[Ken Kifer's Bike Pages]
ARTICLE: Subtle Little Clues that Indicate a True Cyclist
True cyclists, also known as serious cyclists, genuine cyclists, and real cyclists, demonstrate unusual behavior, clothing, and lifestyle.
Questions Why can't you identify a real cyclist from shirts and shorts anymore? What is one good reason why identifying a true cyclist important? What other clothing besides shirts and shorts is a give-away? What clothing clue absolutely identifies a real cyclist? How is a true cyclist's body different? How does the serious cyclist eat differently? Can thirst indicate a genuine cyclist? How does a true cyclist see roads and routes differently? How does a cyclist behave differently as a car owner? What knowledge does a real cyclist have of country stores? Does a serious cyclist have unusual conversation traits? How is a true cyclist's courting different? What does a real cyclist's office look like? Can you easily recognize the home of a real cyclist from the inside? How are the children of true cyclists recognizable?


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Subtle Little Clues That Indicate a True Cyclist®

During the mid-80's, cycling clothing suddenly became fashionable, and the people formerly seen as worse than nerds suddenly became the trendy center. For a short period of time, maybe ten years, I would approach someone dressed in very appropriate cycling clothes or wearing a cycling T-shirt and ask some question pertaining to the sport (or activity, if "sport" offends you) to get a rude reply in return, such as, "I wouldn't ride a %$#@! bicycle if they gave the %$#@! things away!" After ten years of such gentle hints, I finally realized that not everyone who looks like a cyclist is one. Not even having bicycles hanging from a car is a sure sign. I recently learned of an important reason for being able to make this identification. A young woman, the daughter of a true cyclist®, said she would never marry one under any circumstances. But how can she tell the true cyclist® from any young man with a bike? Fortunately, there are a very few subtle clues that can indicate if a person really is a true cyclist® or not.

Cyclist Clothing

What kind of clothing is the person wearing? While we can't use cycling shorts and shirts as a clue, there are some other clothing details that often evade notice that are more informative. For instance, is the person wearing reflectorized leg bands? Because the things feel comfortable, I forget I have them on, so I end up wearing them at the store, along the street, even on the job. Key chains are another clue, for example, James Connell has a key fob made from a Campy shift lever, Matt Castelein has key chains made from "the peel-off bits of the bottom of [his] SPD shoes," and Tim Chamber's key chain is made of bike chain. A key holder or charm designed to look like a U-bolt is so ugly that only a true cyclist® like Steve Pells would have one. And Curtis L. Russell has a Campy dropout key ring and bottle opener with his bike keys. In addition, a male might wear a bicycle tie while on a date (Jim Quinn), and a female might wear necklace or bracelet with cycling charms (Jessica Mosher). A bike bag used as a purse (Ilana Stern) is a dead giveaway, if it really is a bike bag. But, wearing a mirror on the eyeglasses is absolutely unmistakable (Walt Knapp).

The Cyclist Body

Other details of the person's body can be subtle indicators. The typical cyclist has a thin, muscular body with a soft stomach (Jack Rose). More certain is a little brown tan mark on the back of the hand caused by riding in the bright sun while wearing cycling gloves (Walt Knapp). Another indication is white hands with tanned arms (Eric Cross). The cyclist's tan is recognizable because the person's back is fully tanned while the front is not (Eleanor MacMaster). Eric also pointed out that smoothly shaved legs on men are a clear sign. Many people reported a black mark on the inside right calf caused by the bike chain. Often, there is a clear outline. After I commented that I wouldn't be surprised to find such a tattoo, Ray provided us with a URL. Jack Dingler reminded us that cyclists have longer shoe laces on the left than on the right, Ilana Stern pointed out that right shoe laces also have badly frayed loops, and Jeff DelPapa correctly noted that, on a tandem rider, both sets of shoe laces are chewed up.

The Cyclist Hunger and Eating Style

Hunger at a meal can reveal a cyclist. I notice that when I sit to eat with other people, they soon forget about eating and conversation and just watch me eat instead. People will take turns passing me food. Jessica Mosher reports that while other women are eating like birds, she is rapidly stuffing pizza, in spite of her thin figure. The eating method of cyclists has been supplied by Gary Lee: a) Press food against face, b) suck, c) keep fingers out of the way, d) repeat. On one bike trip, I arrived at my aunt's house; they had already eaten, but she had a full meal waiting just for me. After I finished, I was sort of looking around, and she said, "You couldn't still be hungry, could you?" I said "no" but I had that look in my eye, so she went and got an already prepared second meal which I promptly devoured. She told me my mother had warned her, but she had found it hard to believe. Of course, I was polite enough not to mention that I had already eaten before I arrived. Anybody can be a glutton, but only a true cyclist® is a bottomless pit.

