On the Continuum

Turning the corner from Purchase Brook onto River Road about 6:15 on Tuesday morning, another cyclist hove into view. I don’t know about you, but when I see another cyclist my brain goes into full assessment mode, trying to place that person somewhere on a somewhat tongue-in-cheek continuum that ranges from “DUI” (riding an old bike in jeans and work boots and with no helmet, often smoking a cigarette) to “Skinny Fast Fucker” (riding a 15 lb. carbon-rimmed bike in full kit and with hips barely wider than their saddle). Me? I’m a MAMIL (middle aged man in Lycra), or sometimes a FLAMB (flailing mountain biker), and define the midpoint of my continuum, maybe even 2/3 of the way between DUI and SFF.

Now, lest we take ourselves too seriously, it’s important to keep in mind that most people view all cyclists as MAGGOETs (middle aged guys/gals on expensive toys). Sure, they don’t know about the work and the pleasures and camaraderie, but the fact is that the funny clothes many of us wear make us easy targets. And that we often do take ourselves too seriously while wearing those clothes doesn’t help.

The cyclist I saw this morning was a voluntary rider, and so well to the right of the DUI rider on the continuum. He rode a new hybrid bike, was heavyset, in a T-shirt and sneakers and with a helmet, so not a MAMIL. At first I thought SUDD (sunny day dabbler), but that turned out not to be right. I think he was that rare cyclist, the MONG (motivated new guy), but I only reached that conclusion after I caught up to him and chatted for a while.

I liked Jerry (Gerry? How can you tell?) because right away as I came alongside him, he busted my balls by saying, “Show off.”

I grinned and said something like, “Well, it took me 15 years to get here.”

Then Jerry further endeared himself by saying, “I live a couple of houses up the hill. I see you guys all the time riding that like it’s nothing, holding a conversation as you go.”

Jerry included me in “…you guys…”. He saw me as a SFF. I don’t think anyone has ever thought that about me before.

Jerry went on to talk about how he’d been fishing with his boys and “…just didn’t feel right.” That decided him. He’d been riding for 5 weeks and had lost 25 lbs.

Color me impressed.

I said, “I’ll bet you can feel that,” to which he respond, “Oh yeah. I felt it after 15 lbs.”

I talked a little about my own weight loss, and told him he’d chosen the most fun approach imaginable. I wish I’d thought to suggest Class Cycle’s no-drop Wednesday night ride, but I think he’ll find it. Or I’ll see him again and mention it. In fact, I’m certain we’ll meet again. There was just something about Jerry – He was proud of how far he’d come, aware of how far he could go, and he seemed to be enjoying the ride.

And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? It sure as hell isn’t the fashion.



About swampyankeecyclist

I'm Andy Engel, just a middle-aged, middle-class white guy from Roxbury, Connecticut. I've been married to my best friend since 1988, and we have two grown sons. I like riding bikes, and my biggest accomplishment is the 180K D2R2. I own 4 bikes; a ten year old carbon-fiber Orbea road bike, a new GT Grade 105 gravel and commuter bike, a 20 something year old Specialized Sirrus that's my old dirt and commuter bike, and now serves as a spare and a trainer bike, and a 30 year old Ross MTB that I don't ride enough. All of them have Brooks saddles, which should tell experienced cyclists a little about me. I created this blog to write about cycling, perhaps to inspire others to ride. I commute to work by bike year round, ice permittine. It's a 32 mile round trip, so a good week sees me doing it 3, maybe 4 times. I was a carpenter and still love building things, but regular paychecks, insurance, and vacation time lured me into journalism. I've written a couple of books on carpentry, and I'm a senior editor at Fine Homebuilding magazine.
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