In 2014, Manny Machado, a then 22 year old 3rd baseman for the Baltimore Orioles decided that he didn’t like it when players on other teams “tagged him out.” This perfectly legal and routine part of baseball occurs in every game, but Machado, a very talented young man, decided that having a player on another team touch him with a baseball was disrespectful to him and started a benches clearing brawl with the then Oakland third baseman Josh Donaldson who had disrespected him in the aforementioned manner. Machado carried on about respect for a few days in the press until Baltimore management suggested that he might need to spend some time in the minor leagues and some of the veterans on his own team explained that baseball was his game of choice and if he didn’t want to play by the game’s rules and respect its traditions, he might want to find another line of work.
Machado got the message and has blossomed into one of the game’s stars, maturity comes quickly when you stand a chance of losing your paycheck. I thought of him last week when I was riding on the 72 Hours to Key West ride and found myself behind a guy on a mountain bike. A mountain bike, unlike a road bike, is designed for hilly, off road terrain. It has big shock absorbers in the front, straight handlebars, wide knobby tires, and is a lot heavier than a bike designed to go long distances on the road. I was a little annoyed: I thought he treated the rest of us with a certain disdain by omission of preparation. Or, he simply didn’t know any better.
For Grandpa here, riding 120 miles into the wind (our Day 1 mileage) on a bike designed for the task was all the challenge I needed, I was kind of miffed that Dude thought, “whatever, it’s a mountain bike, so what?” He found out what, he was riding the last leg of both centuries in the support vehicles. Another strapping, bodybuilder looking guy went out with the leaders the first day only to have his lights go out at the 100 mile mark. I later saw him smoking a cigarette at the hotel, it turns out that weight lifting and smoking are probably not the best preparation for an endurance bike ride.
In defense of the prepared: No one is more aware of how stupid we look in spandex cycling clothes than we cyclists. We aren’t donning the kits to look like our professional heroes, we put them on because they are light, they absorb sweat and they don’t billow up in the wind, slowing us down. Yes, we look ridiculous, but 110 miles into the day, we’re happy with the results. We buy bikes with uncomfortable seats and narrow tires because they are light, fast and built for the task at hand. For us the worst part of the day is when we have to get off our bikes and: we are willing to look pretentious in the hotel lobby because of our passion for the ride.
There are a lot of unwritten rules in cycling and many of them are very silly, in fact there’s a whole book called, “The Rules” that is pretty laughable. That’s not to say that some of the customs of the sport of cycling aren’t there for a reason. Things like wearing a helmet, not listening to music on your headphones and learning the proper etiquette of riding in a group probably make sense for self preservation, if nothing else.
As far as I’m concerned, if you can show up for a long ride unprepared and pull it off, good for you! But if you can’t you are probably going to end up using resources from the support crew that might best be saved for someone who actually has an emergency. Participating in a sport requires a certain conformity that might not be to your particular liking: sometimes you do that simply as a sign of respect for the people who have prepared.