Last year, a friend asked my wife, Julia, if she was a real bike rider. He asked her as she was rolling her cyclocross bike through their office. She took her helmet off and laughed, because the question seemed to be a joke. Of course she was a real bike rider, she was just on a bike wasn’t she? She had helmet hair —matted bangs and a rough ponytail. Wasn’t that proof enough?
But Julia’s coworker didn’t laugh back, and she realized that he had a very specific definition of what a “real” bike rider is. And even though she commuted to work on a bike every day, had put in more than 700 miles that year and had ridden on record cold days (with 4 pairs of wool socks and 2 scarves over her balaclava), her coworker didn’t think she was a “real” biker. She wasn’t sure who her coworker considered a real biker, but it wasn’t her.
Who did Julia’s friend consider a “real” rider? I don’t know. But I worry that kind of thinking (that there is “real” and “unreal” biking ) keeps Memphians off bikes. It’s simply not true that to be a “real” biker you need a special bike, a special outfit, or a special destination. The kid riding circles in his driveway is just as much a real biker as the riders in the pack zipping down Shady Grove going 20+miles an hour. The dad securing his bike on the front of the MATA bus, so he can get to work, is just as much a real biker as the woman jumping a log on the Tour De Wolf. They’re all real riders and Memphis is getting more and more of them.
But Memphis has more than real riders. We have inspirational riders, too. And I think that talking about who these inspirational riders are is a much more interesting and important (and valid) conversation than who is a real biker is or is not. And who are these inspirational riders? Well, they are all over Memphis and in the coming weeks I’ll focus on introducing you to a few I know. So stay tuned to this site for my new column Gears and Cheers. I’ll try to add in some tips and let you know about upcoming events.
Feel free to stop by my shop on Hollywood near Broad, The Bikesmith, if you need advice, your bike tuned up or some new gear. Or just stop by for a beer, we sell those too..