Welcome back, prospective cyclist! Yesterday you learned what you need to own in order to be a cyclist. Today, you will learn how you need to behave. For, as you will soon find out, in order to be a true cyclist, you cannot simply ride your bike.
To be a real cyclist, you must make it your entire life. Here’s how.
Step 1: Decide Why You Ride.
As someone new to cycling, perhaps you think that the reason you might want to ride a bike is to get outdoors, see the sites, and get some exercise all at once. And this would be a fine reason to ride a bike, if it weren’t completely wrongheaded.
To be a cyclist, you don’t ride your bike because it’s fun. That kind of riding is what we call “junk miles” (I’m not making that up.) and is frowned upon by real cyclists.
Let me be perfectly clear: Riding a bike to enjoy yourself is not an acceptable reason to get on your bike.
You need to train. And that means having a goal. For your convenience, I have several acceptable cycling goals listed below. Feel free to adopt two or more as your own:
- Race Across America (RAAM): An exercise in pain and sleep deprivation
- 24 Hours of Moab, solo. This means you ride your mountain bike in a 12-mile sandy loop as many times as you can in 24 hours. That sounds like fun, doesn’t it?
- The Iditarod: A 350-mile (or more, if that seems too easy) race across the Alaska tundra in the middle of Winter. The person who survived this race says it’s awesome.
- The Tour de France: Don’t just slum it, like most of the riders. Make a point of winning a stage.
Step 2: Ride With a Purpose.
Once you’ve made your decision to make a race you life’s primary ambition, you’re all set to start training. Of course, many of you are new to this sport, so I’ll define this unfamiliar term:
Train (verb): To exercise according to a set schedule, with the dual objectives of becoming more proficient at that sport, and learning to hate the sport you are working so hard to become good at.
Oh, and there’s a side benefit, too. If you’re training, you’re guaranteed to be slated to do a set of road hill intervals the day all your friends want to go on a group ride. Or you’ll be having an enforced rest day all your friends want to ride an epic stretch of singletrack.
But all this training will pay off, and one day you will be the fastest and strongest rider of all the people who used to be your riding buddies back before you started training.
Of course, all this training is going to hurt. A lot. As a cyclist, you need to pretend to enjoy this kind of pain. You need to talk about “putting your head down and suffering up a mountain” in reverential tones. You need to act like being in self-inflicted, entirely recreational pain has taught you wisdom and has given you a certain self-sufficiency and quiet confidence.
And not that it in fact makes you seem kind of creepy.
Step 3: Eat Like a Cyclist
It’s not a well-known fact, but cyclists do not eat food. Instead, they consume synthetically-manufactured foodlike substances, engineered to deliver fuel to blood cells as efficiently as possible, without the inconvenience of being enjoyable to eat.
All cycling food substitutes are required by law to be — or at least taste like — one or more of the following:
- An insoluble powder that tastes somewhat — but not quite — like Kool Aid with too much sugar mixed in. A handful of Cream o’ Wheat is usually mixed in as well, with the intent of settling to the bottom of the bottle, which is in turn required to taste like a pool filtration system (i.e., delicious!).
- Glucose from an IV bag. But thicker. Much, much thicker. With raspberry flavoring.
- Carob-Coated Rawhide
Step 4: Look Like a Cyclist
Like many tight-knit communities, cyclists want to identify with each other by looking exactly alike. This entails, first and foremost, shaving your legs. While others will claim there are other reasons for shaving their legs, cyclists know deep within their hearts it’s simply due to peer pressure.
Next, get a goofy tan. The tops of your legs and forearms should be dark as can be. The tan, however, should not extend to the back of your legs, nor beyond the jersey line.
And above all, you should have the reverse raccoon look, where all of your face except your eyes — where the glasses go — is deeply tanned.
Step 5: Prioritize Like a Cyclist
Here’s an interesting fact about cycling: once you get your legs into decent shape, you can go for hours and hours and hours without your legs really tiring out. That’s not true of most other sports.
So guess what? In order to get a challenging workout, you’re going to need about four hours per day. Except weekends, when you’re going to need about six hours.
This, of course, is something you’ll need to inform your significant other of, at some point.
Luckily for your family, it’s lots of fun to spend family vacation time traveling to a bike race and then sit on the side of the road for 2.7 hours until you whiz by, focusing on the road and nothing else.
It’s common courtesy, by the way, to pretend that you heard and saw your family as you rode by them during the race.
Step 6: Think and Talk Like a Cyclist
It’s all well and good to have chosen to be a cyclist, but it’s not enough. You have to talk the talk. Use the following guidelines when conversing with other cyclists:
- Cars: You’re against them, especially when they do something that nearly (or actually) gets you injured. Never ever ever consider the possibility that you might sometimes be at fault.
- Cars, Part II: You’re not against cars when you’re driving one to the trailhead.Furthermore, your bike rack is something you should have thought about as obsessively as the bike itself.
- Other cycling disciplines: If you’re a road cyclist, regard mountain bikes as clumsy, inelegant toys. If you’re a mountain biker, shake your head in wonder at the fact that anyone would choose to mix it up with cars all the time. If you’re a trackie, try to puzzle out why nobody else you know wants to join you for a couple of hours of riding around and around and around on a banked oval. If you’re a recumbent rider, be sure to keep your beard well-trimmed, and please try to not be so angry all the time.
- Other sports: Be unaware of them.
- Doping: Despise it, unless you actually do it. In which case, act like you despise it.
There is, of course, more. And I’d gladly reveal it to you, but the fact is my trainer told me to keep my typing rate down to 35wpm today and to not spend more than an 85 minutes on the keyboard.
PS: Bloggies voting is still going on. My sister Jodi at Pistols and Popcorn (Best-Kept Secret category), my friend The Pioneer Woman (lots of categories), and I (Sports category) would all love your votes. Thanks!