There once was a rider from Nantucket, who faced with an array and unable to choose, finally said, "Oh..." SUPPLIED

It’s sort of like reaching puberty for cyclists — those days when you knew your life was in for a shake-up. Your development as a person will forever change when you’ll realize there’s more to cycling than contentedly pedaling along the Steve Boring Trail just to enjoy some fresh air.

You won’t necessarily get acne again or sprout armpit hair for a second time, but your life will be forever altered the day you embrace the next step in your cycling journey, accept the inevitable, and become a kindred soul to Pelham’s vast community of serious cyclists. No more riding in baggy tops and last-year’s sneakers with a floppy, crooked helmet for you.

The first hints can be subtle.

You’ve heard that hardcore riders post their routes and personal data on mysterious websites catering specifically to cyclists. You discover Strava and Ride-with-GPS, tracking sites where shameless cyclists excitedly post their distances ridden, time taken and elevation climbed for the world to see.

You decide to sign up for a trial subscription, then climb into your Corolla and slowly drive around Fenwick and Wainfleet while your Garmin or phone records your trip. Your friends know your riding capabilities, so you drive at a speed that reflects your cycling ability. Hang a slow-moving vehicle sign on the back and do a 50K loop, maybe throw in a couple hills, then post your route data on Strava as if you were on your bike. Give the link to a few friends, and the amazed reactions of your new followers will become addictive.

Maybe your first clue was the desire to revamp your cycling wardrobe. Sock length and colour became critical each time you went for a ride, and you’d dither and fuss for ten minutes before you could decide. You’d checked the DeFeet cycling sock website and learned about Aireator 6-inch, Aireator 1-inch, 3-inch DTeam socks, Wooleator knee-highs and more.

In a world of 7,900,000,000 people that manages with just eight basic blood types, you have to question why DeFeet decided we needed a selection of 146 different cycling sock styles.

Did it hit you like a flash of routine-destroying lightning?

“Honey—(Honey can refer to either the male or female partner in this about-to-explode relationship)—I know we’ve gone to your mother’s condo in Fort Myers for the last 16 winters, and I loved the helicopter rides to Buffalo airport during Covid, but let’s change it up next winter so I can get off those pathetically slow and congested Florida bike trails. Let’s go to Texas Hill Country or Sedona or Tuscon where I can get in some decent riding.”

Maybe you were driving out to Wellandport, cruising along the 80 kph section of Canborough Road, tapping your fingers on the steering wheel of your SUV to Katy Perry, when you noticed a bulk feed agri-service truck barreling toward you at 20 over the limit. At the exact second it passes you, you instinctively duck into your aerodynamic riding tuck so that the wind blast from it won’t knock you off the road, totally forgetting that you’re in a car.

If this is you, admit it’s time to transition from someone who simply goes for bike rides to serious bicycle enthusiast. Not sure? Here are a few more indisputable indicators.

When you hear a friend discussing power bars, you think quick energy supplement rather than something that connects ever more electronic devices to a single wall outlet. Likewise, in your vocabulary, chamois is padding material for bike shorts not for getting post-car-wash water spots off metallic finishes.

You’ve been riding full commando for a while now, no more jockey shorts or panties under your Louis Garneaus.

You finally have the courage to confront yourself about ditching your high-visibility orange or green safety vest in favour of team-logo-covered cycling jerseys. You may tell your friends it was because the vest flapped in the breeze and offered too much wind resistance, but in your soul you’ve come to peace with the fact you just didn’t want to look like one of “those” cyclists any longer.

Your bike has become your best friend and therapist. You have serious conversations with your bicycle, even when you’re not riding. You gently stroke its Brooks leather saddle as you apologize for the times you rode it with mismatched water-bottles or tires. It completely understands your predicament and anxiety as you struggle to explain there’s ample room for it and a new carbon-fibre gravel bike in your heart, that it’s not just a fling or mid-life crisis.

Then you tell someone on a group ride the next day that your older aluminum bike took it hard, and they totally get what you’re talking about.

When it’s early spring or late fall and someone tells you not to overdress for a ride, you know they’re talking about too many layers rather than flaunting a special handbag or LBD or Bonobos unconstructed Italian wool blazer. You get it, so you’ll take a pass on showing up with non-gender specific high heeled clipless cycling shoes, but you’ll still ride with diamond studs in your ears, because what the hell, life is competitive.

You ditch your ear buds. Running or jogging at 12 kph with ear buds is one thing, but cycling in a small group at 35 kph is a whole different matter. When someone is riding only a half metre in front or behind you, you don’t want the beat of Kanye West or Dua Lipa timing your pedal strokes for you.

You love your indoor trainer, but decide to lower your outdoor winter riding threshold from +4C to -4C as long as the roads are clear. Riding year round is exhilarating, but that first time out in December at below zero separates the serious from the pack.

You notice that you have as many calluses on your hands as you do your sit bones, and ladies, your hands are strong enough from shifting gears that you’ll never again have to ask a male to open a new jar of pickles or jam for you.

You still put your phone in a plastic bag before you slide it into a jersey pocket, but now the bag is to protect it from perspiration rather than rain.

When you ride past an attractive cyclist you no longer pretend that your overly long stare is checking out their bicycle rather than their legs and butt, because as a serious cyclist you really were looking at the bike — sort of, maybe.

You can stare someone straight in the eye and tell them that your favourite plant-based protein powder, the stuff that smells like your green compost bin, actually tastes good.

When you can no longer hop on a bike without your ride having an official objective, it’s over, you’ve become a serious cyclist and gone to the Dark Side. But hey, in Pelham you won’t be alone.