Well, you may find yourself in a similar pickle if you ask a cyclist anything about cycling. No sooner will the words be out of your mouth and you’ll find yourself trapped in a corner like a wounded animal.
As much as we cyclists love to talk about cycling, there are certain questions that really get our chamois in a knot. If you’re stuck in a one-sided conversation with an unrelenting cycling evangelist, these questions will guarantee a quick and painless escape.
And when all else fails? Ask us about golf. It will be the shortest conversation you’ll ever have.
How much does a bike cost?1 of 9
Akin to "how long is a piece of string?", this is one of the most ridiculous questions I am regularly asked. Like most commercial products, the cost of bikes varies greatly depending on a wide variety of factors: manufacturer, bike type, material, components, age and so forth. You can get a beater bike for almost free at your local community bike hub or garage sale—although keep in mind that if you take a bike from someone's yard or from under someone's bottom, that is stealing and generally frowned upon.
On the other side of the spectrum, you can buy the 24k gold-plated and crystal bicycle from Aurumania for the low, low price of $103,000. Of course the reasonable choice is probably somewhere in between, depending on your requirements, preferences and how much your spouse will let you spend without filing for divorce.
Doesn't your butt get sore?2 of 9
First of all, talking about butts over wine and canapés is just gross. In other circumstances this question can be forgiven and is even welcomed. I often get asked this by women whose love of riding—and ability to ride for more than an hour—has been seriously compromised by a case of saddle discomfort. There are several simple and effective ways this can be addressed which will allow for countless hours of comfortable riding.
First and foremost is a proper fitting saddle. You should be seated directly on your ischial tuberosities, or sit bones. If the width of your saddle is narrower than those pointy butt protrusions, your full body weight is being borne solely by the delicate soft tissues we need for sexy time. Other things that will greatly help your bits enjoy the ride include a dab of chamois cream for longer distances, good quality bike shorts (worn commando, always), a good and proper bike fit and being sure to change position every so often. Easy peasy.
To be honest, it's never the question I mind so much as the absolute and complete refusal of some people to believe that you can ride a bike without shredding your butt and associated parts to bloody pieces. At the point in a conversation that I feel I am trying to force someone to ride a bike against their will, it's time for me and my butt to walk away.
Do you know [insert random cyclist's name]?3 of 9
There are over 36 million people in Canada, and somehow I am expected to know them all personally. "OH! You're from CANADA! I have a buddy in Toronto [1,400 miles away], Tom Smith—do you know him?"
Similarly, if you ride a bike, people will assume that you know every cyclist from Belgian pros to Russian Olympians to the kid who delivers the Saturday newspaper on his BMX. Sadly, though, in a small, North American city, the cycling community is generally small enough that if I'm asked if I know a certain local cyclist, chances are I do. In fact, my kids have made a game of it. It started with them asking if I know every single cyclist we passed in the car. "Of course," I would answer "that's my buddy Ben." *Shouting and waving out the window* "HEY BEN!" Now, if the kids are in the car, I shout and wave a greeting at every cyclist we pass, whether I know them or not.
How many bikes do you own?4 of 9
This one is difficult because, like defusing an active explosive device, it requires the ability to think very quickly on your feet in order to avert disaster. When faced with this question, it is important to carefully scrutinize the asker to determine their motive.
If it is a fellow cyclist, it is completely appropriate to relax and give the correct answer, which is (n + 1), where n = the current number of bikes I already own. While not a definitive number, it is an equation that any true cyclist will understand and appreciate.
If it is a sympathetic non-cyclist or wannabe cyclist, I will tell the truth and carefully explain which bikes I own and for what purpose, so as not to appear wasteful and extravagant. If it is an unsympathetic anti-cyclist or frugal penny pincher, I will either outright lie or change the subject entirely. To golf, for example.
Doesn't your husband mind?5 of 9
In the moments following this question I have to concentrate very hard to keep my head from exploding. In addition to being horribly insulting to both me and my other half, assuming I require the permission or blessing of my partner to do something enjoyable, harmless and healthy is just plain stupid. Perhaps if my hobby was playing the blackjack table or hanging out in strip joints I might understand the concern, but I'm pretty sure cycling doesn't really fall in that category. Being mindful and respectful of 'domestic harmony' is something every person with a leisure pursuit thinks about (because the dog house sucks and smells like pee), but this is not the 1950s. I'm pretty sure the hubs can make his own sandwich.
What's your average pace?6 of 9
Much like "how much does a bike cost?", this question does not have any specific answer, unless of course it refers to a single ride. As in "what was your average pace on that ride you did this morning?", which can easily be answered by a simple check of my handy dandy GPS computer. Beyond that, pace is a funny thing—it can either be fast or slow, depending on how hard or fast I push on the pedals. It can also be dependent on wind, elevation, traffic, who I'm riding with and for how long. Unlike my height or bra size, which tend to stay pretty consistent, it is impossible to numerically peg my average pace.
But what irks me even more about this ridiculous question is the underlying aftertaste of comparison—kind of like asking how strong my dad is or how much I get paid. For the record, my dad is plenty strong, and how much I make depends on how much I pull in at the blackjack table.
Why do you shave your legs?7 of 9
Being a woman, I admittedly don't get asked this question very often, so I'm adding it on behalf of my male riding companions who get asked all the time. Besides the seemingly inappropriate intimacy of the question, there is always a certain undercurrent that suggests the asker assumes the shaver is also guilty of wearing women's underpants under their bike shorts. And everybody knows you should never wear underpants under your bike shorts.
However, sometimes the question is sincere and therefore deserves an answer. There are several that apply: 1) Shaving makes the application of sunscreen and embrocation easier and more effective. Hair only impedes skin contact of creams and lotions, and makes you look like a wet racoon; 2) Bare legs are easier to massage, which is a great tool for both recovery and overall body health. Plus, it feels freaking awesome—unless it involves the tugging and pulling of excess hair, in which case it's like a 60-minute bikini wax for your legs; 3) If/when you crash, hair can make clean up and treatment tricky and more painful. If you've ever had to pull a Band-Aid off hairy skin, you know what I mean. Get some road rash on your legs and they're going to shave you anyway, so you might as well do it yourself in a bathtub with a glass of nice Prosecco; 4) Aerodynamics. The jury is still out on this one in terms of scientific evidence, and for most of us 'masters' athletes, we could benefit far more from laying off the donuts than shearing our gams. Nevertheless, some will swear a smooth leg makes them faster; 5) Smooth legs show off all those sexy muscles you've earned from riding a bike.
What's your tire pressure?8 of 9
Whether riding pavement, snow, dirt, gravel or the yellow brick road, tire pressure can have a huge impact on both comfort and performance, making this perhaps the most prevalent—and irritating—question that cyclists ask each other.
As a roadie entering cyclocross racing, my friends nearly expired from laughter when I told them I was concerned about a tire pressure of 60, a full 30-40 psi lower than I would typically use on my road bike. I was convinced they were trying to kill me when they suggested 35. Similarly, when I overheard my fatbike friends debating whether to run 8 or 10, my suspicion of their soft-headedness was confirmed.
As silly as it seems, tire pressure matters. A lot. So finding out the tire pressure of someone faster than you can feel like discovering the secret that will unlock your untapped potential for unbridled greatness. Unfortunately, the very act of asking will at best out you as a rookie and, at worst, a bit of a pest. In spite of the prevailing taboo, we still find the words slipping out of our mouths like an unplanned hummus burp. It stinks, but we just can't help ourselves.