I am a serious (but rather dumb) cyclist.

I promised you a cringe-worthy post and here it is.

So the 10th thing I realized on my bike trip?

I am a serious cyclist.

Before this trip I had a formula in my head of how I needed to be before I could consider myself a “serious cyclist”. It went like this…

BMI under 25+super speedy(lots of miles)=serious cyclist

So according to my formula I was not serious cyclist partly because I am still a good 20 pounds overweight if we use the BMI index as the gold standard. Then I used this flawless logic…

I am not a serious cyclist, therefore I should not spend money on cycling clothes.

I decided to put off buying proper cycling clothes until I got down to a certain magical number which would “poof!” turn me into a cyclist worthy of wearing cycling clothes. Which is really absurd because I spent a decent chunk of money on a road bike. If I was into cycling enough to buy a second bike-a road bike, I clearly needed the proper attire to ride that bike. Like I said, my logic is always flawless!

But on the third morning of my trip, when I paused to let a flock of turkeys cross the road, I finally realized what “serious” cycling really is.

It isn’t about achieving a particular physique, or maintaining a certain speed or getting a magical number of miles in each month.

A serious cyclist is someone who loves to bike. Someone who loves the speed, freedom and exhilaration of exploring the world on two wheels and is willing to put in effort, time and sweat to do so. It is not about measuring up to certain parameters, it is about being passionate about riding and having a desire to learn and grow.

The flock of turkeys finished crossing the path and I decided to be finished with my previous mindset. I am a serious cyclist and I can buy and wear whatever clothes I want and/or need to.

Which is a very, very good thing. And this is why…
I wore pants on my three day trip. Regular exercise pants. Which was fine until the last day when I biked all day long. By nightfall I was very sore. But that was not the worst part.

The worst part was when I woke up at 3:30 the next morning and tried to bike to work. I used the word “tried” in that sentence very intentionally, I did not actually bike to work. I used a bicycle to transport my body the ten miles to the restaurant but “biking” is not the right term for it. I don’t know if there is a correct term for it really. My body would not let me sit down on the saddle of my bike-it was too painful. So I rotated between several awkward, painful positions until the end of my journey.

Apparently, I like learning the hard way.

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26 thoughts on “I am a serious (but rather dumb) cyclist.

  1. When’s the book coming out, Bri? You do a phenomenal job of recognizing and communicating your experiences on the bike (emotionally, physically, existentially) – it’s like finally having some insight into why I went through the stages I did when I was starting to ride more regularly. You’re definitely getting enough together to make a solid read for the new rider ready to start commuting, touring, or just exploring life on two wheels. Keep it up!

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    • Wow, I am blown away by your comment Chris, thank you for your encouraging words! I always feel so clumsy when I write but I do enjoy sharing my biking experiences and getting feedback from others. I don’t have any aspirations beyond organizing my blog and making stuff easier to find around here, haha!

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  2. Pegged it!!! Yeah, we cyclists come all sorts of mis-shapes! There is no such thing as a true “serious cyclist” definition. You’re in love with cycling. Want to learn how to be a good worker? Watch a 5 year old at play! Someone wiser than I came up with that one. I agree with Chris too. Your writing is wonderfully entertaining without being “serious” about deliberately trying to be funny. I remember thinking that bike shorts must just be part of the peer pressure thing of “biking.” Then I bought AND even wore my first pair. I’m not the most becoming human being to be seen in spandex, but it is absolutely functional.

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    • Yup, I think that is one of the best things about biking, there are so many ways to go about doing it that all of us can find a place to fit in.

      I used to be a little worried about what I would look like in cycling shorts but after that horrendous commute I really don’t care at all, I am just excited to try them out!

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  3. Nice post Bri. You have the right attitude. I cycled for years before I began wearing cycling-specific clothes – bibs (short and long), jersey (with pockets, cycling cap (great in the sun and rain), jackets, gloves … Like you, I didn’t think I was a real cyclist. Well, I am. I love cycling. That’s the only definition necessary. I wear Louis Garneau gear. Their apparel comes in different fits – race, standard, and comfort – making it easy to get the fit you need and like. Take a look – http://www.louisgarneau.com/ca-en/products/827715/Women%27s_Cycling_Apparel.

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  4. excellent. It’s a privilege and an honor to know you. When you said you were going to hit 5,000 miles this year in biking, when you rode in minus degree weather all through the winter, when you give your bike a shower in the tub, when you race Amish people with a horse and carriage, when you rode 352 miles in three days and 150 miles in one day on only 1.5 hours of sleep my thoughts were you’re in the ranking of ‘a serious cyclist’. Looking forward to seeing you in the Tour d’France next year.

