It’s a rare day when I’m pedaling faster than 15mph. Most rides are on the slow side and filled with lots of gear shifting making tackling a hill as easy as possible. I’m often passed by other cyclists. I stop frequently to take pictures, enjoy a view, or relish in the solitude of an Iowa trail.
I don’t ride to train for cycling events. I don’t ride my bike every day. I don’t always take my bike errand running and I don’t commute to work by bike. I don’t ride an expensive bicycle or spend a lot of money on bike gear. I’m not fluent in cycling lingo. I don’t own more than one bike. I don’t do my own mechanic work. I don’t participate in RAGBRAI.
Am I really a cyclist? Am I legit? Do all the things I don’t do prevent me from being considered a cyclist? Does my lack of speed and relaxed approach to biking result in me being dropped from the metaphorical cycling pack?
Activities or hobbies always seem to have it’s camps, cliques, and critics. There also is the perceived right or wrong way to take on a pastime. But is there really a correct method to enjoy a chosen activity? If standing in a trout stream brings you more satisfaction than fishing from a bass boat, are you not a legit angler? If you find a $5.00 bottle of wine more delicious than the one priced at $50.00, does that mean you’re not really a wine enthusiast? If you love planting vegetables among the flowers, are you no longer considered a gardener? If you ride your bike in “normal” clothes and keep the trip short, are you not considered cyclist?
Someone once said “There is no such thing as good art or bad art, just different styles.” How true, and how applicable to cycling! If racing your bike across a finish line brings more fulfillment than a ride down the bike trail, then that’s what counts. If you prefer solitary rides over group rides, that’s the right choice. If that beat up bike you've been riding since college brings a smile to your face, then it’s the perfect ride. If you’re more comfortable pedaling in Levis’ than Lycra, then that’s the perfect gear. There is no such thing as good cycling or bad cycling, just different styles.
My version of cycling brings enjoyment and happiness. I have fun rambling down the bike trail finding fulfillment in frequent stops and gear shifting. My experiences and accomplishments are tailor made for me, my preferences, and skill level. I ride a bicycle. I’m a cyclist. I'm a cyclist who stays true to my own style. It’s the right way...the best way...the only way that matters.