Like a marriage or a business partnership, finding like-minded cyclists is key to a happy riding relationship
Picking a bike is easy. You’ve got a budget and a rough idea of what you want to do with it, and these days, it’s almost impossible to find a really bad one. Same goes for clothing. Spend as much as you can afford, choose a color that suits, and you’ll be happy. Even selecting a route is easy, what with Strava and the plethora of websites dedicated to cataloging and chronicling the choicest roads in every part of the world. You could drop into somewhere completely new, with no one to guide you, and after 20 minutes of Googling you’d be an expert on the local terrain. Sure, some bikes and bibs and roads are better than others, but it’s really easy to settle on a perfectly enjoyable combination of the three in no time. No, there’s only one really tough choice facing modern cyclists, and it is one that has vexed since people started turning pedals for fun back in the 19th century: Who do you want to ride with?
There’s no single solution for this conundrum, no universal truth. It’s not about being fast or slow, “good” or “bad,” either. The matter at hand here is all about personality and personal preference. One rider’s dream is another’s nightmare. There’s a good chance that every one of us is both at the same time. So what kind are you? I’ve compiled a list, but it’s by no means exhaustive. Are there other species that I’ve forgotten? Answers on a postcard, please.
I know this rider personality type, as my wife sits firmly in this camp. It matters not what continent we are on, the weather conditions, how many kilometers we have ridden or how many meters we have climbed, the sightseer is busily pointing out the flowers and the trees, the fauna and the felines. They see things along the road I would never notice in a million years. They spot the trickling creek, the hoof prints in the mud and the fresh apple pie sitting on the windowsill of the Tuscan Villa. The one thing to be learned from the sightseer, beside keeping your eyes open, is that there is nothing so disheartening as someone starting a conversation with you about the butterflies as you try to crank your way up a 15-percent grade.
Subset, The Horticulturist
Now take the sightseer and add in a bit of actual knowledge and you have yourself one crazy day in the saddle. This type not only spots the giant bird atop the olive tree, but they can tell you that is such-and-such a woodpecker only found in central Portugal and certain parts of Spain and they are this type of olive tree whose olives are used to produce the local olive oil. This goes on for miles and miles, as they share the names of local plant life, geographical phenomenons and wildlife.
The Data Junky
Maximal heart rate, Lactate Threshold, 30-second power and average speed are all items this personality type lives to pour over. They own the latest power meters, cycling computers and have subscriptions to all the software programs. They love their Training Peaks and their Strava. They parce their segments and give kudos out like Halloween candy.
Subset, The Waypoint Wacko
Now take your Data Junky and turn their nerd factor up to 11. (It goes to 11. That’s one more). They not only love to look at the data after a ride, but they can be found dissecting a route before it is ridden. They can tell you the average gradient of a climb, the places during the climb where the road kicks up and when you might be able to get a slight break as the road levels. Their amazing skills at this dissection is usually only appreciated by select few fellow nerds.
The Virtual Reality Rider
“I prefer to ride indoors,” said nobody ever. And then smart trainers and Zwift came along, and everything changed. Now there is a growing tribe of riders who actually enjoy cycling inside, deep in their pain caves, chasing strangers from the other side of the globe around imaginary courses. They are fascinating, but more study is required.
Subset, The Agoraphobic
The vampires of the cycling world. Afraid to go outside, for fear of getting some fresh air and some companionship. When they do finally go out, their riding abilities are so atrophied they can barely hold a line, let alone stand up while pedaling.
“I really haven’t been riding that much.” “I am just coming back from injury” “I’m not really an athlete.” The sandbagger is one of the trickier riders to deal with, as you never really know what you are getting yourself into. The sandbagger is famous for doing “off the record” interval training and secret weight loss. They will put the wood to you on Tuesday and start the whole “I used up all my credits, yesterday” story.
