September 7, 2011

Comments (35)

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Funny, the more I ride, the less like a "real cyclist" I look. After switching to a Brooks' saddle, all my cycle-specific shorts just gather dust.

Chris Byron more than 1 year ago


Exactly what I have thought for years - a cyclist is someone who rides a bike. Simple.

Tracey Ge more than 1 year ago

As I get older...

I enjoy cycling in all it's many forms. There was a time that I had to "suit up" and every ride was a training ride. I still love fast fitness rides of course, but, I also love what I call "flip flop" rides on my 24 year old Trek 750 multitrack. Cruising around on my Surly fixie is fun too. Grocery shopping, riding with my 8 year old whatever... as long as I'm on my bike I'm happy. Any other person I see on a bike is my brother or sister.

Chris more than 1 year ago

I am just a girl on a bike!

I just finished an across continent tour of America into Canada. I was the slowest rider, but that by no means makes my experience less fabulous. I feel like those people that only do races or organized rides are elitist, not cyclists. Cyclist means that you feel a loss if you do not ride your bike one day. My biggest fear was after I was ran over by a car/truck, that I would never be able to ride again. I think my desire to get back on my bike as soon as possible qualifies me as a cyclist. I think that the fact that I rode across the continent cements that status. However, these two incidents do not by any means designate me more of a cyclist than others. I am still the slowest rider, have no desire to ride fast and I prefer to ride in street clothes and not spandex. A cyclist is someone who desires to be on their bike whenever possible. If this is not the definition then I would rather be just a girl on a bike! To hell with labels.

ChaCha more than 1 year ago

"no cyclo"

Only in American English have we invented the word "Cyclist" as the noun form of someone riding a bicycle. Everywhere else it's not marked behavior, it just happens. You're a person. I try to frame this conversation 'people first'. As in "people on bikes", not 'cyclists'.
Inevitably whatever conversation you're trying to have (about people) is framed about technology (bicycles) first, instead of people first.

Joe more than 2 years ago

Great insight

Thanks for the insight, Mia! As a sometimes snobby bike commuter I admittedly get annoyed by neophytes on the bike path such as the "fashion" cyclists (you know, those adorable, young Zooey Deschanel lookalikes with skirts, suede boots, and the retro 60's bikes with wicker baskets), as well as those old folks who look like they just dusted off the Schwinn and are taking their first wobbly ride in 40 years. I have to remind myself that the uptick in bicyclists is a great thing for us all, and there is strength (and safety) in numbers!

Gennine more than 2 years ago

How to Keep It Real

Of course we are all real cyclists. When I see other cyclists, no matter their attire or ability, I try to look them in the eye and smile. Or I give the head nod, or the handlebar hand wave. I think that staying connected to others on a personal level will keep us connected in the bigger social sense. Crazy idea, maybe useless, but certainly won't hurt for trying.

Susan Swope more than 2 years ago

a-men sister!

Wow! This is so timely!!! As I "casually" ride my circa-1970 dutch bike to work EVERY DAY in my skirt...I am passed by cycler's...I smile and say "morning!"..."good afternoon!"...I would dare say...they NEVER say I got very cranky about it...what are they...better than me? know what? Your story helped to center me...I ride for my reasons: 1.) I'd rather get my "exercise" by riding to work rather than exercising at the gym. 2.) I live in the "slow lane"...slow food...slow's me. 3.) I like to be green. 4.) It makes me FEEL good!. I don't need justification from someone in lycra saying hello...they have their reasons...I have mine and it's ALL GOOD! Thank YOU!

marcia schrotenboer more than 2 years ago


well technically yes we are all cyclist, it is a difference, just as is diferent a driver frm say, NASCAR, formula one, to a soccer mom driving to drop tue kids at the game.

Eddie more than 2 years ago

Let's all agree to agree.

Nicely expressed, Mia. Really.

Sam Joslin more than 2 years ago

I Ride campaign

Nice article, Mia. I work at the Community Cycling Center (a nonprofit in Portland, OR, for those readers who are not familiar with us) and we developed an "I ride" campaign that celebrates the many reasons why people ride their bikes. You can check out our I ride photos on the campaign web page:

Mia is right - we're all cyclists, no matter our reason for riding a bike.

Melinda Musser more than 2 years ago

Mia Birk's Big Idea


John E Gilliland more than 2 years ago


I live on an Island. My kids and I are car free. I have a Santana Triplet, a Burley Rock & Roll Tandem, a Litespeed Mountain Bike and a Velomobile that has three wheels.

