Four reasons to ride: what type of cyclist are you?
October 3rd 2021
By Bob Forgrave
It doesn’t matter how far or fast you go; anytime you’re on your bike, it counts as exercise. The question is, what motivates you to get on your bike in the first place?
To simplify your answer to that question, we’ve split the entire cycling community into just four types of riders, with the suggested equipment for each type. What type of rider are you?
Type D: Driver.
We could say “commuter”, but it’s more than that. You’re going from Point A to Point B and back, every day, often along the same routes as regular car drivers. Maybe you don’t even own a car, and so a bike is simply what you drive.
You’re driven to fit exercise into your everyday work routine because that way health maintenance never falls off of a busy calendar. And a bike is way less expensive than owning, maintaining, parking, and refueling a car.
But doing something challenging every workday is not easy. The weather can be tough to manage in all its inclement forms. Even in good weather, you can show up sweaty if you’re not dressed in removable layers. And you’re always wondering if other drivers see you at critical moments.
What you need:
- Stuff to keep you visible: Front and rear lights, always charged. USB-rechargeable lights are the best option, so you never run out of batteries. Don’t ignore your rear light, just because it’s behind you; it’s what fast drivers behind you see first!
- Stuff to keep you comfortable in any weather: Layers, breathable fabrics, waterproof jacket, gloves, rain pants, fenders. The more comfortable you are during your ride, the less likely you are to avoid it.
Type C: Company (or Companionship or Camaraderie).
You’re the opposite of a Driver. In fact, if it weren’t for the fear of letting others down, you might not even be out on your bike, regardless of how safe and car-free the route is.
Simply speaking, your peeps are what motivate you to get out of bed early, or out of work on time, so you can enjoy that emotionally all-encompassing together time of great friends out for a great ride.
But doing stuff with friends is not always easy. You’ve got to sync up multiple schedules, any of which may get sidetracked by the latest emergency of the day. And even on the bike ride, if there are several of you, you’re synching up the ride timing for random events like a brake-straightening stop, can we go faster/slower, I need to take off this jacket, can we stop at the next bathroom, wait while I take this call, is that a Starbucks (translate to Dunkin Donuts in the Northeast), etc.
What you need:
- Smartphone and useful apps. If you’re motivated by connections with your friends, then you’ve already got this first part nailed, with constant communication through Messenger or WhatsApp–just what you need to get everyone to the start of the ride at the same time. Then an app like MapMyRide can provide motivation along the ride for how far you’ve gone and your pace.
- Jacket and snacks. These are your friends, not a group of riders chosen for a similar pace. So at least part of the time, you’ll be riding at a pace different from yours, or stopping when you normally wouldn’t stop. If the pace is too slow, and you’re not going fast enough to stay warm, you’ll appreciate adding the extra layer of a jacket. And if it’s fast enough that you’re burning through fuel, a couple of snacks stuck in the pockets can give you a must-needed boost.
Type B: Beauty.
One amazing thing about being on a bike vs. being in a car is that it gets you out of the people box; the walls between you and the outdoors melt away, and suddenly there you are gaping in awe at the grandeur of it all.
But first, if that appeals to you, you’ve got to be in amazing places. And that’s not always easy. The local corner of 3rd & Congestion isn’t going to inspire you. Even a bike lane isn’t going to help unless it’s fully separated from cars and full enough of art and landscaping to spirit you away mentally to an entirely different place.
So you get familiar with all the bike-friendly parks in the area—and then those out of the area. You seek out the most underused roads that meander through picturesque rural landscapes. And you figure out ways to take your bike safely and easily to increasingly distant places of natural splendor.
What you need:
- A cycling map. First, if you’re in an urban or suburban area, you’ll want a map of safe local cycling routes. In rural areas, such a map may not exist, but you can create your own by getting a road map and marking all the roads without yellow lines; roads like this that connect neighborhoods or go scenic places are especially valuable. For longer excursions, a resource like the Adventure Cycling network interactive map can help you put together cycling trips that go exciting places.
- A rack, big car, or full-size folding bike. Now that your bike is going places, how do you take it with you? You could drive around with valuable things outside your car, or invest in a car large enough to hold a bike inside, or do it the easy way: ride a full-size bike that naturally folds in half to fit inside the trunk of any car.
- Smartphone with a great camera. Sure, you can use a smartphone for the GPS and route-tracking functions, but your needs are a bit different. You’ll need to keep pulling your phone out to take amazing photos of all the breathtaking places you’ve been. Maybe you’ll even need a SmugMug account for sharing your best images with others!
Type A: Achievement.
OK, let’s face it. You’re Type A in everything, and cycling is no exception. Your definition of a great ride is one where you blast into the finish at full-tilt with violently heaving lungs, your quads reduced to quivering masses of steaming protoplasm, but with the self-satisfied knowledge that you just set a new PR by a full . . . ten seconds!
What motivates you most is accomplishing a goal—the more unachievable the better. It’s not easy, but that’s whole point; if it were easy, anyone could do it. It’s going to take everything you’ve got to make the impossible happen, find new ways to challenge yourself, and beat your personal best each day, knowing as motivation that this is the way to reverse time and be the best you ever for as long as you can keep it going.
But first, you’re going to need lots of data about progress, and a way to not lose a step—a crank revolution, actually—even when the weather won’t let you be your best.
What you need:
- Power meter. This is kind of a complex area, but the basic concept is that more power moves mass–you and your bike–faster. If you know how much force is being applied to your drive train, then you can translate that into power (in watts) and manage that number to train for higher output. There are a variety of battery-driven gizmos to measure the force you apply to your pedals as you ride, and these power meters can be swapped in for any of the following components: hub, chainring, bottom bracket, crank arm, or pedals. Now you’ll always know what riding changes generate the most power, and as you get stronger, you can see it in watts.
- Strava. Of course, once you can see power improvements on your bike, you’ll want to track increases in velocity over measured courses and share those metrics with others. Even when you can’t get together with like-minded cyclists for a spirited speed ride, you can still publish results on Strava to encourage each other with evidence that you’re ready for action when they are!
- An indoor trainer. And then…winter. You don’t want to lose any of your hard-earned fitness during the rainy/cold/snowy/frozen months, so a trainer keeps those all-important exercise habits active and producing results. Trainers can range from inexpensive hub-mounted resistance aids for your existing bike to full-blown indoor cycling systems with their own internet connectivity and multimedia displays.
What type of rider are you? What kind do you want to be? Do you have what you need to be successful?