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#30daysofbiking Day 18: a “serious” cyclist?

They are obviously pretty serious...

Today as I was fluffing about, thinking about today’s ride – a road ride? a bike picnic? a leisurely family spin on the greenway? – I thought of a recent conversation I had with a nice guy who had been asking me about my Xtracycle.  At one point, as he was telling me about one of his friends who cycles, he said something along the lines of, “Well, he’s one of those really serious cyclists …”, with the inflection in his voice implying that we both knew that I (goofy lycra-less woman on an Xtracycle) was obviously not in that category.

(Let me preface this by stating my feeling that labels are not only unnecessary, but also unfailingly stupid and inaccurate, and I try to avoid them.  But we’ve all heard – and likely even used – terms and labels when referring to other riders.  Like, “He/She’s really hard-core”, or “He/She’s a really serious cyclist.”  Enough said.)

But it has had me thinking about how right (or wrong?) was he?  What exactly is, and who qualifies, as a serious cyclist?  (And please feel free to chime in with your comments – whether you are serious or not. ;))

So, my self-evaluation of my cycling seriousness led me to the following conclusions of why I don’t, apparently, fall into the serious cyclist category:

  • I have more skirts in my closet than lycra-wear.
  • I have never ridden a century – or across the continent, or around the planet – and am not sure I really care if I do.
  • The combined dollar value of all of my bicycles is likely less than that of some (many?) serious cyclist’s wheel sets.
  • I do not have a training regimen.
  • I do not have a fully-equipped bike mechanic’s shop in my garage or basement.
  • I could not tell you how many miles I logged last week, but only that I rode every day.
  • Although my kids sometimes call me a hippie, I’m definitely not a hipster.  And I don’t own a fixie. (Yet.)
  • I stop a lot.   To take pictures, eat an apple, look at old barns, talk to farm animals, or just sit and enjoy the scenery.
  • I cannot execute a bunny hop.
  • Some days, I just get the groceries.
  • I don’t know the names of all of the components on my bicycle.
  • As much as I would like to, I don’t live in a serious cyclist city – like Portland, Minneapolis, NYC or Chicago.
  • I have been known to ride in flip-flops.
  • I still own a car.
  • I admire people like Kipchoge Spencer and Ross Evans infinitely more than Lance Armstrong.
  • I enjoy riding entirely by myself.
  • My husband is my only sponsor.

Part of my is, admittedly, a little sad that I will likely ever be referred to as a serious cyclist (despite my aversion to labels).  The only thing I know for sure is that even if I’m not a serious cyclist, I am a passionate cyclist – I love bicycles and the place they hold in my life.  I try to ride nearly every day, and hope to be doing so for a very long time to come.  I like to think that I embrace the bicycling lifestyle, even if I’m not defining it.

So, today’s #30daysofbiking ride ended up being a sub-serious-cyclist leisurely ride around “the neighborhood” – with my sponsor.  It wasn’t blazing fast, or very long, but there were a couple of nice sheep.   😉  Fine by me.

I, on the other hand ... obviously not so serious 😉

"Seriously" in need of shedding a sweater ... or four.

Posted by savaconta on April 18, 2010
  1. 04/19/2010

    My “serious” cycling is done on the city bike, usually with my trailer attached. It’s always fun despite the level of “seriousness” of a particular ride. Some of my city bike rides are “frivilous.”

    On the other hand, my sport cycling is done mostly for fun. Even when I’m mashing up a 15% slope with dripping sweat. Or 70 miles into a century. Or with burning quads on a sprint chasing my pride–I mean my coach.

    I have both lycra clothing and regular everyday wear. Not sure I have the courage to ride in flip-flops. I don’t have any skirts (do I need to get some?).

    Ok, lost my train of thought — not sure if I’m serious cyclist or not.

    • 04/19/2010

      You have a coach. You definitely qualify as serious. 🙂

  2. 04/19/2010

    Touche! All that said, you’re serious “enough”!

