Jerk City

The masquerade ball that is cycling

While out on a ride over the weekend I was reminded of something: I am a big jerk.

This happens on a somewhat regular basis, but then, I should think it does with most people. I make assumptions about people I don’t know, based on a really tiny body of observations. The clothes they are wearing. The car they drive. The bike they ride. The gear they are using. The music they are listening to. How loud they are talking on their phone in public. Why they insist on using the speaker phone so we can all hear how important they are… The list of offenses is limitless, and everyone’s will be different. The point is that everyone has a list, and that’s the crime.

So, I’m on my bike, enjoying the first really glorious day we’ve had this spring in the even more glorious hills around Adelaide, and encounter a small group of other riders. One just nudges past me on a climb (that’s like a red flag to a bull for me). First observation: pro-team kit and matching bike. Right. Second observation: he’s got it in the big ring (probably a compact, I smirk to myself) and something like the 15-17 on the back. Given the grade of the hill we’re on and the speed we’re doing, he’s pushing something like a 40rpm cadence. “Not a fan of your knees, then?”, I continue to think to myself, smugly. “So stupid. Does he want to get strong or fit?” Hot tip: it wasn’t long ago that I was doing the same thing, but for entire rides, and I will probably will do it again this year now and then as I am able (big ride coming up in a few months). Even so, I’m rolling my eyes at him.

Basically, a guy on a bike rode past me in a bigger gear than I was using, and the tiny shred of alpha male buried deep within me roused itself and got to work at justifying why I am better than him. Pretty sad.

When we got to the top of the climb and I pulled up to wait for some of the guys I was with, he came up and offered a few positive comments in my direction and was really, a terribly nice guy. I felt an appropriate amount of shame.

This is one of the things about cycling I can appreciate, and it works in two ways. Cycling is accessible for anyone. Really, anyone. Any age, any ability, any race, any gender, of any socio-economic bracket.

I can never recognise people in their full kit – helmet, sunglasses, jerseys, gloves, etc, so there is a bit of anonymity on top of that. It’s like going to a masquerade ball (you go to those, right?) where everyone is behind a mask and in costume and everyone is on equal terms for the evening. The guy on the old beater bike just getting to work can be an absolute gun, and you’d never know it. They guy with $15000 worth of bike under him might not even know how to change a tube. Full-pro kit guy can be really, really nice. Old beater guy could be a tosser. You never know what you’re going to get, which isn’t anything other than the old, “don’t judge a book by its cover”. I judge based on what I see (doesn’t everyone, to a point?), but thankfully, those judgements are continually re-evaluated.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that cycling continually teaches me life lessons. This weekend it was, again, that we are all cyclists, no matter what or how we ride. More than that, though, is that we are all people, whether or not we ride at all.


Header Image: Joe Shlabotnik/Flickr