Why I Am Not Cool: Part 5 In A Continuing Series

It has been some time since I discussed my lack of coolness in the cycling community.  I have chronicled my chronic use of kickstands, my refusal to shave my legs, and my insistence on the use of reflectors and saddle bags. I try not to dwell on my idiosynchracies, but I am occasionally forced to confront them.   My recent pedal in Tampa – as evidenced by the above photo – requires an explanation.  As you can see,  I was wearing a Camelbak.

And the horrible truth is that I often do.

That Camelbaks are absolutely unacceptable to serious cyclists, there can be no doubt.  Even the Velominati has taken the trouble to codify this as one of the 82 immutable rules of cycling:

“32.  Hydration packs are never to be seen on a road rider’s body.  No argument will be entered into on this.”

The type of Camelbak I use

While the rule is ironclad, the rationale for it is less so.  After all, what is the harm in carrying fluids?  Especially when the fluids are contained in a nifty pack that provides a helpful drinking tube and copious amounts of storage space for all manner of odds and ends?  I’ve been known to store cue cards, ID, money, keys, food, my GPS, and many other items in my Camelbak.  What is the harm in that?

Plenty.  There appears to be at least two main reasons why this rule is in effect for road cyclists:

1.  Mountain Bikers love hydration packs and whatever a Mountain Biker loves a Roadie must detest.  How else to maintain the ancient rivalry?  Mountain Bikers need the packs as they routinely find themselves far from civilization, whereas a proper road cyclist is supposed to nip into the local coffee shop or bistro and refill his water bottles after ordering an espresso.

2.  Road Cyclists are supposed to carry absolutely everything they need in the three pockets on the back of their jersey.  This shows how tough they are and how cycling is completely and totally about only themselves and their bikes.  If you can’t have a saddle bag that is slightly larger than a coin purse, then you certainly can’t have a monstrosity like a Camelbak slung over your shoulders.

Truth be told, I brought little shame upon myself during my ride in Tampa.  I saw no Roadies during my entire trip, therefore there was no derision or unpleasant looks sent in my direction.  Had a Roadie pedaled past me, he still would probably have cared little about this violation.  I was riding a cruiser bike and would therefore be immediately relegated to subhuman status, not worthy of even being critiqued for violating uber-cyclist etiquette.

Still, Loyal Reader, I feel compelled to inform you of whom you are dealing with in this blog space.  Your author’s violations of cycling dogma are significant and pervasive.  I encourage you to read on, but do so knowing that you are keeping company with an unsavory character and risk damage to your own reputation through association with the likes of me!


22 thoughts on “Why I Am Not Cool: Part 5 In A Continuing Series

  1. Any group of overage, overweight, under trained people who pay exhorbitant amounts of money to wear the same garish spandex that pros get paid to wear need not be consulted for fashion laws.
    Never have so many cared so much about what another man chooses to wear. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
    Just keep riding in whatever makes you comfortable and is useful for the task at hand. And camelbacks fill that role admirably no matter whet the roadie snob meter records.

    • LOL. Will do, Dave. I’ve never been beholden to cultural norms, which is why the “Why I’m Not Cool” series is now up to Part 5 with no end in sight.

  2. Will you please stop writing these ‘Why I am not cool’ posts? Every time you write one, it reminds me how I am even further in the dumps on the coolness scale.

    Apart from the earlier discussed kickstand, un-shaved legs and reflectors, I’m down on this count as well. I use not a tiny camelbak but a small backpack with a special compartment for my hydration pack! And I carry in it, apart from the regular nick-nacks that you mentioned, a light waterproof jacket, a hand pump, a puncture kit and even, at times, a heavy D-lock.

    I don’t think anything can now redeem me in the roadie circles 😦


  3. Steve, great post.

    I was uncool till very recently, when I bought the new Bianchi and realized I would be violating the laws of cycling nature myself if I didn’t get with the game. You just don’t ride a machine like this without looking the part…especially in France.

