I am a Fred. For all my non-cycling readers (aka “my friends”), Fred is a term used by “serious” road cyclists to describe other cyclists who don’t “dress in the same flashy clothes or ride the same flashy bikes.” It can also mean a cyclist who has more bike than they need or one that has a lot if gear and gadgets on their bikes. In other words, a Fred is a big doofus. You know, the person who has a bell, mirror, and trunk bag on her mountain bike with the front suspension she never takes on a mountain. The one who smiles and waves at everyone, and wears a hi-viz vest. Oh yeah – me!
There are differing opinions on where the term Fred came from. Some say it’s referring to Fred Flintstone, which in that case would technically make me a Wilma…but feh! Please call me Fred. Others say it originated with an older, bearded, curmudgeonly touring cyclist named Fred. When roadies use it, it’s derogatory, but when other cyclists use it in reference to each other, it’s not necessarily so. Sort of like when women call their girlfriends a ‘ho’, it can be good-natured ribbing…or not…probably depending on the girlfriend.
Although I’m a Fred, I’m in pretty good company because Bellingham, “the city of subdued excitement,” (seriously that’s our nickname) is full of Freds. We have our share of roadies but Freds definitely outnumber them – from the big-bellied guy who rides around barefoot and topless but thankfully wearing shorts, to the messenger-bag toting riders pedaling in Crocs, to the middle-aged, geezer faction in our hi-viz apparel. Seriously, Bellingham’s nickname could just as easily be: “the town of ubiquitous Freds.” And, most of us all wave and smile at each other.
My most recent Fred interaction was just a few days ago while I was riding down East Illinois Street, a popular thoroughfare for Freds and roadies alike. A gray-haired gentleman on a beat up old bike had randomly stopped at the roundabout to smoke a cigarette. The irony of people riding their bikes and smoking both amazes and amuses me so I took notice. He wore a railroad cap, black slacks with matching suspenders, and a blue button-down shirt. As I rode past he smiled through is gray beard and said this:
“(Unintelligible)… a quarter for that cycle…(something that sounded Gaelic)”
I’m not sure if he was insulting me or not. I’m not sure if he knew. What I am sure about is that he had no teeth, which probably explains the unintelligible part of his shout out. Anyway, I smiled back and inexplicably gave him a salute. That seemed to crack him up and I rode on as his cackling faded into the distance.
Personally, I like being a Fred. It means I can just ride around, do my own thing, and not be fixated on things like cadence, looking cool, and whether or not my current 40-mile ride is as fast as my last. It means I don’t have to watch the Tour de France, can trick my bike out any way I want, and basically just have a hell of a lot of fun.
- (Near) Death by Roadie (highonbike.wordpress.com)