality in most clubs is that very few road cyclists are interested in handicapping themselves in order to ride with slower people, unless they are doing a recovery ride.

      RSC is a freakish exception in that they offer a very wide variety of rides (there is something almost every day), and you can even organise your own.

      Interestingly, the RSC women's ride on Thursdays is sort of a wild card, in that I never know the pace we'll be riding until I get there, because everyone will adapt to the least strong cyclist who shows up. The more experienced/faster women are much better at that than I am actually, but that is another topic.

      The NEBC women's paceline rides on Tuesdays are totally different. A hundred people show up, divided into small groups according to speed and ability; very rigid and structured.

      I kind of love it all to be honest, even if it's confusing and frustrating at times.

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    3. 100! Wow.

      "Interestingly, the RSC women's ride on Thursdays is sort of a wild card, in that I never know the pace we'll be riding until I get there, because everyone will adapt to the least strong cyclist who shows up." Women can be so accomodating. If I were that ride leader I'd just go at a pre-determined pace with volunteers designated to sweep. No need for everyone to go 4mph slower than intended. Unless there's ice cream involved.

      The way I look at it is group hopping is the same as riding - crossing demo boundaries. Sometimes it's being dropped and left for dead by a bunch of ubercats, sometimes it's doing way too much trackstanding on charity ride training rides.

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    4. Few roadies do enough recovery or enough recovery rides. The basic pattern is to always ride hard enough to stay slightly overtrained and kinda stale. For their own narrow training purposes they should, as you put it, "handicap" themselves often.

      Anyone who starts in the sport goes through a number of screaming hard learning rides. On top of a base of whatever ordinary normal riding they were doing. Once it's possible to complete the Sunday ride with the fast group and/or complete the local crits in the field sprint then most everyone plateaus, and stays there. They got to that plateau of basic competence off a lot of ordinary rides and a mere handful of severe rides. They should keep on with the ordinary rides and make the hard rides as tough as what beginners pass through.

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  16. Hobbyists who go to great lengths to mimic the dress, procedure, and equipment of people paid to race bicycles, to me any way, are quite similar to Trekkies who can speak Klingon and cite the Star Fleet Regulations by rote.

    Courses for horses and all that, but some need to stand outside themselves as they seem wholly oblivious.

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    1. I agree totally. I know a lot of enthusiastic basketball players who regularly play semi-competitively among friends.... But none of those guys show up in a professional team's complete uniform.

      I think that cycling in America is based primarily on fantasy. I'll admit that I'm guilty of this myself, although my fantasies involve having more time and ambition to ride long tours or even just more often. My fantasies do NOT involve actually transforming into M.Pantani, L.Armstrong, or E.Merckx. Cool guys, sure, but I'm happy being me. I just wish I rode more...

      My issue with roadies as a group is that there's a pervasive drive to project an aura of insufferable douchebaggery as much as possible. Reading the Velominati Rules that were referenced in the comments of this very Blog a few days back reminded me of why I avoid roadie culture as much as I can. I know a lot of road cyclists, and I think most are decent ppl. I just wish they didn't think they needed to create such a self-consciously deliberate snob vibe whenever they're riding or talking about riding. Not all of y'all do it, of course, but certainly you have to admit that it's kind of painted the entire pastime a rather off-putting shade of elitism.

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    2. There is quite a difference between people who look like professionals because it is functional and people who look like a tv show because it makes them feel cool. When I ride to the grocery store, I wear street clothes because I feel stupid walking around the store in a kit and road shoes. When I ride 40 miles for exercise, I wear a kit, ride a road bike and use clipless pedals because it is comfortable and efficient. Cycling kits are not made of lycra because that is what the pro's wear. People don't use clipless shoes because that is what the pro's use. We wear and use those things because they make being on the bike for longer periods of time more enjoyable. I could ride (and have ridden) 60 miles in street clothes on a more relaxed bike. When I am 40 miles in and hot and sweaty and my shirt and shorts are soaked, I'll really be wishing for a nice jersey and bibs and a bike that would get me where I'm going with a whole lot less effort.

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    3. I am with Kyle here. Cycling clothing is highly functional and comfortable for some kinds of riding. I would not wear it otherwise, because by no means do I think I look cool in it.

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    4. What Kyle said. It's not necessarily about wearing those things because they look "pro" - cycling kit is highly functional and for road cycling rides on a road bike I wouldn't want to wear anything else, even though I never race.

      (I will say, however, that it's a bit much when people become obsessed with having everything the pros have. And I do think it's weird when people ride in full pro-team kit when CLEARLY they work a desk job. That said, I do know many people who play recreational hockey who wear their favorite player's jersey to practice, etc., so...)

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    5. Well, you will need to explain to me the functionality of court jester colored costumes with names of bike and component manufacturers, races, racers, competing for space among stripes and other odd design elements.

      I do multi-day tours happily in relatively normal looking and fitting clothes made by companies such as Outlier, Cadence and Swerve. Works fine for me. Arguably not wearing skin tight clothes may make me a few minutes later to my destination, but then, I'm not being paid to arrive at a destination at a certain time.