All of the above are human powered vehicles. All of the above vehicles when I travel to the mainland via the ferry, travel on a $4.00 Bicycle Ticket. Not a triplet ticket, tandem ticket, mountain bike ticket, road bike ticket or velomobile ticket. A Bicycle Ticket.

The triplet is 10.5' long. The velomobile is 9.5' long.

Regardless of what you ride, if you are pedaling it to make it go, then you are a cyclist.

No one group whether they be called roadie, recreational, utilitarian, tandemist, recumbent or velonaut is more entitled to be called "Cyclist" than any other. We are all out there together and we should show the utmost respect to one another.

We are all doing our part in the best way that we can,

Such petty snobbery that divides us is an absurd waste of time and energy.

David more than 2 years ago

Real Cyclist

I had a speed demon scold me for stopping on the bike path while I was determining the detour route I would have to take because of construction on the bike path ahead. A few minutes later he passed me again after obviously running into the detour that he missed because he was too busy being worried about how other people were impeding his progress. His elitist attitude only made him waste his energy and made him look foolish!

BikeMinneapolis more than 2 years ago

Real cyclists

We're real and proud! Nice post.

Pure Mountains more than 2 years ago


I think we categorize people due to what they ride and make crappy assumptions, leading to bad attitudes against others. I see that attitude when riding around and a roadie gets annoyed when I am going too slow and I hear a disgruntled "On yer left!!!!". There are attitudes and also entitlement issues with people as well.

Here's the trouble with uniting as one "entity". We won't be. Uniting as a "cyclist" or "real cyclist" you're always not that of a motor vehicle and vice versa.

I guess my point is, we're all human, and we need to kind of band together as humans first before we do anything else. Since that in itself is a study in Sociology that I don't have the answers to, I digress.

Rubber side down,

teddy more than 2 years ago

Real cyclists

They say the greatest invention was the Wheel! Well
I say it was the second one ;)

I am a cyclist and I ride awesome bicycles;)

David Furmage more than 3 years ago


If I ride a bike, I am a bicyclist. Period. There is no argument to be had here. What that person in the RV did made them a prick, a danger, a rude person, etc. It did not mean they are not a "real" cyclist. Just a really douchey cyclist.

J more than 3 years ago

I disagree

Some cyclists are definitely not real cyclists. If you roll down the window of your beracked car and yell at people on bikes to get the hell out of your way, you're not a real cyclist and you should go take up golf and ride the bus. I had someone who had been riding for 20+ years buzz me with her RV - while she was driving it in support of an MS 150 ride - because she was of the opinion that I was riding too far out in the road. Could easily have killed me. Not a real cyclist. Turn in your bike AND your car keys.

John more than 3 years ago

I disagree

You're a cicylist because you ride a bicycle.
Your a unicyclist because you ride a unicycle.
You're a tricyclist if you ride a tricycle.
Arguing anything else to me is just continuing with the bad behaviour.

Craig more than 3 years ago

Don't judge

I'm guessing the tattooed and bearded fellow was calling you out for judging MMR as a "drunken bike parade" without having gone to one. But I agree with the larger point, same as the bikesnob --- just ride your bike.

Ben more than 3 years ago

On the Limit

I am an unreal cyclist

Vorsprung more than 3 years ago

Quite Agree

I agree with much of whats said here. I've been commuting by bike for ten years (I do a 20 mile round trip) because I do it in all weathers, and its quite a long ride, I do it in lycra (black - no multi colour rubbish thank you) on a drop handle bar cyclocross bike (to deal with the pot holes) whilst lugging a pannier. I am a real cyclist - but I've had various people tell me I'm not because a) I don't ride purely for leisure (read break neck pace in lycra) I ride to get to places and the opposite b) I don't commute properly because I don't do it in my work clothes - I AM A REAL CYCLIST BECAUSE I DO WHAT WOKRS FOR ME - which means lycra for getting to work, a trailer for popping to the supermarket and riding a drop handle racing bike with my skirt tucked in my knickers when I need to get to the pub quickly!!

Jody more than 3 years ago


Opened my Momentum this month and was disappointed to see this blog post Mia Birk put up almost a year ago reprinted in the magazine I read it quite a while back - c'mon, Momentum. Let's generate some content.

Drew more than 3 years ago

Don't worry, ride happy.

