Every few weeks I find myself in conversation with someone (let's be real—it's typically a woman) who shares their experience of bicycling and then demurs: "but I'm not a real cyclist" or "but I'm not super hardcore (implication: like you) or anything". And I'm dumbfounded, because they've just told me how they're now riding to work at least once a week, or they've figured out riding in freezing temperatures, or they're using their bike for some trips to the grocery store, or they're riding down the busiest street in the community. But it's not enough. It doesn't count. It doesn't make them a "real cyclist".
Now I know that "cyclist" is a loaded label, tied to an identity most people aren't willing to claim for themselves. Of 1,967 respondents of two recent surveys we administered, only 5.2% said they considered themselves to be cyclists, while 41.8% said they are "someone who rides a bike from time to time, but is not really a cyclist". And to some extent that's the bad rap cyclists have for being scofflaws or elitist or rude, sure. But also, what comes immediately to mind when I say the word "cyclist"? How about what not-coincidentally comes up first on a Google image search:
Beautiful, fit, white, young, male, racer, hipster. THOSE folks are the REAL cyclists. And these folks—definitely not:
Oh, but what if it's not so much the way you look as the fact that you're not working as hard as you think you should be? You only ride 2 miles to work. You don't ride in the rain or snow. You're slow. You drive part of the way and bike the rest. You take the easy streets, or even the path. Maybe if you were more like these guys:
Stop. Listen to me. Here I am, holding your shoulders gently but firmly, looking directly into your eyes. I'm waiting for you to hear with your whole heart what I'm about to say:
Whatever you're doing—it's enough.
However you look—you belong.
Wherever you are—it's the perfect place, to begin or continue or stay.
You can be a real cyclist if you want. All it requires is riding a bike, and declaring yourself so. I'll believe you, I promise. At Yay Bikes!, we all will. Hardcore cheers to you, and to all of us who ride!