      And of course amateur competition itself is role playing. It may be better for the heart than studying Klingon but in the end, is not otherwise any more meaningful.

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    6. Well I was talking about the fit of the clothing - the silly padded shorts and unflattering the tight jerseys - not the corporatelogoway. I've never worn any of the colorful corporate stuff, and my wildest costume has the name of my club embroidered on it. Personally I like wool. Black Ibex shorts and a plain Swobo or Ibex jersey.

      But. I have nothing, absolutely nothing against cyclists who want to wear stuff with logos on it, be it their own team's logos or a pretend team's. What business is it of mine what other people wear if they enjoy it?

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    7. Wait no, I lied. This is my wildest costume as of last week. Sent to me by my sponsor though, so that makes it cool. Right?..

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    8. OMG want!!!!
      Thanks for sharing Velouria, you are hilarious ;>)

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    9. @ Matthew J - the logos, etc. are from team sponsors. Their function is to provide the team with money/resources in exchange for advertising. The kit is designed around incorporating sponsor logos, so yes, some of them end up looking pretty wacky. But then, standing out in a peleton draws more attention to the sponsors.

      If you're not on a sponsored team, there are plenty of options with relatively muted colors/design schemes.

      Don't get me wrong: one should wear whatever one wants to when one is riding. If you are comfortable in what you wear on a bike, more power to you. But to say that standard road cycling gear serves no purpose other than to mimic professional kit is incorrect. As Velouria pointed out, for most of us, it's not particularly flattering. We're not wearing it just for kicks.

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    10. Anon - going back to my original analogy, many Trekkies feel they are dressed as they are for 'serious' purposes, not for kicks. And while Trekkies may have unique aesthetics, I am sure most are self aware enough to realize their kit does not flatter them.

      The amateur cyclist same as the Trekkie is attending to a hobby. Riding a bike from point A to Point B isn't going to ace your final, pay for your mortgage, or fix the bathroom faucet.

      Most cyclists - and Trekkies - accept this. There are a number of both who don't. I see no difference between the two.

      An aside - Appears I am a true hard ass: I rode a bike from the Atlantic to Pacific a few years back without wearing padded anything no problem.

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    11. Going back to my recreational basketball analogy: Ppl shooting hoops for fun tend to do so in clothing appropriate for basketball. While they aren't wearing bathrobes or PJs with feet or a three-piece suit, they are also not going to be wearing the NBA official uniform of their fave team, either. If they did, they'd be subject to ridicule.

      Cyclists of every variety have their clothing preferences, and I do my best to be accepting. I have no problem with padded lycra shorts, "real" cycling jerseys, or flippie little hats. Good on you. I own some cycling specific clothes, and I even wear them occasionally on longer trail rides. Wearing cycling-specific clothing is entirely different from wearing the exact same threads as your favorite pro team, with the shorts matching the jersey, in power-ranger colors and gaudy corporate logos. It's even worse when there's four of you, and you show up together in identical kit to the coffee shop, ordering macchiatos and hoping that no one notices the fact that you're old, fat, and out of shape... I'm not trying to be a snob. I'm out of shape, fat, and getting older all the time. Definitely living in a glass house over here. But I don't get into some sort of bicycle-LARPing fantasy in public every Sunday, either. My heart bleeds for those guys.

      Not for nothing, though, the turbo-nerd trekkie-style "roadies" are the only guys who come into the cafe and don't talk to other cyclists about their bikes. We have a lot of riders come in (and 10%off your order on Sundays, if you ride to the shop!), many of whom lock up right out front or bring their rides inside. (I always park my bike on the stage.) Ppl, strangers, tend to discuss one another's bikes and strike up conversations, build a community, etc. While there are some friendly roadies, the only riders who don't fellowship with the other cyclists tend to be the guys in full kit. Maybe they're just too embarassed?
      -rob

      Delete
    12. I usually ride Pee-Wee Herman style (upright...and a loner) so I've had some time to think about this. Now, being someone new to utility commuting (It's that old story. One Summer day a crazy dude sits next to you in a nearly empty subway car, sets a 40 oz beer between his feet and begins to sob, so you shop for a bike.), I still have something of an outsiders' view. I think the closer analogy is music (the cash I sink into guitars will keep me from the siren song of becoming a kitted out road cyclist...but I get the allure). With guitars, there can be no argument that a Gibson or a Fender or a Martin will be easier to play and will produce better sound than a $200 piece of fiberboard. You're not going to see a lot of professional musicians playing Squiers and First Act guitars, because they need a certain amount of performance to do their jobs. You're also going to see amateurs in the know seek out this gear for the same reason. BUT! I've had the pleasure of knowing some fantastic musicians who've done things like tour with Robert Fripp and none of them would judge a musician by their gear. The only thing they'd judge is adversely affecting their performance (like if your cheap tuning pegs go out of tune repeatedly). On the bike path, I believe it translates into sketchy/dangerous or inconsiderate behavior. I'm too new to talk trash about cyclists, but I will absolutely say that the only musicians who will judge you primarily on your gear are the mediocre ones. It's not what you bought, it's how much you show up and USE IT.

