What is a cyclist anyway?

I’ve noticed many things in my time as a bicycle riding human being. One such thing is there tends to be much discussion and, yes, elitism about who actually is and who isn’t a cyclist – particularly by ‘we’ road cyclists. Like most things bicycle related, the battles lines can be stark and abrasive, which generally leads to mocking derision, colourful language and rampant overuse of CAPITAL LETTERS and exclamation marks on social media!!!!!

Surely if you ride a bike, you're a cyclist? Even this guy.
Surely if you ride a bike, you’re a cyclist? Even this guy.

In many ways it’s semantic, of course. However beneath the digitally-facilitated word games and public sniggers do lie some fundamental issues relating to respect and acceptance of fellow rollers. We may choose to ride very different bikes in very different ways. But surely this doesn’t mean we’re better or worse than each other – just different.

Do you ride a BMX with an impossibly low seat and foot pegs? A secondhand unicycle perhaps? Flat bar hybrid with a flouro yellow ass-saver? Steel track bike that’s older than you are? A colour coordinated fixie that perfectly matches the pantone colour of your laptop satchel? Zillion dollar carbon road bike that’s way better than you’ll ever be? How about a MTB or CX covered in 4½ years of caked on mud? A time trial bike you only ever use to go to the shops? A recumbent you built yourself from the abandoned remnants of the latest council clean-up? Or perhaps a restored penny farthing you inherited from your great great grandpa’s next door neighbour’s mum?


It simply doesn’t matter. Just as multiculturalism adds a richness to society in all manner of ways, so too does two-wheeled diversity. Sure we have a passion for our own subgroups and like to roll our own way. But imagine how boring life would be if all cyclists were all the same?

The way I see it, if you ride a bicycle on a reasonably regular basis – anywhere – you’re a cyclist. It doesn’t mater what type of bike you ride or how fast you ride it. Now more than ever we pedal-powered types need to stick together, regardless of our ilk.

60-second test: Are you a road bike snob?

1. Do you find it difficult to say hello to a passing commuter on a flat-bar hybrid?
2. Do you secretly laugh inside at the sight of a rider with a sun visor on his or her helmet?
3. Do you pity social riders who wear WorldTour team kit in public?
4. Would you be embarrassed to ride with someone who has reflectors on their wheels or, heaven forbid, a bell on their handlebars?
5. Are you allergic to steel bicycle frames or wheels wider than 23mm?
6. Is 29km/h too slow?
7. If someone has their sunglasses inside their helmet straps do you notice?

6 thoughts on “What is a cyclist anyway?

  1. Agree to a point…to me the bloke (who looked like he’d just left the early opener) riding a clapped out MTB with no lights or helmet, on the wrong side of Lyons Rd this morning is not a cyclist…just some knob who happens to be on a bike.

    1. Like any family sometimes there are rogue siblings who lose their way and require a bit of tough love….did you give it to him JV?!

  2. Pleased to have answered no to all q’s. From experience I know the bicycle is used a lot by those living with mental distress (illness). Rickety bikes, no brakes (not fixies), no lights. Startled one who sleeps at the end of the toilet block at SOP, he rode off saying I looked ridiculous – I agreed – stay safe buddy. Some social norms bypass some people.

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