I am a runner. I know it’s controversial to say that among cyclists. (In fact, the two sports are great companions.) Recently, I was speaking with a friend who pointed something out to me. He said that where running has gotten it right is in embracing everyone, anyone, who puts on running shoes.
There are plenty of Internet memes that proclaim what defines a runner:
“Miles don’t mean anything. Running does.”
“Whether it’s a 14 minute mile or a 7 minute mile, it is still a mile.”
“I’m slower than a herd of turtles stampeding through peanut butter, but I run.”
“No matter how slow you go, you are still lapping everybody on the couch.”
“Dead last finish is greater than did not finish, which trumps did not start.”
“Last is just the slowest winner.” – C. Hunter Boyd
What these memes tell us is that a runner isn’t defined by distance or pace. Instead a runner is defined by a passion for running. Heck, the passion doesn’t even have to be there, just the effort. In other words, the running community is a welcoming one. Here is where the cycling community often fails us, though that failure may not be intentional at all.
Because cycling can be an equipment-intensive sport, it can seem like quite an exclusive club. There are so many decisions to be made. Campy, Shimano or SRAM? Is tubeless for me? Even the type of bike and cycling is in question. Whereas a pair of running shoes can take you from road to trail, bikes tend to be purposely-built, requiring a newbie to decide before he starts just what kind of riding he will do.
Even the lingo can confuse an outsider. There is so much French! (I promise you, studying French all the way through college and even living in France did not teach me what a derailleur was.)
But, let’s be honest. What do you really need to start biking?
Sure, as you get into the sport, you will want the equipment. You’ll realize quickly how clipless pedals and the accompanying shoes make you more efficient. You’ll painfully discover the need for a good chamois and will want to invest in a decent pair of shorts or bibs. You will need to put together a flat kit and it helps to know how to use it when you do flat. And, once you get into it, you’ll ALWAYS want to upgrade your bicycle components, wheels and your bike itself. Sorry, that never ends.
But, let’s face it: all you need to get started is a bike and a helmet. The bike may not fit you perfectly. Heck, you may not even get started on your own bike. But, that’s okay. Starting alone is good enough.
“You don’t have to be great to start, but you do have to start to be great.”
When I really got into riding, it was on a 20 year-old mountain bike that I had purchased back in college. It weighed almost as much as I did. I managed to weave in and out of cyclists in L.A.T.E. Rides on that silly bike – and had a great time doing so. My husband began his triathlon career on a borrowed road bike that was actually a friend’s wife’s.
Guess what. We both rode. There I was, struggling to keep up with my husband even at slow speeds, while I rode that heavy off-road bike that was so inappropriate for the North Shore roads. For lack of confidence riding on the road, we nervously pedaled through streets to find the nearest entrance to a bike path where we could feel safe while riding. We, just like everyone else, suffered the slow, embarrassing falls as we familiarized ourselves with clipless pedals.
With every ride, even the ones with plenty of “learning opportunities,” our confidence grew along with our ability. We felt accomplishments in every ride. We experienced the joy that is riding a bike. And we both loved it. We fell in love with cycling.
Did we become cyclists along the way? Sure, we learned the ins and outs of riding on the road, cycling etiquette and group ride rules. Our time in the saddle and our experience made us more confident riders and better cyclists. But I wouldn’t say that we weren’t cyclists to begin with. The moment we set out on a bicycle, the moment we put our butts in those saddles, that is the moment we became cyclists. And that is the way it should be in this sport.
It shouldn’t depend on distance. There may be huge variances in speed. We may have room to improve. But, if our butts are in the saddle, we are cyclists.
Let’s start a cycling revolution! Join us on our weekly group rides. During the winter season, we ride together in our CompuTrainer Studio. As soon as we have a hint of spring, our beginner-friendly group rides move outdoors again. To stay current with our group ride schedule and to get cycling tips, sign up for our weekly newsletter.
Joy Sherrick is a three-time Boston-qualifier and a Boston Marathon 2013 survivor. She will be returning to run Boston in 2015. Joy runs, but she also bikes, swims, strength trains, practices yoga and plays soccer. She is a fitness coach and Higher Gear’s own fitness guru. She is also her IronMan husband‘s biggest cheerleader.