What The Freak Is A Fred?

I am a totally cycling newbie – I get that.

I don’t have a fancy bike. I am borrowing glasses from my friend. I have one cycling jersey, one pair of long ride cycling shorts, one pair of spin class cycling shorts, and a couple pairs of cycling socks that I’ve had since college. I’ve also been wearing my marathon jackets while cycling simply because I didn’t have anything else. So kill me.

A couple of weeks ago I thought I would be smart, not to mention safe, to purchase the Pearl Izumi cycling jacket. It’s a blinding bright green, super light and can be spotted from what feels like miles away. I was being a smart cyclist, right?

Well, maybe I was being smart but I was definitely not being cool. Apparently, I’m such a “Fred.”


Allow me to fill in the back story. I posted a photo on my personal Facebook page about my new jacket with the totally harmless caption, “If a car hits me, they can no longer use, "I didn’t see you" as an excuse.” Ha! Little did I know that this would cause a string of comments from some serious roadies (and for the roadies who said this, sorry I’m calling you out, but I still love you).



Still totally confused, I tweeted about this “Fred” character and thanks to a very information Twitter pal, I was sent the definition:


fred  (P.S. This definition comes from an awesome bike glossary that you can find here)
1) n. a person who spends a lot of money on his bike and clothing, but still can’t ride. "What a fred — too much Lycra and titanium and not enough skill." Synonym for poser. Occasionally called a "barney".

2) n. a person who has a mishmash of old gear, does’t care at all about technology or fashion, didn’t race or follow racing, etc. Often identified by chainring marks on white calf socks. Used by "serious" roadies to disparage utility cyclists and touring riders, especially after these totally unfashionable "freds" drop the "serious" roadies on hills because the "serious" guys were really posers. This term is from road touring and, according to popular myth, "Fred" was a well-known grumpy old touring rider, who really was named Fred.


WHOA! WHOA! WHOA! I definitely am not spending a lot of money on gear so I’m going to knock option one right out. Option two? Yes. A mishmash of old gear and I don’t race. That would be me.

Sure we all have our noob phase, but what’s with the total intimidation? I’m not a pro cyclist, nor will I ever be, but can’t we just embrace the newbies and more people taking up the sport that these serious roadies love so much?

On second thought, why don’t I embrace this Fred phase? I’ll probably only have it once in my life and why not embrace whoever it is that I am. So this is me, standing up and saying, “I AM A FRED!”

I don’t have fancy gear.

I don’t have the power of a pro cyclist.

But you better bet you’re ass that I’m trying, so whatever that makes me, I’ll take it.

Happy Running (and Cycling)!

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40 Responses to What The Freak Is A Fred?

  1. kimi says:

    I’m a total noob. I have the cheapest road bike imaginable. I have a cycling jersey I bought because it was ‘cute’ and I don’t even really wear it. Whatever, just trying to get my cycle on.

  2. Heather says:

    OMG, I’m a total noob in the pool and on the bike! I showed up at a tri club swim meeting this past weekend not even in a “real” swimsuit – I bought it b/c it was cute, not functional! Oh, well. At least I looked cute when I was swimming……. :)

  3. Rena says:

    Well, at least you are not as much of a fred as I am. I totally go cycling in jeans and use a mountain bike. This was when my friends still invited me along for cycling. They have since learned that I’m a bad biker.

  4. Layla says:

    Ugh, not cool! I hate the way cyclists can be so snooty. I’ve been shoved off the American River bike trail by them, ignored when I say hello, and sneered at for my hybrid bike. Um, last time I checked, we were all out getting some exercise, enjoying the world, and trying not to get hit by cars! People like that are the reason other people never even want to start. We ALL started somewhere. Grrrrr!

  5. Holly says:

    I am SO glad running is not like that… sure I’m never running Boston, and my training is mediocre at best – but it’s something I enjoy and I like talking/stalking others that enjoy the same thing and it keeps me in my jeans thank you very much =) You should talk to one of our nurse practitioners she practically talked me into buying a new bike, helmet, etc all the garb in one 12 hour shift she was so excited that I was “thinking” about maybe starting to ride…

  6. Aron says:

    Plus I don’t think your goal is to be a cyclist/roadie anyways… you are out to be a triathlete/IRONMAN! You are doing great :)

  7. Yes, what an awesome perspective! I like that you didn’t bash the haters that brought you down, but instead see it for what it is: you are a beginner and that is OK. We all have to start somewhere!

