Every being that chooses to ride a bicycle, in all its two wheeled glory, must make a decision. Sorry, this is a lie. They must make many decisions but there is one in particular that we will focus on today. What do you want to be known as when you ride your bicycle; a rider or a cyclist?
This may at first seem, a minor detail to the bicycling story. Yet once thought about for a moment, it becomes apparent that the two are such immensely different names. Two different names, with a world of different connotations tied to them.
Let us first examine the word cyclist.
The word cyclist immediately conjures up an image of a life planned person dressed in lycra. This individual knows what they are doing (or at least looks like they do), with an expensive bicycle they are riding. They can easily tell you straight away what a sprocket or a Schrader is, and explain clearly why and how a Bianchi is a far better bicycle than a Samson. They know how to dress and shave for optimum wind resistance. Some are fitter than the rider and are at times in such peak fitness, that they’ll add in a few sneaky push ups after their ride!
A true cyclist understands the lingo of their fellow cyclist peers; “that roadie is riding his beater in granny gear, clearly doesn’t want to bonk today” (let us quickly translate for the non cyclists; “that experienced road cyclist is riding his old bike today, easiest gear the whole time, obviously doesn’t want to exhaust themselves”). They know the best and fastest routes to take and are much more fearless than the rider. The cyclist will never be seen crossing with pedestrians; they will follow the same route as the traffic.
The valiant cyclist not only holds wisdom in the great words they know, but emphasizes their cycling pride by the clothes they wear. The cyclist can be seen in cafes on a Sunday, late in the morning, in their finest lycra, chowing down a big breakfast of poached eggs and smashed avo, with an almond piccolo on the side. They can be seen winding around the twisted mountain roads of the Dandenongs of a Saturday. Finally, on a weekday, they can be seen power cycling in front of those we simply call riders. On that note let us discuss the rider.
The word rider brings a somewhat different image to mind. Instantly connections are drawn with a majestic horse rider, a fine person mounting their trusty steed. Or it brings the idea of the cool and tough motorbike rider, the leather jacket and ripped denim; ain’t no rider got time for lycra. In truth the rider is generally none of these things; they are rarely majestic or tough. The rider is, in laymen’s terms, everyone else.
The rider comes in many shapes and forms. The rider can be hidden in any disguise, they can be plump or thin, but rarely will they wear lycra. The rider sometimes has a moustache that reflects his handlebar. Or a carrier wagon with an enormous dog sitting in it. The rider wears normal to intriguing helmets (including mainly stack hats and then of course there is the swan shaped and painted helmet that appears to swim down Royal Parade every morning on a rider’s head). The rider tends to wear what they want; often unprepared for the weather. The rider fearlessly (albeit at times clumsily) carry’s objects, baskets, panier bags, children and perhaps a coffee on their rides.
A rider effortlessly hops on and off their bike, in and out of their commute and into life. A rider perhaps does not know what cleats are, nor do they need to; their high heels or sneakers are fine for the journey. A rider will sparsely work up a sweat, their journey is carefree and slow paced. For a rider, the bicycle is simply a way of life; to consider it a sport seems absurd.
There is no better or worse group, yet the cyclist tends to hate the slow poke riders that keep slowing them down. While simultaneously the riders can’t stand the cocky cyclists that wiz past wiggling their muscular lycra clad buttocks as they go.
While it would be nice to end with something wondrous, something profound and brilliant, a certain epiphany if you will! …the truth is, there is no great reasoning behind my bumbling about cyclists and riders. It is simply an observation I wanted to share. Much like how one morning at age 22, Roald Dahl watched Major Griffiths and his wife prance around naked on the deck of a ship bound for Africa (currently reading “going solo” – highly recommend). It was just an innocent observation, of no immense relevance or importance, yet in one way or another I just wanted to tell you.
Image credit to the immensely talented Quentin Blake.