      Delete
    13. You're all over-thinking it. Go ride your bike. That's all that matters.

      Delete
  17. Boy am I with you all on this one!

    I love all forms of cycling be it mountain bikes, 'transport' bikes or roadie touringie sort of thing. And yes both mountainies and roadies are so up their own arse about their technical abilities.

    My fave bike (currently) is my new Pashley 5 speed Sturmey Archer - and its fab, fab, fab. Its upright style is PERFECT for English countryside cycling in Spring.

    I love cycling and bicycles for themselves and the fun they evoke. Surely that is an end in itself?

    Oh and tomorrow Im out on a tandem with my daughter for the first time ever.

    If I like it, Im buying one! And not a piece of lycra in sight

    ReplyDelete
  18. This reminds me of a post a recently saw on bikeforums.com

    I was looking for that list of "touring bikes", and clicked on a standard "what touring bike should I get?" post thinking it would have the link. But instead, it turned out the original poster was looking for a touring bike in Poland, and was confused that the sort of bikes recommended here were not available.

    North Americans consider a touring bike to be a steel, diamond-frame bike with drop bars, racks and a triple crankset. But in Germany and Poland, 97% of the Trekking/touring bikes have aluminum frames, upright handlebars, suspended forks, integrated lights, chainguards (but usually derailer gears). And people ride long tours on bikes that would be considered "heavy" commuter bikes here. Here are some pictures of the bikes: http://www.cube.eu/en/tour/gts/delhi/
    http://www.kross.pl/en/2012/trekking/trans-arctica

    Here's the post:
    http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread.php/806346-Choosing-a-touring-bike

    ReplyDelete
  19. I love to ride, that's about it. Went I rode motorcycles I didn't belong to any clubs and when I started riding bicycles I didn't join any clubs. I have a number of different styles of bikes and enjoy them all.
    I really don't know what it takes to be a true cyclist, or a dedicated cyclist. I don't ride to impress anyone. I just can't imagine not riding. I ride everyday rain or shine. All styles are great and all are fun.
    Each ride is special, a short ride to the store are a long ride down the coast. Enjoy them all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. from on anon to another...i love the above post!

      Delete
  20. In my Country, all rides EPIC an must be attempt with only finest machinery on best riders lycra clad(iNCLUDING Melmet). Lite bicycle nessesary because walk back with broken heavy bike just like stay home work on farm. Whats the point you know. People ride heavy bike for short rides or much heavy loads cary. they come to our EPIC ride we mock they clothes and wooden halmet and make cry go home. We laugh and laugh. Freds.

    My cyclings club also club for huntINg and so tandems popular with stoker carry Kalashnikov. You come visit we ride, OK? BYEBYE for Now...

    Spoondaisy

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  21. This has absolutely nothing to do with the post, which I enjoyed reading, especially as the "cruising around town" variety of cyclist that doesn't seem to fit into any kind of established niche...

    I have saddle shoe envy! Those are great shoes!!

    ReplyDelete
  22. Where I'm from the distinction is more clean cut and acceptable especially as I live next to a park where cyclists train. There are regional groups in the city called BUGs (Bicycle User Groups) that regularly hold rides of all levels. For example one group does fast hills .. you can imagine the lycra and drop bars .. but they also do many rides around Sydney for recreation and fun. All sorts join these rides on all sorts of bicycles. All involve a coffee or food stop somewhere and they go on a variety of trips of differing lengths. With the BUGs the speed and intent of the ride is posted/advertised so that you know what you're in for. As well as that one well known bicycle sport club has a regular ride for those who don't want to be competitive but still want to get exercise in good company.

    For much longer distances there are organised rides for same. You just have to look for them. Dress and bike codes are usually stated but for the most part they're not pre requisite.

    The most distressing thing that comes up in bicycle forums in my country is a disdain towards those who like to train hard on a bicycle. This is a public issue as well. If you wear lycra and have a bike that looks over $3000 you are somehow a bit too serious. And the feeling is mutual. A lot of us are trying to break down this attitude. For example you wouldn't be training hard at football without the right gear would you? The attitude we'd like to see is just what you are expressing. A bike is a bike and we ride.

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  23. I had my little anti-roadie tirade up above a bit, but that was a response to another's comment. My response to the main post has more to do with the how's and why's of setting up social, slow, fun, any-bike-goes types of rides. Ppl have mentioned that road clubs tend to be consistent, and I agree that this would help any sort of ritualistic, weekly activity that involves a group of ppl. But, beyond pub rides, I've never seen regularly scheduled fun rides work out, least not in my area. Does anyone have any thoughts on how to organize such a thing, and if such a thing should even exist in the first place?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. On the Rivendell Google group, regional rides are organized semi-regularly. They are definitely social, usually around 40 miles and slower paced. Good bunch of people over there, check 'em out!

      This link may work, but google is screwing around with the groups.

      Delete
  24. It always seems to help it there is a theme....you name it...which gets back to labels. Not sure if it's part of the problem or part of the solution.