  3. 04/19/2010

    Like you, I would much rather be a passionate cyclist than a so-called “serious” cyclist.
    I ride my bicycle because I love to ride my bicycle. Pure bicycle joy. I have been riding a bicycle since I was a little girl.
    I ride my favorite bicycle, most of the time by myself, because I love it even though it is not new or expensive or fancy. I ride in whatever clothes are practical and comfortable for me.
    I did ride my bike in a couple of centuries and a very long-distance ride, but I did those because I wanted to and enjoyed them, not for the competition.
    You said you ride your bike every day, which is more than some so-called “serious” cyclists do. And you probably enjoy it more than some of them do. Looks and sounds like it!
    I have known “serious” cyclists who were great people who embraced and welcomed all types of cyclists because they wanted to share bicycle joy.
    And I have known “serious” cyclists who looked down on anyone who didn’t have a really expensive bike and wanna-be racer clothes. And those cyclists did not impress me one bit.
    So I love what you wrote.
    To me, a serious cyclist is not defined by outward appearances.
    It’s all about attitude–on and off the bike. RideON!!!

  4. 04/19/2010

    I, too, am a serious cyclist. “Serious” cyclists who wear jersies and race and the like drive cars and fly in planes and have to buy carbon offsets. From me. 😉

    Love the feeling of your words. Sometimes I ride to do errands. Sometimes I just ride. My camera is always with me, and life is blessed at 9-13 mph.

  5. 04/19/2010

    I like the label “passionate” very much. I’m adopting it. 🙂

  6. 04/19/2010

    I really like the idea of being passionate Cass! I have ridden one century (which for a former couch potato I feel pretty darn proud of!) but I watch the testoster-atsi blow past me on the bike trails. I have a nice carbon road bike, but I also dream of a good townie. I do not run errands on my bike or commute on it and often view folks like you Laura and Sarah as much more dedicated to biking in that way than I am. I ride in Lycra, but if I had a townie I would not. I don’t live in a serious bike area (Hello, FLORIDA! :-P) but am jealous of anyone with good road riding options I don’t have (including you with your nice country roads). I don’t ride every day, but when I do I’m thrilled. I mainly do a set ride, but do love to explore (even though I hate riding roads in FL) and have been doing more of that lately. So am I serious… I don’t know that I qualify either.

    But like you, I am PASSIONATE. I love that feeling when I slip on the saddle and the bike coasts out onto the trail. I smell jasmine and see that long stretch of asphalt ahead of me. In a flash I am 11 again, heading out the drive way on my “big girl bike” on a summer day with a whole world to explore, and parents and rules and school and anxieties of my life left in the dust. Riding fills me with happiness that no other physical activity ever did, and I feel free, and strong and joyful.

    So yeah, I’m with you girl, labels are just labels, but I’ll take “passionate cyclist” if you’re going to give me one! 🙂

  7. 04/19/2010

    omg, that sheep is what’s serious! seriously out of control! makes me want to xtra-surf over to it and dive into his woolly goodness…

    but back on the not-so-serious note, thanks for helping others feel more welcome in the goof-off, normal, every day adventure side of cycling. 😀

  8. 04/19/2010
    Tony B

    You are riding a Xtra equip Surly so at the very least you are a tasteful rider and I’d throw Serious your way too!

    I ride every day or at least 6 days a week. Mostly on my Xtra but on lots of other fun stuff too so I guess I too would be considered serious. I doubt I ever get much about 15 mph regardless of ride I’m on though. My students call me serious so I guess I am.

    Now, my buddy that rides single track on a unicycle at 40 years old. THAT is serious….and silly and fun.

    All I can say is that if you are on a bike and not in a car, you are a serious cyclist in my eyes.

    Ride…ride hard or soft doesn’t matter…..just ride!

    Tony B.
    Milwaukee WI

  9. 04/19/2010

    I like to say you should never judge a cyclist by his/her clothing.

  10. 04/19/2010

    The late great Sheldon Brown liked talking about serious cyclists. The one I remember in particular was about fenders. Of course, no roadie I know would be caught dead with fenders.

    Who Needs Fenders?

    If you are a “fair weather” cyclist, you don’t need fenders, but if you are a serious cyclist, and don’t live in a desert climate, you really should have at least one bicycle with fenders.

