Of Biking and Stereotypes

When you tell people in Charlotte that you like to bike, the conversation can go a few directions. There’s the one perspective when you are asked all kinds of bike-centric questions (type of bike, where you ride, places you’ve ridden, etc.). There’s the perspective of folks who just nod and walk away. Then, there’s that of those folks who don’t ride at all (“you ride here”, “I can’t ride,” “I’ve not ridden in ages,” etc.). That one hit me again when I visited a church the other day and was introduced as a biking friend of one of the members.

When we had a few social moments during that Sunday school time, it was asked of me a few times about my riding. One of the questions that ended up catching me off canter was something like, “so, you’re one of those Spandex wearing folks?” I think I nearly took offense at it now thinking back some. My answer was off-putting in two directions, “oh, no no. I’m not that serious of a cyclist.”

That’s when it hit me. I’m guilty of being stereotypical against cyclists. That felt… weird. I like biking. In fact, I enjoy the many friendships and travels that cycling has afforded me to date. But, I don’t see myself as those whom are more into the pedals than I am. On the other side of that, I’ve been told that I was elitist in my appreciation (zealousness) of that two-wheeled freedom.

Ouch. Being on both sides of a stereotype is no way to live. Its about as double-minded as one gets. But, it was so clear to me in that moment after I answered the man that I had to make a decision as to how I would proceed. 

Much like I would have to evaluate people on their character, or churches on their love for one another, I’d have to mature in my appreciation of cycling. I’d have to get past the appearances piece, the affluence piece, the effects of being a cyclist that just aren’t seen so clearly here (and in some other places I cycle).

Gosh… the mirror is a strong thing. Thank God for there being another gear on a bike. I can move forward past this. And hopefully in the next frame that I’m asked or talk about cycling, I’m better able to talk about what I like and don’t like without contextualizing it in such a politically-charged manner.