    ReplyDelete
  25. What is keeping people from organizing slower, more recreational group rides? One of the reasons clubs have lots of faster rides is because those are the people who show up on a regular basis. Don't wait for someone else to create your perfect ride for you. Be empowered and do it yourself.

    As for why longer rides are generally faster, not a whole lot of people can spend 5 hours to ride 60 miles every Saturday. Most organized rides around here are 1.5-3hrs because that's the amount of time most people are comfortable devoting to riding on any given day. If you want to get lots of miles, but don't want to be out all day, you need to ride faster.

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  26. What are these "advanced handling skills" of which you speak? The two main skills the clubs around here strive towards but never achieve are the Keep The Wheels Down Skill and the Don't Run Into Anyone Skill. A few of us have a secondary skill which consists of positioning oneself in the pack so as to keep away from those likely to lack the two basic skills. There are days when the only way to practice the secondary skill is to not ride with the group period. In younger days this was done by going off the front and staying there but things change.

    Over the years I've known a few cyclists whose skills were notably advanced. Greg LeMond. Roger Young. Sheila Young. The mountainbikers have some special skills. The trackies mostly have testosterone, if their skills are backwards they break lotta bones. But most riders are pretty ordinary.

    The most difficult skill to learn is balancing on two wheels. All the other stuff is much easier. Since we have not had an injury report yet I think you're doing pretty good.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "What are these "advanced handling skills" of which you speak?... Since we have not had an injury report yet I think you're doing pretty good."

      Knock on wood! But I wasn't talking about myself in this post, obviously I like roadcycling.

      I would say that for many if not most regular people, transitioning to a roadbike and then riding that roadbike fast, and cornering, and controlling one's speed, all while being very close to other cyclists, are all advanced skills. If for you these are basic skills, that only serves as an example of how wide the gap is.

      Delete
    2. ...and to be clear, I am one of the "regular people." For me these are all advanced skills and I am still mastering them. Despite having learned to balance on two wheels as a child.

      Delete
    3. You're much closer than you think.

      Much of the "advanced" is just bluster and posing. Yes, the fast guys are fast. Better? Not so much.

      You're not intimidated. You keep the bike up. You will be fine.

      Pretty sure you've seen the "Cyclists Special" video on youtube. Watch again now that you've done more group rides. That's ensemble riding at a high level. Ordinary riders doing what they believe is ordinary. I don't know any US fast boy club who could pull that off in 2012 and look so good.

      Delete
    4. "Much of the "advanced" is just bluster and posing."

      this.

      the bike snob may mock...but in my experience some of the most "skilled" and fearless riders are bmxers and alley-cat-6ers. roadies...not so much.

      Delete
    5. "Much of the "advanced" is just bluster and posing."

      Being smooth, safe and predictable in a pack or a paceline is an advanced skill, and one that takes a long time to develop. I've been on lots of road rides that would never judge a newcomer on his or her clothes and bicycle but judge a squirrely rider harshly.

      Delete
  27. We also wished to get faster: last year we had problems on brevets and on PBP Rando in following other participants. For this reason we did a lot of spinning this winter. Now we have gained problems in advancing tooo fast!!! So be carefull: you can just lose a lot of brevets or whatever. Just at first you have to accept your current speed.

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  28. I agree totally.

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  29. Thank you for putting cycling like you did. There are a lot of ways to cycle. I like more than one way and I'm still very much drawn to casual cycling - at my own pace, to explore and exercise and for the joy of riding a bike. I recently upgraded a classic but new Reynolds steel road bike to a triple crank and modern shifters. I like to go fast on Saturdays and that's the perfect bike for it. My other bikes are transportation bikes. I've belonged to a local cycling club off and on but I immediately get urged to use clipless pedals, to draft and to put in more time riding my road bike. the push is toward more speed. I don't mind trying to get more fit while cycling. But I don't want to push myself for the sake of getting faster and fitter to join a larger group of cyclists that cycle one way. I feel its just not for me. I often feel like I'm in a minority but I enjoy riding my way.

    ReplyDelete
  30. This is one of those posts where I think to myself, Thank god I live in Portland, because we do those kinds of rides all the time, and post them to Shift (http://www.shift2bikes.org/). There's even Pedalpalooza, which is two or three weeks in June basically dedicated to this kind of riding.

    Well, sort of. Depends. Some rides are what Mia Birk called "the drunken bike parade," that are basically rolling parties with shorter rides that end in a spot where people socialize--Midnight Mystery Ride is definitely one of them. Some rides have specific themes and are more like tours, like the biking About Architecture ride I attended last weekend, or most of Shawn's rides. (Which, as the first poster noted, are listed at http://urbanadventureleague.blogspot.com) Some of them are more like fitness rides, or just casual fun rides, or both.

    I guess it helps that 1. Portland is filled with folks who are serious cyclists and ride casually, and 2. Portland is filled with silly people who enjoy doing things in groups.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Some of you are just nailing this. When you get too old and fat to go outdoors in your Mario Cippilini Musclesuit (please feel free to continue to wear it indoors as loungewear), What CAN you do? Are you going to stop riding altogether or adopt a more realistic and maybe more pleasant approach or do we have to quit.

