I have nothing against people treating cycling as a sport per se. And in some respects, I treat it as one too: probably around half of my riding isn't strictly necessary, i.e. not a grocery run or a doctor's appointment or meetings with friends. Sometimes I travel to a further place instead of a closer one, sometimes I go out without any destination in mind at all. And yes, cycling is great exercise: pound for pound it's not as effective as running or swimming, but in my opinion it's way more fun than either of those things. Also, I have this weird mental block surrounding exercise where I don't want to do something unless it's in some way "practical," even if this practicality is a stretch. I can't exactly run to work or to a fancy dinner party, can I? I can't swim to Target! Yet I will happily bike six miles to a distant coffee shop instead of walking less than a mile to the closest one, because that's "practical." I am probably insane.
So, anyway, problems with athletic cycling--GO! First, there is the equipment. Some of the things Dais recommends as a "probably should have" are: cycling shorts (which can easily cost over $75 for one pair), special shoes, special gloves, and a whole lot of other stuff that seems to be obscenely overpriced. And, of course, a racing bike, some of which can easily cost a grand and up. Talk about your barriers to entry! Then there are the century races themselves, which usually cost money to enter, and are often held (at least, most races here in MD... not that I'm ready for a century but I've looked for others) at places I can't bike to, which is a no-go for me due to the irrational hang-up discussed in the last paragraph.
Another beef I have is that many (again I'm generalizing based on what I've read online and seen in person) athletes are terrified of riding with traffic. Simply terrified! And while I don't want to discount someone's fears, because lord knows I have my own, this is an attitude that I don't understand, especially when the athlete is also a driver. It's the same road, the same rules, except you're going much, much faster. If anything, driving should be the terrifying activity, and that's certainly how it feels for me. But take someone out of their giant tank, and they turn into a wuss. Just like a gun owner, the "weekend warrior" feels helpless without their weapon. And as someone who is endangered (both as a pedestrian and a cyclist) by cars, it is hard not to feel perturbed by this "roads are dangerous!" nonsense. Yes, they're dangerous--because of you!
Probably my main objection to sport cycling, though, is because these athletes by and large aren't doing anything to increase the accessibility of roads for those of us who use our bikes for transportation as well as to "feel the burn." In fact, some of them lobby against riding for transportation. How many times have you been flipped off or called a jackass by someone with bikes (usually much fancier and more expensive than your own bike) strapped to the back of their SUV? When I think "athlete cyclist," I think of folks like that, folks that will drive five miles to get to a nice safe path and think transportation riders are losers. This is
In the end, I guess it's dumb to have an anti-sport cycling bias, as dumb as a driver in a Ford Focus hating someone in a Formula One racer for not caring about their needs. We are doing completely different things, the athletes and myself. But biking is marginalized in a way that driving will never be in America, so it's hard to not see athletic cyclists who drive short distances as part of the problem. Truthfully, I get angrier at them than at your average driver, because they have both the physical strength and the equipment to ride a bike for transportation and they... don't. So close, and yet so far.