I’ve been seriously riding and racing bicycles since 2007. That when I bought the carbon fiber Felt 4C road bike. I showed up to the group ride that first day wearing a bike helmet with the visor still attached. My wheels still had the reflectors on them.
I was a FRED, in other words.
I don’t know if the term FRED is an acronym or not. There may be a snide abbreviation hidden in there. But in any case, being branded a FRED is not a compliment.
It means that while you may be riding a bike, you don’t know what riding a bike is really all about. A FRED may wear a pair of spandex shorts, yet somehow they look far lumpier than they should. In places where lumps shouldn’t show, they do. And the lumps in places where they typically do show, well those look awkward too. On men. And women.
A FRED will often have a cycling shirt that is a massively plain blue or red or yellow. Or they may have a brightly decorated graphic cycling shirt from some ride across one state or another, but they’re still a FRED. A devoted FRED can even make a cycling kit with a beer logo on it look lame.
Mainly, being a FRED is a question of harboring repressed aspirations. FREDs never seem to care how fast they get anywhere. And if engaged in a pace line, the gap they maintain between their own front tire and the rear tire of the rider in front of them is completely devoid of draft value. It has only FRED value. As in, “I don’t want to crash.”
Admittedly, that’s a reasonable attitude. None of us LIKES to crash. But to eternally avoid the proposition in order to go willfully, carefully and annoyingly slow is a FRED move to the max. You have probably been effectively stalled behind FRED people driving their cars on the road. They roll along at the precise speed limit or slightly below. This is known as going aggressively slow.
I’m not here to judge the whole FRED thing. I don’t particularly care how people look or act while on their bikes, as long as they don’t damage the prospects of safety and respect for the rest of us. And most FREDS would never do that.
In fact, in that category of behavior, FREDs are probably far superior to far faster cyclists when it comes to respect for traffic laws, stop signs and even stoplights. A FRED will never zoom through a Four-Way Stop because it is not in their makeup. But that’s exactly what makes them a FRED. No risks allowed. Fuck that.
My own FRED tendencies were borne more out of naivete than any calculated attempt to cast judgment on the world by engaging in assertively law-abiding ways. The first few times I tried to join a group ride my bike was so heavy and clunky I simply could not keep up. I only went slow because I could not go any faster.
When I got the Felt 4C I could instantly keep pace for most of the rides I joined. So I rode with the Saturday group that covered 60-70 miles at 20+ every week. Then I rode with the Wednesday bike shop group ride that consisted of both men and women and averaged a clean 20MPH every week, like clockwork. Being part of those rides, along with shaving my legs and purchasing a most excellent club kit made me feel far less like a FRED.
That doesn’t mean my FRED days were entirely over. I once came out of the porta-potty before a criterium and had forgotten to effectively shake my dick before pulling up my bib cycling shorts. It put forth a healthy dribble and there I stood with a big dark stain on the front of my blue spandex shorts. Horrifed at my latent FREDness, I quickly grabbed my bike and rode off to do warmup laps and hope the stain dried out. It did.
One can go years without feeling that sort of FREDness and then something happens that lets it creep up on you. Perhaps you forget cycling socks before a group ride and have to wear clunky running socks with your bright yellow shoes. Or you get a selfie back from the group ride and realize your bike helmet was crooked on your head the whole day. Or you get fat. Yet while being fat is a typical sign of FREDness, it is not guaranteed. Anyone that has been ridden off the back wheel of a fast fat guy knows that not all Fat Guys (or Gals) are FREDS.
It is not the job of other cyclists to eliminate FREDness in this world, but some are kind. “Hey brother,” they might say kindly at first, and point to their head. And if that doesn’t work, they might say more pointedly. “Fix your fucking helmet.”
That means they don’t want to be seen with you if you don’t. The same goes for finishing a ride with a big drib of brown chocolate GU on your chin. Or wearing your sunglass earpieces under your bike helmet straps. People that aren’t FREDs tend to notice these things. But they won’t always tell you.
Being a FRED is possible for women, too. Showing up with floppy bike shorts over top of Spandex is an instant FREDDIE moment. So is having multi-colored flowers on your water bottle, or sporting a bell on your handlebars. These are nice things for a ride on the local bike path, but they are sure signs of FREDDIENESS too.
I know, I know. This is all cruel and snarky. But TED talks aren’t all roses either. It was high time we had this FRED talk. I’m only trying to save you the embarrassment of what all of us former and latent FREDs go through.