The bike club I joined in January was profiled in a neighborhood newsletter as having A, B, and C groups. The A group could be classified as the “serious” bikers – fast pace, long distance riders on high-end bikes. The B group would be what I call the “15 mph crowd” – those who like to ride, and have pretty good road bikes, but just can’t keep up with the As. The C group would be parents on hybrids, kids, oldsters on cruiser bikes, people who ride short distances for fun and a little exercise.
Lately, discussions on the club’s Yahoo! group about As and Bs have been getting contentious. A couple of self-described B riders have used the term “weenie” to label the Bs. Others have taken umbrage at that – they want to be respected for their decision to ride for fun and not get roped into speed contests.
Another group has begun breaking down the Bs into B+, B and B-, or “wannaBe” groups, which has put some into high dudgeon over the whole labeling thing. One of the organizers of the club’s Sunday ride, which is open to anyone, takes issue with classifying riders at all. “We’re all one club,” he says.
Some self-classified B riders say they just want to make sure other riders of their caliber are on the Sunday ride, so they’re not left far behind on their own (These are no-drop rides, but it’s been known to happen). Other self-classified B riders are trying hard to become part of the A group, and are training hard to get it done.
It’s been awhile since I’ve ridden with the club. My last ride with them was in late January, and was a great experience. I got to see a route I hadn’t ridden before, and while there was no way I could keep up with the better riders, I did fit in with a group that was content to travel more slowly than the ride leaders. But I had bike issues and weather issues in February, and was out of town two weekends in a row in March.
This Sunday, I hope to join them again. I have a good idea who I can ride with, and who will leave me behind quickly. The longer distances the club rides will challenge me to build my mileage, and for now, endurance is what I’m after – not speed.
So, I guess I’m a B rider. Don’t care. I want to ride, not race. We’ll see if the ride breaks up into two distinct classes of cyclist. If it does, maybe I’ll just have to make friends with the ones at roughly the same level as I am – and we’ll all know that despite well-intentioned “one club” protestations, we really do fall into separate and unequal rider classifications.