Sunday, January 29, 2012

Split Personalities

In the cycling world there are many different disciplines, or subcultures if you will. There are roadies, mountain bikers, free riders, dirt jumpers, downhillers, triathletes, single speed riders, XC racers, BMX riders, fixed gear riders and yes, there are even those that use bicycles for transportation.  What a concept.  All of these different riding styles are either on or off road and each one comes with its own type of bikes, style, attitude and even fashion.  The riders are just as different as the bikes they choose to ride.

I own a couple of different mountain bikes and a road bike and often participate in group rides on both sides.  While we all share the same passion of riding, each group is very different in attitude and approach.  To me, the paved side of the house has always seemed to be a little more serious, very seldom stopping to regroup or just to take in the moment.  Socializing takes place before or after the ride.  "No time for chit chat, buddy....I gotta hit my lactate threshold."  Group mountain bike rides are very different.  The ride usually stops about every 20 minutes or so in order to regroup or maybe just to make sure there isn't somebody that might need a hand, maybe a tool, ride to the ER, whatever.  If someone in the group has a flat, generally everyone will stop and shoot the bull while waiting for the repairs to be completed.  Socializing is much more a part of the ride in the mountain bike community.

In my years as a cyclist, I've always been pretty good at fitting in with each group and adjusting to the different styles and personalities.  This helps to not be labeled as one of the "other guys".  I come to the mountain bike ride sporting my baggies and laid back attitude ready to rip it and have a good time.  The very next day I'll show up for the roadie ride in my lycra bike shorts (AKA skinnies) that are just as restrictive as the treadless rubber on the tires.  In going from group to group I've noticed one thing they can agree on.....the other guys are crazy.  Of course there are several like myself that enjoy both, but the majority of riders stick to one or the other.  While out mountain biking one afternoon I ran into one of the guys that frequents group road rides out for a hike.  I asked him why he wasn't on a bike and he replied, "Nooooo way, not for me.  Riding on trails really scares the hell out of me."  At the polar opposite of that, one of the fastest downhillers I know told me I was crazy for owning a road bike.  "Don't you know if you get hit by a car you're gonna die?"  This struck me as being very funny since I've seen this same guy ride a bike off of a six foot high boulder without so much as flinching.  The only thing missing was a great big YEEEEHAAAA worthy of the General Lee.

My point is, there is more than one way to enjoy yourself on a bike.  I'm encouraging all free riders, roadies, downhillers, XC racers or what ever two wheeled label you or your peers have assigned you, to try and be open minded.  Give the other guys a chance.  I promise that once you realize that they love a great ride, whatever that may consist of, just as much as you do, it will open the door to a whole new world you never knew existed.  If your idea of a thrill is clearing a twenty foot gap on a mountain bike, you may just find that same giddy feeling at 40 MPH on a decent six inches from the wheel in front of you.

Monday, January 23, 2012


At the ripe old age of 28 I started getting a little pudgy.  Okay...a little more pudgy than usual.  I decided I needed to get off of my ass and start some sort of physical training regimen to ward off the unwanted pounds.  Since running was staple in the military I figured I would go for what I know.  That was a big no go.  I ran at least every other morning and just couldn't seem to settle into it.  Knees and ankles aching I thought there has got  to be something better. The idea of riding a bike came to mind.

Shortly afterward my wife's cousin offered to let me use his 10 speed bike for a while.  I rode that bike up and down the road and enjoyed every minute of it.  Every time I rode I took note of a few small trails off of the road and thought man would that be fun to ride off road.  This is when I realized I wanted...needed a mountain bike.  So I saved up a few pennies and in September of 1997 I purchased my first mountain bike.  It was soooo "RAD".  A Giant Boulder.  I couldn't believe I had actually spent over $200 on friggin' bicycle.  But it was awesome.  I rode that bike every chance I got.  But there was a problem with it.  Every time I went riding I broke something on it.  When I asked the guy at the shop I bought it from what the deal was, he said "you're riding this $200 bike like it's a $1000 bike and it's not made to do the things you're making it do."  And the wheels in my head turned.  All I could think of was that if I got a better bike I would be a better rider and it would be ever better.

Now 14 years and God knows how many pennies later here I am.  I presently own three different bikes.  One "All Mountain" bike that's great for all around riding, a different mountain bike for more of a cross country style riding and a road bike which is tasked with pavement and pavement only.  I love and cherish each of them for different reasons.  Like movies and music of different genres, each has their own time, place and appropriate application.  No one bike is better than the other....only different.  Diversity in the purest form and yes, we can all get along.