    The guys who are really into fast cars and motorcycles have to deal with something similar to this. What do you do when you're into 'Vettes or 500 H.P. Musclecars or 200 M.P.H. Crotch-Rocket' bikes? You sure can't go out on the road and drive 175 M.P.H. anywhere on a regular basis and it wouldn't be any fun if you did. So they spend a lot of time just messing around with 'em. You hang out at each others garage, drive en masse to do-nut shops and burger joints twice a week and once a year maybe you take a week long tour somewhere. I you want's to do a big smokey burnout in your driveway once in a while to hear the Hemi roar, who can blame you?

    It's easy to make fun of some of that behavior but is it any sillier than a 50 year old guy trying to be an Eddy because that's the only option if he want's to "participate"? Here in Harrisonburg we're going to have the annual Harri-Rubaix Grand Fondo next weekend. It's a fixture on the local ride calendar run on the same day as the Paris-Rubaix classic. It is such a great course and covers all kinds of terrain. I'll do it if I can sneak away for it but I know it's going to be a letdown in one of two ways. I'm going to make myself miserable keeping the expected pace or I'm going to get so much crap(and have to ride alone) if I slow down and just motor along at a rapid but sustainable clip. It just gets too fast for fun. I want to ride my racy new 'cross bike but the guys I want to ride with aren't doing it because they "haven't been training for it". They think I should forget about it too since I don't "have the base". I can ride that course under water. Just slower. Dumbasses.

    It was more fun when I was a kid and we rode all the time because we liked it and we did what seemed like fun. It IS fun to go hard and stay fit to fight, but it's fun to just screw around too.

    Spindizzy

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    Replies
    1. You have a racy new cross bike? Oh?

      Just don't tell me it's from the 1890's...

      Delete
    2. I agree. The healthy approach is to remain aware that what you are doing is fun but in the larger scope of things mostly pointless.

      Delete
  32. I DO have a new bike and while it is a closeout it only last years closeout. Not 1890 so there Miss Smartypants.

    It's quite special, made by a small company called (appropriately enough)Specialized, you've probably never heard of them. They only make a few a year and getting my hands on one was quite a coup. I feel pretty honored to have it in my care...

    I got it for installing the H.V.A.C. off the clock for the foo-foo roadie shop I'm helping open here. I'm still scraping up the $ to order that Mercian but until then I'm having fun riding something a bit newer than my beloved vintage stuff. It even has a Crabon Fork and seatpost(and a frame made from re-cycled catfood tins).

    Spindizzy

    ReplyDelete
  33. I am the president of a bike club and have tried very hard to get slower riders/more casual riders to show up to the club rides but they don't. The people who do show up to these rides are Roadies and they ride fast, faster than I can keep up on my racked up, friction shifting Sam Hillborne that I usually bring so I can ride with whatever slower riders come along.

    The Roadie/casual cyclist thing is alive and well in any cycling club, and I haven't figured out how to make it work for everybody. We try A, B, C groups and have riders purposely ride slow to bring up the rear but in general the hybrid/upright/casual rider just doesn't come to the rides. The best thing I can do, or the Roadies who do show up is be helpful, nice and happy that any new person does show up regardless what equipment or peformance level they are at.

    The fast people are the ones who show up to rides, plain and simple at least according to the rides I put on. Good thing though, I am getting much stronger and faster on my Sam Hillborne.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Moral of the story: I need to get faster so that I can take my Sam Hillborne on paceline rides and then explain "Oh I need to ride this bike so that others can keep up with me" : )

      Delete
    2. One Saturday morning, a young (compared to us) showed up with an upright bike with a full array of wire baskets. I can't remember if it was a single speed or 3 speed. No one suggested that she should not be there, but no one expected that she would last long. Wrong. She could shake just about anybody but hung in the middle wherever she could find someone to talk to. It was just wonderful.
      It should say young woman above, but I can't get the editor to let me change it and it took too long one fingered on an iPad not to submit.

      Delete
    3. I love stories like this, but sadly I am not that woman! I need all the help from a fast bike I can get. Some day though I would love to ride my vintage Raleigh DL-1 loop frame bike on a paceline ride...

      Delete
    4. I love this idea so much, but for the moment, I too need all the help I can get.

      Delete
  34. I love this article, I often feel intimidated by groups and people who ride fast. Then again I have only been riding my bicycle on a semi-regular basis for about two years. I do it for fun, not that fast isn't fun for other people. I am a runner and a lot of people hate running. haha.

    ReplyDelete
  35. @ Ryan M. (my reply button is not working)
    I would love to find a club like this...do a few slow rides a week, meet people, learn new trails. Even go on a longer ride sometime which might include a byo picnic lunch or something. Work up the fitness ladder.

    Tried a group ride once last summer. I have a new fitness bike which met their "requirements." The ride was described as 90 minutes, 10 mph avg. Should have been easy. The leader (also a lbs owner) started at 18 mph out of the gate in 90 degree heat. We put 24 miles in, they got frustrated b/c they had to wait for me (least I wasn't dropped). The kicker -- a harrowing 27 mph flight down a paved road strewn with storm debris from the previous day.