    Fenders by themselves won’t keep you dry in a pounding rain, but they make a tremendous difference when you are riding roads that are wet from drizzle, recent rain, or snow-melt.

    Even in hard rain, you will become wet with clean rain from above, but your body and bicycle will be protected from the mud and sand kicked up from dirty puddles and rivulets.

    Rain capes.*****

  11. 04/19/2010

    I’m definitely guilty of classifying some bicyle-riders as “those fancy lycra-guys” to distinguish from riders like myself who are seriously committed to bicycles as transportation rather than sport. I guess that’s really what it comes down to- do you ride for sport, for exercise, for transportation, for quality time with friends, for scenery, for challenge, adventure? And most people ride for multiple reasons, which is why we can’t REALLY fairly put anyone into a box.

    I’m a commuter. I don’t own a car, and I absolutely don’t want one. I also commute really, really long distances sometime. Like 500 miles. But I don’t consider myself a “cyclist” because the name makes me think of the people who drive 5 miles to the park with their expensive carbon fiber bikes on a rack on the roof.

    And yet, I’m flattered when “cyclists” ask me if I’m going on the next upcoming century.

    Words are open to interpretation. What matters is the enjoyment of the experience… and the whole not driving thing…

  12. 04/19/2010

    Some days, when I put on my jersey (Red Rider jersey from the ADA) and my Lycra shorts and my fancy clip in shoes and my wrap around glasses, I am a “serious” bicyclist. On a really good week I am that kind of rider 3-4 times. I do not race, nor am I very fast, but I do love to ride centuries just for the pure joy of being on my bike for 6 hours and seeing a lot of beautiful country side at 18+ mph. Trust me the gear helps. The rest of the time I am a “passionate” cyclist, commuting to work every single day of the year. Going to the store and even going to my anniversary dinner with my wife on our bikes. Yes even through the worst of this past Wisconsin winter. I even enjoy doing alley cats! So what kind of cyclist does that make me?

    I wear one label and I wear it proudly, yes I am a “bicyclist.” Every other distinction is worthless.

  13. 04/19/2010

    I have to admit that lately I’ve started thinking of the spandex-clad speed demons as “casual” cyclists since they seem to be cycling just for entertainment. Probably an equally inappropriate and prejudicial label, though. I just know that for me, I started out wearing spandex and riding on the weekends, but as I became a more “serious” rider my bikes got heavier, I ditched the spandex, and I learned to ride anytime and everywhere.

  14. 04/19/2010

    I think I feel bad for that sheep.

  15. 04/19/2010

    There is a lot to be said for those who ride at all or daily or weekly or pulling their kids or following their kids or with groceries or to work. I love my bike and I ride daily for transportaion I live on the side of a mountain and don’t think I could ride up it pulling my 2 kids under 4 if I didn’t have an electric assist motor. Sometimes I feel like I am looked as not a real rider cause of the motor but I know how many km I log daily and that this is my only form of transportation.

  16. 04/20/2010

    A passionate cyclist would say “Aww that’s a beautiful picture of a sheep grazing in a meadow”.

    A serious cyclist would say “I wonder how many wool jerseys Swobo could make out of that one sheep” when looking at that same picture.

    Personally, when I think of “serious cyclist” I harken back to the day when I lived in SF and I was riding to become a sport-class mountain bike racer. After a long and brutal road/dirt ride in the Marin Headlands (the legal boring parts of it anyway), I made my way back on the Golden Gate Bridge when a “serious cyclist” bolted past and yelled “ON YOUR LEFT A$$HOLE!!!”, even though I was going a respectable 13mph.

    It took me about a mile but I eventually caught and passed the serious cyclist and when I got in front of him I just waved goodbye and laughed my arse off as I made my way back home.

    To me “serious cyclist” has a negative stereotype attached to it. Any person who places speed and time ahead of the experience is most likely a serious cyclist and for the most part that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

    BTW, I now use that same mountain bike to accompany my kids to and from school and when nobody’s looking I may even pop a wheelie because there’s nothing cooler than popping a wheelie.

  17. 12/17/2010

    This has been a good read and a great blog with cool pics! Great job!

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