In my short time wearing spandex on public roadways, I’ve come to the realization that most cyclists are pricks. Arrogant, aggressive, unfriendly pricks balancing on two wheels. The flashier and tighter the shorts or the more expensive and exotic the frame, the higher the chances the guy thinks he owns the road. This is a sweeping generalization, and I can’t fail to recognize the priceless tips and guidance I’ve received from some thoughtful riders out there, but if I were asked to describe my feelings towards hobby cyclists as a whole, my urge to hit them all over the head with a tire pump would be stronger than my desire to give them chummy pats on the back of their flamboyant, emblazoned pseudo-team jerseys.
Fortunately, the term “cycling” can fall into many categories, with many different subgroups. Far removed and arguably more passionate than the weekend road warrior mounted on a $10,000 frame are my favorite bike riders — the homeless. Whereas most riders simply scoff at those with lesser hardware between their legs (I personally take comfort in the saying, 10% bike, 90% rider), homeless guys will never pass up a chance to engage in a genuine conversation about anything having to do with leg-powered two-wheel rides.
Think about it. Most people use their bikes for fun and fitness. After a ride, they throw the bike in the garage until next weekend’s jaunt, and switch over to cars and SUVs to shuffle around for the majority of the week. Guys who don’t own cars (or homes, for that matter), rely heavily on their bikes for basic survival. Not only do they get you from Point A to Point B, they also carry everything you own. I’ve seen some brilliant and beautiful modifications done to these bikes, designed to haul cans, clothes, groceries, even dogs. Ask a guy about some minor tweak he’s done on the frame and be prepared to listen to the detailed explanation for upwards of ten minutes.
Not to be self-absorbed about their own rides, most homeless guys are more than happy to lavish compliments on your own bike and even offer up some nuggets of advice — some surprisingly helpful, some not so much. (In regard to my road bike: “maybe you should get somma them thick tires on that fancy bike; those skinny lil’ things look dangerous.” I told him that would negate the idea of owning a road bike and would instead classify it as a mountain bike, to which he replied by simply staring through me.) I’ve received tips on tire pressure, brakes and making sure I use a strong lock when I leave my bike because strangely, more than a few have mentioned they “know a shady guy.” Mostly, though, they just ask if they can feel how light my frame is.
I probably won’t be coordinating any group rides up the coast with my disheveled, mod-happy friends, but at least I know there are people out there who are always willing to talk a little shop.