Are You a Cyclist?

There is a difference between a cyclist and a person on a bike.

Okay, this is just my opinion, and since it’s Friday, and it’s my blog, we’ll be using my opinion today…

Dictionary.com’s definition of a cyclist is a person that rides a bike. That’s the simple definition, which I will elaborate on.

My idea of a cyclist is one that

  1. Rides a road bike or a mountain bike (hybrids and comfort bikes do not count).
  2. Wears a helmet.
  3. Affixes his feet to the pedals through the use of clipless pedals and shoes with cleats attached to the soles. (Some might consider toe clips in this definition and I’ll give some latitude here.)
  4. Wears brightly colored lycra jerseys, even multicolored, but it’s not absolutely necessary. These jerseys will typically have between 1 and 3 pockets on the back. (I have seen MTB jersey’s sold without pockets and I can’t imagine that they are widely popular.)
  5. Definitely wears padded shorts.
  6. Has some sort of bike computer mounted on the bike (applies to most but probably not all).
  7. And here is the most important point about a true cyclist: They will always ride in the same direction of traffic.

My definition of a person on a bike would entail someone that is not wearing a helmet, usually on a comfort bike or hybrid, and more than likely either riding on a sidewalk or on in the opposite direction of traffic.

Please don’t get me wrong, I am happy to see anyone out on a bike, whether it’s for exercise, commuting, or pure pleasure. However, people, PLEASE wear a helmet and ride with the flow of traffic!!

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been out lately and seen riders coming at me in the opposite direction on the same side of the road as me. Never do they have a helmet on, which amazes me because it’s an accident waiting to happen… in my opinion. And when they are coming at me, do I go to the left, which seemed counterintuitive, or stick to the right, thus forcing them out into traffic? (I typically go left, while shaking my head in disbelief at the “person on a bike” in front of me.)

A few months back we heard of a “cyclist” that was hit by a logging truck. Of course several friends sent me the link for the article, asking me to please be careful on the roads. But later we found out the real truth: the female “cyclist” was using a friend’s bike, which had faulty brakes. She had lost her license and it was her mode of transportation to ride to the local smoke shop for some cigarettes. She was not hit by a logging truck, instead she ran into the back of it! I’m sure she wasn’t wearing a helmet either. When the story broke it was reported that the truck driver had failed to stop after the accident. Later it was stated that he had no idea the woman had run into the back of his truck.

If I have offended any people that ride bikes, I’m sorry. But my point is this: wear a helmet if you are going to ride a bike, and please follow the rules of the road. Part of being a good “cyclist” is being predictable to motorists and when you ride in the opposite direction of traffic you are throwing predictability right out the window because that is the last thing a motorist expect to see.

Thank you. We can go back to using other’s opinions tomorrow.

(But don’t let that dissuade you from commenting on my opinion.)

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3 responses to “Are You a Cyclist?

  1. This seems like an excellent definition of a cyclist. Your article makes me proud to be a cyclist.

  2. Almost all of the things that you’ve mentioned are superficial. Whether a person is a ‘cyclist’ or not depends on whether that person identifies themselves as a ‘cyclist’, not what they wear or what equipment they use.

    I understand the need to distinguish and disassociate oneself from the type of cyclist who doesn’t follow the rules of the road; no ‘good’ cyclist would want to be tarred with the same brush as them by the media or anyone else. However, cycling isn’t some elitist club that you can buy your way into, or that you have to follow a set of rules to be ‘accepted’ into. ‘Cyclists’ aren’t a group of people, they are individuals who happen to use a bicycle for whatever reason(s).

    There are thousands of ‘people on bikes’ in Amsterdam who ride to and from work, to the shops, to go out for dinner, and whatever else. Most of them ride sensibly. Yet over 99% of them don’t fit into your narrow little definition; they don’t do any of the things in your list apart from number seven. Are they not cyclists in your opinion?

  3. Whoops, I forgot to add: I am what most people would consider to be a ‘cyclist’. I’ve never been part of a cycling club or had much of a ‘crew’ of other cyclists to hang out with, but I have always rode a bike since I was a young child. I have always cycled to work, done shopping by bike, and rode to my friends’ houses. I have done and still do cycle for sport occasionally (entering BMX contests and messenger races) and for fun. My job is to deliver stuff by bike. I watch cycling on TV, I read books about cycling and cyclists like Eddie Merckx, Charles Holland, Graeme Obree, Tom Simpson. I love cycling, and I can’t imagine not riding a bike while I’m physically able to do it. I even conform to most of the points on your list. Yet despite all this, I have never considered myself to be a cyclist. I don’t see myself as a cyclist, I see myself as ‘me’. Cycling is just something that I happen to do, because I enjoy it, it’s practical, it’s convenient, and it’s fairly cheap – but mostly because I don’t have any reason to stop doing it. Does that make me a ‘cyclist’ or a ‘person on a bike’?

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