I had an unusual experience on last weekends ride. An experience that has disturbed, and puzzled me since.
Mid-ride I stopped at a cafe located in a remote, rural village, near a small recreational lake dotted with small cottages. The cafe was the only commercial building in the village if you don’t include the Presbyterian and United include churches. In the 19th century this area was known for extensive logging but today it is parsley populated and better known for excellent Pickerel, Pike, and Bass fishing.
You get the idea. Remote.
I leaned my bike against the outside of the building, and went inside to order a snack. On the way out, I noticed a young man sitting in a van with a sign painted on the side advertising for commercial and residential painting. He apparently was a painter, and was sitting next to an older, rough cut man with a growly voice.
The young man hung his head out of the van window and asked me “How much is that bike worth?”. Always anxious to talk cycling, I responded that the bike in it current form would cost about $8-10 thousand dollars. I went on to explain how over the past 5 years I have upgraded with carbon handlebars, and a complete Dura-Ace group and wheel set. I’m proud of the bike, and the time I spend on it.
We exchanged a few pleasantries, and then I began to worry. Neither of them were cyclists. They couldn’t appreciate the real value of a bike like this. The cost is inconsequential. I began thinking they had intentions of stealing, and reselling the bike. As I proceeded south down a lonely load, I imagined them pulling up behind me, loading the bike into the back of their truck, and leaving me stranded at the side of the road never to see my bike again.
Was I over reacting to an innocent question? After all, it is the kind of question I might ask myself. I am curious by nature, and enjoy speaking with people. Maybe it was their appearance. Scruffy. Unshaven. Rough cut. Had they been a young couple travelling in a family sedan, would I have felt differently? Was I being unfair? Bigoted even?
I’m not sure.
Road cycling is an elitist sport. The new golf. Good bikes cost a lot. So too all the related gear – kits, helmets, shoes. When we cycle down the road we stand out. Although there are many of us, we are still in the minority, particularly in rural, northern Ontario.
I felt like a target.
Imagine how I might feel if I was cycling the globe like so many do.