Monday, July 18, 2011

Know Your Biker!

A week ago, I was talking to a friend of mine who had just started a new job. She said to me, "You have GOT to meet my new boss, you would love him, he rides his bike everywhere!" "Oh yeah?" I replied, raising an eyebrow. "Yeah! He does these 100 mile rides every weekend, with the whole racing outfit and everything!" My grin then turned to a grimace. I thought to myself, do I really look like the type of guy with that much free time and a voluntary urge to wear spandex?

The truth is, there are many types of riders out there. Different riders have different motives, different techniques and different reasons to be loved or hated. Most riders fall into one of several categories. In New York City, here are the top 9 different types of riders.

1) The Regular Commuter: These are the most noble of riders. They have one goal: Get from point A to point B. Most of these riders take their ride seriously because it is their most common mode of transportation. Therefor most of them follow the etiquette of the road and don't really cause a nuisance. Men and women alike, some are wearing business attire with sneakers to change out of later, and others are just casual normal looking people, just trying to beat the subway. This is me, and hundreds of thousands of other city dwellers. Respect them, because they are worthy of respect.

2) The Hardcore Cyclist: Nobody can be criticized for some good wholesome cardio, but is the outfit really necessary? C'mon, you look ridiculous. I don't go for a run in short shorts, nor do I take batting practice in a full baseball uniform, nor do I shave my legs to go for a swim. Actually, I would never shave my legs but that's besides the point. I honestly wish I had the free time to spend my mornings and weekends riding, but sadly for me I have a job and a social life to maintain. Sorry.

3) The Hispanic Food Delivery Man: Here come the stereotypes! But if you can prove me wrong, I'll shut up. These riders are typically found with plastic bags both covering their seat and also carrying delivery food. They are usually riding an old beat up mountain bike on the wrong side of the road, frequently going the wrong way in a bike lane. Sometimes they are wearing helmets and safety vests with the name of the restaurant (which is now the law) and sometime they are wearing only kitchen attire. Their poor road manners make normal bikers cringe and scream insults, but they ignore it because their speedy arrival promotes higher tips for the hungry awaiting customers.

4) The Asian Food Delivery Man: We've all seen them. The 45-year-old asian man riding an electric bicycle with an awkward baseball cap and a cigarette. I still remember the first time I saw one of these battery powered "bicycles" silently whiz by me. Within the last several years these riders have increased exponentially. Some appear to be delivering food, others seem to be up to no good. Verrry Mysteeeerious. We'll never know.

5) The Messenger: These frequently dreadlocked daredevil defy the logic of bicycle physics. Putting in hundreds of miles a day, these riders perform unlike any other, both in stamina and agility. Squeezing through crevices between busses and wiggling through crowds of people crossing the street, these impressive riders snake their way down the street with graceful form, almost invisible. They intimidate some pedestrians, but if you need to get a role of architectural plans from East 53rd St to Church Street, they are your go-to-guy.

6) The Tourist: These riders are easy to recognize because they are dressed like Europeans, not wearing helmets while slowly and awkwardly swerving around on dumb looking cruiser bikes they rented at Columbus Circle. They frequently have no clue whatsoever where they are going, and they love to get in your way. It's like they do it on purpose.

7) The Pedicabbies: These are the foreigners who take advantage of other foreigners. Ride by them and just listen to the garbage they spew. "I rode by Alec Baldwin yesterday." or "That building is the one from Ghost Busters." Fredereick Law Olmstead would turn over in his grave if he knew his park was infested by such sleazy sleeveless scammers. The only thing that makes horse and carriages worse is the fact that they poop all over the place.

8) The Hipsters: Hipsters are the only reason fixed gear bikes even exists. Maybe it's because fixies are the vinyls of bicycles: inferior yet "authentic." Anyway, these epically rad riders are mostly found in Brooklyn, where style trumps performance. Vintage style bikes line the streets and even the guys have baskets in front. It's weird. But that's why it's cool.

9) The Crazy Non-Bikers: These are riders who get the double takes. You see them mostly in the parks or on the Hudson Greenway. They are riding the recumbent bicycles or even bikes that look like elliptical machines. It makes you wonder what stoned bike shop nut came up with these ideas, yet its impressive performance makes you intrigued and somewhat jealous. Then again, it seems like something you would try once then go back to a regular bicycle.

Then again, maybe you are a mix of several categories. The point is, one type doesn't classify all riders. Some people hate all bikers because they associate all of them with the rule-breaking delivery guys or the wreckless traffic swervers. Some people think all riders are training for the Tour de France because of all the silly spandexed people out there. False associations just make it frustrating for the rest of us who are just trying to get from point A to point B. So the point is, know your biker, ok? Now get out of my way, I have somewhere to go.