Outside magazine, March 1995
Sooner or later, be it on an organized group ride or at a bike shop, you're going to encounter real live road racers, shaved legs and all. While they're bound to give you a bit of an inferiority complex, you'll get over it once you understand the breed. And even when they do leave you gasping in the dust, remember that you have a mantra to fall back on: "At least I have a life."
Who They Are:The prototypical racer is a male in his midtwenties who has never held a day job.
Where They're Seen: Primarily in college towns, due as much to the preponderance of coffeehouses and cheap, short-term digs as to the fact that most have been in and out of school for years and yet are still one and a half semesters short of a degree.
What They Look Like: Keep an eye out for deep, year-round tans offset by pale marks from watch and helmet straps. Casual attire consists of baggy, knee-length shorts -- the better to hide midthigh tan lines caused by bike shorts -- and T-shirts given out by obscure spoke manufacturers. On the rare occasions when they walk, racers tend to waddle with a stiff gait that matches the 172.5-millimeter length of their cranks.
How They Behave: Off-the-bike life is approached with as little energy as possible, which typically results in a fondness for mindless entertainment such as The Ren & Stimpy Show and The Jerky Boys recordings -- as well as dismayed parents and perpetually disgruntled girlfriends.
Why They Have No Money: Even below-average racers cling to the idea that they deserve full sponsorship, despite the fact that only a handful of elite riders are ever given so much as a valve cap. Enough money can usually be scraped together to get them to a race, but not get them home -- it's optimistically assumed that the prize money will take care of that.
What They Eat: As much as humanly possible. Pasta, topped with any available condiment (tomato sauce, ketchup, Tabasco, Worcestershire, etc.), is the choice at least once a day. But racers also harbor a twisted notion of a low-fat diet, exemplified by their willingness to down mountains of sour-cream-slathered Mexican food while totally eschewing potato chips.
Why They Do It: "Through cycling," says one self-avowed bike bum, "I can avoid school, work, and life forever."