    Bravo to you for moving forward despite the fear and despite the Fred comments! :-)

  8. Kimra says:

    Aughhhhh this is part of what scares me about cycling! If I don’t buy any gear, I don’t have the “right” stuff and look like an idiot. If I buy gear but can’t ride, I look like an idiot. So basically, I look like an idiot. Heh. I feel like experienced cyclists should be a little bit nicer about spelling this stuff out. 😉

  9. Monika says:

    I feel you – I’ve been cycling in my fluorescent yellow Marine Corps Marathon RUNNING shirt. There are a ton of serious cyclists in San Diego and I know I look like a hobo on the bike. I’m slow and I have running clothes (bright shirt and running tights) layered over my one sleeveless bike jersey and shorts because I dont want to spend the money on winter cycling gear since our winter is so short here. I also fell over at a light last weekend because I didnt clip out on the left.. but oh well! I was happy just to get out there. WE can all be good at everything .. and as for you, you’re a kick ass runner and are going to turn into an incredible triathlete. Try not to let the snotty people bother you. They probably coudlnt catch you in a 5K anyways ;o)

  10. Monika says:

    “WE can all be good..” was supposed to be “We can’t all be good”.

  11. marlene says:

    Comments like that REALLY get under my skin. Get over yourself, people!

    Whether you’re wearing $0 worth of hand-me-down gear or $10000 worth of top-of-the line gear has NO bearing on your merit as a cyclist/athlete/person.

    I have a special term for people who think it does and it rhymes with rouche tag.

    P.S. I have, like, noooo cycling/tri gear. I did my tries in running clothes last summer. Someone needs to go shopping, or snag some sweet hand-me-downs…. I will proudly be a “fred.”

  12. Tara says:

    This is why people become obese — and sit on their couches eating funyons all year long. Because of the judgment that comes with so many sporting enthusiasts. Good for you standing up against it!!! Tell them to go Fred themselves!

  13. Jeff says:

    Page – don’t worry, embrace your Fredness. You’ll get crap from the roadies for practically anything and especially if you ever utter the word “triathlon” or show up to a ride with clip-on aerobars. You will be banished faster than BBQ at a vegan dinner. I was a roadie for 20 years before switching over to triathlon and I still get crap even though I can bring game to any roadie ride.

  14. Lindsey says:

    That’s an awesome post. You’re such a Fred (option 2). Definitely embrace it.

    I don’t even know the difference between a roadie, a poser, a fred or a triathlete, but I totally dig that you’re doing an Ironman, and think that the crap should get kicked out of anyone who disparages ANYONE who is working towards such an awesome goal (YOU!).

  15. Ricole Runs says:

    Ummmm is it just me or do cyclers sound like an awfully snobby group?!?!?!

  16. Nelly says:

    lol, whoa some bikers take their stuff seriously it seems like!

    Seems like some cyclists seem to have a huge concern of image for whatever reason. I wouldn’t worry about the comments, you won’t get hit by a car wearing that jacket. Not sure if you have a cycling jersey or not, but if you get really serious about cycling you might want to pick one up to wear when the weather is nice.

    It seems to me that a lot of cyclists are into form over function. Some of my road cycling friends wouldn’t wear a camelback because it didn’t look cool enough. I’m like – I need to hydrate enough on the ride, I don’t care about looks, haha

  17. Christie says:

    I feel like this right now too!… to be honest that was the main reason i was so afraid to venture into the triathlon world. Ehhh who cares:) You are not trying to be a professional cyclist…. more like a IRONMAN! 😀

  18. Way to go Page! You tell them! What A-holes! (So classy of me to say, but o well!)

  19. XLMIC says:

    You know me and my black banana…I totally dig being a Fred. I like the element of surprise it can bring. Just think…you are so badassedly awesome that when you throw down at the Ironman and everyone is snickering it’s just a matter of time before THEY are humiliated when you, the Fred, crush them. Embrace your Fredness. Mishmash old shit is the new cool :)

  20. Laura says:

    What’s with the bullying?! Everybody has to start from nothing before becoming so “serious”! You’re out there and doing it. That’s all that matters!

  21. Rachel says:

    i’ve come to the conclusion that most cyclists are simply douche bags.

  22. Funny how runners tend to embrace newcomers with sincere support now matter what their shape, size or style and how cyclists tend to make fun of them and sometimes totally put them off cycling. Who ever gave anyone the right to “claim” a sport only for a certain group of participants??

  23. katie says:

    I’m not really a noob anymore but I’ve never heard of this Fred thing. strange.

  24. Sarah F says:

    Oh gosh a year in and I’m still a noob. I had to leave a ride early fall because I wasn’t wearing the right cycling clothes to keep me warm. Oh well! Just have fun, who cares about the rest!

