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June 27, 2011 / lynnettedobberpuhl

Cyclists: Smug but Balanced

I have been a cycling enthusiast for over ten years now, though I’ll admit I have been more enthusiastic some years than others. I have done the century rides (100 miles, yes, in a single day) and the multi-day rides, the triathlons and team triathlons, the fundraisers, the group rides and the solo rides. I love the bicycle and the road and the hills. Not so much the wind or the “rumble bumps” engraved into the shoulders of the pavement, but what can you do? Another cyclist friend of mine has a friend and a neighbor who despises cyclists on principle: we don’t belong on his roads. There is a statute in Minnesota <169.222> that says we actually do, but as far as he and his like-minded buddies are concerned, that is beside the point. I kind of get it. It can be nerve-racking sharing a lane with someone who has nothing but two narrow spinning wheels, a helmet and some Lycra between him/her and the road. Keeping an eye on the distance between the cyclist and yourself as well as the oncoming traffic also can be a little stressful as I know from my own experience, especially when some bikers (like some motorists) can be a little unpredictable. But I don’t think these valid concerns totally explain the hate.

Having hung out with and observed cyclists individually and in groups for years I say this with conviction: we can be a smug, self-righteous bunch. We are in love with our bikes, our gear, our numbers of miles, our average speed and our highest speed. We love our tight molded calves and our endorphin rushes. We even love the “ring tattoo” of black grease many of us wear on our right legs after a few stops and starts. We love drafting off each other, our front tires inches from the back wheel of the cyclist ahead of us giving us free speed until our turn at the front, and when we get fancy and whip out the rotating paceline, where two tightly packed lines of cyclists synchronize movements in an aerodynamic road ballet, well then, we are downright infatuated with ourselves. Because it is cool. And it’s challenging to work up the skills and the miles and the confidence to do it all. We like that we power our own rides. We like the sounds, sights and smells of the outdoors (most of the time.) We like how the stress of the office, the relationships, the future all falls away as we press forward—building speed on the flats, heaving up the hills, shooting down the other side and doing it again as we push our hearts, lungs and muscles to go farther, or faster or just to go. You have to have balance to stay upright on two wheels, but spending time on a bicycle brings balance to life. Life just looks different from a bicycle saddle.

So we can be a little obnoxious, drinking post-ride beers in our sweaty Lycra with our grease tattooed calves, laughing uproariously at endorphin-fueled stories of the guy who got off the route and had to be chased down and returned. Maybe the conversation turns to bike trips in Napa Valley, or Europe or to the newest, best bike tech with the absurd price tags. We might groan about our aching whatevers, but we feel good. That can be hard to be around, but don’t hate us because we are celebrating our good fortune to be cyclists. Come join us instead.

Coming soon: an excerpt from Hollywood University. We are looking for representation, so if you like it and know someone in the publishing world, let me know!

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3 Comments

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  1. Kay Vallery Young / Jun 27 2011 5:48 pm

    I yearn to be part of the pack–and in my mind’s eye, I am! (M-m-m–that’s not original, is it?)

  2. Kelly Thompson / Jun 27 2011 7:12 pm

    As a motorcycle rider, we face many of the same hazards and attitudes as bicyclists. And while we don’t self-propel our bikes, our pride in riding them runs no less deep. Taking that first ride can sometimes be intimidating but here’s hoping some of your detractors saddle up and give it a try!

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