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.
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
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
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
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
Cyclist Courting Behavior
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
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
A Cyclist's Home
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
Cyclist Home 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
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.