  25. Jen says:

    I agree with everyone, some cyclists can be such snobbish A-holes. I never felt cool enough even after training for a couple years and doing group rides and doing the Ironman. Blah. I know they’re not all like that but it’s the general vibe. So unwelcoming. None of them could keep up with you for a block in a running race, so screw them.

    One thing I thought about when I was riding a lot, was that to a lot of people on the road (cars, runners, etc), I was now “a cyclist.” And I could do my best to be a friendly, wecoming ambassador of the sport. So try to be extra friendly and change cyclists’ image!

    Also, the bright green jacket is awesome and totally necessary. Love it.

  26. Nicole says:

    I personally think people decked out in crazy matching jersey’s look lame!!!! Are you sponsored? Then don’t wear spandex with a company’s name all over it! We can embrace our Fredness together! :)

  27. haha I heard about Freds a few years ago. Cyclists (no offence bikies) are really into gear and fashion and brands. They can be quite ruthless if you have the wrong stuff!

    Running is good… just a pair of shoes and any old stuff. I like the bright colours for races, but in general- anything goes :)

  28. Heidi Nicole says:

    …and now it is official that I am sticking to running! I hate how elitist some of the cyclist come off! I know it isn’t everyone {just like every skier isn’t the jerk that ran me over in the lift line yesterday} but the few that are such jerks keep me away from serious road cycling – I’ll stick to running and mountain biking, tyvm!

    Good luck, though, and really don’t take those silly Fred comments to heart! I totally love that jacket, I’m a sucker for green!

  29. Holly says:

    I’ve been riding and racing since 2007 and I’m still a Fred. Consider it s badge of honor. You’re a rock star- they are rude and lame. Keep doing what your doing. :)

  30. Meggie says:

    The affirms that I would look like an idiot if I tried a traithlon. I’d be head of the Freds — Fred Flintstone, if you will.

  31. Houston Runner says:

    I used to date a cyclist, and he and his buddies had a tendency to be snarky. When we were alone, he was cool, but when he and his cronies gathered, it was like listening to the mean girls in high school talk about all of the unpopular kids. Brush it off, Paige. I’d like to see one of them run a marathon. They’ve got nothing on you!

  32. MARTHA says:

    Better to be looked over then over looked.

  33. Here’s a breakdown of different athletes, compliments of my friend Baker over at Beyond Defeat:

    Bikers = Total assholes
    Runners = for the most part, very cool, with 50% being anti-social jerks
    Swimmers = laid back hippies, always friendly and willing to chat before a race
    Triathletes = 99% laid back friendly with a 1% asshole ratio because there are bikers involved

    I don’t know why bikers (“cyclists?”) are like that. Or why they feel like the own the road and people have to break into their little crowd. Runners are generally an open crowd, I’ve found, and we embrace new people…we were all new once, right? And if I was on a bike, I’d definitely be wearing some bright yellow clothes that scream, “Don’t hit me!!”

  34. Kara says:

    I agree – why can’t people be more accepting of new participants in each sport? I’ve noticed it in running too. Some people seem to enjoy intimidation! Sweat is good. Effort is good. Doesn’t matter how you look doing it, right?!

    Good luck with training!

  35. This is why I don’t relate to cyclists, even though I do triathlons. I am all about runners. Runners are nice. Cyclists seem elitist to me.

  36. RoadBunner says:

    I have a bright green/yellow cycling jacket, too, and I’m happy to wear it to prevent myself from being road kill. Fred On!

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  38. GL says:

    I raced and trained in the 1980’s when cycling was still a working-class sport. It was slowly being transformed at that time into an upper–class sport. For example, you needed $2000+ dollars for a solid disk wheel (aluminum at first… then carbon fiber which was even more expensive) to ride in the time trials… but then someone invented a polyurethane fabric you could stretch over the spokes of your wheel(s) and attach with clips that gave you 90% of the aerodynamic benefit you’d get from the solid disk wheel but none of the weight penalty and they cost about $40. The USCF ruled that this was an ‘illegal fairing type device’ and banned them… for the solid disk wheels – also a fairing type device if ever there was one – they ruled that this was a wheel with a single spoke(?!). So if you were a working-class ‘Fred’ you couldn’t afford the costs for a road bike + solid disk wheel(s)… if you had lots of disposible income, you could. So today, the transformation of the sport from a working-class one to an upper-class one has been completed… and the cycling illuminati look down their long noses at anyone not wearing $300+ kits riding around on their $4000+ bikes. I have cycled all my life and I cannot stand cyclists today. If you want to know what cycling was like back then, just watch Breaking Away. Spoiled college kids or Cutters… in the end, they all had to ‘…mount their Roadmaster bicycles’ and compete.

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