Never Say Fred AKA Freds: A Scholarly Treatise
By Chris Kostman
Originally published in The BOB Gazette, Issue #8, September 1994 and ULTRA Cycling, Vol.5, No.1, March 1996 (I had written it for Bicycle Guide, but they refused to publish it!)
It has been to my disappointment that the sophomoric practice of name-calling, especially the use of the term "fred," continues unchecked within the world of cycling. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it is cycling's only generic derogatory appellation, akin to being called a "Barney" in skiing or surfing circles.
To some USCFers, those cyclists who don't race their category or higher are Freds. Likewise, bicycle tourists, commuters and recreational riders are necessarily Freds in the eyes of the egomaniacal Racerheads'of both the club and federation species. And, Fredliness can, of course, also be the result of clothing and equipment choice, like judging a book by its cover. Before we examine the psyche of the invidious purveyors of the term Fred, let's examine the word itself.
The etymology of Fred, both geographically and linguistically, is unclear. Fred Flintstone may be the original Fred, suggested by the use of the term Barney in other circles, mentioned above. The term seems to have originated in isolated locales, then spread geographically in pell-mell fashion throughout the cycling subculture. It may be the result of independent development, but it is not an example of the Hundredth Monkey Phenomenon, an urban myth perpetuated by psuedo-anthropologists in which specific knowledge is increasingly attained among a random portion of a cultural group to a point of critical mass (i.e. one hundred monkeys), whereupon this new-found knowledge is spontaneously, and mysteriously, transferred to the entire population (of monkeys, or, in our case, cycling snobs).
At any rate, any second-rate pyschology major can tell you that the malcontents of the bicycle world resort to denigration as a maladaptive coping mechanism for any number of common insecurities. Those secure in intellect, physicality and libido, however, see profit in harmonization rather than polarization.
So it goes without saying, that, for me, anyone who rides a bike is alright, plain and simple. However, that doesn't mean that I'm blind to behavior that is inappropriate (for ease of comprehension, Fred-like), dangerous and/or damaging to cycling's image in the public eye. Fredish behavior, then, obviously includes such commonplace practices as running stop signs and red lights, riding against traffic, expecting cars to get out of your way, blowing past hikers and horses on the trails, and tossing flatted innnertubes on the side of the road, as if the world is your personal garbage dump.
However, these are just the tip of the Fredish iceberg. Fredism also manifests itself in less publicly damaging ways:
- Ceaselessly and vociferously itemizing the weight and cost of your newest titanium parts.
- Ignoring other cyclists on the road, riding hi-lessly, wavelessly, and nodlessly by, like some smug, self-righteous snob.
- Having a bike and gear worth ten times more than your activity level merits, such as riding at non-competitive events with disc wheels or tri-spokes.
- Riding on aero bars while drafting someone.
- Mouthing off about how dangerous aerobars are, while you're not even wearing a helmet.
- Dropping newcomers to your weekly ride, then never waiting for them to catch up. Worse yet, intentionally ditching a guest at your ride and leaving them lost in the farmlands of Eastern Pennsylvania.
- Wearing Oakleys around town, telling the uninitiated that you train with the national team, are a 'Neo-pro,' or plan to ride in the Tour next July.
- And finally, spending your spare hours name-calling other cyclists.
In conclusion, to avoid true Fredism, our malcontented, maladjusted comrades of the cycling world who still continue to denigrate our sport by labelling others as "freds" need simply get on their bikes and ride. And for the sake of us all, they should keep their insecurities to themselves.