Are You Old School?

I was talking with a cycling friend of mine who lives across country from me, and I mentioned that I grabbed a Clif bar at the halfway point in my long weekend ride.

“I never eat that stuff,” he said.  “I prefer real food.  I guess I’m just old school.”

I chuckled.  He does eat real food during rides.  He often sticks a banana in one of his jersey pockets, and if he needs to eat on one of his long rides, he’ll find a convenience store and get a small submarine sandwich.  No gels or shot bloks for him.  But I wouldn’t call him old school.  He’s got a nifty carbon fiber bike that cost the same as three of mine. However, some other biking acquaintances might qualify, in one way or another.

Some Tour de France riders in days of yore. Yes, the guy on the right is holding up a cigarette to the rider next to him. Now that's old school.

There’s the guy with the steel 10-speed that is pretty much the same today as it was 25 years ago.  He sees no reason to upgrade to a more contemporary ride.  In fact, he thinks more than 10 speeds is ridiculous.  He tells me he rarely uses more than five different gears during a typical ride.

Another friend rides a more recent aluminum framed bike, but goes without any of the current accessories.  You won’t find him entering data from his Garmin into his home computer — he doesn’t have a Garmin.  He doesn’t even have a basic cycling computer.  Heart rate monitor? Forget it.  If he wants to know his pedaling cadence, he counts his pedal strokes for six seconds and multiplies by 10.

Another acquaintance looks forward to this time of year, because the wind picks up and the temperatures go down.  He trains in the wind the way most of us train on hills.  And he has no problem keeping warm and comfortable on his bike — he wears a nice long sleeved wool jersey.

What else constitutes “old school” cycling?  I once saw someone wipe his tire with his bare hand — after riding through broken glass.  Do guys who train on single speeds or fixed gear bikes qualify as old school?

I’m happy with my current setup, and have no plans to revert to the accoutrements of bygone days.  Well, maybe I’d like one of those wool jerseys.

Are you old school?  In what way?


  1. Matt says

    I’m “old school” in that I don’t like the gadgets. I had a computer/HRM for a while, but in the end I decided that I can tell when I’m pushing too hard, and other than that it doesn’t really matter to me – I’m not a racer. I have more fun when I’m not thinking about the numbers.

  2. johnt says

    This is my 1st season to ride a bike and I gobble down energy bars, drop the NUUN tabs in my water bottle, don’t patch my tubes, use a bike computer and a heart rate monitor and upload the info to the appropriate websites. If somethings on the bike breaks I rush it down to the bike shop ASAP to get it fixed, however in real life my wife, daughter and friends tell me I’m an old school guy.

  3. Tim says

    You’ve had a great string of posts lately Ray. Awesome job.

    Smart enough to know I’m not old school. Not when I’m rocking an all carbon with indexed shifters, LED blinkers and a Garmin GPS with HR and cadence.

    As for road food. I mix it up. I carry Gels and scarf Clif Bars, but also do the banana, PB sandwich thing and can never pass up a Payday in a convenience store.

    The only old school in me is wistfully remembering the days when I zoomed around on my steel frame and wheels. Thin cloth bar tape, friction shifters, cotter pin crank arms…

  4. Kev says

    Have really enjoyed your blog for a while now. Keep it up. If old school means that you spend more time riding than trying to figure out how to install / work / upload or download gadgets, then I am old school. Ride baby Ride.

  5. Barbara says

    Old school: run my bare hands on spinning tires after I ride through glass, change my own tires, do my own repairs/maintainance. Wear work gloves from Home Depot in the cold instead of fancy cycling gloves. Have a bike compuer for speed, distance, and cadance only. No gadget uploads.
    New school: carry gels, clif bars, drink Gatorade….I have a HUGE sweet tooth so I’ll use any excuse to get my sugar fix! Use Google maps sometimes to pre-plan routes. Addicted to blinkies and cycling blogs!

  6. says

    I am both new and old school. My fleet has carbon and titanium road bikes, plus a custom steel road bike with downtube shifters, cyclocross with bar-end shifters and a fixed gear bike. I wear wool and high tech apparel, and I’ll consume a bagel just as readily as a Cliff bar.

    The key for me is to mix things up – variety is the spice of life, n’est pas?

  7. Jeff says

    Chiming in late, but I think it’s kind of funny that a Clif Bar makes you “new school.” I think of Clif Bars as kind of old school just because they’re good natural ingredients and taste like something you’d buy at a bakery…rather than gelatinous sugar cubes or stiff mystery bars that taste like sawdust.

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