Some believe that calling a cyclist a Doris or Fred is derisive – but others believe we should celebrate the very fact they exist. Let’s explore exactly what Fred, and his female counterpoint Doris, mean to us cyclists.
What is a Fred?
There isn’t really a consensus, but we know that a Fred doesn’t conform to the professional or stylish standards of the type of cycling they’re engaged in. A Fred could be identified by the wing mirrors on their road bike. A Doris by the triathlon skinsuit she’s wearing on a mountain bike trail. A BMXer wearing bib-shorts and Oakley Jawbreakers.
They just look odd. If you adhere to the Velominati’s rules, you’ll always cut a dashing look on the road – but neither Doris nor Fred seems to have heard of these rules and will be in breach of at least three quarters of them. But why?
Doris and Fred don’t care
For some strange reason, Doris and Fred don’t mind looking like amateurs. They’ll have a set of panniers for a 30-mile leisure ride, a pump on their frame, a saddle bag with a full repair kit, and a change of clothing – just in case. They don’t care if they look like dorks.
But if they get caught in a downpour, they’ll stay dry. A puncture won’t ruin their day. And they’ll have a flask of weak lemon drink, and banana and peanut butter sandwiches to keep them going – just in case the weather inspires a spontaneous 150-mile brevet.
When you see a Fred or Doris out on the trails or on the open road, you can be forgiven for allowing yourself that small feeling of superiority. The lights cable tied to their helmets, and the cleated road shoes on the full suspension mountain bike – it all looks ridiculous.
But far from being amateurs, Fred and Doris know the game. They’ve read the magazines, argued on the forums, and know the value of both being a part of a cycle club – and the joys of the solitary ride. Now, they just want to enjoy cycling with all the trappings. If the road bike shoe fits the MTB, and they traverse muddy trails quicker on slick tyres, then that’s what they’re sticking with. Doris and Fred are practical – they are enlightened.
Every seasoned cyclist will have a story. That time they were cycling their S-Works up Mont Ventoux, overtaken and then dropped by a quiet, bearded Fred on an old steel hybrid with full mudguards. Or beaten down the Tahoe Rim trail by a petite, screaming, laughing Doris on a Schwinn.
You just can’t tell whether the over-accessorised cyclist is new to the sport – or whether they’re a rider who’s every decision is borne from thousands of saddle miles. Any anxiety and snobbishness cyclists feel about Fred and Doris is a symptom of this enigmatic ambiguity. Fred and Doris are the mirror that all cyclists stare into. They are what you were – and what you might become.