    For me, now, there's a huge trust issue. Don't know that I would participate again. ::shrug::

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is a bummer about that ride, they should have a more casual pace if they are going to advertise it as such. I make it a point to stay back with any slower members just because I want them coming back. My wife also comes along on some of the rides and she likes to take it easy and go slow, it should help get some new members enjoying club rides.

      This year our club changed officers and we are really trying to get the more casual riders to participate, I would be excited if parents showed up with some teens even. The old officers really liked to put the hammer down and I know it scared off quite a few people. I think as the season rolls on more will participate but so far the Roadies are showing up.

      The picnic rides are a good idea, we are actually having one tomorrow. Should be a good time.

      Delete
  36. In Britain we seem to be spoiled for choice - we have Sustrans, an organisation which supports sustainable transport as well as CTC - Cycle Touring Club. Neither of these are pure road cycling clubs and I've seen people turn up on the CTC club riding Brompton style bikes. I'm surprised there are not similar in the US.

    Mx

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  37. Living from the west coast, what I see is that most riders see the bicycle as either sporting goods or a toy, but not as a vehicle or a tool for transportation. As a toy, it is used to ride around the neighborhood every once in a while. As sporting goods, it is used for exercise, at as much speed as possible for the rider. I recall how surprised some members of my local bike club were, of which I am a member to provide support and with which I occasionally ride, when I showed up for the slow Sunday ride with a grocery pannier only on one side of my bike. Several members were concerned as to how one could balance.

    ReplyDelete
  38. I like to post this photo whenever anyone makes fun of mixtes and their riders as somehow being lesser forms of cyclist:

    http://flic.kr/p/br9oDJ

    Anyone recognize the rider?



    (It's Alberto Masi, riding in Milan circa 1997)

    Bikes are good!

    As an aside, the local club here (Santa Cruz County Cycling Club)
    posts the elevation gains and distances for their Saturday rides, as well as the wednesday 'beginner/re-entrant" rides. Their web page entries are quite specific in welcoming riders on non-drop-bar bikes for the easier & slower rides. How this plays out in practice, I do not know.

    Corey K

    ReplyDelete
  39. Great article and so right. I've returned to riding just a little over two months now. I can only sustain a speed of 10-12 mph, so serious club rides are a non-starter for me. The only reason to try to attain more speed is to be able to complete long distances in a reasonable time.

    ReplyDelete
  40. V, I've only recently discovered your blog and, I must say, it's quickly become one of my favorites. Your philosophy of riding certainly resonates with me.

    I'm a fairly strong rider and completed my first century 3 years ago. I'm a member of my local bike club, where I'm classified a 'B' rider. Now I'm in an "AUDAX" group - a series of 12 Sunday rides of gradually greater length, starting at 24 miles with the goal of doing a century in week 12. The group is casually called AUDAX because the idea is to ride without stopping in 2-hour segments, in a paceline. The problem? I can do this — but I find myself working the ride more than enjoying it, if that makes any sense. And pacelining, for me, at least, means not really immersing myself in the passing scenery, and I love passing scenery; it's one of the reasons I ride. So I think you've really hit the nail on the head here. I think what I resent is the assumption, certainly defendable, that we all aim to ride stronger, faster and harder. I don't. I rode clipless for two years and gave it up because I don't like clunking around in cafes and stores wearing cleats, and I didn't feel it afforded me a significant improvement over toe clips, which let me ride in civilian clothes. I'm probably the only member in the group without a Cateye on my handlebars, because I really don't care how fast or slow I'm going.

    Alas, I do feel it's hard to find like-minded riders for group rides. Maybe it's because those of us who enjoy stopping to smell the roses tend to be more unstructured, and with that comes less of an appetite for organization. Who knows?

    ReplyDelete
  41. There are plenty of casual 'sporty' riders around my area and many go together, especially if there are picnics involved along the way :) These tend to be unstructured and, well, casual....Often spur of the moment and weather dependent, too. Sorta word of mouth invitations amongst friends.

    ReplyDelete
  42. Cyclist clubs here tend to post the speed they'll ride at and there is a slow group that is also intended to train people in groupriding.
    There are fast groups that are more or less "if you can't keep up we'll drop you, we are going to sprint for every sign and ride the shit out of each other" however they are advertised as such.
    Some audax groups might let someone tag along for just part of the way and most cyclists should be able to handle that speed for shorter distances.
    I don't think there is any reason to feel one has to have expensive gear to go on a group ride or compete even. UCI regulations are pretty much designed to make sure the bike really doesn't make a difference, among roadbikes.
    matt at the beginning of the comments: Doesn't your club have any audax teams that you could ride partway with. I doubt they would be bothered by wool jerseys, steel etc. Otherwise the solution is to get a bit better than most of the people on the B team and pull longer and harder than the rest to shut them up.

