“So, what do you do?”
“I’m a cyclist”
“Oh really! You are a professional cyclist?”
“Nope, I just like to ride bikes a whole lot”
It’s a fairly amusing way to make conversation at the bar, but it is also 100% true. When you ask me what I do, I’m not going to tell you how I make a paycheck. Because bicycles rule my life and they are the one thing that I identify my existence with the most. Before I was a college student, a scientist, a skateboarder, a rock climber or even an unemployed traveler (as I am now), I was a cyclist. But what is a cyclist? This is a question I struggle with on a regular basis.
To me, it is a simple answer. A cyclist is a person who rides a bicycle. But somewhere along the way we have lost sight of the simplicity and started breaking up into different tribes. Like some kind of lycra and flannel clad Lord of the Flies. There are roadies, singlespeeders, commuters, downhill, BMX’ers, touring riders … and so on. I’m not sure what causes this compartmentalization. Maybe it is society, human nature or even marketing. But I’ve never thought it was very healthy. Sure, it’s nice to differentiate between disciplines but it shouldn’t be so polarizing.
I am constantly being judged and told that I don’t “look like a cyclist”. Granted, I more closely resemble a fire hydrant or a tree stump. But what does a cyclist look like and what the hell does that have to do with me being able to pedal a bicycle? I wonder how many other people this happens to. I can’t be the only one and it probably scares a fair amount of people away.
You see, I have an agenda with all of this social media blabbing and internet writing I do. I want to be a fun-enabler and get more people excited about riding bicycles. There are a lot of great organizations like Trips for Kids and Ride for Reading that work to get children on bikes. There are also groups like World Bicycle Relief and Portal Bikes who are doing amazing things in developing nations. But who looks out for our friends, relatives and neighbors?
This is a call to arms for all cyclists around the world. A mission to find one person around you and put them on a bicycle. Do you have a friend who “used to ride” and wishes they could get back into it? Well then take them for a ride. Does your significant other want to go for a multi-day bikepack in the Rockies? Give them a high five, a map and get after it. Maybe your buddy at work has always wanted to do a backflip on a BMX bike. Help him find a ramp, take it to a lake and give it a try. The possibilities for spreading this cycling addiction are endless.
I understand that cycling is an inherently selfish endeavor. I have been in this game long enough to know that it’s just you, some calories and a machine. But I also feel that part of being a cyclist is sharing our love of bicycles with others, no matter what discipline we participate in. Most of us have been riding bicycles since we were children and it should still be just as fun and welcoming today as it was back then. Hopping curbs, skidding, riding with no hands and splashing through puddles are there for everyone to enjoy. It’s up to us to break down the barriers, bring more people in and create more cyclists. We are incredibly fortunate to be using a form of transportation as recreation. Let’s not take that for granted.