On a recent commute, I was waiting at a red light (I do occasionally stop for them) and was joined by three other commuters. As the light changed we passed somebody who, upon seeing four bikes together (my word!), asked loudly in an irritated tone: “What is there, a marathon today?”
Such moments hurt my brain so badly that it’s almost enough to make me stop riding. (Well, not really.)
But I do think that each and every one of us has our own personal breaking point at which we’d give up cycling. I’m not talking about injuries or anything like that. I’m talking about having to put up with something so inconvenient, awkward, or embarrassing that it would be enough to drive you to something else. And I think this breaking point is different for each of us.
While we all like to think we're above caring about how we look or what we ride, we're also conveniently never required to put ourselves to the test. Following are some scenarios to contemplate. Read each one, suspend your disbelief, and ask yourself, “Would I still ride?” Be honest with yourself—nobody else has to know. Some of these scenarios aren’t so bad (in fact, many may already be riding this way), and some are, objectively speaking, awful. So read on and discover your limit.
Would you still ride if:
You can only ride on pavement.
You can only ride offroad.
You can only ride in USA Cycling-sanctioned races. That’s it: no commuting, no training (indoor or outdoor), no recreational rides of any kind.
You can only ride in charity rides. (Shortest route only where distance is optional.)
You cannot change any item on your bicycle (including inner tubes, though they may be patched) for two years.
You only have three choices of jersey (all XXL): a maillot jaune, a Mapei jersey, or this jersey from Primal Wear:
You can only ride tubulars. (Yes, even on your mountain bike. 650s and Dugasts allowed.)
You can only ride a full downhill rig with 25mm slicks (regardless of terrain).
You can only ride one of those trials bikes with no seat.
You can only ride a beach cruiser with speedplays and full CSC team kit.
You can never wear a helmet.
You must always wear a helmet, but it has to be a replica of the one Greg LeMond wore in the Champs-Elysees time trial in the ’89 Tour de France, and it has to be the wrong size.
You can only ride in flip-flops on flat pedals with no foot retention system of any kind.
You can only ride a fixed-gear bicycle with no brake and a 14x50 gear.
You can only ride the above with flat pedals, pennyloafers, and no foot retention system of any kind.
You can only ride a keirin bike that has been modified to run disc brakes and a singlespeed freewheel. Otherwise the bike must be entirely NJS.
You can only ride against traffic (including criteriums, road- or off-road races, or in velodromes)
You can only ride one of Sheldon Brown’s wacky bikes
You can only ride a tandem.
You can only pilot a tandem with Sheldon Brown as your stoker.
You can only pilot a tandem with Sheldon Brown as your stoker and reading aloud from seminal works of science fiction through a megaphone.
You must ride a different bike each day. That bicycle will be the first bike that randomly comes up when you log on to velospace each morning. (Right now it happens to be, unbelievably, a dual-suspension Schwinn Homegrown)
The same as above, but instead you must ride the first complete bike that comes up on eBay when you search for “road bike” and select “ending soonest.” (Right now it happens to be a 58cm carbon Felt road bike with Dura Ace. But tomorrow’s another day.)
You can only ride a Rivendell with a 3’x5’ billboard affixed to it that bears a photo of Grant Peterson and the words, “Your handlebars should be higher than your saddle!”
You can ride any bicycle you want, provided it is equipped with a dynamo hub powering a phonograph that plays old Edith Piaf records. (This should be particularly amusing in a cyclocross race.)
And the ultimate test for those of you still standing: you must ride a recumbent.