In the last few months, the biodiversity of the cycling world has been highlighted just as I’ve been going about my normal daily routines.
Here’s just a sample of the characters and characteristics I’ve crossed paths with recently, perhaps as a prophetic nod to the group of cyclists you may find yourself on tour with later this year!
Elaine, somewhere in her 8th decade old, is still riding regularly despite numerous injuries – some from bike crashes, some from other life interruptions. I rode alongside her for a while when she was riding the rolling 20km from her home to town for a barbeque, with a backpack full of food for the hosts.
At the other end of the performance scale, the same day I was overtaken by a skinny young’ish pro, world tour level, who slowed to my speed for a while. And in our brief chat, demonstrated impressive knowledge of nutrition, neuromuscular conditioning, and bike fit.
Eric is a big unit, 6ft+, shoulders like an Olympic swimmer, but there the athletic comparisons end. Show him a headwind, a rolling road, and a group to pull back to base, and he hunkers down and churns the cranks. When his hands hit the drops on a long drag, the elastic stretches. He was sitting on a step having a coffee when I rolled into town. He waved, I nodded.
Chris and Rick are a duo who were hitting roads all over Europe together prior to covid, chilling at a decent pace, enjoying the food and friendships their travels deliver. Over the years, injuries and the resultant tightening and wonkiness have caused some discomfort on long rides. So they chose to ride a little slower, but they still ride.
Emma likes riding bikes on rough tracks, which is good because she rides bikes on rough tracks for very long distances. A veteran of far too many ultra-distance bike-packing events to list, she’s an expert in sleeping in odd places and finding food in the most remote parts of rural Germany, which may mean a detour into Poland. She rides a lot.
Simon escaped the UK to find a better climate and cheaper beer. Perhaps he could be classed as a Mamil, but he’s a regular rider, has bike industry experience, and doesn’t swallow sales patter. After overcoming some serious health issues, he mainly rides indoors, while looking at a blue sky, but he rides.
So in terms of size, shape, fitness, age, gender, cycling experience, cost of bikes, racing palmares and chosen cycling ‘mode’, we’re looking at a hugely diverse group whose common interest is moving pedals in circles.
By Dave Smith
Contributor on cycling, training, and travel