Multiple Cycling Disorder

Roadie.  Fixie hipster.  Urban velo.  Cycle chic.  Mountain.

As a group, us cyclists sure seem to want to divide ourselves into, well, more groups.  The interesting thing about cyclists is that we often seem to pigeonhole themselves into a single sub-sect and not stray out much.  But why would that be?  Motorists don’t seem to do this.  It would appear perfectly reasonable for someone to drive a Toyota Prius to work, have a 4×4 in the garage that is only used during vacations, a Volkswagen Routan for getting the kids to soccer, and all the while fantasize about owning a high end Ferrari.  Sure, we might call them an “offroader” on the weekend while out in the 4×4 ripping through the mud, but that term doesn’t define then any more than, say, hybrider does when the drive the Prius to work.

Cyclists, on the other hand, all to often seem to define themselves by what type of bike they ride, where the ride it and who they ride it with.

Personally, my “cycling life” is more like our example motorist above.  OK, so in my case (to push the analogy) I drive a used, banged up Acura Integra to work (Cannondale R300), have a mid-level Porsche in the garage at home (Look 566), seriously considering a Jeep (some kind of mountain bike) and have diabolical plans to build myself a Toyota Sienna (Xtracycle conversion kit)

Given that I belong to many of these sub-sects personally, I feel that I can in good conscious enumerate some of the characteristics of each.  Consider this a cheat-sheet in your field identification of fellow cyclists:

Sect Type of bike Type of apparel Habitat
Fixie An old steel framed road bike that has been stripped of any and all brand identifiable parts.  The bike is literally nothing more than two wheels, one gear in the front and one in the back, a chain, a frame and handlebars. Skinny jeans.  Tee shirt with clever saying.  Perhaps a Pabst Blue Ribbon in one hand City streets.  Often gathered in parks or empty parking lots doing odd “tricks” with their bikes
Mountain Bikers (aka MTBers, 29ers) Knobby tired, two wheeled vehicle that may or may not have a frame recognizable as a bike.  Often have complicated suspension systems Varies.  Occasionally seen wearing lycra.  More commonly in fleece bearing the strange marking “REI”  Large beards seen as a sign of importance among the male members. Dirt or the local brewhouse
Urban Warrior Anything with a steel frame and at least 10 years old.  Baskets, racks and panniers are often attached to the bike, along with ample lighting.  (Note: There is a sub group of Urban Warriors called “commuters” that may have funny bikes that fold up into very small, suitcase like shapes) Whatever they had on when they left the house.  Unless it is raining, in which case they will likely have bright yellow rain gear on. City streets.  (commuters also seen on public transportation)
Roadie Carbon fiber and expensive Lycra.  Alpha members of this group will often have lycra outfits color coordinated with their bikes, or ride in packs of individuals all wearing the same colors and logos.  Funny shoes that make walking extremely difficult for them.  Legs are shaved and shiny – even the men’s. Suburban or country roads.  Usually seen in large groups or “pelotons”  Sometimes are seen indoors at cycling shops uttering strange phrases such as “53-11″ or “red zone”
Cycle Chic Very very old.  Usually have leather Brooks saddle and leather wraps on the handlebars. Tweed for men.  Flowing dresses for women. Vineyards, coffee houses and art shows

In all seriousness, though, while the distinctions between these supposed “sub groups” seem obvious, at the end of the day we all ride bikes for one of two reasons:  to get from point A to point B, or just for fun.  Maybe both at the same time.  Perhaps what we really need to do instead of segregating ourselves as a group is to recognize we all share many of the same concerns, risks, fears and rewards.  We all turn pedals and we all have to watch out for the same hazards on the road.  Well…  all except those crazy mountain bikers that is.  They have to worry about bears instead of SUVs.

  • Anonymous

    your final summary is correct. I wish we would smear the lines between the groups. In the end, there are only 2 groups of people–those that put people in groups, and those that don’t. If you are an uber-geek you know that there are only 10 types of people–those that understand binary, and those that don’t.

    I was drawn to this post because I am a cyclist–an urban warrior with roadie characteristics (no carbon, and I don’t hang around my lbs). More important, though, is that my family’s transportation is either bikes (2 kids and me) or a Routan.

    • http://justanothercyclist.com/ JustAnotherCyclist

      Willida – that’s some funny stuff! Interesting that, well, I know how many people 10 (binary) is, I actually have (or had) a tee shirt that had that exact saying printed on it, and I’d love to get my hands on a Routan, even though I’m trying to make every trip possible by bike as I work on my #15mpd