A Cyclist's Drinking Style

At the water fountain, is the person thirsty? At the bank, the person in the line in front of me always seems to pull out a hidden bank pouch, ready to begin complex transactions for three businesses and one overseas trip. But I'm just getting paid back for my behavior in the water line. Other people will reach the water fountain and take a little sip. A true cyclist® will reach the fountain and start to suck in the water in great shuddering convulsions that allow few drops to escape. After five minutes, the cyclist will back away for a short breathing break, but the cold water will be long gone. If no water fountain is available, only a cyclist will buy and down two liters of sports drink or soda (Ron Wallenfang).

The Cyclist Understanding of Local Roads and Topography

Does the person have difficulty with simple directions and distances? For example, someone will say to me, it's just five minutes straight north on that highway, and I will reply, "But how far is it?" and "How can I get there?" A true cyclist® will refer to the number of days it takes to travel to far away cities and might fail to recognize quicker and straighter methods of getting there. However, paradoxically, a true cyclist® knows "every street, way, lane, path, and route around his home" and, when offering directions, the cyclist will supply all kinds of information that's meaningless to anyone else, such as the steepness of hills (BIT from Germany). In addition, the true cyclist® will know all kinds of road information about obscure places in other states.

The Cyclist and the Automobile

If the true cyclist® happens to own and drive a car, both the behavior and the vehicle will be odd. In driving a car, Adam Rice points out that a cyclist will use back streets to get to any destination due to unfamiliarity with the direct routes. Jason Lowder points that the true cyclist® will also wave or nod at all passing cyclists. Jack Rose points out a simple rule of thumb: if the bike is worth more than the car, the owner is a true cyclist®. You will also notice that the bike is in excellent condition and the car is desperately in need of some repair.

The Cyclist's Knowledge of Country Stores

Here's a simple and easy test that can identify a true cyclist® in a heart beat. First, think of a pretty road traveling to a nearby town, say twenty miles away. Second, ask the person this question, "If I was going to x, would I be likely to find a place to buy a coke along the way?" A true cyclist® can not only tell you every store on the way but can provide useful information about the food and beverages they sell, whether they have outside faucets or not (Jerry from Greenville), the names of the employees (Jack Rose), and the location of all usable bathrooms  -- including unlocked portapotties (Ellen F. MacGarrigle). A motorist, on the other hand, won't even know that the stores are there unless he has run out of gas (the true cyclist® won't remember if these stores have gas or not).

Cyclist Conversation Habits

Little conversational habits will also furnish clues. Al Berger gives us this trick: Ask a friend to ride by outside on a bike, and the true cyclist® will rush to the window, even if in mid-sentence. Jim Quinn reports that when asked what someone looks like, the true cyclist® will describe the person's bike! Or asked for an opinion of the person, the cyclist will reply in terms of cycling ability (OK on the road, but doesn't know how to ride a trail). Jack Rose points that the true cyclist® will remember the past in terms of cycling events rather than dates. If the conversation gets really boring, the true cyclist® might occupy his time by checking his pulse (Phil Feldman).

Cyclist Courting Behavior

Courting conversation can be a little odd. Tom Kunich reports that the male will be sizing up the bike size of the female. Phil Feldman points out that if the two are riding bikes when they meet, the first compliment is going to be about the bike. In fact, the opposite sex might end up receiving less attention than the opposite bicycle. Jim Quinn and Jessica Mosher point out that true cyclists® are going to insist on dating conditions that leave the new flame clearly second fiddle to the bike.

The Cyclist's Office

The person's office and job can be good indicators. According to Phil Feldman, the true cyclist® keeps his bike right next to his chair, a Velonews mousepad sits on the desk, and when he enters the room, he checks the cycling newsgroups before doing any work. The screen saver will include a bicycle. David Ryan says there might be cycling-related newspaper clippings or maps on the wall. Jessica Mosher points out that a true cyclist® will likely work for a company with showers and bike racks, on a good cycling route, and perhaps with a cycling team. Jerry at Greenville points out there will be a clothes line in the office for drying cycling clothes, and the top drawer of the filing cabinet will hold a helmet, shoes, gloves & water bottles. Brenda Hébert points out that the phone will automatically dial one or more mail-order bike shops.  Adam Rice suggests checking for bike tools on the desk. Jessica Mosher adds the following details: both the office water bottle and the flower vase will be bike bottles. On the wall will be pictures of cyclists, a cycling calendar, and numbers from races.

