Cycling Hierarchy

There is a hierarchy in cycling that I have noticed over the years.  It’s a though that has been bouncing around in my brain and think I have it solidified enough to actually write about.

1. Roadies.

At the top are road cyclists. They spend the most money, spend the most time riding and generally are the fastest cyclists out there. And within that group there is another hierarchy with Euro kit guys at the top.  Euro-kit guys are the riders who wear full matching team kit and even go so far as to match their bikes to it.  Here is Alex Howes of Team Garmin.  Notice how his shoes match the kit, even his bike computer matches, that is not by chance.

These guys are top of the cycling hierarchy because they’re masochistic, they’ll crash and then get up and do it again. They’ll ride 200km today and then do it again tomorrow, and then the next day and the next. You gotta respect that.

Over at Velominati, the Keepers of the Cog posted “The Rules”. With a rule like #5 “harden the fuck up” you can see these people take cycling very seriously.  Not all of them are elite, but chances are if you see someone with full kit like this, they are not a poser, they just understand the rules.

Next are the weekend warriors like myself.  We wear mis-matched gear, or club kits that don’t match our bikes, but still try to follow “the rules” to the the best of our abilities.  You will find us riding rain or shine. (I rode today in Toronto mid-January for crying out loud!)  These roadies celebrate the arrival of new wheels the way other people celebrate the birth of a child.  We watch our number obsessively and are always looking for a chance to prove ourselves.  Like my sister said to me last night, “It’s not a race until someone is ahead of you.”

Next are the middle-aged mid-life crisis dudes.  They’re the ones riding the $15,000 Trek Madrones with Dura-race sets.  Kudos to them for choosing cycling as way of dealing with their lost youth but it’s not the bike that makes you fast, it’s the person riding it.

2. Couriers

Couriers are a close second on the hierarchy.  Anyone who rides a single speed before hipsters came along is bad-ass. Or is riding a single speed before everyone else who rides a singles speed did it before everyone else ultra-hipster?  Perhaps they just ride them ironically?  Anyway one who rides a single speed not to be stylish but to minimize the chances of a broken part because they need to ride a bike for a living is pretty hard-core.  Plus they also ride in all sorts of weather. (See rule #9)

I think if you could get them to wash up, cut the dread-locks, wear matching uniforms and teach them to use gears, you’d have a pretty intimidating road team!

3. Triathletes.

Triathletes are hard-core and can be crazy fast, but they break rule #42 which states,

“If it’s preceded with a swim and/or followed by a run, it is not called a bike race, it is called duathlon or a triathlon. Neither of which is a bike race. Also keep in mind that one should only swim in order to prevent drowning, and should only run if being chased. And even then, one should only run fast enough to prevent capture.”

4. Mountain bikers

Roadies are more serious but mountain bikers have WAY more fun.  Roadies drink espresso, mountain bikers drink beer.  Enough said.  These days you can drop just as much for a mountain bike as a road bike. They have their own version of kit (roach wear, rnh, and the like) and their own nomenclature.

The difference is that much of mountain biking is downhill.  Where you ride a ski lift to the top of the hill and then let gravity pull you to the bottom.

While the risk of injury makes mountain biking bad-ass and help raise it in the hierarchy, this wimpy practice of enjoying a downhill that was not earned cancels out any bad-ass effect.

5. City Commuters

Note that I wrote city commuters and not commuters.  There is a difference. If you live in a city like Toronto, which is openly hostile to cyclists (Yes, that fat-bastard is our mayor) you have to balls of steel to go wheel to wheel with cars in open traffic.

City commuters are tough and they band together occasionally flexing their civil muscle and taking over the streets.  Google “Critical Mass” to see what I’m writing about.

6. Commuters/recreational riders

Anyone else who rides a bike. It’s awesome that these people are on bikes, and given time they may move up the hierarchy.  I have a desktop for my computer that reads, “No matter how slow you go, you’re still lapping everybody on the couch.”  True dat!

7.  Recumbents

Seriously, do you want to ride a bike or have a nap?  The only saving grace to recumbents are the bat-shit crazy fuckers attempting to break the sound barrier on two wheels.

8. Power assist anything

I hate even putting these people on here, but two wheels is two wheels.  and as long as you’re doing most of the work then I guess it’s a start. Electric bikes are not on here.  Those things are cancer.

So that’s the cycling hierarchy as I see it.  It’s a work in progress and I’m open to suggestions or changes.

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  1. bob loblaw

    The ‘roadies’ at the top of your list match because they get given that stuff, and the people who design it make sure it matches. They don’t necessarily care about how it matches or doesn’t, the important part is that it’s free.

  2. Tim

    Much of mtn biking is downhill? Meh.

    Lift-assisted mountain biking is a minuscule part of the sport. We climb mountains. CLIMB. And not on smooth asphalt either. The vertical stats of my road racing friends pale in comparison to our everyday rides. Many of our road racing/riding friends love to get with us on MTBs so that they can learn some bike handling skills.

    Yes, MTBs have more fun. Yes, we are more badass.

    1. admin

      MTB vert stats maybe higher, (I would like to see the data on that one first though) but how long is a mountain bike ride? Couple hours, maybe an afternoon, perhaps a whole day.

      Road racing has a race that doesn’t stop for 9 days. ( The tour is day after day of 100s of kms for weeks.

      Don’t get me wrong, I love mountain biking, I used to live in Victoria and spent a couple of years on the Hartland trails, I interned with Bike Magazine, I rode downhill at Mammoth on a bike that must have weighed 25 lbs. I crashed at Downieville, here is picture of my face after 16 miles of amazing single-track.

      My face

      Mountain biking teaches great bike handling, balance and control; but when it comes to sheer determination, pain endurance, and bad-assery I will put my money on roadies.

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