Part of the bike racing culture is greed. It’s caused by several things, but these are the main ones.
First, the travel cost to weekly races is high, the cost of equipment is high, and the constant manufacture of improved products means that the expense is never-ending. Racers are either perpetually broke or perpetually fighting with their wives/husbands about bike-related expenses.
Second, bike racers spend a lot of time on the bike “suffering,” which means “self-induced discomfort.” This suffering — not to be confused with actual suffering, which is the condition of excruciating misery that cannot be alleviated of your own accord — makes racers feel superior to mere mortals, and therefore entitled to get everything free or for a ridiculous discount.
Third, athletes of all types are narcissists.
How bad is it in cycling compared to other sports?
I don’t know. But friends who’ve been heavily involved in sports like triathlon, running, surfing, and motor sports say that cycling is by far the worst. I can’t comment on that other than to say that I never cease to be amazed at the cheap-ass, petty, greedy stunts that get pulled by bike racers of all ages.
This behavior is contrasted with the word “pro” which racers throw out so casually. It has occurred to me that many bike racers don’t have a clue what “pro” means. Many seem to think it means having a professional contract, or having professional gear, or performing exploits on the bike that are of a superlative, professional quality.
I’m here to tell you that it’s none of that. Professional grade is something else entirely. So to help figure out if you’re pro, or just another greedy, mooching, narcissistic ingrate, I’ve compiled the following list.
Professional grade is always saying “Thank you,” and saying it face to face.
Professional grade is knowing when not to ask for the “bro deal.”
Professional grade is never hitting, grabbing, or threatening someone after a race, no matter what they did to make you mad.
Professional grade is taking the time to tell your friends how much you like your team issue or club-discounted products.
Professional grade is not bad-mouthing the clothes and equipment you ride for free or that you bought with a club deal.
Professional grade is giving your sponsors useful input on their products to let them know what works, what you like, and what their product did to help you achieve your goals.
Professional grade is giving feedback on how to improve your sponsored products to the right person at the right time and in the right way, bookended by thanks.
Professional grade is understanding and appreciating that every discount and bro deal you’ve been offered has cost someone money.
Professional grade is posting race results and ride write-ups.
Professional grade is getting people excited about bicycle riding by being excited about it yourself.
Professional grade is thanking your teammates after the race.
Professional grade is not confusing amateur with professional.
Professional grade is exchanging names with the new faces, and making a serious effort to remember them.
Professional grade is not being embarrassed to ask someone’s name if you’ve forgotten it. They’ve probably forgotten yours, too.
Professional grade is stopping when someone falls.
Professional grade is helping change a flat.
Professional grade is reaching out and giving a struggling rider a push.
Professional grade is taking leadership when a rider behaves dangerously.
Professional grade is talking with your team and your sponsors in person before you jump ship and move on to another team mid-season, even if it’s your first pro team, and especially if the entire team was built around you to begin with.
Professional grade is thanking people in writing when they’ve made it possible for you to attend some far-flung race or big event.
Professional grade is a Facebook or Twitter shout-out when your sponsor ships you a replacement bike or helmet or kit to allow you to continue racing after a crash.
Professional grade is always being nice to the kids who are just starting out. They will eventually be eating your lunch anyway.
Professional grade is sharing what you know when people ask you.
Professional grade is letting someone into the rotation or giving them a preferred wheel when it’s a group ride.
Professional grade is doing your share of the work.
Professional grade is complimenting people who beat you.
Professional grade is complimenting those whom you beat.
Professional grade is not making excuses.
Professional grade is forgiving, asking forgiveness, and never forgetting to laugh.