It’s a nine-word title, so I’ll try to come up with nine reasons I will never be mistaken for a Serious Cyclist. While I was out monkeying around on the Razesa yesterday, I met another cyclist pedaling toward me on the road, made eye contact and waved. I think he acknowledged my greeting with a nod and a wave back. I thought, “That guy’s a more serious cyclist than I am,” and here’s why: he rode a newer bike than I’ve got; he had on a bright orange, bike specific jacket; he didn’t have lights or, if I recall this correctly, reflectors on his bike; his bike helmet looked like it cost a hundred bucks.
As to the relative age of bicycles ridden out in public, I’d guess most people’s bikes are newer than mine. The Razesa I rode yesterday was made in about 1985. My other bike, a Miyata, was manufactured in 1981. Yesterday, I wore my grandfather’s gray, zipper front fleece pullover on top of inexpensive American made fleece cycling tights with polypropylene thermal long underwear underneath (I bought those in the early nineties when I lived in Portland, Oregon). I did have on a new pair of cycling gloves, a pair of lace-up cycling shoes I bought from REI on sale and some 10 year-old hiking socks. Like facepalmword, I prefer to wear “whatever” is handy, doesn’t cost too much, make me look like I’m dressed up for a Halloween party, is at least marginally clean or doesn’t stink badly from its most recent use. Although unlike her, I don’t think most of the gender-specific bike clothes available to me are horrible, even though a lot of it is made for stick-figure boys under the age of 20. Pushing fifty, I wouldn’t mind being thinner, but don’t expect to find me modeling clothes in a catalogue. I use blinking USB rechargeable bike lights for visibility on the road; I don’t think that’s something serious cyclists do. My bike’s got reflectors fore and aft, as well as in the wheel-spokes. My bike helmet cost $36 on sale at the bike store.
I spent some time thinking about this stuff while I rode around the uppity end of Stepford, yesterday. Wondering about why I can’t engage in activities like normal people do – buying new stuff, conforming to the attitudes and practices of those engaged in similar activities, and so forth. This morning, I remembered that when I was a child of I don’t recall what age, my mom gave me a copy of this quote from Henry David Thoreau,
"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."
I thought at the time the statement was an insult or indictment because I was thought not to have kept up with my peers in any number of ways. Probably at the time, my mother earnestly hoped that I would grow into something recognizably human that would pose little or no threat to others or society. The fact that I have so turned out is a testimony to the fact that God hears and sometimes answers the prayers of desperate parents, grandparents, and friends. What I’ve found, regarding that quote, is that when I walk, there are few who can keep pace with me; this is true in other pursuits, as well. Cycling’s not one of them, however, a lot of people can ride faster and farther than I can ride.
That said, here are some of the reasons I will never be mistaken for a Serious Cyclist:
- I ride for the fun of it – to both get exercise and explore my surroundings – it’s monkeying around, sightseeing, and I make up my goals for the ride while I’m riding.
- I sometimes ride 3.3 miles around my neighborhood in the evenings after work and still think of that as a bike ride.
- 27 miles feels like a longish ride to me.
- My average speed, when I’m in shape, is about 15 miles per hour; here lately, my average has been about 14.
- My bikes are really old – 28 and 32 years, respectively.
- I don’t use clip-in or toe-clip pedals.
- I don’t care at all about racing.
- I sometimes stop and take pictures of things I see while riding.
- I ride through neighborhoods on my routes, not past them, because I like to see what’s in them.
Here’re the stats and map from yesterday’s ride: