Is everyone that rides a bike a cyclist?
Cyclist, that word describes a bunch of people like they united as one.
But is this true? Back in the Netherlands, I never called myself a cyclist. I rode a bike and called myself a roadie, mountain biker, and commuter, but never a cyclist. Yes, I did ride a bike. Actually, I owned four different bikes. One Road bike for exercising and ridingon public roads. A mountain bike to race through the forests and have some action. And two commuter
bikes, one for going from A to B, the other for going to places with a high risk of bike theft, train stations, for example. I used those bikes all the time, But I never considered myself a cyclist.
Now I live in Dubai, and I have become a cyclist. Just like that, all of a sudden. It doesn’t matter what kind of bike I ride. I am just a cyclist. And together with me, everybody with a bicycle is a cyclist.
But being a cyclist doesn’t end up with my vision of a cyclist. It just doesn’t match. Please let me explain why.
Why cycling is not the right word
Road cycling, BMX, Freestyle BMX, Downhill, Endurance, Cyclo-Cross, Cross Country, Eliminator, Touring, Bike Packing, Commuting, Triathlons. Just a couple of disciplines that use a bike. It is better to say: They use two wheels, handlebars, pedals, a chain with gears, a frame, and a saddle. Their parts are called the same, but their looks are entirely different, as is their function.
The funny thing is. All those disciplines represent different cultures. And yes, if you like to ride a bike, you can do more than one discipline. Look at Mathieu van der Poel or Tom Pidcock. But the whole mindset, the game, the goals, and the skills are so different that it’s almost unfair to call them the same.
Let me ask you a question: What is a cyclist, in your opinion? 99% you say; “someone who rides a bike wearing lycra, a helmet, and glasses. Good, you just explained a stereotype roadie, a road cyclist, don’t forget the shaved legs and their attention to detail. But what about a commuter? Just you, getting on a bike to do your day-to-day groceries. Dropping your kids at school? Are you a cyclist? Do you change outfits for doing this? Of course not. You grab your bike, jump on it, pedal, and go to your destination. You are a cyclist, but you’re not a cyclist. You know what I mean. Yes, you ride a bike. But no, you’re not dressed for the occasion. You are just casual.
And with commuters as part of the solution against pollution and the increase of sustainability. Do we really want to call everybody cyclists? With the stereotype of a highly motivated, super fit, and well-dressed sportsman. Or can we lower the bar and welcome them as part of us, riding bikes, doing good for ourselves, the environment, our health, or whatever our reason for riding a bicycle may be, so we welcome each and everyone to ride a bike and be part of a better future? I’m very curious about your thoughts.