My discipline is audax, riding long distances over set courses within certain time limits. The time limits are generous, no need to be an athlete to ride audax (although certainly some do.) Instead the challenge is mental, the willingness to stay on the road for twenty hours or more at a stretch, to press on when you are so exhausted that you would fall asleep in seconds were you seated in a chair.
We are somewhere between roadies and touring cyclists, the pack mules of the cycling world, but perhaps also the ones amongst us who most know the freedom offered by the bicycle. Roadies are no doubt faintly appalled by the manner in which we weigh down lightweight bikes with mudguards, heavier wheels, antiquated leather saddles, the better to survive hundreds of kilometers in rough weather or on badly paved roads. Our lack of attention to style marks us irrevocably as freds but they recognise something of their own in what we do. On some level cyclists want other cyclists to be like them. If we don’t share experiences and values, how can there be respect or envy? We want them to know our suffering.