By Mia Birk
"I am calling you out!" yelled the tattooed, scraggly bearded man, pointing his finger at my chest. My violation was not having gone on one of Portland's Midnight Mystery Rides. Seeing as I don't really like beer, usually am in bed by 11 p.m., and don't much like slow group rides, these rides hold no appeal.
"Yeah whatever," I replied.
"You can't call yourself a real cyclist," he added in disgust.
Ah. So riding my bike for transportation and recreation for 20 plus years puts me on a lower rung than the drunken bike parade crowd. Got it.
Are you a real cyclist?
The back courtyard of my company's building is flush against the parking lot of a great bike shop - River City Bicycles. One day, I came across a women's cycling team demoing high-end Specialized racing bikes in the parking lot. I asked if I could try one. The young woman looked me up and down, took in my skirt and heels, my step-through frame Trek Allant and wicker basket and dismissed me as thoroughly as the Mystery ride fellow.
"We go pretty fast," she kindly explained. "You could come back," she offered.
Ah. True, I wouldn't be able to keep up with the young hotties, but should she be making that assumption? Three of my close pals are also 40-ish moms of young children. They ride their bikes for daily transportation, rain or shine, and also tear up the Cyclocross course like nobody's business. And so do their kids.
Not long ago, I was riding on a path with some out-of-town guests, and a speed demon Lance-wannabe rudely split a crowd of pedestrians. One of the guests exclaimed, "Real cyclists don't belong on a path like this."
Ah. So a real cyclist is one in Lycra on a road bike? We who are riding on the path at a nice, even pace are less real?
I suggest the following: We are all real cyclists, no matter why we are doing it. If we are racing, toodling or getting where we need to go; if we sometimes race and sometimes tour and sometimes ride to work or the store or school or the movies; if we ride all of the time or some of the time and take the bus or walk or drive at other times; if we ride to ride or put our bikes on our cars or the bus to get where we're starting from; if we ride Cycle Oregon, Montréal's Tour de l'Île, Iowa's Ragbrai or the Tour de California, or would never dream of such a thing; if we wear Lycra or think Lycra shorts and clickie shoes are kind of silly or maybe we wear Lycra shorts only when we go for a long ride but otherwise wear street clothes; whether we ride for fitness, stress relief, to save money, because we like fresh air, because we're competitive adrenaline junkies or just because it's the best way to get places or get exercise; or because it's really darn fun... it's all good!
Let's stop the judging and labeling and compartmentalization, ok?