For the leg shaving, I’ve heard people offer up explanations about massage, road rash, etc. But I’ve always said: it shows that you’re part of the club.
That thought occurred to me while driving down to South Carolina to race, first on the track and then on the road. For a trip like this, I often save up podcasts of This American Life, which tends to make the drive seem to much faster.
While listening to the recent episode titled “Tribes”, I thought, “yeah, this could be about bike racers too”.
And then I pulled up at the Giordana Velodrome, where I was going to race that evening. I unloaded my bike, wheels, other gear, and went down to the infield. I sat and watched the other racers filter in, start changing cogs and chainrings, adjust chains, pin numbers on skinsuits. And it further occurred to me: this is a tribe within a tribe.
In pre-modern times, being able to identify who is “in” your tribe would help to determine who you can trust.
I hadn’t been on a track since November and was a little nervous getting started. I rode by myself for a while before jumping on to the back of a group that came by. Riding close, with no brakes, I was again reminded that you need to have a large amount of trust in the riders around you. So all those little quirky things that races do might actually serve a function.
The track racers at Rock Hill were super friendly. I asked about gearing and not only got advice but also offers to use cogs and chainrings if I needed. Then after the race I was offered a place to stay if I came down to race again.
I’m thinking that means I am “in”.