Honestly, don't give this another thought. I say G'day to ALL types... including joggers. If you ride (anything) you are a legend in my book! Hope to see you out there one day! :)

Hardo more than 3 years ago

'Cyclist' = irrelevant, useless term

Meh. The weirdy-beardy and the passive-aggressive road warrior woman are irrelevant hangovers from cycling's past. The future is the European way, where you are no more a 'cyclist' than you are a 'shoe-wearer' or a toaster-owner'. The term 'cyclist' has had its day, let's accept that, expunge it from the lexicon, make a conscious effort not to use it. So often it is used to obscure and divide the transport debate and more importantly, funding. As if I, Cyclist is less deserving of funds than I, Motorist. How about Govt recognisin gthe needs of I, Commuter/Parent/Citizen, and funding sustainable, livable transport modes accordingly?

Mike Stead more than 3 years ago

Riding a Brompton... am I a real cyclist??

Actually, you should see the looks of those guys with mountain and road bikes. They look at my small wheels and snear at me. I cycle about an hour a day for pleasure and exercise and would cycle more if I had the time to. I think I AM a real cyclist. Them, weariing funny coloured shits and lycras doesn't make them more cyclists than I am. Keep on pedalling, with a smile :-)

Hani Latif Zaloum more than 3 years ago

the Pedal need no Medal

I am really a Real Cyclist. I hate head winds and thats about it.
Perhaps if snowboarding were possible on flat land, to and from work in Melbourne, then maybe I'd change.
In a few years when I hit my forties(Mia), I'll still be giving the nod to every cyclist on the way.

Stew more than 3 years ago


Real cyclists will be pedaling around, not peddling, unless they are selling their bicycles.

Jimmy more than 3 years ago

We Share One Joy

Rather than spend our time judging whether the people peddling past us are "real cyclists" or wanna-bes, beginners or pros, letʻs stop wasting time condemning each other and recognize that we all share the same joy while on our bikes. Letʻs better invest our time, energy, and brain-power towards promoting safety, responsibility, and bicycling communities!

Stacey Jones more than 3 years ago

Unlike the Bobke, I'd ride with you any day Mia

Very well put Mia, it's not until we can get beyond the labels that we'll have the true pedal revelation. I had the chance to ride with a wonderful group of disabled (hate that word) people during a fun community bike race we put on in Colorado Springs this past weekend and you know, I don't know if I've ever enjoyed riding a bike as much as a few of the folks that were pedaling around the circuit did...and they showed it. Viva le real cyclist!

Pedal On ~ Allen

Allen Beauchamp more than 3 years ago

We all ride

Agreed! And well said. The most important thing is that we're all RIDING OUR BIKES.

P. Kirby more than 3 years ago


GOOD post! I, too, am a (LATE 40-ish) woman whose been riding my bike, in whatever I happen to be wearing, & yes, skirts & heels, too, for about 4 yrs. now. My husband & I got rid of our car while still living in Philly, didn't need it, but a yr ago, moved to LA & were DETERMINED to prove that we DID NOT HAVE TO OWN A CAR HERE. WE still DON'T. He takes the Metro for part of his commute to work, rides 4 more miles to Burbank. I've ridden on SUNSET, HOLLYWOOD & SANTA MONICA BLVDS., & I ride IN THE RIGHT LANE, WITH traffic. I've done it alone or with my husband, NOT with a crowd of people who block traffic, etc., feeling safety in numbers..or is it simply "power?" I don't agree with their tactics, but I don't see many of them out there ALONE, riding just to get from A to B. Who's the REAL cyclist? WE know.

BeBe Blazfemi more than 3 years ago

Real or not

Synthetic fibres are not bio-degradeble and the styrofoam from which helmets are made of, kills birds and fish who mistake the pieces for food. These material have their origins in oil refineries and chemical plants. It has nothing to do with real cycling, but it does have a serious environmental impact . Please dress responsibly.

ch1 more than 3 years ago

Real Cyclists?

You know you are a real cyclist when the question becomes completely irrelevant. It says more about the person asking the question than about the person being labelled. Cyclists know themselves whether or not the person they are talking to fits their description of a cyclist in relation to themselves. It's different for each cyclist, depending on that cyclist's own experience. For example, I've been riding seriously for 40 yrs, racing for about 36 of them, commuting by bike for all 40, I build my own wheels & just completed my first PBP. To me, the question of real cyclist is totally irrelevant, and I don't have to comment on anyone else because I'm not worried about it and because I can tell at a glance if a person can ride well, which is more important than being a real cyclist. I find that only beginners are concerned with being a real cyclist. So if anyone questions whether or not you are a real cyclist, that person is likely to be an insecure beginner.

Luis Bernhardt more than 3 years ago