I set out for a ride last Sunday at around 6:30 am. It is best to get out early at this time of year in South Carolina; as by 11:00 am it is brutally hot.
About six miles out I needed to make a left turn, and checked my rear view mirror. I noticed what I can only describe as a huge orange “Blob” on a bike coming up behind me. I gave a hand signal and moved to the center of the road in readiness to make my turn.
The Blob followed and after I turned he came by me; a young twenty-something man on a bike, wearing a fluorescent orange tee shirt. He was huge; at a guess well over six feet, and at least 350 lbs., maybe even 450.
“Good morning,” I said.... Not so much as a peep from my morbidly obese fellow traveler. As he went by I saw why; he was wearing head phones. He had on a pair of baggy shorts, and his calves were shaped like huge upturned beer bottles.
He was riding in the highest gear he had, pedaling in slow motion but going 3 or 4 mph faster than me; I was happily spinning my medium gear. I wondered, do people who don’t know any better, think a bike is like a car that you shift up through the gears until you reach the smallest cog, and then you leave it there.
I had no interest in upping my pace; I was planning to do at least 50 miles, and I doubted the orange blob was going that far. Sure enough, not long after he disappeared from sight I spotted him again in the distance headed back on the opposite side. As we passed I gave my usual smile and a wave; I was totally ignored as before.
The whole incident made me think back to the 1950s when I started riding. Back in the UK we used to call people like that “Tuggos.” Now I just call them POBs or “People on Bikes.” The term Tuggo usually applied to the younger male. An old Geezer on a bike, or a female, would not be a Tuggo.
The orange blob definitely fell into the category of Tuggo. Don’t get me wrong; I am not knocking what this person was doing. He was out getting some exercise and at least trying to reduce his weight; but a Tuggo or a POB is one who hasn’t yet learned the little refinements, like position, gear choice, etc., that make cycling more of a pleasure.
When I started racing the smallest rear sprocket available was 14 teeth; so top gear was around 96 inches. The top gear, as it is today was reserved for downhill, and maybe a fast sprint finish with a tail wind. We would do most of our racing on about 81 or 86 inch gear.
This meant we pedaled a lot faster than today, and so usually trained on about 65 to 70 inches. Back in the 1950s there were a lot of Tuggos, people who used bikes as their only means of transport. Especially young people in their teens or twenties; most could not afford a car. I didn’t pass my driving test and own a car until I was almost 30 years old, which was pretty typical.
So we would be out training in a group of maybe ten or so riders; during a warm summer evening. We would be in an orderly pace line, and spinning, or “Twiddling” as we called it, at about 100 rpm. All of a sudden a Tuggo would come flying past us pushing his highest gear.
He was invariably out for the evening dressed in a suit and tie, which would be flying in the wind. Remember this was the 1950s and people dressed up if they went out socially. The average Tuggo was usually pretty fit as he rode a bike everywhere, and was good for a short turn of speed especially as he was in a much higher gear.
We usually ignored them, apart from whoever was at the back of the pace line giving a warning shout of “Tuggo in Top,” as he came by. We seldom gave chase, because that would just break up the pace line; and anyway the Tuggo usually stopped at the next pub; if not we would pass him again on the next hill.
Fond memories of a far simpler times, and Tuggos in top.