In Rome

In Rome, along the banks of the Tiber, they wear togas and garlands made of laurel on their heads. It’s hot there, and sandals are popular. It’s a rich culture, there in Rome, and those new to it are counseled to ‘do as the Romans do,’ but that’s expensive and not everyone looks good in sandals.

Similarly, I would not advise you simply to do as ‘cyclists’ do. Like the high days of ancient Rome, cycling has idiosyncrasies that have departed from the strictly practical. Some say the Romans reached a point of indulgent decadence that weakened them. Yeah, sure, they overexpanded, failed to grow their armies, lost the ability to exert centralized control, but the Bacchanals and obsession with the social climbing and conventions of Rome itself distracted them from the more prosaic tasks of running an empire.

We wring our hands over the failure of wide swathes of the populace to take up our pastime. The Earth is warming. The air is polluted. The Diesel Age’s destiny is written on every crumbling wall. But cycling looks expensive, indulgent and weird to the citizens of the republic. As I said, not everyone looks good in sandals.

I suppose, if you’re trying to become a ‘cyclist,’ you can go to a bike shop and buy all the gear and all the clothing. You can learn the curious customs, the town line sprinting, the paceline, the ‘on your left’ and ‘car back!’ These aren’t terrible things to do, and you are, maybe, trying to blend in.

But you also don’t have to.

I don’t care if you put your sunglasses over your helmet straps or under. I don’t care how tall or short your socks are. It’s not my business whether you’ve got specific tan lines or not. If you’re clothing isn’t skintight, also not my business.

Your road tires will roll over packed dirt nearly as well as they do over pavement. Your mountain bike will run errands. If you’re looking for one-bike-to-rule-them-all, you just need one bike. It’s likely the one you already have.

Yes. Yes. And yes. In Rome there is a different horse for every course, your everyday dray won’t win too many chariot races. But understand that every bike after the first one is gilding the lily, a peacock feather for the feast, and cyclists are an army that moves en masse, vulnerable in all their finery to the marauding hordes at the edges of the empire, or the cars in the nearest intersection.

Join the conversation
  1. Wyatt says

    My cycling style(s) was not built in a day.

  2. alanm9 says

    I’ve been moderating a bike forum on my work intranet for over 10 years. Moderate is an irrelevant word; I’ve never had to edit or delete a post. We get many “new” riders every season who think there is some secret knowledge they need. Instead they get dozens of responses with helpful suggestions, support, and congratulations on rediscovering what we all love, no matter where they’re coming from. Makes me proud of my coworkers for this and other reasons.

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