8 things your non-cycling friends just don't understand
There’s no question that cycling divides opinion and not only among the non-cycling public. Even bike riders of different disciplines butt heads from time to time, struggling to understand the jargon each group tosses between them or comprehend why they would choose to do the things they do. Some of the acknowledged cycling stereotypes live on through sheer stubbornness and a firm belief that traditions and conventions should be upheld. Some are genuine issues of practicality, efficiency and safety. And most cause some degree of head-scratching from our non-cycling friends. Here are some questions bound to come up no matter your discipline of choice:
So, do you wear that revealing lycra stuff?
This is a question that comes up more often than perhaps any other on this list. The answer, ultimately, is “not necessarily”. It does, of course, depend on whether you’re racing along country lanes on skinny tyres or roaring through trees on a gnarly track. The first group - “roadies” - are the primary culprits when it comes to polluting the eyes of other road users by laying (almost) bare all the contours of their lean frames, all in the name of aerodynamic efficiency. What your friends might not appreciate not being cyclists themselves, is just how much more comfortable, insulating and fast lycra feels on the road bike; no flapping, no loose cuffs, no wind up your jacket. Lycra very quickly becomes the only thing you ever spend any money on. As for mountain bikers, there is a niche market of diehard cross-country MTBers who choose to package themselves in skin-tight spandex, but more often than not, this group opts for ‘baggies’.
Do you shave your legs?
Mountain bikers, move on. If your answer to this question is “yes”, then you’re almost certainly a road cyclist. But you’re also likely unsure why you trim your leg fur. One answer is that it feels really rather pleasant. With a dearth of Velcro on the pistons which power your pedals, it feels like your legs chop through the air with significantly less resistance. Another reason is that in the event of a crash and resultant road rash, a lack of hair (apparently) reduces the risk of infection. However, at the end of the day, the most valid answer may well be: “Yeah, everyone else does. It’s traditional.”
If Peter Sagan is so good, why has he never won the Tour de France?
“Ugh, I’m going to have to try to explain the complexities of bike racing classifications, intermediate sprint points and breakaway tactics…” groans every cycling fan at the uttering of this question. Peter Sagan is arguably one of the greatest cyclists ever to have lived and he’s still yet to reach the age of thirty. However, the fact he’s never won the Tour de France, the only road race that matters outside the cycling community, is confusing to the uninitiated. The yellow jersey is one of the most iconic symbols of world sport, but the greatest cyclist of his generation has never won it? That Sagan has won almost every race or classification he’s put his mind to seems neither to matter nor make sense.
You sit on that? For how long?
These questions are often followed by, “doesn’t it hurt?” Saddles are a subject of much “oooing” and “aaahing” among non-cyclists. Road cyclists and mountain bikers alike tend to find themselves planting their undercarriage on alarmingly rigid, hard and narrow saddles that look anything but comfortable. Cyclists know full well that the right saddle for the right body shape can actually be comfortable despite first impressions. If, however, you’re reading this and thinking, “oh, I thought that discomfort was all part of riding a bike” then you should probably consider a bike fit where a technician will help you choose the perfect saddle.
Your bike cost how much?
One of the traits of someone prone to riding a bike is an alternative perspective on the value of money. In our case, we appreciate the old adage, “money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy a bike, and that’s pretty close”. You can’t put a price on the freedom of the roads, the breeze cresting your shoulders or the surge of power through your legs. Yes, we all pour different quantities of capital into our chosen pursuit, some opting for top-of-the-range performance while others favour long-term durability.
Why do you need more than one bike?
Non-cycling partners, friends and parents will never understand why we need more than one bike, especially if their roles are essentially the same only for use at different times of year. However, multiple bike ownership is often the result of doing more than one discipline. Need your fix of window shopping? Start to nurse intentions of getting into bikepacking, gravel riding or cyclocross. Your skinny-tyred carbon race bike will never be at home on the gravel tracks, nor will your XC mountain bike thank you for mounting panniers. New discipline = new bike day!
What is cyclocross? Bikepacking? Gravel riding?!
To the untrained eye, cycling looks like a sport split neatly in two: mountain biking and road racing. But on closer inspection, there is so much more to it than that and it seems the industry gets a little broader every season. It’s hard for cyclists ourselves to keep up with this exponential growth so it’s no wonder our non-cycling friends struggle to understand all the disciplines. But it’s the diversity of options within our two-wheeled sport that makes it so vibrant and exciting to be a part of. Have you got your gravel bike yet?
Why do roadies and mountain bikers dislike each other?
Do roadies and mountain bikers really dislike each other? There’s a definite difference in the cultures of road and off-road communities, and perhaps in the past, it was a fractious split. However, it is so common for cyclists to engage in multiple disciplines these days that it seems that the walls are coming down. MTBers will always joke about their roadie counterparts’ shaved legs and inability to hold their hops, just as roadies will marvel at the carefree coating of mud on a mountain bike after every. Single. Ride. Whether it really translates into animosity is up for debate.
A question we should all be asking ourselves as keen cyclists is why we still have any friends who are not? We’re not suggesting cutting off non-cycling friends, rather help them to get into the sport you love so dearly. Guide them through the prickly process of choosing their first bike and accompany them on their first ventures on the road or trail. Nothing quite compares to introducing a friend to your favourite pastime.
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