Like most people in the U.S., I spent a good portion of my adult life thinking of bicycling as a sport. Even during a long period when I rode my bicycle to work everyday, I was concerned with things like personal bests, total miles logged, and target heart rates. As if it was a measure of my worth as a bicyclist (or person?), passing another rider was much better than being passed, and hanging with the front group was something to be done at all costs.
Somewhere along the way, I went through a mental shift that resulted in my viewing the bicycle primarily as a tool for transportation. Along with this mental shift came an outward move away from competitive rides and racing culture. I still enjoy socializing with other bicyclists, and I even participate in group rides, though only those of an uncompetitive nature. And even though I no longer approach bicycling as if it’s a sport, I enjoy bike riding more now than at any time since I was a kid.
Don’t get me wrong; I have nothing at all against bicycle racing and riding bicycles for fun and entertainment. As a matter of fact, I can’t think of a better way to get out and enjoy nature while getting some exercise. And as any bicyclist knows, the joys of bicycle riding transcend every genre; the wind in your face and the pavement (or dirt) rolling by underneath are pleasures all bicyclists experience, regardless of whether they’re putt-putting along on a bike trail or taking a pull in a paceline.
As I’ve made my own shift in thinking, I’ve also sensed a shift in our overall bike culture in the U.S. There appears to be a move away from focusing primarily on sport cycling to a more inclusive and eclectic mix of creative uses for the bicycle. From cargo bikes, fixies, e-bikes, and folders, to carbon racers, tweedsters, and cycle chic, this new potpourri is a healthy step toward opening bike culture to a much wider audience. For those who are just now taking up bicycling again as an adult, this could be the best time yet to find their place within this melting pot we call bike culture.