A Cyclist's Home

Visiting the home can yield further clues. When you enter the home of the person, is there a bicycle or even bike trailer hanging or placed prominently in the living room? This might be some classy bike that is no longer being ridden but is intended for your true admiration, but is more likely to be old faithful, dirt and all, where she can constantly be admired. The entrance to the home might be half-blocked (John Serafin), and there are likely to be bikes in the bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and dining room as well. David Martin points out that the true cyclist® will also have lights on all the bikes and trailers. R. M. Crissey suggests looking for full mudguards or fenders and racks. Of course, there is also a real hard-core element who enjoys cycling in the rain without fenders or rain clothes. The multiplication of bikes can get beyond reason; Adam Rice points out that the true cyclist® is always wanting one more bike for something. Very revealing, as Eric Soroos points out, is a bike made from left-over parts.

Cyclist Home Decoration

Decoration of the living room and/or other rooms also indicates an interest in cycling with male-female differences here. In the days of the cave man, the male would have his cave littered with specimens (bones) of the animals he had killed, and each guest entering would be given a long tale about every encounter. The modern cycling male prefers to his room decorated with the tools of his trade. For instance, Walter Knapp keeps in his living room a bike stand, various tools, and spare parts and tires. Ryan Cleary has extra pedals on the floor, along with panniers, helmet, seat pack, two pumps, and various Park tools. R. R. M. Tweek has a worn-out freewheel on the living room table, and a pair of broken pedals on the floor underneath.

The cave female, on the other hand, would throw away all the old bones and bring in flowers. The modern cycling female prefers bicycle-related decorations. Eleanor MacMaster was willing to describe her apartment. Besides having the usual bikes (hanging on the bedroom wall), she has lace curtains with a bicycle motif across the living room window and balcony door. Next to the plants in the living room are a couple of miniature bicycles. And on the bedroom wall is a map of a trip, an old bicycle seat, and two framed Calvin and Hobbes cycling cartoons.

Both sexes will share other details.  Expect cycling magazines, but usually not Bicycling. You want to look for Velo News, Bicyclist (Al Berger), or Cycle Sport (Diane Benham). There should be photo albums everywhere of cycling trips, and photos of bicycles in various places on the wall (Garry Lee). Expect to be shown all those photos as well.  Steve Pells and David Martin point out that maps will be everywhere, with many badly-worn and neatly folded. In the US, these will be county road maps, 1:250,000 topos, state road maps, and/or cycling maps. David Martin says, "A British true cyclist® is going to have sackfuls of pink OS Landrangers on his/her shelf, folded back on themselves so they fit in the window of a handlebar bag or jersey pocket."

Cyclists' Children

Children are a good indication of the character of their parents, even if they are not enthusiastic participants. In fact, they generally dress the opposite and hide their parents' devious behavior. But nonetheless they have shared cycling experiences. For instance, late one dark and stormy night, I mentioned to my preteen son that I was thirsty, and he indicated the same. Rather than cranking up the old van, which would have been a lot of trouble, we made a 14-mile round trip in order to each get one soft drink. The amount of fluid evaporated was much greater than the fluid consumed, of course, but what difference did that make? One easy way to spot such a child suggests itself: gather the children together and start telling them what a wonderful sport cycling is. All of the children that know nothing about cycling will be alert and attentive, but the child of a true cyclist® will look bored, roll the eyes, and sigh. To be absolutely certain, announce at the end of your discussion -- with great and solemn stress -- that some cyclists can actually travel as much as 20 miles in one day! All the other children will be openly astonished, but the child of a true cyclist® will be horrified at your stupidity! Expect wild outbursts of outrage and the minor destruction of property.


Tales from the Tub  A Real Cyclist felt he had to shave his legs to belong.

You Know You're a Biker When . . .  Definitions of a biker gathered by Jørn Dahl of Norway after I did my "True Cyclist" thread, with the original writers acknowledged.

Here's something that ought to be pleasant but is not. On the web, there are more and more sites appearing with "You know you're a biker when . . ." with the exact same phrases (some sites are changing "biker" to other terms). Since one web site described this material as anonymous, the others felt it was OK to copy it. Jørn has the only site which acknowledges its sources. Over a dozen sites have copied this material and are treating it as uncopyrighted material. All material on the web has copyright protection whether marked so or not. Do not copy other people's pages. If you see a good page, provide a link to it rather than copying it. Material from newsgroups or email lists also has copyright protection. While short quotes are allowable, acknowledge your sources. It will improve your pages to say who said what anyway.

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