Yeah, I’m niche. Not really something to boast about yet we humans like to feel as if we’re forging our own paths, that we are remarkable in some small way, atypical, one of a few. We follow not crowds, only our own will, for yes I’m smart, in control, not one of them, all those others who look and behave just like me, nay, observe me closely, I’m different, I’m special goddamnit.
Cyclists are no different. As a collective, we’re often accused of being self-entitled or ego-led, self-important, self-aggrandising, and as such hate figures to some. Yet the truth is we’re not special, we’re no different to others based on our choice of transport.
We do have our quirks, obsessions that help define us, routines which bond us. Damn, we are special after all.
We hate headwinds, love tailwinds. We hate rain yet secretly rejoice when it rains on a rest day. We hate the cold. We hate the blazing heat. We check the weather more times than your average sailor and know more about the wind than most glider pilots.
Just what is the perfect tyre pressure? Harder than the tarmac we ride on? Or should I run a lower pressure for comfort and grip but risk pinch flats? What if it’s wet? Let some air out unscientifically. That’ll do.
Give the tyres a little squeeze with the official thumb test. Hmm. Better give that some more air. Just in case. I have two words for you all. Tyre drop. All of your tyre pressure questions and dilemmas solved.
Some of us will not leave the house unless our socks match our arm warmers, which must match the arms on the side of our sunglasses. We’ll then ride the bike that best matches the colour of our jersey.
Average speed lower than your last ride? Argh. Same route right? Same wind. Same air pressure. What did I eat the night before that was weighing me down? Shit, I’m getting old. Must train more. Drop everything and get on the bike. What? It’s midnight? Well I am getting slower.
Most cyclists fall foul of over analysis when it comes to data, myself included. Whatever metrics you’re using it’s likely you’ll infer anything, from being ready to race with the pros all the way down to being near death.
A clean chainset
Some folk clean their chainset after every ride. Many cyclists get a little obsessive and compulsive when it comes to their chainset. It won’t be long before a new show comes to a satellite channel near you, How Clean Is Your Chainset?
I’m in awe. Mine gets a scrub once a quarter. Yet there’s few things more satisfying than the first ride with a clean chainset, your bike riding like new.
Who would get anal about the size of the overlap on their bar tape? Who? Ha. You know their name. The obsession doubles if the rider has white bar tape and we all watch their vain attempt to keep it clean for at least one ride.
No, we don’t look funny. Even though we do. We spend way too many minutes inspecting our shorts and jerseys on a sunny day to ensure the new tan lines will match the old tan lines. I quite like the multi-tone look myself.
No further explanation required. You know who you are.
Argh. What the hell is that now? There’s nothing worse for some riders than an undetectable click or clank destroying the silence of their ride. This one really gets me. Especially after you’ve dismantled the bike piece by piece only for the noise to persist. Argh.
Not being overtaken
The most pathetic trait yet one many fall prey to. For the male of the species there’s an odd primal need to chase down a passing female rider for the male must never be overtaken by the female. Never! Yup, pretty pathetic.
I love it when you overtake a rider and before you know it the very same rider is sprinting past you, trying to look as nonchalant as possible even though they’re riding on the limit. You continue on your way without upping your speed and realise you are reeling in the rider again because they are tiring. Your turn to look nonchalant.
All the gear
You roll up to a new ride. A sportive. The rider next to you is wearing a skin suit, pointy hat and rides a time trial bike. He rubs warming emulsion onto his legs. Sips a protein-carbohydrate-electrolyte drink and inhales two gels just to be safe (true story!).
Attached to the tri-bars is a bar bag complete with a copy of Bradley Wiggins’s autobiography, three gas canisters, a spare chain and enough food to feed the entire sportive.
Must buy a seat with carbon seat stays. Carbon bottle holders. Is that stem carbon? Thin latex inner tubes. Tubeless. Carry less water. Wheel upgrade. Hmm, this frame is a little heavy. OK, new bike it is.
Must avoid A roads. And major roundabouts. Ooh, what is the surface like on that tiny road? Streetview time. Must find/avoid hills. How many metres must I climb? Must go near that coffee shop, that one with the massive portions. Must avoid those traffic lights. And THAT road. Eugh. End of ride must be downhill, with a tailwind. This last one is a personal must.
