As long as I don’t have to get a tattoo

DCIM100GOPRO
I can’t begin to count the number of times people have asked me the questions: why do bike racers shave their legs? Why do you wear those funny outfits when riding? Why are you all so skinny?

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”.

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Filed under cycling, track cycling

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