Subset, The Secret trainer
This the Sandbagger’s dirtier cousin. They are doing two-a-days on Zwift and hill repeats on the weekends and preparing their “sad story” for the next day’s ride.
Most of the time you can spot these riding partners right off. You want to ask them if they need a donut or 12 and you wonder where they buy their kit in sizes so small. They are the climbers. Tiny, malnourished individuals who hide behind the pack all day until the road turns up and then away they go. Occasionally, you will come upon an unexpected climber. You know the one, they look like they shouldn’t be able to climb so well, but somehow they defy their body type and they ascend like angels. I hate these the most.
Subset, The Calorie Counter
They bring their scales to the kitchen at dinner, they know the caloric value of Pici Pomodoro and they are willing to share all the details as you question your own dietary choices. They are lovely.
The Denial Demon
These people are really not prepared for a trip to the Dolomites. Actually, they’re not really prepared for any bike ride over 25 miles. But this doesn’t stop them. They will be fine. They are gamers. They have ridden long, hard miles before and they will ride long hard miles again. But today will be a doozy.
The Bicycle Boffin
“Did you see Park just released their new bottom bracket tool? It is going to be awesome since I just bought the new 44 tooth cog for my gravel bike. And I’m trying out several sets of the new Vittoria tires to see which ones give me the best grip while still keeping my bike under 14 pounds. And I was reading in the new issue of Peloton, there might be even bigger derailleur pulleys than I am running right now on my Arizona bike.” You get the idea.
Subset, the Tech Nerd
We love these nerds. We don’t understand what they are saying, but they can usually tell us the biggest cog we can possibly run with our SRAM eTap WiFli derailleur and whether or not we can squeeze the new 28mm tires into our Pinarello F10. They can talk gear ratios, wheelbase and tire pressure all day long. Long live the nerds.
The Covert Crusher
This might be the most disheartening of all riding partners. They look a little lumpy, their legs are hairier than chewbacca and their kit is a mismatched mess. They can’t seem to get their helmet on straight and they oil their chains with motor oil. But more than likely, they are going to rip your legs off with their innate athletic ability. Reminding us once again not to judge a book by its cover.
Subset, The Triathlete
They shave everything. Literally. They think riding a bicycle while soaking wet and in a speedo is a perfectly fine day on the bike. And for some reason, they will hammer a bicycle for hours and then suddenly, and without provocation, put it down and start running. We love to make fun of them and the myriad of material is endless, but we have found more than a few of them to be excellent riding partners.
The road turns up, or the city limit sign is in the distance, or the wind suddenly turns to be at your back, or for no evident reason at all, these riders jump. They turn on the Wattage Cottage and up the road they go. You are forced to either respond or be left for dead. It can make for a very exciting ride and it will definitely make your coach wonder what the hell you were doing.
Subset, The Wheel Sucker
You don’t see a lot of this riding partner. Because he is always right behind you.
Ask all the questions you want, visit all the historical landmarks in all the land, and drink the most delightful of frappuccinos the city has to offer, this riding partner won’t utter a word. They thrive on silence. They lay in wait for the moment when everyone else is forced to stop talking because of the effort and they attack.
Some riders just can’t stand the silence that comes with the many hours spent of the bike. They get particularly weirded out when partnered with a Silent Bob. They attempt to start many a conversation, but when this fails they start to sing. “Busted flat in Baton Rouge, waitin’on a train. And I’s feelin’near as faded as my jeans.”
The rider who knows when it is time to talk, when it time to sing and when it is time for silence. They know a little bit about a lot of things and they help you enjoy all aspects of your ride. They know the right places to apply the pain and when you need them to back off the gas just a bit. They share in the excitement of your data and poke you when you are slacking. They help you dial in your bike and your body, without judgement or shame. And they, like you, love the bicycle, bicycle riding and dreaming of bicycle rides. The perfect bicycle ride partner could be you.
This originally appeared in our 2019 Magazine, which you can read in full here.