Socks for idiots
Why is it that my cycling socks have an L and R stitched into them? And why do I meticulously obey these instructions even though the one time I forgot it made no detectable difference?
Socks for fashionistas
Yes, socks get two entries, that’s how important they are to the cyclist. Sock colours must match your bike and/or have elaborate patterns for yes, we cyclists are defined by our socks. Mine break all the rules. They’re grey and thick. Forget psychometric testing, just look at my cycling socks, they say all you need to know about me.
The right amount of layers
Don’t want to be too hot, nor too cold. Which is better? Too hot. Then why am I always cold? Autumn and spring bring cold mornings but warmer days and cool evenings. A cyclist’s clothing nightmare. Despite this I refuse to buy arm warmers which are, let’s be frank, the single most ridiculous thing in the world. Truth is we achieve perfectly balanced temperature control using the cyclist art form known as layering, which like Japanese paper folding Jedi origami masters, takes years to perfect.
Of course. We’re cyclists, we just have to ride. Everywhere. Just popping to the shops. On my bike. Nipping out for a post-ride recovery, hours later returning home buggered. Commuting by bike. Riding indoors when needs must. We’re avid leg movers, never knowingly resting. Pub? Just remember to take a strong lock for when you get the taxi home.
Cake and coffee
It’s all about the cake. Not the bike, not the ride. The ride is about the cake stop. Now I like a good cake and I like a good coffee, yet oddly I don’t like the cafe stop. That last word probably says why. Stop. I don’t like to stop when riding.
Not putting your foot down, ever
Two scenarios. The traffic lights, we either coast up to them slowly and pray they change to green or, if we have the skills, manage to track stand, on a road bike. A pretty impressive skill. Yes, we must never unclip. Clipping back in is a drama for some. That moment when you think you’re clipped in but you’re not. Ouch.
Scenario two. Hills. Steeper than the bill from your last night out, yet still you persist, straining every sinew, tearing your leg and arm muscles apart because you must never be beaten by the hill and put your foot down. I’m very guilty of this last one.
Tools and accessories
The bike industry knows we’re suckers. And we truly are. Ridiculously priced carbon bottle cages, titanium bolts, or clothing with ridges on to make you more aerodynamic at 15 mph. I rest my case. So it is that with each passing year the bike industry finds new ways to sell bike tools to us. Star shaped bolts, bottom brackets with weird teeth like fittings, a staggering array of cleats. What do you mean you’ve no idea what BCD you require for your new chainring?
Food / time ratio
How much food should I be eating per hour on the bike? Two bananas an hour? Three slices of soreen? How many nuts? 3 gels an hour? Vomit. We obsess because we do not want to meet the man with the hammer, the dreaded cycling bonk.
Miscellaneous bike bits
This has still got a bit of life left in it, you think, looking at the five year old bar tape, ragged and worn and smelly but not quite dead. Better hold on to it, just in case, you never know when this might come in handy. And so it begins. Your one person mission to amass more used and useless bicycle parts than ebay.
These well-worn brakepads? Looks like a millimeter of rubber is still left, better hold on to them, just in case. Hmm, this old wheel with a crack in the rim. Perhaps I’ll use the hub someday or need a spoke. Up the loft you trudge, knowing full well you’ll never see this wheel again!
More bikes than we have toes. The winter bike. The commuter. The one for tailwinds. The shopper. The pub bike. The shiny one that’s too big. The Italian one that hurts our back. The one for that one day a year when it snows. The track bike for the nearest velodrome 222 miles away. A swiss army knife collection of bikes, even though we only ever use two of the tools at most.
Picture the scene. You’ve been cycling a superhuman amount of miles, about 30, and you feel near death. Time to rest. Still shivering from your ice bath, you take to the couch and raise your legs above your heart without quite understanding why but Cycling Weekly demanded you do it. A quick power nap follows.
Lo and behold anyone who suggests going for a nice Sunday afternoon walk. Do they not know you are a cyclist and you walk nowhere goddamnit. You tell them the story of Bradley Wiggins’s wife carrying the shopping from the car to the house to preserve poor Bradley’s energy. It’s a wonder you’ll have the energy to sign the divorce papers.
What about you, what quirks or obsessions are you willing to admit? Go on, no one’s judging. Much.