    ReplyDelete
  43. Yeah but if you spend enough time roadcycling you eventually take a flyer and bridge up to the notion that existence precedes essence, and you struggle with it, until you realize the answer won’t matter because you are just a hamster turning a wheel in a reverse metaphor. (Btw when I say you I mean me) It’s a trip down the rabbit hole. It nearly ruined my life but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

    ReplyDelete
  44. This post appears to me to be another example of roadie elitism. I use flat bars on many longer rides because I prefer precision and agility when riding in traffic. Drop bars have their uses (e.g. riding in windy open expanses and racing) but the idea that a drop bar bike is a real advantage in a beginner/intermediate paceline ride is IMO silly. Its not the bike or the clothing, but the engine that matters. For me, there is very little difference between transportation/utility cycling and road cycling...but then I eschew 30 lb steel bikes and have a stable of mostly carbon and aluminum.

    I also believe that you are completely off base about road cycling requiring specialized garb. I can ride a century at speed in a loose cotton t-shirt and gym shorts (and have been know to do so on occasion). I also recall my incredulity at your earlier comment about not being being able to ride in "underwear" because the seam will hurt your precious parts. Weekend warriors with their chamois padding, bib overalls, butt butter and tingly embrocation make me laugh. If one rides often enough thick callouses that make riding on a skinny seat for tens of miles perfectly comfortable will inevitably develop.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yours are very good points--I agree with them all!

      (You should blog.)

      Delete
    2. Anon - I think the key word in your comment is "I". It's great that you feel comfortable riding a century in a t-shirt. It's fantastic that you never require padded shorts or chamois cream. It's splendid that for you, transportation and road cycling are one and the same.

      But why be so critical of others if their experiences are different? That's the part I don't get.

      I am with Robert, start your own blog. I enjoy reading others' points of view.

      Delete
    3. 'But why be so critical of others if their experiences are different? That's the part I don't get.'

      With all do respect, you've done the same :)

      Delete
    4. If that's your take on it, I guess there is nothing further to say. Interpretations are subjective.

      Delete
    5. Anon 5:27 was a different anon.

      "But why be so critical of others if their experiences are different? That's the part I don't get."

      In retrospect my tone was too scathing. Nevertheless, I believe that some of your commentary has generalized too much from your own experiences. I think its ironic that you ride with a club that bans hybrids (at least on some rides) even though a plugged flat bar is 100% USAC race legal. Its not about the bike or the kit...its about the rider!

      Delete
  45. Loner or Groupie? This is a real philosophical question for the rider who loves long distances but thinks of a pace line as a modern form of serving as a rower on a Viking longship.

    I appreciate group ride Centuries. And I'm hoping to get myself fast enough for randonneuring rides. But for a cool 50 mile loop out of and back into a city, I think going alone or with one or two friends is a lot more enjoyable than a larger group. [Possible insert of curmudgeon emoticon.]

    The result is that my interests/goals are just not served by a scheduled ride with a club. I've contributed to the local cycling clubs just to get access to the cue sheets. But I doubt that I'll ever be very interested in the group/casual ride experience. I just get too much pleasure out of the complete freedom of riding/stopping whenever I want to be a good "club" rider, regardless of pace/style.

    Bob

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  46. If there are no right or wrong ways to ride a bicycle, are there right and wrongs ways to classify oneself as a cyclist?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The deeper the question the deeper you must dig into your sense of humor for the answer. Oh c'mon, it's just turning pedals. April fools!

      Delete
  47. Could it be that Anon 5:27 is one of Spindizzy's "Hairy Naked Cycling Gods of Yore"?

    ReplyDelete
  48. Now I wish I'd published this post on April 1st! Sadly, I am no good at tricking people.

    ReplyDelete
  49. Doesn't take long at all to learn or develop. A lot will depend on how you learn.

    There are those riders who join the group and simply radiate calm. Everybody relaxes. The squirrels stop scampering. Wheels roll straight. The exemplar really does nothing perceptible but sit rock solid in the saddle and remain unperturbed by anything. The ride finishes minutes ahead of schedule and everyone is still fresh.

    Do just a few rides with one of those riders and you'll be stamped. I'm sorry you've never been there. I'm not that rider myself. I've been told for over 40 years that I've a very steady wheel, a wheel that others want to follow. But the calm thing, it's not me. Age makes it more likely I suppose but I've always seen younger riders who could do it.

    Too many newcomers in this sport. Best I can tell you is you're making it too complex, too hard. It's just a bike ride. Go ride your bike.

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    1. Peppy (this is my past time, not yours, can't has)April 3, 2012 at 11:36 AM

      I agree. Perhaps we can keep them out by telling them they're making it too complex.

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  50. I'm a loner and prefer riding alone. I'm not fast, and don't ride a road bike (in fact, a road bike given to me by a "roadie" couple was quickly turned into an upright ride!). I'd much rather wander around (Vienna to Prague is one of my desires!!), and it's allowed me to see things here in Orange and LA counties I wouldn't have seen if I'd been in the car, as I wouldn't have gone the way I went by bike. There's room in the cycling world for all of us.

