The dictionary defines a cyclist as “Somebody who rides a bicycle,” and as far as the media and news reports go that pretty much covers it. If a person robs a bank and makes his get-away on a bike; the story will read “Cyclist robs bank.”
What about the three-year-old child riding his little bike on his driveway, possibly with training wheels still installed; is this little fellow a “Cyclist” or a child playing at being a cyclist.
My father never owned a car in his entire life, or even learned to drive one; a bicycle was his only independent means of transport. However, I don’t think he would ever have called himself a cyclist; never once did I ever hear him say, “I’m going for a bike ride.”
He never rode for exercise or for the simple pleasure of riding a bike; he only rode a bike when he needed to be someplace else, and his bicycle was the only means he had to get there.
Even today there are people who ride bicycles as their only means of transport, either by choice, or for economic reasons, but would they necessarily label themselves as cyclists?
A person who has lost their driver’s license or a young person not yet old enough to drive will ride a bicycle, and would not call themselves a cyclist. But should they be unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident, the media will say, “Cyclist hit by car.”
Some use a bicycle as an exercise machine but would not necessarily call themselves a cyclist anymore than they would call themselves “treadmillist,” if there were such a word for a person who chose a treadmill as their exercise machine of choice.
I seem to remember that Bike Snob NYC once described a cyclist as one who owned a floor pump; and others who relied on their local gas station to inflate their tires were not a real cyclists.
I think that is a pretty fair assessment; when a person cares enough about riding a bike to start buying other stuff like proper tire inflation technology, they are on their way to becoming a cyclist.
At this point I need to be careful, lest I am accused of becoming “elitist.” When a person starts to ride a bike for no other reason than the pure joy of riding a bicycle; the temptation is to want to spread that joy and convert others to become cyclists and discover the joys of cycling.
When they resist efforts at conversion, it must be the same feeling that Jehovah’s Witnesses maybe get when they knock on my door but fail to convert me to their way of thinking. There is a danger of being a “Cyclist” becoming almost a religion. I don’t recall who said this first but the quote went:
“I would rather be riding my bike on Sunday and thinking of God, than sitting in church thinking about riding my bike.”
When a person reaches a certain level of fitness then riding a bike can become almost a spiritual experience. You are communing with nature for a start; the elements, sunshine, rain, become part of the experience.
You cannot help but be aware of the wind, whether it is a head wind or at your back. You cannot help but be aware of the terrain, uphill or down, and the road or trail’s surface.
Then there is the feeling of power that comes from propelling oneself forward at speed; I always think it is almost akin to flying. And with this power to fly it is hard not to have a feeling of superiority, after all not everyone can fly, or at least make a bicycle go fast as you or I can.
So as I go into a new year I remind myself that it is okay to feel superior, after all that is nothing more than a feeling of self esteem, which is good. What I will try to do is to not look down on lesser mortals who are not cyclists.
Those unfortunate souls who have not yet discovered the joy of being a cyclist; those trapped inside their unfit bodies and their SUVs.
However, I will not preach to non-cyclists or try to convert them; I will not display an elitist persona of superiority. I will not show disdain at those who choose to travel by car or on foot. To do so would be to become a fundamentalist cyclist, and there is already too much fundamentalism in the world today.
I will try to show my fellow traveler, be they on the road or on this journey that is this life; respect and common courtesy. Even though it is entirely possible they will not show me the same.
I will occasionally allow myself to "Poke fun" at the non-cyclist, in a good natured way, on this blog, knowing that the non-cyclist will not read it anymore than I will read the Jehovah’s Witness literature that was tucked behind my screen door.
I will try to lead by example that people might say, “Here’s a happy, healthy, content individual; what’s your secret?” Then maybe I might tell them.