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Types & Stereotypes of Bike Riders

E-bikers illustration

E-bikers illustration

Road cyclists. They often speak of “watts” — literally, their pedaling power in wattage measured by sensors in their pedals or estimated on GPS-enabled bike computers or apps like Strava. Additional data includes average speed, miles traveled, grades climbed and elevation gained. They will invite you to look up their Strava results, and if you do so, you are probably also a road cyclist.

Mountain bikers. Their social media posts include at least one photo of a bloodied body part and, if they are hardcore, an X-ray of a broken bone. They seek mountain bike trails with technical climbs, rocky descents and lots of root-bumping and stump-jumping. They tend to use the word “gnarly.” Their shorts are baggy, tires are knobby, and front fork shocks are springy.

Long-distance tourers. They ride on roads and trails for weeks at a time, travel across the state or across the continent. Ask them about their last tour and they will get a haunted look as they describe that time a bald eagle flew over them and mumble something about solitude. Then they’ll go into detail about the time they had to relieve themselves in the woods. Their social-media feeds have at least one photo of damp travel gear dumped out of their panniers and spread out to dry on either a campsite picnic table or a cheap motel bed. (Full disclosure: This description fits the author of this piece.)

E-bikers. This category of bike rider might trigger outrage in some road cyclists who are invested in their non-electrical watts. Riders of electric-assist bicycles do get exercise, but with a bit of a push not coming from their muscles. You can easily spot them — they’re the ones smiling as they ride uphill.

Gravel bikers, ‘bikepackers,’ and fat-tire riders. Biking has fractured into multiple styles, and one might suspect this is due to an industry looking to sell more bikes.

Want to travel the dirt roads but your road bike tires can’t handle the bumps? Get a gravel bike, essentially a road bike but with flared drop bars for better handling and wider, knobbier tires fit for roads only farmers use.

Want to travel a few days but don’t want to take the weight of a tourer’s baggage? Get into “bikepacking,” where you’ve got just the gear of a backpacker and a mountain-style bike that can go off into the woods for a camping adventure.

Want to go anywhere and have people comment, “What the heck is that?!?” Get a bike with big tires that look like they belong on a motorcycle and that float on dirt, sand and snow.
Soon, you too can have a fleet of bikes for every purpose, filling your garage, leaving no room for your poor, neglected car.

Mark Wedel

Mark Wedel was an arts and entertainment journalist for the Kalamazoo Gazette from 1992 to 2015. Since 2014, he’s been a freelance writer, covering Kalamazoo infrastructure, biking, the housing crisis, and occasional arty things.

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