To "B" or Not?

With the rise in semi-organized riding activity around town, the use of a ranking system has casually insinuated itself into the local lexicon. On Thursday night, you may hear, ” If we have enough people we can hold a “B” group sprint. Not meant as disrespect, it is merely a way to distinguish between the fastest and the…and the…getting faster all the time.

Now, ever vigilant to the spoiling odor of roadie culture, I think it is time to address this.

There may be some practical need to establish a hierarchy at certain events, but the inherent bikism in using an A vs. B categorization must be stopped! A “B” implies either a disadvantaged genetic package for cycling, a lack of effort and skill, or worse- a lack of dedication and commitment to the sport. Yes Sir, Yes M’am, the “B’s” must rise up. I am fairly certain that this nomenclature did not worm its way in by someone self-identifying as a “B” rider. No, this label comes from those who consider themselves “A’s”.

Perhaps the “A’s” do not understand that there is no glory in being the best of the not as good. The glory is in hunting giants with the hope of seeing their smug visage in the rear view one day. If it never comes to pass? No matter- the glory is in the chase, not the trophy. Riding a bike through the woods is about so much more than speed and pace. From now on I will rank riders as “1’s” or “2’s” based on their ability to: repair their own machine in the woods, tell a good story, bring tasty snacks that they share liberally, clean obstacles rather than dismount, choose the most graceful line, identify flora and fauna, and sacrifice personal interest for the good of the riding group.

Of course I won’t actually do that, but I hope you see my point.

Now if you will excuse me, I have to “B” somewhere.


17 Responses to To "B" or Not?

  1. Here here! Give that man a round of applause! We had something very similar happen to the club I ride with about this time last year. Suffice to say the result wasn’t pretty!

    As I always say to anyone who’ll listen:

    “If I’m too slow for you…. F*ck off!”

    Fat Lad

  2. I don’t get the problem. But we define them differently than you maybe. On our rides here, if they bust out into two groups, the B riders are there because they want a recreationally paced ride and the A riders are going to put the hammer down. B rides also get defined as “no drop” whereas A rides are defined as, “better bring a map, if you’re not sure you can keep up.”

    Wouldn’t you rather set expectations ahead of time as to speed and intensity of a ride rather than get people who show up and can’t keep up and cause the rest of the group to wait for them?

    Of course, maybe you just don’t wait for anyone if they are too slow and then you don’t have to worry about setting expectations.

    And then, maybe none of these things apply to mountain bike.

  3. Perfect ranking system.

    The beauty of the mtb trail is that it almost always comes back home sooner than later…which means everyone is out in the same patch of woods within shouting distance. That spoiling road odor is from those 80-milers that criss-cross myriad highway systems and leave riders 20 miles apart.

  4. When I leave on a ride I have no expectations or preconceived notions about what may go down. If you hammer, great, if you take it easy, that’s cool too. If by chance I am not the last rider, I prefer to wait until everyone is verified alive and moving before breaking off for home. In general, all mtb’ers do that unless it is established that it will be a blood and guts ride.

    My issue is not that some riders are faster. My issue is with the actual letter designation. A comes before B, connotating a lower grade, or a lesser status. If “B” riders were referred to as “Crank Sharks” or the “Pedal Viking Marauders Club” it would be OK. The A/B thing is roadie inspired arrogance don’t you think?

  5. Good comments.

    Before this post, I was a “B” rider, but now I’m a “B-2” rider, so I’m not sure Juancho’s making it a safer world for the disparagingly diagnosed.

    I like the point that declaring group speed parameters is more important on the road because of the sheer distance traveled and the possibility of a “B” being lost way out there in concrete land while the “A’s” are back home doing whatever “A’s” do. Shaving? Weighing food?

    For off-road riding, speed designations seem superfluous, especially when the route is mapped and loopish with early exit possibilities. The woods are for bears, and bears make very few unnecessary distinctions. Run. Fight. Sleep. Eat. Mooch off the other bears.

    But I’m a “B-2” with so much chain grease on my calf I can barely walk straight. I’m not sure I’m even allowed to talk yet.

  6. I call myself an A rider; whether I am considered an A rider by anyone other than me does not matter. The point is that classifying ones self is merely an act of displaying the size of your ego. I have a large ego, therefore I belong in the A group.

    A few months ago I suggested we create Bike Church Lite, this would transform an often hardcore suffer-fest of a ride into one that is accessible to those who are either short on time, skills, fitness or merely hung-over. My ego allows me to take it easy and do a nice Lite ride, even A riders like myself need a break sometimes. However my ego would never allow me to participate as B.

    We are all A riders, lets enjoy Munson together when the rain passes.

  7. I think you struck a nerve with today’s post. I also think that it has little to do with bikes. Rather I think that people in general and, perhaps mountain bikers in particular, do not like labels of any sort. We don’t like to be pigeon-holed. We certainly don’t like to be labeled so perjoratively with A’s and B’s.

  8. Be pejorative…we roadies need to know just how far to look down our noses


    it just wouldn’t work if everyone was an A…we wouldn’t know who to wait for and who to leave.

    …and you know, eventually every mtb’er would know that your Pedal Viking Marauders Club really means B…but you sure could have some cool t-shirts….


  9. (PS my last comment was meant to be self-deprecating, not sarcasatic…need to be more liberal with the :-]s and the !!)

    I like it!

    As one who does both (and loves both), riding with other roadies who do it well is nothing short of flow and trust. There’s a grace in knowing the one riding next to you won’t lead you wrong: a connection outside the self.

    To me, mtb’ing is more about the inside…focus, pusing limits…nothing else matters but the zone and the trash talk afterward (after making sure everyone is back and accounted-fer).