Why the divide between cyclist and commuter?
I was listening to Patrick Brady’s (founder of Ride Kite Prayer) podcast, The Pull last week. He was interviewing Peter Flax (formerly Editor in Chief at Bicycling Magazine and now Editor in Chief at The Red Bulletin) and I really wanted to continue this discussion with my commuting community (say that 10x fast). I highly recommend listening to this interview but essentially they discussed the divide between “cyclists” (think spandex, race bikes, aero everything, etc.) and the bike commuter. I think it is worth noting that I agree with Peter that we’re all just people on bikes.
This reminded me of a recent interaction I had out on the road. I was riding to work, in my usual baggy commuting clothes, on my single speed commuter (it is a cyclocross bike with drop bars), complete with fenders, a rack, and of course my Two Wheel Gear Pannier and I stopped at a red light. Another cyclist in full kit, with his carbon fibre road bike, pulled up beside me at the light. As I’ve mentioned before, I always acknowledge my fellow cyclist so I said a friendly “good morning”. He proceeding to look me up and down and without saying a word, pulled his bike in front of mine, waiting for the light to turn. Okay, “friendly cyclist”.
When the light turned green, I patiently waited as he fumbled to clip in and then the two of us were off in the same direction. Since I ride a single speed while commuting, I have a typical pace I like to ride at; it’s a fairly relaxed speed. After about 50 meters, I passed the road cyclist. Unfortunately, we caught another red light so I stopped and the roady pulls his bike in front of mine again and waits for the light to turn green. This time he clips in right away and I sit behind him for another 50-100 meters until traffic clears and I pass him a second time. It seems that this road cyclist thinks we are racing and he can’t let me stay up front for fear of losing. To be truthful, I’m feeling a little like I need to prove myself, and that’s not a good feeling. At the third red light, when he squeezes between me and a stopped car I decide to let it go and just enjoy the rest of my commute.
Now, I am a commuter Monday through Friday but I also spend a good deal of time training and racing, while fully kitted up, on the weekends. I join in both road and mountain bike rides with my local cycling club and even started racing cyclocross this season. I am both a bike commuter and an avid cyclist. It would therefore seem that I am part of both of these worlds. But I can’t help but wonder, why are there even two worlds? Why is there a divide between cycle commuters and cyclists? Why can’t we drop the labels and all just be people riding bikes? Why the judgement? Because that’s what I felt while interacting with the road cyclist that day, I felt labelled and judged for being a commuter, for riding a commuter bike, and for not being a road cyclist.
The irony is that I have likely ridden with this gentleman before on a group ride with my local club and I bet he is super friendly…to other road cyclists. The truth is that we are all just people who love to ride bikes. Whether it’s for our own fitness and health, to do our part for the environment, or maybe because we want to save our sanity by foregoing life behind a steering wheel. Whatever the reason, I don’t think there should be a divide between groups of people riding bikes. Am I being utopian or is it possible to pedal together peacefully? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Have a good ride!
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