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  5. Dude, and I don’t use that term lightly, buy cycling shorts. Don’t spend less than $80 a pair. Bora makes an AWESOME bib, Specialized makes an excellent pair of shorts (I own two pair of the Pro’s, and one of the Comp), Pearl Izumi makes an excellent short as well. If you’re worried about your figure, buy bibs. They make an okay figure look stellar. Check on the women specific drop back models so you don’t have to disrobe to relieve yourself. Do it now. And remember, you get what you pay for. Check websites like Nashbar for deals on otherwise expensive clothing…

    A good pair of shorts is worth every penny. Oh, and cheap shorts feel like riding on barbed wire after 30 miles.

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  6. Grant Petersen (founder of Rivendell Bike Works) covers the clothing thing well in his book “Just Ride.” He’s very much in favor of getting on a bike and riding in your “normal” clothing. I DO like padded shorts if it is going to be a long day on the bike.

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  7. It’s actually a rafter of turkeys, not a flock 😉 (I just googled it btw)

    Sometimes labelling ourselves isn’t so easy, or others find it easier to label us, or us to label them, but the logic we or they use doesn’t always fit… if I go out on my bike wearing jeans then I’m perhaps not out on a serious ride, or seen as a serious cyclist, but then I might pass someone who is all clad in “proper gear”. Often I just feel like cycling is what I do, rather than feel serious about… like, if I drove to work every day, does that make me a serious motorist?

    You’re capable of cycling 300 miles in 3 days, I wouldn’t worry about +20 pounds 😉

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    • Rafter is a way cooler word then flock, I will try to remember it!

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts-they are really wise ones. I love your comment about how cycling is just something we do. I remember when I used to wake up in the morning and ask myself, “should I go for a ride today?” now I wake up and go out for a ride without putting to much thought to it. You are 100% correct, it is not about how “serious” we are about cycling, it just about getting out on our bikes and enjoying a ride…with proper attire for the kind of riding that we are doing that day. Because as I found out through blistering pain, sometimes attire really, really matters 😉

      I used to agonize over my weight, but I have come to see my body in a different light now. My body is capable of really amazing things, who cares what the number on a scale says? I do want to eat healthier though, not for the purpose of losing weight but because I give my body what it needs to work well. And if I lose weight through that process, that’s fine with me!

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  8. Again, I am on the other side of this conversation. I do wear padded shorts, under my regular shorts when I do long rides or touring. I have a couple of pair of Novara touring shorts that have removable padding. I also have a mountain bike shorts that I cut the padding out of. Now the shorts are multi-functional. I can ride in them or cut the lawn in them.

    I was one of those spandex, helmet wearing, matching kit guys riding riding 12 MPH on the bike path and back roads. I did graduate to club rides for a few years and even rode on a Tuesday night double paceline hammerfest in Providence RI with the Brown University cycle team. That stuff was OK but I was always critical of my speed, miles, VO2, and my placement in the crits. I did enjoy that at the time but don’t do any of that any more, giving it up to simply enjoy riding my bike.

    No more spandex, no more measuring, no more helmets, but I still have the crazy looking socks. Those are cool. I’m riding like a kid again and enjoying it immensely.

    So: Enjoy yourself. Riding is easy and fun if you allow that to happen. Of course you can still enjoy yourself going the full out route with the clothing and fast bikes. Those will fade out over the years, so be sure to keep your beater bike. It will become your best friend in time.

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    • Thank you for sharing from your wealth of cycling experience, John, it means a lot to me! I am buying cycling shorts but besides comfort on long rides I don’t think it will change the way I bike. I am often sad about the lack of cyclists and organized rides around here but there is one benefit to this-I have no pressure to conform to anyone else’s idea of cycling. I get to work it out on my own without anyone looking over my shoulder. But I did need your reminder, it is so important to keep riding fun and stress free. Goodness knows there are plenty of other things in life to stress about!

      Because I live car-free, daily biking has to be fun for me and I try to be conscious of pushing myself too far physically because the last thing I want to deal with is mental burnout or an overuse inquiry of some kind. Yeah, I have my fast days and my long days but most of the time I bike
      exactly the way I want to on that day.
      And I will let you in on a little secret…
      This summer has been really, truly awesome. I love my road bike and I love flying down roads. But deep down inside there is a part of me that never let go of winter biking-I can’t wait for snow and ice and studded tires and ski masks 🙂

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  9. You might want to get some chamois butter too. Then if you do longer rides and have chafing, whether you wear cycling shorts with a chamois or not, you can wear some of that on yourself and your chamois and still ride your bike.

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