Why Do Bicyclists Fear Bicycle Enthusiasm?

Don’t call me a cyclist!” How many times have you heard that demand from dudes who want utilitarian urban biking to share no similarity with bros in spandex zipping through stop lights? “We’re people on bikes, we’re NOT cyclists!

Okay, whatever.

Recently I saw an even more confounding preamble in a StrongTowns article. The author declares, “I don’t ride a bike because I love bikes. I ride because it’s a convenient and economical mode of transportation to accomplish my daily tasks.

I left a comment that failed to illustrate the puerility of such a sentiment. Like, you LIKE a thing because of reasons but you refuse to be associated with people who like said thing for identical reasons. Seriously, what’s up with that?

Are we truly holding such internal shame that we can’t celebrate the fact that yes, we’re doing something real to save the Earth – or at least devoting some semblance of rationality to city commuting? You’ll never hear a soccer mom declare, “Oh, I just use this 4,000 lb van for its practicality, but don’t call me a car lover!

Well, actually you might hear that one. I admit knowing a few.

Bikes can be boring, commuting can be boring, but boredom shouldn’t be the goal. The Dad-ification of cycling culture isn’t going to impress anyone into ditching the family car, no matter how severe a climate crisis we collectively face.

I get it, you don’t want to look emasculated on an overgrown kids’ toy inspiring laughter from your fellow Dad bros. But is your ego so anemic? They’re only apprehensive of your nonconformity, and they hate themselves for it. Suck it up, ignore them, and keep leading by example. When they get tired of laughing on the outside and crying on the inside, they might well have legit questions to ask.

Be ready to be supportive, but don’t be afraid to give them some shit back. Rib them for being antiquated. Show them how to catch up. Be enthusiastic. Be a damn bicycle enthusiastic.

Riding bikes will thrill you, at times it might aggravate you, but the ultimate goal is in fact changing the world. Don’t let anyone’s lack of imagination tell you otherwise. I’ve worked the math on this for several minutes and my anecdotal conclusion is this: saving Earth won’t take that many bikes at all, really. At least not at first.

Don’t fear labels, even if you don’t self-apply them. Let people call you whatever you want. Just ride your bike and simply be the badass cycling recruiter who’s the envy of your peers.

See you in the streets.

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10 comments

  1. I think you’re missing the point. People term a person on a bike as cyclists to separate them normal people to enable an “us versus them” attitude. It dehumanises your target stopping any empathetic feeling and enabling abuse with no remorse. Hence when people seek to ostracise any other group they seek to dehumanise them. This is why people seek to avoid being termed as a cyclist. Example “I ran over a cyclist today” versus “I ran over a person today”….

    1. We use special terms like driver and motorist and nobody protests those labels. Not sure why anyone would think the word ‘cyclist’ itself is the de-humanizing factor at play between bikes and cars.

    2. Horseshit. I have no idea what gets into peoples’ heads re riding a bike but not wanting anyone to think they’re a “cyclist.” My brain isn’t small enough or fucked up enough to comprehend the idea that bicycling can be separated from pleasure no matter what the purpose. My own use of a bike spans 45 years with most of it being transportation including growing up in LA and not learning to drive there–the transportation cycling has been spiced with club rides, centuries and double centuries, criteriums, time trials and the odd tour here and there but it’s been mostly the range of work commutes to errands where the parking for a car is scary to impossible. How can you want to make cycling boring any more than you want chocolate to be flavorless or music or sex boring? Are these people untreated head injury cases? Our culture portrays driving a car as a sensuous, ego-reinforcing pleasure. Why should we not want cycling portrayed that way? Are we trying to drive people away from it? Cycling isn’t like eating your vegetables (confess I do really like vegetables, however) and it shouldn’t be made to seem ordinary, utilitarian, or boring. Even riding 2K to Safeway is a pleasure ride to me and should be to anyone. Riding a bike should be portrayed by it’s proponents as a combination of the perfect pastry, your favorite concert or recording, and a hot night in the sack with your spouse.

  2. Weird they put that quote with the picture on their home page because the opening paragraph of the actual article says, “Let me get this out of the way: I am a bike guy. I love bikes, all kinds – transportation bikes, off road bikes, racing bikes and classic bikes.”

    1. Yes, care was taken to reference the author and not the man in the photo. Was glad to hear that he himself doesn’t share that particular sentiment.

  3. It seems that you missed the point. When I say “Don’t call me a biker.” it has nothing to do with ego or shame. It stems from my understanding that many/most non-bikers and even many sporto bikers view “bikers” as someone passionately pursuing a niche hobby. My passion is at least as great as any hobbyist but calling me a “biker” usually reflects an underappreciation for the breadth of my advocacy and purpose. The term is dismissively narrow. It would be the same as referring to vegans as extreme salad lovers. Get it?

  4. Sorry I seem to have stumbled onto a men-only page. Or is cycling a men-only pursuit? Shite, all those decades I’ve spent on bikes and I had NO IDEA!

    bros in spandex
    Dad-ification of cycling culture
    you don’t want to look emasculated
    your fellow Dad bros

    1. There’s lots of other articles here about a wide range of various urban issues, bikes among them. This one in particular was about a common attitude among male riders that we wished to debunk. Thanks for reading, Lorna.

  5. I use the term cyclist to differentiate between bicycle rider, and motorcycle rider. Most people out there, hear “bike” and think Harley.

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