There are lots of different types of riders in a club. Hammers, cruisers, racers, conscripted mountain bikers, gear-heads, even newbs finding a groove. The list goes on. It’s all too easy to give high-praise to the two most common features of successful riders: strength and speed. If you’re strong, it shows. If you’re fast, it shows. And you gotta give credit to people who work to be fast and strong.
But I want to take a moment and point out some of the unsung heroes of cycling that I’ve encountered, so that it’s easier to recognize and praise their efforts when you’re riding with them.
What sets them apart is their ability to always encourage those around them. When you ride with a motivator, you suddenly feel a little less tired, a little peppier, and that grey cloud that was starting to fog your vision brightens a tad. That reason you had for starting a ride – the one that made it sound awesome but fades after an hour? – starts to come back. They time their jokes on hills to add levity to counteract the force of gravity. They always have encouraging words, even if you’re flying by (or they’re flying by you). No matter the distance, the time, or the weather.
Yodas don’t have to talk in a strange voice and say things like “Big hill, it is, hmm? Sore you will be.” No, instead, yodas tend to be rather mild-mannered. They have hundreds of bits of advice picked up over the years (often decades) of cycling, and they know just when to share them so that their young cycle-wans will absorb and apply them. Suddenly, that mountain is more hill-like because of a tip on how to use your full range of motion. Or you’re less winded because they told you how to use your cadence to cut your workload. Or they give a little hint on how to find the sweet spot in a draft, or little posturing corrections that remove that stabbing pain from your lower back. Cherish your yodas.
You know the rider that takes those extra long pulls, no matter how hard the wind is blowing? No matter how much heat is pouring off the asphalt? Work horses keep the pace line together, and help those of us who wouldn’t otherwise be able to keep up . What’s incredible about a work horse is you almost never hear them complain! They know it’s hot, but you won’t hear it from them. They know it’s windy, but to them, it’s just another day on the bike. They’re kind of a cross between motivators and yodas – never sad, always calm, even zen-like in their approach to biking. And though their calm in the face of immeasurable adversity can be aggravating, that goes away when you realize they just pulled you another 20 miles.
There’s one thing that these heroes have that all riders try to replicate – perseverance. A perpetual doesn’t care about distance or time – physics just kinda dies as their wheels keep rolling. They’re there to get the job done, and very little other than flats stops them from moving forward (and that’s only if they notice). Their sheer determination to finish what they started drives us to do the same.
Brothers-in-Gears (or sisters, as the case may be)
These heroes live by the credo “Leave no rider behind.” No matter how far up front they are, they’re known for circling around and returning for the most tired of us, and making sure we come through. They slow down for us when we’re flagging. They throw us some shot bloks or gels when we’re bonking. They help us change our tires, and bridge gaps with us sitting on their wheel to bring us to back to the pack.
So, the next time you’re out riding with a group, club, or team, keep an eye out for these unsung heroes, and let them know they’re appreciated.