Category Archives: Cycling Subtypes
Way back on Monday, I wrote a post detailing the composition of a few major cycling subtypes.
After some reflection, however, I realized I’d completely overlooked a few important groups (see, I told you I’m a roadie).
In the interest of cycling-world unity, then, I shall now attempt to rectify my egregious oversight.
Of course, in the process, I might just make things worse.
So, without further ado…
More Cycling Sub-Types!
In our last installment, we touched on a growing Cycling Sub-Type: the Die Hard Commuter. It so happens that the Die Hard Commuter has a close cousin in the cycling world — a cousin we might call the Utility Cyclist.
The Utility Cyclist is like the Die Hard Commuter on steroids (though some of them don’t ride in bad weather). Need a refrigerator moved? Call a Utility Cyclist. Chances are they’ll have the bike and trailer to do the job.
No one can argue that Utility Cyclists don’t get things done. Heck, that’s the whole point. However, if you’re looking for a cyclist who knows how to relax, look no further — ahem, down here! — than the low-slung figure of the Recumbent Pilot.
It is possible that the Recumbent Pilot reaches his pinnacle in the figure of the Tandem Recumbent Team — a veritable phenomenon that probably requires its own essay. However, most Tandem Teams share a few characteristics: a bicycle built for two (or sometimes more than two), matching jerseys, and the ability to argue over directions as if they were riding in a car.
It’s possible, of course, that Tandem Teams never argue. It’s hard to really be all that upset when you’re on a bike — and, frankly, any time I’ve encountered a Tandem Team on a group ride, they were smugly grinning in their own repleteness. Who needs a group ride, after all, when you’ve got your group right there?
Then, who needs a group in the first place? Some of us are entirely secure in ourselves. Some of us don’t need group rides, or even two riders. Heck, some of us don’t even need two wheels.
Yes, sisters and brothers: that’s right. I invoke, then, the name of the true iconoclast of the cycling world. You may meet her on road or off, or even on stage: an obligate fixed-gear phenomenon; a master of balance and sublime concentration; utterly unscathed by the opinions of others.
We may not readily admit it, but come on: in those lonely moments surfing the web late at night, who hasn’t come across a picture of this true Lone Wolf of the cycling world and experienced a flash of envy at his freedom, his balance … his sheer elan?
You know, my friends, of whom I speak: wrapped in a cloak of her own inscrutable iconoclasm cometh…
I think that’s about all that can be said.
*Perhaps a bit ironically (given the fact that Cycling Lore causes one to expect all recumbent pilots to resemble Jerry Garcia), the sole recumbent pilot I know personally goes beardless. He knows there are many paths up the mountain, and that even if it takes ‘bents a little longer to reach the top, they will go screaming down the other side, terrifying roadies all the way.
P.S. I’m a-leavin’ … on a jet plane! …So I’m not entirely sure when I’ll make my next post. Don’t worry, though — I’m not dead, I’m just getting married.
As you may know, I am both a cyclist and an opinionated person.
I also belong (depending on to whom you pose the question) to a few different cycling sub-cultures: I shave my legs, race, and ride a fast road bike, so you could call me a Roadie (or a proto-roadie, anyway). I also commute by bike year ’round in all kinds of weather and traffic conditions, so you could call me a Die Hard Commuter. I’ve done one overnight bike camping trip and I seem to have another one coming up very soon, so you could say that I’m also a Cyclotourist.
Now, if you’re new to the cycling community, you may find yourself mystified by the distinctions within it. At first, perhaps, you decide there are two types of cyclists: Roadies and Mountain Bikers. Soon, however, you realize that the mere fact that someone rides a road bike doesn’t actually mean that person is a roadie. Likewise, there are plenty of Mountain Bikers who also ride road bikes … and then there are all those people tooling around on hybrids, Dutch bikes, bakfietsen…
Needless to say, the work of cycling can be a strange and confusing place.
Relax: I’m here to help. You see, I’ve created a few easy pie charts to help you classify both yourself and your bike buddies in just seconds. Just refer to the helpful graphs below and figure out where you fit.
Let’s start with Roadies!
The ‘Roadie’ segment may be the most visible part of the cycling community, if only because they (should I say ‘we?’) are often dressed in bright colors and tend to travel in packs.
Though both subgroups ride road bikes, they are fundamentally different from the Retrogrouch segment:
Retrogrouches and Roadies don’t always get along. Some Roadies think all Retrogrouches are sluggish sticks-in-the-mud who live in the past; meanwhile, some Retrogrouches think all Roadies are lightweight, smooth-legged poofters who like to run around in their Underoos.
Actually, ‘lightweight, smooth-legged poofter who likes to run around in his Underoos’ is a pretty good description of your friendly author.
Both Retrogrouches and Roadies, however, may do time as Die-Hard Commuters. Die-Hard Commuters are like the Sherman tanks of the cycling world: unstoppable forces of human-and-machine power that laugh in the face of danger (or at least in the face of nasty weather).
Some Die-Hard Commuters, however, would consider themselves neither Roadies nor Retrogrouches.
Die Hard commuters can, in fact, belong to any subset of the cycling community. They know the rules of the road and are pretty much universally respected for their brass balls and unflappable commitment to riding the bike whenever and wherever it is even marginally possible to do so.
Some of us have even considered whether pedal-boating across the river can be considered a valid ‘bike commute’ phase. I’ll allow it.
Naturally — they already own the equipment, after all — there’s some overlap between the ‘Die-Hard Commuter’ and the ‘Cyclotourist’ community. Cyclotourists are those of us who take vacations on our bikes, rather than taking our bikes on vacation. You will know them by their enormous panniers, increasingly-wild facial (or leg) hair, and strong opinions on camping equipment.
Meanwhile, Mountain Bikers are also often (but not always) Die-Hard Commuters or Cyclotourists. Their familiarity with rough terrain and various weather conditions — coupled with their taste for adrenaline — gives them a natural advantage in entering either of these sub-groups. However, some of them have little or no road-riding experience, and riding on the road is fairly essential to the Die Hard Commuter or Cyclotourist.
There are even some amphibious roadie/mountain biker hybrids who do very well either on road or off — and especially on the Cyclocross course, where their excellent bike-handling skills and aerobic aplomb allow them to dominate would-be ‘crossers who have only trained on the road.
It is fairly safe to say that none of these groups is particularly fond of a subset of the bike world known as the ‘fixter*.’ These are the folks who have bought into the recent trend for skinny jeans, messenger bags, and fixed-gear bikes, but who haven’t actually bothered to learn to ride them.
I actually have no problem with people who choose to wear skinny jeans and ride fixed. I know quite a few of these folks, including some who are entirely capable of getting out their geared road ride and smoking my bacon. Likewise, if you work at a place that lets you wear jeans and you commute by bike, it makes perfect sense to wear skinny jeans rather than roll them up or use pants clips. Heck, when I wear jeans, I wear ’em skinny — mainly because I’m so used to my all-Lycra-all-the-time lifestyle at this point that wearing regular pants just feels weird.
It’s the folks riding flashy new fixies on the sidewalk, mowing down pedestrians left and right because they lack brakes, that I generally want to strangle.
And so, last and least, one more pie chart, so you will know if you are a fixter and will be able to hit your local League of American Bicyclists training course and gain some bike-handling skills:
I hope these pie charts will assist us all in better understanding the subcultures within the cycling world, that we may more effectively classify ourselves and deride those unlike us — errr, or classify ourselves and reach out to cyclists of other ‘cycle-ways.’
*I believe this term was coined by that arbiter of cycling-culture taste, BikeSnobNYC. I hope he doesn’t mind me borrowing it.