How to Size Up the Competition, Part II: The Bike

06.17.2005 | 6:13 pm

Anyone who’s ever gathered at a start line knows that there’s an awful lot of sly bike inspections going on. But gauging the quality of the cyclist based on what he’s riding isn’t limited to start lines. You can do it practically anytime — looking at bikes on car racks and looking at bikes people are riding as you pass / are passed are two common times. Today, let’s take a look at how you can quickly size up the competition, just by looking at what they ride.

  • Reflectors: This is the absolutely most obvious way you can be sure someone’s not serious about cycling. If he’s left the reflectors on his bike, he’s clearly not considering the extraordinarily deleterious (wow, I just used "deleterious" in a sentence!) effects on his speed the weight and poor aerodynamics of the reflectors will have. (
  • Drivetrain: The drivetrain is a good indicator of the person’s riding style:
  • Shimano = all about the efficiency and reliability. 80% chance that the rider also drives a Japanese car. High likelihood that the rider will be a good tactician and a a smart rider.
  • Campagnolo means the rider cares all about the history of cycling and the passion of cycling and will fly into a fit if you do not profess an undying love for Eddy Merckx. This person corners with passion. He climbs with passion. He descends with passion. He attacks with passion. And when you beat him, he will throw a raging fit.
  • SRAM: This person isn’t interestedd in beating you. He’s interested in doing his own thing, man. If you suggest working together, he’ll look at you like you’re from Mars.
  • Singlespeed means that he no longer cares about winning, or at least wishes to project the image that he no longer cares. He’s jaded, like James Dean on a bike. OR it’s possible that he is bringing enough game to the ride that he’s confident he can beat you even without the benefit of technology.
  • Wheels: Everyone talks about wheels as if they’re the biggest factor in how fast you go. Let me tell you a secret: your wheels aren’t going to make you any faster or slower. They’re not going to change the quality of your ride. So, if you see that your competition is riding with very expensive wheels, don’t worry about him being faster than you. Instead, just make a mental note that this person is gullible and that you’ll probably be successful at selling him NuSkin products later.
  • Frame: A brand-new frame says more about your opponent’s income than about his ability on a bike. It could mean he’s new to biking. It could mean he just nailed a sponsor. It could mean he wore his previous bike out. However, a well-worn bike says a lot about the rider. If it’s well-used and well-maintained, count on a tough race. If the frame is a couple years old but still looks new, your competition is more likely riding a New Years’ resolution — one that didn’t work out — from a couple years ago. If he’s riding a frame that’s several years old and still in good shape, you know you’re racing a lifer. If the rider looks strong, be ready for some serious competition.
  • Pedals: Better to have them than not. Okay, I can see I’m running out of steam here.
  • Today’s Weight: 176.8. Oh, this is not good. This is not good at all. I’m still going to try to hit my goal for the week, but doing this over the weekend that has both my birthday (Saturday) and Father’s Day (Sunday). Which means somebody’s probably going to win that Fat Cyclist Sweepstakes on Monday.

    Bonus yuck: Riding to work today, I very nearly rode over a fresh frog roadkill. Thing is, it wasn’t splatted/flattened. Looked like it was just asleep on the road. Big as my fist and bright green. You don’t see stuff like that in Utah.


    1. Comment by Robert | 06.18.2005 | 11:22 am

      Back when I was in college, one of my roomates was a nationally ranked wrestler. At the start of the season, he weighed 145 pounds with hardly any body fat. He worked out constantly. And here’s the thing — he wrestled in the 118 weight class. After ALL the fat was gone, we weighed about 130, I would guess. He used Ex Lax. He wrapped himself up in Saran Wrap and sat in the sauna (pronounced sa-OON-a). He spat into a cup. I’m telling you Elden, you can make weight on Monday. I can sell you a special kind of body wrap that helps you to sweat faster and more efficiently. It’s like magic. And we’re talking wholesale prices here. I work in volume.

    2. Comment by Robert | 06.19.2005 | 12:42 am

      Oh, and happy birthday, F. C.

    3. Comment by Unknown | 06.22.2005 | 3:52 pm

      Reflectors: maybe the cyclist is so serious, he/she welcomes the extra weight and aero disadvantage as more of a challenge. Bonus unusual commute chase: I had a Canadian goose chase me today. Maybe if I removed the reflectors, I could have outrun him.

    4. Comment by Steve | 08.31.2005 | 3:58 am

      We may not see the ready to burst toads here in Utah, But this morning riding up Big Cottonwood Canyon, I almost ran over a dead skunk, a dozen dead squirrels, a dead snake, and several thousand red, white and blue poker chips.LOL

    5. Comment by Steve | 08.31.2005 | 4:00 am

      Oh yea, I’m now addicted to this site, and look forward to reading it at the end of the day. Good stuff. I’m such a suck up.


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