    The last hurdle will be the legs, which I fulling intend to take a razor to when the warmer weather comes. Be warned, it’s a slippery slope once you’ve made even one change to join The Cool. Keep the camelbak or you’ll be asking me for shaving tips in no time!

    • Sobering advice, Gerry. I shall keep this in mind whenever I look at the reflectors on my wheels and think, “It would only take me a minute to remove those…”

    • While I tend to agree the Roadies have the most demanding code of conduct (they’ve got a 70 year head start on the other bike types), I find that all cycling groups have their own unique requirements. The urban cyclists abhore lycra and see little use for helmets. And don’t put a kickstand on your mountain bike, or be prepared for the worst!

  4. Great Post and I know where you’re comming from.

    I was a hardcore camelback on every ride until this year. I realized that two waterbottles were enough for most of my rides, and if it wasn’t then most rides had a convient water stop. I also started using more sports drink stuff and don’t really like putting that kind of stuff in the camelbak bladder.

    The ice cold water from the camelbak was really nice, but also not having the pack on my back was more comfortable.

    I don’t usually need the storage space, but on cold rides I’ll take it just to hold layers that come off.

    Don’t get me wrong I like camelbak, just don’t seem to need it for every ride.

    • My road bike purchase has made my Camelbak less necessary as well. My hybrid had a single 20 oz water bottle. The new bike has two 24 oz bottles. Generally, I only take the Camelbak with my road bike on very hot days or when I’m going on a long unfamiliar route.

      As an avid mountain biker AND road cyclist, I can only imagine your inner conflict on this issue!

  5. Hey, I felt the same thing in Orlando when I bought a Piaggio brand scooter.

    Piaggio is made by Vespa, which all the cool kids ride. I’m a dork who can’t afford the $4000 Vespa, so I got their lesser model.

    I’d try and waive, passing them on casual rides. I was pretty amazed at the glares. Though was rather shocked with the way the Harley riders treated me with such friendliness.

    anyway, thanks for reading my blog too. I’m looking forward to exploring yours more.

  6. Hi Steve,

    Great blog, very funny, but also poignant commentary on a divisive issue that will only get worse and add the problems which plague modern society. We’ve seen division along ethnic lines, religious divides, and cultural divides, but the rift between the roadie and the MTBer will, I believe, shake the foundations of modern life in a way that few could have predicted. As the costs of aluminium and rubber increase, the struggles will become worse.

    By the way, if you want to be really even more uncool, dispense with any ultra-bright bike lights you have and get a dynamo fitted to bike. That’s got to be hard to beat!

    • I have not read much apocolyptic commentary on Roadie-MTB feud. Your thoughts are certainly… unique! 🙂 I’ll have to look into your dynamo suggestion. I’m always looking for ways to not fit in!

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  8. I would posit that the more uncool you become to those who are “cool,” the more cool you become to those who think the “cool” are actually uncool. So you’re pretty cool in my book. As for me, I mocked many a Fred in my day, but only for their poseurism. Anyone who has a genuine love for cycling, no matter what their category of preference, tends to respect all cyclists, regardless of their category of preference. The roadies who can’t acknowledge any other cyclist but another equally fit, equally attired, equally or more-expensively mounted rider are not cyclist to me, only narcissists. I envy their physiques, nothing else.

    • Well put, Peter. I hope that message comes across in a rather more indirect way in my posts. However, if I were to officially acknowledge that position, then I would have to retire the “Why I’m Not Cool” series. Rather than come up with something new and interesting to write about, I think I’ll continue to “celebrate my uncoolness” from time to time! 🙂

  9. You might give the VelEau bicycle mounted hydration system a try. It’s sometimes nice to ride without a pack, especially on hot days. It’s way easier and safer to use than a water bottle from a cage. It will still likely be deemed not cool by the elite roady set, but who cares!

  10. Um, I hate to break this to you all, but the ‘cool’ MTB’ers frown upon Camelbaks as well, take a look at pictures of top end XC racers, and you won’t see a Camelbak in sight!

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