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  51. I like this post and sorry to post a month and a half since it was originally posted. I'll just say this: one reason to ride 'seriously' is so you can be like some of the guys in the group I ride with: 68 - 75 year old guys that are fit as a fiddle and that leave me (and many others half their age) in the dust. They are inspiring, and they didn't get to that pont by putzing around on weekends on a Dutch cargo bike.

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  52. Love the post : ) I am a facilitator for a cycling group that caters to exactly that...from rearing to pedal teenagers...to a much older lot getting back on the saddle after decades. The cycles range from MTBs, Hybrids, Roadies n even a couple of Fixies : ) We go on group rides...that cater to the slowest and the fastest riders : )

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  53. I am just going through and seeing cool stuff! I am primarily a commuter. 22 miles per day in dry weather (hot or cold) from Bay Ridge Brooklyn to midtown NYC. And it's "primarily" due to time constraints. I have vintage down tube lightweights, fixed gears, vintage steel bikes with modern shifting, a Raleigh Sports 3 speed etc. My goal, if there is such a thing, is to ride easy to work in the morning and ride home hard when I can beat myself up. I end up late all the time (just 5 more minutes of snooze turns to 45 min!!). So I am huffing and puffing to work. No biggy. I want to take a leisurely ride home and someone passes me or grazes me on the way back and the Cat6 race is on! hahaha I love my commute, I hate the congested train with its array of incurable germ-laden occupants. Bike is utilitarian.

    My girlfriend lives 32 hilly miles away in New Jersey. 2 1/2 hours (I always take a lot of pictures along the way!). Bike is mostly utiitarian.

    On the odd occasions when I have time (could someone tell me what that means??). I take a fun ride. Again, lots of pictures. Against the wind, cold, hot, whatever. Time goals? I am too heavy to remember those, I just want to concnetrate on breathing, pedal stroke, efficiency. Bike is fun vehicle!

    I have done a couple of centuries here and there, Montauk 145 flat miles, MS Bike Ride in October, 110 hilly miles. I want to visit my friends in Jim Thorpe PA. I want to do it on this Peugeot 650 B I am working on. I have to get it set right and broken in (or see what breaks first!) and etc etc. I am going to figure my final brake handle placement and then do a shellac job per instrux I read here! Anyway, I am not much of a group / bunch of friends rider. People either scare me or I have to hang back too much. Sometimes there will be a little gathering of the Brooklyn Velodrome Vintage Wheelmen but there's more non-riding stuff going on.
    Sometimes there's nothing more satisfying than tooling around 'town' on the old Schwinn Corvette 3 speed. Bike is fun!
    I have nothing to add nor subtract, everybody's right!

    Victor K. Brooklyn, NY

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  54. Late comment, but I have some thoughts about group rides. Ten years ago, I started riding seriously. I joined a group with my boss. They liked to not leave anybody behind, but at the same time they traveled at about 17 mph average. I had a hard time keeping up on my hardtail mountain bike converted for the road. I ended up getting a Lightspeed at the local bike swap meet.

    I later went on a ride with them when my father was visiting and he couldn't keep up. We were dropped on the out and back ride. When they were on their way back we had to abandon our desire to get to the point of interest. Disappointing.

    Later, due to problems with my wrists I had to abandon the uprights and go to a recumbent. The recumbent I have with me as an engine does very well on the flats and keeps up just fine, if not better than the average person. The hills are another story. If it is a steep hill, then I am much slower. It is inconvenient to ride with a group of "roadies" as the strengths and weaknesses are mismatched. Some like to make cracks about my bike.

    I joined a local recumbent group on Facebook. When we do group rides there is a strictly followed rule and nobody left behind. There is a lot of socializing and enjoying the scenery. I am one of the few on two wheels instead of the three of their tricycles. I am faster than most, and uphill, if very steep (~9%) I struggle to stay upright if I try to ride right next to some of them due to the lack of speed.

    I enjoy the socializing much more in the recumbent group rides as you can actually socialize. In the upright group rides, which I still do, I also enjoy the socializing but it is harder to do because we are going faster and the terrain is different. Uprights are not afraid of riding on the road. The recumbent cycling groups has some tricyclists who are afraid of the road and do everything possible to stay on the multi-use paths (of which we have over 50 miles worth).

    So, what I am I trying to say?
    1) You can search Facebook for local cycling groups that are of varying interests, and likely find one to fit yours;
    2) Some people will be biased about what you ride - no matter what it is;
    3) It takes some effort on each persons part to find a group that will meet the type of riding they want to do;
    4) If a person wants to improve their riding skills (speed; drafting; etc.) they need to be willing to practice on their own;
    5) The League of American Bicyclists have safety classes for riding on the road and for commuting. It is well worth taking if you want to get comfortable on the road.
    6) If your goal is to increase the distance you go, then increasing your distance in your rides is a good place to start. You can build up your base fitness level. With that said, people often suggest working to increase your speed also so it takes less time to get there. (And, do intervals to improve your strength/speed as an increase in strength and speed helps you enjoy the ride more - especially when you encounter hills).
    7) Do not EVER try to force a spouse to do what you think is necessary to improve the ability to cycle comfortably. You can mention what you have found works for you, and what the "experts" say, but let them decide whether or not to do it.

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