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The Various Commuters of the Silicon Valley

It's always around the same time, every year, when you start to see them.  Bright eyed, bushy tailed, sometimes a little clueless, often looking at lost as a kid on their first day of school.  To be fair, sometimes it does feel like the first day of school - many have no idea where to go, what to do, they've forgotten to get some of their supplies (or they got the wrong supplies), and they don't really know the rules yet.  The veterans all act in their own ways, some eager to help, some indifferent, some outright annoyed. 

Ahh yes, winter melts away, the flowers start blooming, allergies run rampant...

And it's fair weather commuter cyclist season. 

Now, I have nothing against fair weather riders (mostly) so I hope my comparison doesn't come off as rude or condescending.  Seeing more people coming out to ride is something I love, and even if it's your thing to only ride when it's nice, that's okay.  I'm just glad you're out here.  That, and I like seeing all the bikes.


Like my District parked in front of another District - I couldn't find the owner, but excellent bike choice fellow District rider!
Bike To Work Day is upon us, and it's pretty much summer here in California.  Bike shops everywhere are having sales, bike swap meets are going on, and people are getting out and starting to ride again, or testing the waters for the first time.  Most of these people will be gone when it starts to get dark early again, or the first major rain happens, but every year I see one or two that stick with it and become full on commuters.  I tend to find though, that during this time, people can be categorized in a few different ways. Here are some of the more common ones that I've found on my adventures, on both the train and trails...


Guys, this is entirely meant in good humor.  I'm more than guilty of falling into most of these categories on more than one occasion.  

Edit: I should have included this from the beginning, but Bikehacks has the most epic commuter slang list of all time.

The Newbie: Has decided to start riding for the very first time, most likely ever.  Shows up with a brand new bike that is completely wrong for commuting, without lights or any gear, looking like a deer in headlights.  Has no idea how bike cars work on trains, despite the fact they've been riding the train for years.  Gets really excited when they figure out how to shift gears.  

The Seasoned Newbie: Has decided to start riding to work, again.  Actually, they decide this every year and are pretty good about sticking with it - but then they had a meeting, and had to drive one day.  Then it was hot.  Then they had to pick up dinner.  Then there was that thing after work.  What were we doing again?  

Captain Enthusiast: Shows up having never ridden before in a decked out bike, full kit, latest and greatest everything.  They have no idea how to use either the train or their shifting system, but they love to talk to you about how excited they are to "really start riding."  Captain Enthusiast generally puts platform pedals on their new Cervelo R5 CA.  Some Captains will get a new bike every year.  

DON'T TOUCH MY BIKE Guy: Either a new rider who is way overprotective of their bike, or an older rider fed up with newer riders not having a clue.  Will yell at you if you put your bike next to theirs.  Gives you a death stare if you even walk by it.  It doesn't matter if their bike is the newest NASA designed space station prototype or an eighty year old unidentifiable rust bucket, they will tear you a new one for breathing on their "baby."  

Mr. Arrogant: Or Miss Arrogant.  Completely annoyed with new riders, acting holier-than-thou when it comes to bikes, equipment, mileage, just about anything really.  Honestly makes riding a drag for everyone.

Bag Lady: Has a fully loaded touring bike that takes up the space of about four bikes, though more often than not the bags are completely empty.  Alternately, Bag Lady sometimes has the bags stuffed with practically an entire bike shop in case they break down, which sometimes comes in handy.  Bag Lady seems to think their bike doesn't take up any excess room, and would rather lose a foot than remove a front pannier.  

Broken Car Guy: Usually a driver, for whatever reason had to ride to work today.  Maybe the car broke down, or there was an emergency, but they've borrowed a friend's bike, or a child's bike, and are definitely not having fun riding.  (This one goes out to the poor guy riding his daughter's pink fixed gear.  I hope you got to work okay, buddy.)  

Center of the Universe: The rider that can't believe anyone else would have the gall to ride.  Why are all of these people out riding?  They can't believe that they're not the only one out, and they think it's ridiculous that so many other people are riding.  Seriously why is it so crowded?  Why are all of these people out riding?  

Insists on Sitting in the Bike Car Girl: They don't ride, they hate bikes, they hate bicyclists, but they refuse to sit anywhere but the bike care, all while complaining about bikes and the smell.  If you suggest she move, she'll most likely eat your face.  Complete and total mystery. 

Jolly Veteran: Has ridden every day, rain or shine, for years.  Always happy to answer questions, help with repairs, lend tubes, and generally help out, especially with the newbies.  Often riding a killer old steel frame, he might look like he's a feeble old man, but he could outclimb just about everyone else.  

I'm-Not-A-Newbie Newbie: "Oh, yeah, I ride every day.  Er, you haven't seen me because I take a different route.  What route?  Uh, you don't know it. Yeah, the bike is new, but I ride every day!  I didn't just start riding okay!  How dare you ask if I need help or directions - I ride ev-uh, I'm lost and I have a flat, I just started riding can you help me?"

Captain Asshole: Way worse than Mr. Arrogant.  Mean, grumpy, and fast, they just want to get to work and have no time for you or your stupid problems.  Move.  

Cringe: The way she runs lights, rides on the sidewalk, texts while riding, and blatantly ignores all rules makes you absolutely cringe.  She's completely oblivious to it though, and will just roll her eyes if you suggest she be more careful.  She's also usually a 40 something business woman with a basket on the front.  

Spike: If you've seen Portlandia, you know who I'm talking about.  A loud advocate of bicycle rights and fixed gears, he rarely obeys the rules and nobody else rides a bike as cool as he does.  Gear are over, the peninsula is over, this trail is OVER.  

Midlife Crisis: He couldn't afford a sports car, so he opted for a hip new bike instead.  And it's always either something very high end and carbon to show the guys that he's still cool, or a brakeless fixed gear to show his kids that he's hip, and he's dressed appropriate for whichever he chose. Watching him try to stop on that "hip fixie" just shows that he's insane.  

The Judge: Never says anything, but tears apart you, your bike, and your gear with their eyes, deciding what they think of you.  Those eyes bore into your soul before they sweep over your bike, stopping here and there.  The Judge might "hmmm" or "huh" a bit, but will never outright make any comments.  

Fashionista: Decked out in something fancy, be it a tailored suit or a long, flowy dress, the fashionista has a nice outfit and equally classy bike.  Scientists have long been trying to prove how they can ride and stay looking so good, as they maintain perfect hair and never get clothing caught in the chain.  A rare breed, but they do exist, and they're fabulous.  

Off Roader: Opted for a full suspension 29er MTB for his entirely on road two mile ride to work.  The poor bike is screaming for some real trail action, but he doesn't want to hurt the bike by taking it off road, and he doesn't want to get it dirty.  He's not sure if the bike can take that much abuse.  No, really.  

Roadie: If you're in front of him, he'll try to pass you.  He can be a seasoned veteran or a brand new rider, but the proverbial carrot is just too much for this one.  He'll drop his entire group if it means passing someone.  Getting to work is a full on race - this isn't El Camino, this is Paris-Roubaix dammit!

I have more, but it's getting late.

In all seriousness, though it's fun to group people like this, it's never good to judge a book by it's cover.  And if you're a new rider, don't be put off by my musings - welcome to the club, I hope you stay, and keep at it!  And, if you're a veteran, be nice and help out those that need it.  You were a newbie once too.  

Ride on everyone - the weather is perfect for it!

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