Livin' the Dream

Livin' the Dream

About Me

I am a sophomore at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA, majoring in journalism. My passion is cycling. I am a category 4 bike racer and my absolute dream would be to turn pro one day. My more realistic goal is to become a journalist for the sport of cycling and eventually move on to become a broadcaster for the sport.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Photo Essay on Bike Racers

Racing Bikes
            One important childhood memory most kids have is the day they learned how to ride a bicycle, without training wheels of course. The bicycle represented independence. You were no longer dependent on mom and dad to take you to your friend’s house. You could just ride there. You could feel the wind in your face; the sound of the tires, there was nothing that compared to that feeling of freedom. As we became adults, the bicycle continued to represent that independence. But, beyond mainstream bicycle riders lies a group that seeks out the thrill of speed and competition every time they are on the bike. These hardcore bicycle riders who dress funny uniforms with the outrageous colors and sign up for races are called “racers.” They have their own language, their own schedules, and their own way of living that to many of us seems strange and almost insane. As a racer myself, I embody the racer subculture. Racing is not just a hobby it is a lifestyle.  Racers live by their own unique set of rules that often go against the norm.

As an example, a true racer-men as well as women-shave their legs (yes, me included). It is an important part of the subculture, and sets apart the dabblers from the serious racers. Smooth legs equals’ aerodynamics. The less hair on your legs the faster you will go. Bare legs also make massages more enjoyable. Think about getting a rubdown and the masseuse pinches your skin because their hands can’t glide down the leg with all that hair on it. A massage may seem like a luxury to many, to a racer it is critical to getting the legs feeling great. The legs are the only thing that matters. Everything else can hurt, but if the legs feel good you just keep on pedaling. Shaving your legs also makes it easier to clean up cuts and scrapes. When cyclists crash, and we all do at some point, they generally slide out across the pavement, taking off the first couple layers of skin. With no hair on their legs the cuts are easier to bandage and the chance of infection goes down. Finally, and perhaps the most important reason for shaving legs among cyclists, is tradition. Cyclists shave their legs, period. It is what has always been done, it’s our culture, and it is who we are.
            In many subcultures, different groups are identifiable by what they wear. Cycling is no different. The outfit is spandex. The shorts are tight and have funny padding on the butt. The tops, also tight, are often very colorful, perhaps blindingly so. Unfortunately, when people see racers wearing this, words like “gay” and “fag” are thrown around with no intelligence of the sport or who we are as people. After all no one calls Michael Phelps gay. For the record, spandex is, again, aerodynamic, but also very comfortable. Trust me when I say this, your butt starts to hurt after many hours in the saddle. You can tell a lot about a racer by what they wear. Serious racers where their team jerseys with all of their sponsor’s logos on it, while more casual riders generally wear a solid one-color jersey with the PERFORMANCE (store) logo on it.
            Every culture has its own language or lingo. Racers are no exception. Europe is the pinnacle of bike racing. You know you have made it in the sport if you are racing in Europe. That’s why most racers speak in terms of the metric system. There’s no miles or feet. It’s all about how many kilometers you road or how many meters you climbed. And, your goal is to turn “pro”. Some things are pro and some things are not, like wearing short socks when riding compared to longs socks. Knowing the lingo is crucial to being a serious racer.
The act of bike racing is its own culture within the culture of riding bikes. Racers have their own dress, their own traditions, and their own language. Out on a training ride, as two racers, dressed in their team’s kit, pass each other on the road, they share a mutual nod of respect because they know, they are on the road to pro.

Works Cited:
Sumner, Jason. "Why Do Cyclists Shave Their Legs?" Bicycling. Bicycling Magazine, 7 June 2011. Web. 11 Sept. 2013.

Photo Essay Bike Racers

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