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Thursday, 1 March 2018

Tribes – Cycling Nonsense And Snobbery

Angry cyclistWe humans are a social bunch. Mostly. Society dictates that rules or perceived norms must exist to prevent chaos. With rules come groups and cliques. As individuals within the group we feel part of something, more than a tiny and lost part of the masses and, perhaps more importantly, we can relate to like-minded people.
Gangs. Fans. Clubs. Societies. Friendship. Political parties. A small sample of groups of like-minded people coming together with a common interest. Dig deeper and groups form within groups. Cycling is no exception. Split by discipline and divided by opinion, we sure do like to hive off into our own little worlds.
This is acceptable except when a group becomes a clique, outsiders treated with caution, with disdain. Snobbery ensues. We each believe our values, our version of the ‘truth’ is the gospel and any opposing view is wrong.
Cliques help define us. They become our social mirror, helping us to feel we’re not alone. Groups form based on shared ideologies or more simply our preferences, reinforcing our principles. Yet it is this spirit of togetherness that ironically divides us. Oh, them, they don’t think like us. We disagree soon becomes we dislike.
You need not look far for divisions within the cycling world. Thankfully most are petty, some tongue in cheek, a little just plain old fun. Yet we would all do well to remember that no one voice is louder than another, one truth no more just than another.
We are one and the same. Agree to disagree and remember to celebrate the differences between us as much as we treasure our commonalities.
Cycling tribes are many, here’s a few.

Helmet debate

Helmet debate funnyPerhaps the most divisive topic amongst cyclists. Not sure why. You either wear a helmet or you don’t. This is the basis of personal freedom in the absence of law. Is cycling with a helmet safer? Science can’t seem to make up its mind although anecdotal evidence is usually strong and the logic weak.

Lycra versus normal clothes

‘Yeah, I just cycle in my jeans and t-shirt. No idea why I need to reveal my unsightly bulges to the world when I ride a bike.’ Riding in ‘normal clothes’ does not make you a better or worse cyclist. Just more uncomfortable on longer or wet rides.

Team kit

For some unknown reason some folk consider it a crime to wear team kit. Apparently you have to earn the jersey, especially if it is a world champion’s jersey. How dare you, amateur. You have to wonder why all of these reproduction jerseys are produced given how wrong it is. Me? I love my orange Merckx top. It looks good and as a bonus it’s sponsored by an Italian salami manufacturer. Not sure why that makes me smile every time I pull the jersey on but it does.


Rapha funnyExpensive, well made clothing really, really irks some. Rapha has become a symbol of a certain breed of new wave cyclists, of Johnny come latelys, who like to be comfortable and look good on the bike. How dare they! Wear what you like, spend what you like. It doesn’t make you a better or worse rider (or person) because you wear Rapha. Or even that £5 Aldi jersey you drove 29 miles to collect. That said, this spoof Rapha site is pretty funny.

Tri bars and triathletes

This is mostly fun right? Those funny creatures who like to cycle and swim and run? Nutters. Have you seen them in their cycling vests with no sleeves? Wearing arm warmers, what’s that all about? And what’s with the big socks and shorts combo? Tri-bars on a road bike? What the heck? It’s like they are trying to be more efficient or something. Who do they think they are? Triathletes probably.

Mechanics versus walking wallets

No I don’t know how to grease and replace my bearings. Could I learn? Of course but you know, I have neither the time nor the inclination. I’m OK at bike maintenance, let’s say Grade C+ at GCSE level. A successful repair always makes me feel like I’ve just discovered fire or invented the wheel, yet sometimes it’s nice to get somebody better qualified to fix my bike so I can spend my time riding. Some think a bike is like a girlfriend and should never be touched by another man unless she falls down and is beyond all help. Not me. Sometimes it’s good to admit I’m no dentist when I approach my mouth with a hammer.

Strava ruins cycling

‘Hate it. Don’t understand why all these people use it. They’re not even cyclists. Segment chasers, chest beating apes, ruining my roads.’ Whilst I don’t condone dangerous cycling in the name of chasing a virtual personal best, I see no harm in people being motivated to ride or to progress by logging their rides on Strava.

Coffee versus tea

Men pretending to be cyclists pretending to drink coffee and pretending not to notice the camera
Coffee and cycling have become a mini cult. A niche within a niche. Good coffee that is. Proper coffee. None of that instant nonsense. ‘Hipsters’, think the tea drinkers, the ‘real cyclists’ sat in an old school cafe on plastic chairs sipping a hot mug of tea, sat in the same seat as they were back before you discovered Lance Armstrong or Bradley Wiggins.

Hipsters and single speed bikes

Look at that muppet with the moustache riding that bloody fluorescent single speed. Bet he’s never ridden across America or suffered like me. Hell I bet he can’t even fix a puncture. Says you, frowning at the one smiling and enjoying his bike because it makes him feel good. A variant on this theme is the hybrid bike which can also at times be met with disdain by the road biking crew.

Training versus riding

It’s part of the human condition to seek progress or justification. Yeah, I’m training, we tell ourselves even though we don’t compete. Yet others are happy to say they simply just ride. They don’t understand all of this interval stuff. It’s not even cycling is it really? You’re destroying the beauty of my lovely precious cycling, they claim, looking at you like you’re an alien. Phooey. A ride is a bike ride no matter what form it takes. One is no better than the other, it’s all simply a matter of personal preference.

Bad weather

Nailed it
Riding in the rain somehow makes us not only a better rider but a better person. Right? Not really. Just wetter! Some riders will try their luck outside no matter what the weather which is admirable so long as they stay upright. Riding indoors, riding outdoors, you’re still riding.

I loved cycling before it was popular

Look at me, I’m special, or at least I was special until you lot came along and made my niche activity popular. How dare you enjoy my niche. Boo hoo. This teenage pouting is quite ridiculous. Every time I see another cyclist my heart warms. Only been riding a week? Good on you, keep it up. Don’t know what gear ratio you’re using? Nope, me neither. I just like riding.

Triple chainsets

We’re somehow less of a man if we ride a triple or even a compact with a large rear sprocket. Even if this means new or heavy or older riders can climb hills or simply ride a bike without ruining their knees. Keep on spinning folks.

All the gear no idea

This one seems to really rile some riders. ‘Yeah, he was on a Pinarello. He had no idea. Was all over the road. Dropped him. Yeah.’ Your attitude tells us much more about you than your choice of bike.
If some want to spend their cash and enjoy riding nice bikes so be it. I don’t expect mass market bikes to be the preserve of professionals so why do you? It’s not like you expect all people wearing a diving watch to know how to dive. I’ve got a pair of ski socks at home but I’ve never been skiing! Shame on me and my warm feet.

Equipment chatter

Are those [insert obscure and expensive name of hubs or wheels or dust caps here]? I’ve had this non-conversation a few times. I have no idea. I’m not a bike component obsessive so don’t look at me in disgust when I fail to provide an answer to a question you already knew the answer to!
What about you? What cycling snobbery mystifies you? Or sucks you in against your will!
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